The Muffed Punt: NFL sequels are where the big betting money is

Unless you’ve recently awoke up from a lengthy coma or you’re just one of those “contrarian for the sake of it” people (in which, STOP IT! JUST STOP IT!), you’ve probably taken in the new Star Wars film.

The Force Awakens is on pace to become the highest grossing film of all time, and as of this writing, sits third in terms of highest grossing movies behind Titanic and Avatar, with $1,789,502,874 in profits since its release less than a month ago. To put that into a betting perspective, Nevada sportsbooks took $3.9 billion in bets for all of 2014.

It’s no surprise that people – Star Wars fans or not – are flocking to see Episode VII. It is, after all, a sequel. And people love them some sequels. The Force Awakens has blown past flicks Nos. 4 through 19 on the money list, with 15 of those 16 movies being sequels to an original film (save for Frozen).

The NFL is also on the sequel kick. Three of the four Wild Card Round games were rematches from the regular season, and three of the four Divisional Round bouts are also sequels to 2015 regular season results. And if you’re a fan of sequels – and God knows we are – you might also be a big fan of short underdogs in the NFL playoffs.

Going back to the 1985-86 playoffs, and underdogs of +2.5 or lower are 14-6-1 ATS (13-8 SU) when playing in a rematch of a regular season game – covering 70 percent of the time in those postseason contests. Trimming a half point from that spread range, down to +2, and those pups are a ferocious 9-1-1 ATS (10-2 SU) – covering the spread at an astonishing 90 percent clip. That’s that James Cameron money right there.

Keeping the sequel theme going, teams that won the regular season matchup – or in the case of divisional rivals, teams that won the most recent meeting – are just 6-10-1 ATS (10-7 SU) in the playoff rematch since the 2013-14 postseason – covering at only 37.5 percent. Pittsburgh, Carolina and Arizona all won the regular season date with their Divisional Round partner.

Twelve of those regular season winners were favorites in those playoff rematches, with four as underdogs and one game closing at pick’em. Those regular season victors, who happened to be giving the points in the rematch, finished 4-7-1 ATS in those postseason sequels.

If all those numbers have you feeling like you’re on the wrong end of a Vontaze Burfict hit, the results from the Wild Card Round won’t help clear the cobwebs, with the three 2015-16 playoff rematches finishing a dissatisfying 1-1-1 ATS for both rematch trends above. 

However, putting those historic tallies together points to one result in this weekend’s Divisional Round. But, like treading lightly when it comes to giving away the plot twists of the latest blockbuster sequel, we don’t want to ruin the end of the movie before you see it. So you’ll get no spoilers here…

*COUGH, COUGH*…SEAHAWKS!… *COUGH, COUGH*

Familiarity breeds Unders

While sorting out those recent rematches in the playoffs, I stumbled upon a pretty awesome totals trend as well. Since the 2013-14 postseason, playoff games that were a rematch of a regular season contests finished 4-12-1 Over/Under – 75 percent Under – including all three Wild Card Round rematches last weekend.

Size doesn’t matter

The Chiefs turned a lot of heads with their 30-0 pantsing of the Texans last weekend, a big reason why they’re only getting five points at New England Saturday.

Yes, the size of that blowout win was very impressive – especially when you consider that the playoffs SHOULD feature the best teams in the NFL – but as far as building on that one-sided victory, Kansas City might have been better off winning a squeaker in Houston.

Since the 2002-03 season, when this current playoff format started, teams coming off a Wild Card win of 20 or more points are just 4-8 SU and 5-7 ATS in the Divisional Round. Those teams scored an average of just 18.33 points against their Divisional Round foe and faced an average spread of +4.75 points.

In that same span, playoff teams that won their Wild Card matchup by three or fewer points (Hello, Steelers and Seahawks!) went just 2-9 SU in the Divisional Round but put up a much better fight at the window, boasting an 8-2 ATS mark in those games. They scored an average of 18.72 points for and were given an average of +7.09 points by oddsmakers in those Divisional Round tilts.

Pants pooping Stat of the Week

Peyton Manning is getting the nod for the Broncos in their Divisional Round matchup with the Steelers, overtaking Brock Osweiler as the team’s No. 1 in their Week 17 win against San Diego which clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Many fans of Papa John’s Pizza believe Manning gives Denver a better chance because of his playoff experience. But it looks like the only thing No. 18 has experience in is losing in the postseason. Manning enters Sunday’s game with an 11-13 SU mark in the tournament, going 10-14 ATS in those games.

Perhaps the biggest knock against Manning-led teams – ones that have been known to put up a ton of points – is that they’re 8-16 Over/Under in those playoff contests (67% Unders). Sunday’s total is currently off the board with all the injuries to the Steelers.

Back to Bacon

After a brief holiday hiatus, I reconnected with Rob Cressy from BaconSports.com for our weekly NFL betting chat. If you’ve been watching these videos each week, you’ll notice I shot this in a different spot. That’s because my damn Christmas tree is still standing – ornaments and all – where I usually sit.

My two-year-old daughter won’t let me take it down, acting like I just shot Santa each time I even mention putting the tree away. What can I say, I’m wrapped around her little finger…

Sharps like…

Under in Kansas City at New England. Sharp money bet the Under with both hands in this Saturday AFC matchup, slimming the total from 44.5 to 42. According to Jason Simbal of CG Technology in Las Vegas, which operates books at The M, Venetian and Cosmopolitan, wiseguys were trying to get ahead of potential bad weather in Foxborough, which appears to be blowing over. So there could be a tick upwards once the public has its say.

Biggest line move…

Seattle at Carolina. One-sided money on the Seahawks has moved this line from Panthers -3 to as low as -1, before some buyback showed on Carolina. Simbal says there was no money on the home side at -2.5 or -2 and the move was kind of made proactively, knowing there would be more bets coming on Seattle once the tourists roll into town.

Biggest sweat…

Pittsburgh at Denver.
Not only is this the last game on the board, which means any live parlays are going to be rolling into the Sunday finale, but due to Pittsburgh’s injuries bettors are going to be taking the Broncos. Some wiseguy money already hit Denver earlier in the week, trying to stay ahead of any injury news. And as it would have it, WR Antonio Brown was ruled out Friday, forcing a move as high as Denver -9 at some online books.

Banker game…

Kansas City at New England. While the Steelers-Broncos game could potentially be a huge banker game for bookies, the very first game of the Divisional Round will set the tone. If the Chiefs can cover the five points or even knock off the Pats, it will snuff out a lot of parlays right out of the gate. The same can be said for the Packers-Cardinals game, with a lot of money on Arizona. Aaron Rodgers has friends behind the counter in Las Vegas this weekend.

Daily Fantasy Player of the Week

I was hoping to turn over a new leaf with my DFS selections in the playoffs, after acting as the unofficial NFL daily fantasy cooler during the regular season (to the point in which I expected my phone to ring and hear NFL skill players on the other end, begging me not to make them my PoW).

I thought I had a wise choice in Bengals WR Marvin Jones in the Wild Card Round. Well, he caught four of seven balls thrown his way for a total of 32 disappointing yards. This week, I’m still searching for that diamond in the rough, and may have found it. Did it just get chilly in here?

DFS Player of the Week: Steven Jackson, RB New England Patriots ($5,700)

Bill Belichick has a way of blowing the dust off old talents and milking any ounce of production left in their aching bones, and he got that from Jackson in New England’s Week 17 loss to Miami. The former Rams/Falcons running back rushed for just 35 yards on 15 carries but found the end zone on a two-yard push in the third quarter – totalling 12 DFS points. New England can get the ball inside the red zone and Jackson should have plenty of opportunities to do what he does best: put his head down and smash.

Injury to watch

Will Tukuafu, FB Seattle Seahawks (hamstring)

Having a true fullback on your roster is like owning a giant panda: they’re both rare endangered species. Tukuafu is doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Panthers and his ability to plow the road for the running game and add extra protection for Russell Wilson will be missed.

He also showed some touch with a 7-yard TD catch in the blowout against the Cardinals in Week 17 – a tricky play that had him all by his lonesome in the end zone. If you don’t think a FB will have much of an impact, just ask Pete Carroll how hard it is to get the job done in short yardage situations.

We know how to pick’em

Each week, we take the game with the pick’em spread (or closest to it), put away the spread sheets and computer models, and turn it over to each team’s cheerleaders, wagering on which squad is the hottest. The Divisional Round’s tightest spread is Seattle at Carolina, which got as low as Panthers -1.

Sunday’s menu

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but my in-laws are from Newfoundland. If you’re not sure where that is, Johnny Cash used to go moose hunting there – which is pretty bad ass. But I digress.

On my most recent $200 adventure to Costco (because you can’t leave there without spending at least that, plus I’m a sucker for $1 HDs), I was asked to pick up a pack of cod for my mother in-law. It looked so damn good, I had to have my own. She makes a bunch of different cod fish dishes but I only know one way to do it up…


Song for Sunday

So David Bowie died. That sucks so f#cking hard. I usually have some clever connection between the upcoming NFL action and my “Song for Sunday”, but this week I just want to play one of my favorite Bowie songs. So crank this shit up while you do your capping and have a happy and healthy weekend…

Follow Covers Features Editor Jason Logan on Twitter @CoversJLo. Check out JLo’s Covers archive for his latest features and columns, including his NFL’s biggest betting mismatches for the Divisional Round.

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