NFL Playoff Time!
by Jim Feist
As the playoffs begin, those who earned
the top two seeds in each conference have a key edge, as they get a bye the
first week while watching the others duke it out. Sitting at home this past
weekend were the Patriots, Chiefs, Cowboys and Seahawk. Why is that
significant? A year ago the 4 bye teams were the Patriots, Broncos,
Panthers and Cardinals. They went 4-0 SU, 2-2 ATS. The rested Patriots
had no trouble with the Chiefs while the Panthers jumped out to a 31-0 halftime
lead over Seattle on the way to a win and cover. What a difference a year
makes, aye Carolina fans?
Two years ago the four bye teams
were the Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks and Packers, going 3-1 SU. Green Bay
missed covering by one-point while the Pats and Seahawks (31-17) rolled. Three
years ago the top teams were the Broncos, Patriots, Seahawks and Panthers. The
top AFC teams met in the title game, while the Seahawks went on to win the
Gaining the bye is an advantage for
teams to not only rest injured players, but to have two weeks to put together a
game plan. Since 1990, 40 first and second round seeds have filled 51
Super Bowl slots and the No. 1 and 2 seeds, rested after the bye, have gone
69-23 straight up in their first games in the divisional round.
The last five years the rested
teams have gone 16-4 SU, though just 8-12 ATS. Last year Arizona and Denver won
but narrowly missed covering.
The No. 1 seeded team in seven of
the last 12 years in the NFC (Eagles, Seahawks, Bears, Saints, Panthers,
Seahawks twice) wound up in the Super Bowl. In the AFC it's been a different
story. New England and Denver have made it in each of the last four years, but
that ended a bit of a drought, with the only No. 1 seeds to make it were the
2003, '07, '11 Patriots, the '09 Colts. Here's a look at the four teams that
come into this weekend's playoff games rested with home field.
Patriots: Here they are again! New England
overcame numerous offensive injuries and defensive changes to cop the No. 1
seed. QB Tom Brady lost top target TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Danny Amendola, but
the offense has been balanced and gotten excellent production from rookie WR
Malcolm Mitchell. Adding TE Martellus Bennett in the offseason was a terrific move.
The defense has been in flux much of the
year but has been solid against the run and outstanding in the red zone. They
don't get after the passer as well as a season ago, but down the stretch
started to blitz more. For totals players, the Pats are 41-25 over against the
AFC, plus 44-21 over after a spread cover.
Chiefs: Kansas City's overall stats on
offense and defense aren't that impressive, but this team is no fluke. They
ended last year on a sizzling 11-1 SU, 8-4 ATS run and have carried that over
to this season despite injuries. QB Alex Smith leads a ball-control offense
that doesn't blow many opponents out, but the defense and special teams are
outstanding, especially the secondary.
That's a good formula for cold weather
outdoor games this time of the season and note the KC is 37-15 under the total
at home, plus 57-28-2 under on natural grass.
Cowboys: Dallas went from a 4-12 train wreck a
year ago to a monster 2016 campaign led by rookies QB Dak Prescott and RB
Ezekiel Elliot. They announced last summer they would get back to running the
football to take heat of their QBs and defense and the formula has
The Cowboys have been great at home
and on the road, leading the NFC in point differential. The only concern
is a secondary that can be thrown on. Note that they are 3-8-1 ATS against a
winning team and 35-15-3 over the total after allowing less than 15 points in
their previous game.
Falcons: QB Matt Ryan (38 TDs, 7 INTs)
had a dazzling season, leading Atlanta to the No. 2 seed in the NFC. The
Falcons finished with a +134 point differential, second only to the Patriots in
the NFL. RB Devonta Freeman topped 1,000 yards and WR Julio Jones (1,409 yards)
had another monster season.
But if defense wins championships Atlanta
has serious concerns, ranking #25 in yards allowed, #27 in points, #28 in pass
yards surrendered. This team won at Denver and Oakland, nearly won at Seattle
(26-24 loss) and topped the Packers in a shootout (33-32).They are 13-2-1 over
the total and not done yet.
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