Trends aplenty in wild-card round

By Steve Makinen  (Point Spread Weekly editor) 

January 5, 2021 07:31 PM

(To see the charts accompanying this report, subscribe to Point Spread Weekly.)

A lot of commentators thought the NFL would never get to this point in the 2020-21 season, yet here we are on the verge of kicking off one of the most anticipated playoff seasons in recent memory. Not only is the playoff qualifying field bigger than ever with an additional team from each conference, but the realistic title contending field might be as big as it’s ever been as well.  In fact, heading into the postseason, my Power Ratings are showing six teams between a 30.5 and 31.5 rating in the battle for the top spot. That is easily as widespread a field as I’ve had at this point in the season. Of course, with only one team from each conference getting the wild-card weekend off, those front runners, Green Bay and Kansas City, are naturally the favorites to reach the Super Bowl in Tampa next month.

Even though the playoff field is enlarged and there will be a very limited number of fans in the stands to provide the full home-field advantage, the stakes of the games are the same as always, and thus many of bettors’ usual handicapping routines should still be employed. That’s where my series on round-by-round playoff betting angles comes in handy. As with any recurring sporting event, the NFL playoffs have gone through various trend patterns over the years, with some seasons being dominated by underdog and upstart teams and others being relatively predictable with favorites taking care of business. Because of this ever-changing nature, it can be difficult for bettors to thrive when using past playoff results as a guide. In past eras, predicting the playoffs was usually as easy as looking at a team’s body of work.

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