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Using Strength of Schedule to Handicap the Wild Card Round of the NFL Playoffs

01.05.2016     07:57 AM     Printer Friendly

The theory is actually quite simple; since 2002, teams with a higher Strength of Schedule (using Sagarin’s Ratings) are a remarkable 37-15 straight up and 37-14-1 against the spread (73% winners) regardless of price and location. Even more amazing is that teams with a SOS differential of 10 or more went 23-4 SU, 22-4-1 ATS (85% winners). Taking it step further, teams with a better SOS that are underdogs went 15-11 SU, 19-6 ATS. Underdogs with a SOS rating of 10 or better went 9-4 SU and 10-3 ATS. This is not a perfect science when it comes to grading plays. For example, two years ago, the Colts opened -2.5 but closed +2. The 49ers also closed -3.5 at a number of shops which would have resulted in an ATS loss. That said, with 13 years of results, this is one of the strongest publically known NFL trends available.

NFL Wildcard Playoff Strength of Schedule Betting Trend 2002-14
Year
Away (SOS)
Home (SOS)
Score
SOS SU
SOS ATS
2014
Arizona (10)
Carolina (22) -5.5
CAR 27, ARI 16
Loss
Loss
2014
Baltimore (29) +3
Pittsburgh (30)
BAL 30, PIT 17
Win
Win
2014
Detroit (23) +6
Dallas (31)
DAL 24, DET 20
Loss
Win
2014
Cincinnati (18)
Indianapolis (24) -3.5
IND 26, CIN 10
Loss
Loss
 
 
 
 
 
 
2013
Kansas City (26)
Indianapolis (11) +2
IND 45, KC 44
Win
Win
2013
New Orleans (8) +3
Philadelphia (28)
NO 26, PHI 24
Win
Win
2013
San Diego (19) +6
Cincinnati (27)
SD 27, CIN 10
Win
Win
2013
San Francisco (7) -3
Green Bay (30)
SF 23, GB 20
Win
Push
 
 
 
 
 
 
2012
Cincinnati (31)
Houston (27) -4.5
HOU 19, CIN 13
Win
Win
2012
Minnesota (6) +8
Green Bay (8)
GB 24, MIN 10
Loss
Loss
2012
Indianapolis (32)
Baltimore (18) -6.5
BAL 24, IND 9
Win
Win
2012
Seattle (5) -3
Washington (15)
SEA 24, WAS 14
Win
Win
 
 
 
 
 
 
2011
Cincinnati (23) +3
Houston (32)
HOU 31, CIN 10
Loss
Loss
2011
Detroit (4) +10.5
New Orleans (31)
NO 45, DET 28
Loss
Loss
2011
NY Giants (6) -3
Atlanta (21)
NYG 24, ATL 2
Win
Win
2011
Denver (8) +8
Pittsburgh (26)
DEN 29, PIT 23
Win
Win
 
 
 
 
 
 
2010
New Orleans (25)
Seattle (28) +14.5
SEA 41, NO 36
Loss
Loss
2010
NY Jets (8) +1
Indianapolis (21)
NYJ 17, IND 16
Win
Win
2010
Baltimore (12) -3
Kansas City (32)
BAL 30, KC 7
Win
Win
2010
Green Bay (9) +1
Philadelphia (16)
GB 21, PHI 16
Win
Win
 
 
 
 
 
 
2009
Philadelphia (13) +3.5
Dallas (14)
DAL 34, PHI 13
Loss
Loss
2009
Green Bay (32)
Arizona (28) +2.5
ARI 51, GB 45
Win
Win
2009
NY Jets (4) +2.5
Cincinnati (17)
NYJ 24, CIN 14
Win
Win
2009
Baltimore (10)
New England (6) -3.5
BAL 33, NE 14
Loss
Loss
 
 
 
 
 
 
2008
Baltimore (3) -3.5
Miami (26)
BAL 27, MIA 9
Win
Win
2008
Indianapolis (10) -1.5
San Diego (17)
SD 23, IND 17
Loss
Loss
2008
Philadelphia (5) -3
Minnesota (14)
PHI 26, MIN 14
Win
Win
2008
Atlanta (24)
Arizona (16) -1.5
ARI 30, ATL 24
Win
Win
 
 
 
 
 
 
2007
NY Giants (2) +3
Tampa Bay (24)
NYG 24, TB 14
Win
Win
2007
Washington (1) +3
Seattle (35)
SEA 35, WAS 14
Loss
Loss
2007
Tennessee (18)
San Diego (6) -10.5
SD 17, TEN 6
Win
Win
2007
Jacksonville (13) -2.5
Pittsburgh (27)
JAX 31, PIT 29
Win
Loss
 
 
 
 
 
 
2006
NY Jets (8)
New England (4) -9.5
NE 37, NYJ 16
Win
Win
2006
Kansas City (17)
Indianapolis (5) -7
IND 23, KC 8
Win
Win
2006
NY Giants (9) +6.5
Philadelphia (21)
PHI 23, NYG 20
Loss
Win
2006
Dallas (23) +2.5
Seattle (30)
SEA 21, DAL 20
Loss
Win
 
 
 
 
 
 
2005
Carolina (24)
NY Giants (17) -3
CAR 23, NYG 0
Loss
Loss
2005
Washington (3) +1
Tampa Bay (32)
WAS 17, TB 10
Win
Win
2005
Pittsburgh (4) -3
Cincinnati (13)
PIT 31, CIN 17
Win
Win
2005
Jacksonville (25)
New England (8) -7.5
NE 28, JAX 3
Win
Win
 
 
 
 
 
 
2004
Denver (14)
Indianapolis (11) -10
IND 49, DEN 24
Win
Win
2004
NY Jets (4) +7
San Diego (18)
NYJ 20, SD 17
Win
Win
2004
St. Louis (22) +3.5
Seattle (29)
STL 27, SEA 20
Win
Win
2004
Minnesota (21) +6.5
Green Bay (26)
MIN 31, GB 17
Win
Win
 
 
 
 
 
 
2003
Dallas (18)
Carolina (13) -3
CAR 29, DAL 10
Win
Win
2003
Seattle (27)
Green Bay (23) -7.5
GB 33, SEA 27
Win
Loss
2003
Denver (19)
Indianapolis (4) -3
IND 41, DEN 10
Win
Win
2003
Tennessee (6) -1
Baltimore (28)
TEN 20, BAL 17
Win
Win
 
 
 
 
 
 
2002
Cleveland (17) +8
Pittsburgh (20)
PIT 36, CLE 33
Loss
Win
2002
Indianapolis (28)
NY Jets (5) -6
NYJ 41, IND 0
Win
Win
2002
NY Giants (30)
San Francisco (11) -3
SF 39, NYG 38
Win
Loss
2002
Atlanta (6) +7
Green Bay (27)
ATL 27, GB 7
Win
Win
Results
 
 
 
37-15 SU
37-14-1 ATS


In 2002 the NFL expanded to its current format of 32 teams; eight divisions with four teams each. There wasn’t much upheaval as the league added the Houston Texans to the AFC and Seattle switched to the NFC. Two new divisions were created as the league kept the integrity of the established divisional rivalries pretty much intact. The playoff format was modified so that four division winners and two wild cards from each conference would advance to the playoffs.

Two regular scheduling changes were implemented based on the expansion and the four-team divisional format. Only two games each season would now be based on the previous year's record (down from four) and the league assigned a divisional rotation schedule. This insured that all teams within one division would be assigned to play all of the teams from another division in each conference.  This was done on a rotation basis that way all teams would play each other at least twice every eight years, and would play in every other team's stadium at least once during this same time frame.

The result was that there seemed to be a greater disparity based on happenstance rather than intent as teams faced eight teams from two divisions. This resulted in a very similar schedule to the other three teams in its division rather than a schedule more in common with the other poor teams across the league. No longer did a team that finished last get the benefit of avoiding top finishers and facing a quarter of its schedule against other last place teams the following season.

Here are this season’s Strength of Schedule numbers for the first round games. If you subscribe to this theory, plays should be made on Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Green Bay.

Matchup (SOS) CRIS’s current line   
Kansas City (14) -3 at Houston (26) 
Pittsburgh (10) -2.5 at Cincinnati (15) 
Seattle (13) at Minnesota (12) +5.5 
Gren Bay (9) +1 at Washington (24)


Tags: NFL Kansas City Chiefs Houston Texans Pittsburgh Steelers Cincinnati Bengals Seattle Seahawks Minnesota Vikings Green Bay Packers Washington Redskins




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