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Last year’s decision to increase the NFL playoff field to seven teams in each conference created an increased level of competition for the final spots and positioning. This year it seems to be building even bigger, as only three teams from each conference have little or no hope to reach the postseason. Furthermore, 13 AFC teams have from seven to 10 wins, as do eight in the NFC. Simply put, a lot is left to be determined in the final three weeks.
So what will separate the teams and clarify the playoff picture? It could be the same-season rematch games that will be played between divisional foes, so let’s examine some key trends and betting systems you should consider as you analyze these final three weeks.
Like any situational form of analysis, certain teams perform better than others in same-season rematches. And certain teams and coaches are better or worse at adjusting to opponents the second time around. Look at this chart, which details the same-season rematch records of all NFL teams from 2011 through Week 14.
Unsurprisingly, the teams that have generally been among the best in football over the last decade, such as the Patriots, Chiefs and Saints, are shown with the best records. Teams like the Jets, Jaguars and Browns have struggled in rematches the most. Use the chart and your own discretion over the next few weeks to spot opportunities to take advantage of these team tendencies.
In addition, I’ll point out some of the best information I found from my analysis of the rematch data. Here are 10 key tidbits I uncovered.
New Orleans is 19-6 ATS in its last 25 same-season rematch games.
Unfortunately, I didn’t write this report last week, when the Saints, who have been effective the second time around, took down the Buccaneers in dominant fashion Sunday night. This is really a feather in the cap of coach Sean Payton, who has led the franchise for the entire 25-game stretch. New Orleans will have games against Carolina in Week 17 and Atlanta in Week 18. If the Saints win both, it could lead to another playoff berth.
Las Vegas is 6-12 ATS in its last 18 same-season rematches on the road, outscored 26.8-13.7, but is 5-2 ATS in its last seven such contests at home.
The chart showed how poorly the Raiders have fared in same-season rematch games, regardless of whether they won or lost the previous matchup. This builds on that in that they have been awful offensively on the road. But the silver-and-black lining is that they’ve been respectable in their recent home rematch games, and that could be important since two of their final three playoff-impacting games are at home against the Broncos and Chargers.
Cleveland is 6-21-1 ATS in its last 28 same-season rematch games and has gone Over the total in the last six while allowing 32.5 ppg.
This trend could be of interest to point-spread bettors and fantasy football players since it seems that opponents have their way with the Browns’ defense the second time around. In Weeks 17 and 18, Cleveland will travel to Pittsburgh and host Cincinnati.
Indianapolis is on a 28-9 Under-the-total surge in its last 37 same-season rematch games.
The 28 games in this trend that went Under have produced an average of about 36.3 ppg, while the rare Overs have seen 61.3 ppg, indicating a significant difference in pace and play between the outcomes. In general, though, three of every four Colts rematch contests trend toward the lower-scoring end. Keep that in mind for the season finale at Jacksonville.
Dallas is on a 17-7 Over-the-total surge in its last 24 same-season rematch games.
This trend lost Sunday against the Giants in New York, but it does give some hope to Dallas fans who have watched QB Dak Prescott and the offense struggle in recent weeks, at least compared with where they were at midseason. In 12 of the 17 Over games, Dallas topped the 30-point mark. Over the next three weeks, coach Mike McCarthy’s team will have rematches against Washington and Philadelphia, and the last seven second-time-around games against the former have gone Over.
The preceding five trends have been team-specific betting angles. The remaining five are leaguewide systems into which you can fit teams.
Teams that lost three or fewer weeks ago by double-digit margins are on a 22-9 ATS surge in the rematch contests.
Quick turnarounds have actually been favorable for teams that have lost decisively in previous games against a specific opponent. This would seem to go against common sense, but they are quick to adjust, leading to what has been a fairly successful contrarian betting system.
Teams that won by 21 or more points in the opening game are 67-20 SU and 55-32 ATS in the rematch.
I was somewhat surprised to see this definitive of a winning record on a trend of this nature, as point spreads are usually equalizers. However, it seems that the talent disparity in such mismatches just can’t be accounted for enough. From a coaching standpoint, losing games by 21 or more points requires more than the usual allotment of adjustments the second time around.
In rematch games in which point spreads have changed 17 points or more from the previous contest, the team toward which the line moved favorably is on a 37-1 SU and 27-11 ATS run.
A lot of extenuating circumstances can go into a line differing by 17 points or more from the last contest, such as home/road change, injuries and momentum. But the bottom line is this: Oddsmakers have set the table for bettors in the second game, as the team whose season has gone better has taken care of business — and handily.
Teams that lost the previous game to a certain opponent but now have a record 25 percent or better outright have gone 26-4 SU and 22-8 ATS in the rematch.
This refers to situations in which one team’s season has progressed a lot more favorably than the other’s, despite the earlier loss. This says a lot for the power of momentum in the NFL as well as how the additional revenge factor can motivate a superior team.
Teams that won the previous same-season game are 8-2 SU and 9-1 ATS in the playoffs as underdogs of 3 points or fewer.
Confidence seems to rise in playoff games after a team has beaten an opponent in the previous contest. When you add the motivation of being an underdog in a postseason game to a team you beat last time, that’s even better. With the huge number of teams between seven and 10 wins this season and relatively evenly matched, we have a great chance to see multiple opportunities to take advantage of this angle in the playoffs.