It seems that just about every year that two teams from the same division in the NFL will square off for a third time in the playoffs. In fact, when the 49ers square off against the Seahawks in the 2014 NFC Championship Round, it will mark the 17th time that divisional opponents will have faced each other in the playoffs since the NFL went to four divisions in 2002.
There has already been one divisional rematch this year, as the Chargers fell to the Broncos in the Divisional Round. The road team had won the two regular season meetings leading into that grudge match. The home team has won both meetings between the 49ers and Seahawks. In fact, nine of the last 10 meetings between these NFC West rivals have been won by the home team.
With all of these factors in mind, I wanted to go back in time and see how divisional teams have fared against one another in the playoffs. I’m going to go back and find info on many of the different situations that can take place in the playoffs when two divisional teams get together. Here is a look at what I have found.
It appears that road teams have been the profitable bet over time in the third meeting of the season between these divisional opponents. I think a big reason for that is the fact that home-field advantage isn’t nearly as big between these divisional teams. They are more familiar with one another, which is a much bigger factor than home-field advantage.
Favorites have won at a fairly nice rate straight up in these spots. Oddsmakers have done a tremendous job of setting the lines in these games with a 50/50 split against the spread on favorites and underdogs. Favorites in the Divisional Round have been horrible at 1-4 ATS, but favorites in the Championship Round have not lost in three tries all-time both straight up and ATS.
Taking road underdogs outside of the Championship Round have been a very profitable move at 8-4 (67%) ATS all-time. However, home favorites have not lost in the Championship Round, going 2-0 SU and 2-0 ATS.
Obviously, it’s a rarity to have a home underdog in these situations. There have only been two over time, and both have gone down in flames. The Bengals fell to the Steelers 17-31 as a 3-point home underdog during the 2005-06 season. The Bears fell to the Packers 14-21 as a 3.5-point home underdog during the 2010-11 campaign as well.
This result actually surprises me a bit. I figures that teams who lost both regular season meetings would be a good bet playing with double-revenge. It turns out that this is only a 50/50 proposition as these teams have gone 3-3 ATS all-time. They have gone on to lose for a third time outright in four of the six meetings as well. The Giants were the last team to win in the playoffs after losing their two regular season meetings to the Cowboys. They accomplished that feat in 2008.
I also figured that teams who won the last meeting would do poorly in the playoffs. It’s hard to beat a team twice in a row in a league like the NFL with so much parity. However, these teams have gone 9-7 SU and a respectable 8-8 ATS. They are 6-2 ATS in the last two rounds of the playoffs, but just 2-6 ATS in the first two rounds.
This is clearly a rare occurrence where a home team in the playoffs would have lost the last meeting on the road. That’s because you wouldn’t expect these teams to have home-field advantage due to losing the last meeting. This last occurred during the 2011 playoffs when the Bears lost as a 3.5-point home underdog to the Packers. This situation will take place in these playoffs between the Seahawks and 49ers.
I would say the success of these road playoff teams that lost the last meeting at home makes sense to me. They have gone a solid 5-3 ATS over time, including a perfect 4-0 ATS in the Wildcard Round. Not only are these teams out for revenge, but they are getting roughly 3.5 more points due to playing on the road. Those extra points appear to have come into play a lot here while helping these teams show solid profits ATS.