Colin Wynner’s NFL Playoff Rules!

Here is updated version of Colin’s NFL Playoff rules to live by. These can be helpful to survive the treacherous NFL playoffs. These have evolved over the course of a very trying 14 years (1997-2010 NFL Playoff Seasons) that has included numerous head-scratching, remote busting, dry-wall smashing moments.

  • Never back a shaky quarterback in the playoffs, especially on the road. A no-brainer, right? But more than a few times I have talked myself into a Kordell Stewart, Rex Grossman or Tavaris Jackson with the “it’s just the quarteback, a good one hands off and manages the game” logic. Only to watch said quarterbacks team fall behind and need him … end of story and loss of significant cashola. The 21st century NFL is quarterback driven. You must have a QB who has the ability to make plays. Need proof? Since 2002, every Super Bowl winning quarterback has been elite – Brady, Manning, Manning, Roethlisberger, Brees and Rodgers. Pretty impressive list, aye? If we throw out Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer in 2000 and 2002, we can add Warner, Elway, Favre, Young and Aikman to the list of elite Super Bowl winning quarterbacks. For the record that equates to 17 of the last 19 Super Bowls. Trust me, when that time comes and you need a quarterback to make a play, you don’t want to see Shaun King taking snaps for the team you’re backing. Corollary – This can also apply to quarterbacks late in their career. Take for example Dan Marino, who quarterbacked teams that lost 38-3 and 62-7 in 1998 and 1999. Obviously there were problems other than merely the quarterback with those teams but still the point remains, Marino was more like Grossman in those appearances.
  • Pick the Winner. A friend of mine refers to the playoffs as “pick the winner”. This approach was golden in the 1990s, tailed off a bit in the early 2000s but has come back strong to post an astounding record of 31-2 record in 2008-2010. And by tailing off I mean merely 7-4, in fact, since 1985 (through 2010) the combined ATS record of playoff winning teams is 214-54-8 or 80%. The worst season is the aforementioned 7-4, which is just a push under my personal playoff best of 7-3-1.
  • Research History. The playoffs tend to follow the same pattern year after year, though some of it might be a tad quirky it seems consistently happen or not happen. For example, the NFL introduced the Saturday night prime time game for the Wildcard and Divisional rounds back in 2001. The game – Radiers/Patriots, or better known as the “tuck rule” game or the game that gave the world “Tom Brady, quarterback extraordinaire”. Virtually every game since has either had some wacky end to it or a crazy upset. Here are a few of the samplings – 2002 Green Bay loses their first home playoff game to Michael Vick, the Atlanta Falcon version; 2003 New England barely beats Tennessee, in their closest battle of the playoffs; 2004 Jets upset the Chagers in San Diego; 2005 Tom Brady throws an awful pick-6 to Champ Bailey as the Broncos beat the Patriots; 2006 Tony Romo botched snap and then is out-run from the two with a two yard head start, Cowboys lose, Romo has never re-covered; 2008 Arizona Cardinals stomp the Carolina Panthers, Jake Delhomme officially becomes known as “the interception machine”; 2010 The Packers “announce their presence with authority” by destroying the number one seed Falcons, 48-21. A few more nuggets on history:
    • Since 1996, there has been only one Super Bowl match-up that featured both number one seeds (Saints/Colts). However, since 1985, every Super Bowl but three have had at least one top seed in the big game. Of course, beware two of those years were recent – 2008 and 2010.
    • Since the NFL went to eight wild card teams in 1990, there has not been a season where the four favored teams in the wild card round have covered the spread. And only once have all four favored teams failed to cover a single game.
    • The Divisional playoff round has been an entirely different animal, however. Since 1985, home teams have not gone 0-4 straight-up and only once did the home teams post a 1-3 record. In addition, remember the “pick the winner” stat from above? Well, this is the round most likely to see teams win and not cover. Of the 62 games where the winner has either pushed or lost versus the spread, 28 of them have come in the Divisional round.
    • The Conference championship round winners are an amazing 16-2 ATS over the last nine seasons and 41-11 in the past 26. Note to self, bet the winner if the conference championship games!
  • Coaching in the playoffs is magnified. Before you place your bet, check to see if the team you are planning to bet on has a head coach with a last name of Mora, Schottenheimer or Phillips. If so, you might want to re-think your decision. Corollary – You also might want to re-think your choice if the head coach stares at the play sheet like it is an Outback Steakhouse menu, especially if it is a conference championship game.
  • Go against the hype machine. Every year the media anoints a team, or two, as the “best bet to shock the world” or “the team to beat”. This almost never works out for said team, almost as if the odds-makers control the media and decide which team they want hyped.
  • Beware of too much rest. In 2007, the Giants and Patriots proved to most, if not all, NFL teams that week 17 rest is over-rated, while the 2007 Bucs/Colts proved to the world that too much rest can be a detrimental to success in the playoffs. I have written about this ad nauseum, but the reality is football players are machines programmed to play football from week 1 through the end of the season. That means their minds and bodies are programmed to deal with, and play through nagging injuries that would cripple the “average Joe”. If you give these guys more than a week off, guess what? They heal up and their bodies start believing it’s the off-season, in which case they no longer feel like running into 300-lb guys in sub-zero temperatures. You want proof – the 2006 Colts treated the last three games of the regular season like exhibition games and then got whacked by an inferior Steelers team. More proof? Look no further than the 2007 Bucs, a team that took the last two weeks off and then had that vacation permanently extended by the Giants, who ironically choose to play week 17 against the Patriots with nothing to play for. Very interesting!
  • Injuries. It never bodes well for a team coming into the playoffs banged up at key positions. I remember a quote from Tim Green’s book The Dark Side of the Game about how players at this point of the year want to win, but if they lose they still feel like they’ve won because they get to go home and commence the healing of their bodies. My guess is few players would actually admit that this is a reality, but I bet secretly those conversations are happening in every locker room where players are dealing with nagging injuries. Imagine a player with a few nagging injuries whose team falls behind early and he feels like the game is slipping away, his desire will be way, way down. You have to take this into account.
  • Motivation. On the playoff stage, every player is motivated, however, teams that can effectively play the “us against the world” and “no one respects us” cards have a distinct advantage. Look no further than the 2007 Giants, who sung that mantra all the way to a Super Bowl parade in Manhattan.
  • It’s never a bad idea to side with the house. You have read it here more than once – “Casinos are not built on winners”, therefore when in doubt, check out who the public is backing and go against them. This is especially true in seasons where the public has gotten over on the books. Isn’t that a little like beating the crap out of the bully when he has mono? You know it is going to come around on you. The books are the same way. So, how do you know if the public has gotten over in a particular year? Check the ATS records of the highest scoring teams that year – if those numbers are running 60%+ then the public is killing the books. And remember the opening line of this rule – “Winners don’t build billion dollar casinos”. And let’s throw in this nugget – the handle on four weeks of playoff wagering in the NFL is greater than the previous 17 regular season weeks.
  • Don’t overvalue playoff experience – Of course playoff experience is important but since 2006, we have seen Arizona (a franchise with one playoff win in 50 seasons) go the Super Bowl, Norv Turner win three playoff games, Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy win Super Bowls and rookie head coaches win playoff games in their first try (John Harbaugh, Sean Payton and Jim Caldwell). This rule is especially true on the defensive side of the ball, where mistakes can be minimized by younger, inexperienced players but energy and hunger they bring cannot. Those younger defenders are in better physical shape, which menas they are more likely to hold up to the grueling NFL season. Thus, they play at a higher level in the playofs, which nullifies the advantage of veteran players. Plus, most defensive vets are looking forward to their vacation to the Bahamas. Along those same lines be wary of teams with a vast amount of playoff mileage, like Baltimore in 2010. For example, the Ravens have an aging defensive that has played an extra half season in the last four years. That takes a toll.
  • The Under, Dog will bark loudly – The public, aka as the “Squares”, loves betting the perceived better team or favored team. The post-season brings out more casual bettors who gobble up favorites like Wade Phillips sitting in front of a tub of ribs. In fact, it is estimated that the NFL playoffs receive 80% of the action from the casual or square bettor, versus 20% from the “sharps” or professional handicappers. You know the story the casual bettor wants “to make the game more interesting” by placing a few bucks on it, but do they want to root for a 10-6 defensive battle? Hell no! They want points, man! Therefore, they bet the over, over and over again. Remember what’s at stake for the books! They set those lines with the above built-in, , which means that the value is there on the under and underdogs. Since 1999, underdogs are 69-60-3, for modest +300 on a 100 dollar a game bettor. Playing the under total hasn’t been as profitable but is still a respectable 68-62-1. A couple additional facts on totals since 1999:
    • The Wildcard round games have gone under 28-19-1. I have a few explanations for this – 1. You get the best shot from a defense in the first game of the playoffs; 2. The divisional rounds feature games with significantly better teams as the #1/#2 seeds. Those games get out of hand more frequently, which plays into more points; 3. The significant amount of additional action for the books causes them to adjust the total higher, opening better value for the under and more unders.
    • The Conference Championship under the total is just 9-15. A few of the games that went over were match-ups where a team was playing their third road game in the playoffs, so we might be able to glean some value in that setting.
  • Find the ceiling, floor – Using the final six weeks of the regular season, draw a comparison between best performance and worst performance for each team. Regardless of the venue and the seed, a team is more likely to perform well if their ceiling and floor are higher than their opponent. A couple examples of this – 2010 Chiefs – they did not beat a team with a winning record the entire season and were blown out twice in their last four games. The Ravens made short work of them in Wildcard Weekend. And the 2003 Chiefs, who despite posting a 13-3 record, were beaten twice in the last four weeks and gave up 40+ in each game. They were unceremoniously dismissed by the Colts in the divisional round.

5 thoughts on “Colin Wynner’s NFL Playoff Rules!

  1. Pingback: 2015 NFL – Divisional Round Predictions | Colin Wynner

  2. Pingback: 2015 NFL – Conference Championship Predictions | Colin Wynner

  3. Pingback: 2018 NFL Playoff Picks – Wildcard Weekend Edition | Colin Wynner

  4. Pingback: 2018 NFL Playoff Picks – Divisional Round Edition | Colin Wynner

  5. Pingback: 2018 NFL Playoff Picks – Conference Championship Edition | Colin Wynner

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