The divisional round of the NFL playoffs is finally here! Many call this the best weekend of the season, and looking at the matchups, this weekend should live up to the billing.
As for last week, Super Wild Card Weekend was full of surprises. The Jacksonville Jaguars upset the Los Angeles Chargers despite being down 27-0. The underdog New York Giants shocked the Minnesota Vikings. The Miami Dolphins almost upset one of the Super Bowl favorites in the Buffalo Bills. But the big one that stuck out was Tom Brady finally recording his first career loss against the Dallas Cowboys, losing 31-14 in what was a blowout for most of the game.
Looking ahead, FOX Sports research dug into how teams performed against the spread (ATS) and straight up (SU) in various situations in the divisional round. Let’s dive into the betting trends that stuck out.
49ers and Cowboys meet again
For the second consecutive postseason, the San Francisco 49ers and the Cowboys will face off. It also marks the ninth time these two teams have met, tied for the most frequent matchup in NFL postseason history (Green Bay Packers vs. 49ers and Los Angeles Rams vs. Cowboys).
In last season’s matchup, San Francisco covered and won straight up 23-17 as 3.5-point underdogs in the wild-card round. The story is a bit different this year, as the 49ers enter this matchup as the favorites. They come in on an 11-game win streak (including Saturday’s wild-card victory), one win shy of the second-longest regular and postseason win streak in franchise history. FOX Bet currently has the 49ers as 3.5-point favorites.
Here’s a look at a breakdown between the two:
- 49ers are 3-5 ATS and SU (37.5%) vs. the Cowboys in all playoff meetings in the Super Bowl era but have won and covered in the two most recent meetings (last year’s wild card and the 1994 NFC Championship game)
- San Francisco is 7-1 ATS (87.5%) and 6-2 SU (75%) in the divisional round since 1997, with the Under hitting in five of those games
- 49ers are 5-1 ATS and SU (83.3%) in all home playoff games since 2003, with the Over hitting in four of those games
- Cowboys are 3-3 ATS (50%) and 1-5 SU (16.7%) on the road in all playoff games since 2003, with the Under hitting in four of those games (first win in that span came on Monday in the wild-card round)
- Dallas is 2-5 ATS (28.6%) and 0-7 SU as an underdog in all playoff games since 1993, with the Under hitting in four of those games
- Cowboys are 2-5 ATS (28.6%) and 1-6 SU (14.3%) on the road in the divisional round since 1980
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs should dominate
Coming off a first-round bye, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are 8.5-point favorites against the Jaguars at FOX Bet.
The AFC South champions completed the third-largest comeback in playoff history against the Chargers, erasing a 27-point deficit. However, history says the Chiefs should win comfortably in what will be their first playoff meeting against Jacksonville on Saturday. Mahomes is also coming off a career season, throwing for 5,250 yards and 41 touchdowns – both the top marks in the regular season.
Here’s a look at the trends we found that point towards the Chiefs covering:
- Mahomes is 7-4 ATS (63.6%) and 8-3 SU (72.7%) as a starter in the playoffs in his career
- Mahomes is 3-1 ATS (75%) and 4-0 SU as a starter in the divisional round in his career
- Mahomes is 11-6 ATS (64.7%) and 17-0 SU as an eight- to 10-point favorite in his career (regular season and playoffs)
- Chiefs are 13-10 ATS (56.5%) and 19-4 SU (82.6%) as an eight- to 10-point favorite under Andy Reid (regular season and playoffs)
- Kansas City is 4-1 ATS (80%) and 5-0 SU vs. the Jaguars under Andy Reid
- Chiefs are 7-2 ATS and SU (77.8%) vs. the Jaguars since 2005
- Andy Reid is 10-10 ATS (50%) and 13-7 SU (65%) as a home favorite in the playoffs in his career (Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles)
Underdogs cover in divisional round
No matter what timeframe you look at, underdogs historically cover in the divisional round. While they don’t win at a high rate, they consistently cover the spread, which is huge for gamblers to consider.
Below is a breakdown of how underdogs perform ATS in this round:
- Since 2020, underdogs are 5-3 ATS (62.5%) and 4-4 SU (50%) in the divisional round, with the Under hitting in five of those games
- Since 2010, underdogs are 24-22-2 ATS (52.25%) and 15-33 SU (31.3%) in the divisional round, with the Over hitting in 29 of those games
- Since 2000, underdogs are 45-40-3 ATS (52.9%) and 29-59 SU (33%) in the divisional round, with the Over hitting in 46 of those games (one push)
- Since 1995, underdogs are 54-50-4 ATS (51.9%) and 35-73 SU (32.4%) in the divisional round, with the Over hitting in 55 of those games
Road underdogs bark in divisional round
Speaking of dogs barking, since the 2003 season, road underdogs specifically have done very well ATS, going 39-29-1 ATS (57.4%) in that span. They’ve also won 25 of those 69 games (36.2%), which is a remarkably high rate when looking at 19 seasons of data.
The road underdogs at FOX Bet this week include the Jaguars, Giants, Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals.
History says Daniel Jones, Giants should cover
The Giants are on a Cinderella run, considering they are led by a first-year head coach in Brian Daboll and also were tabbed with a 6.5 preseason Over/Under win total at FOX Bet. Not only did they record nine regular-season wins, but the team also took down the NFC North champion Vikings in the wild-card round. New York went into that game as underdogs since Minnesota was 13-4 entering the postseason. Much of the Giants’ success has come due to Daniel Jones’ improved play, recording career-highs in pass yards, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.
Jones also has a stellar record when playing on the road and as an underdog in his career. The Giants are 7.5-point underdogs at FOX Bet against the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles this weekend. The numbers below include Jones’ playoff debut against the Vikings, in which the Giants were road underdogs:
- Jones is 17-5 ATS (77.3%) and 7-15 SU (31.8%) as a starter when a road underdog in his career
- Jones is 27-15 ATS (64.3%) and 15-26-1 SU (36.6%) as a starter when an underdog in his career
- Jones is 18-7 ATS (72%) and 9-16 SU (36%) as a starter when playing on the road in his career
Over hits in the divisional round
Not much to dive into here, as the numbers speak for themselves below. The Over has hit at 51% or higher when looking at every five-year interval since the 1990 season:
- Since 2015: Over hit in 15 of 28 divisional round games (53.6%)
- Since 2010: Over hit in 29 of 48 divisional round games (60.4%)
- Since 2005: Over hit in 37 of 68 divisional round games (54.4%)
- Since 2000: Over hit in 46 of 88 divisional round games (one push) (52.9%)
- Since 1995: Over hit in 55 of 108 divisional round games (one push) (51.4%)
- Since 1990: Over hit in 67 of 127 divisional round games (one push) (53.2%)
Herd Hierarchy: Cowboys, Eagles lead the way in Colin’s Top Divisional Round teams
Colin Cowherd reveals his final Herd Hierarchy of the season.
No. 1 seeds dominate this round but struggle to cover
Fading the 1-seed in regard to covering the spread seems to be the play when looking at the data, despite their dominance SU. However, it is worth noting that the 2-seed has covered consistently since 2000, as shown below:
- Since 2010, the 1-seed is 9-13-2 ATS (40.9%) and 16-8 SU (66.7%) in the divisional round, with the Over hitting in 13 of those games
- Since 2000, the 1-seed is 18-24-2 ATS (42.9%) and 30-14 SU (68.2%) in the divisional round, with the Under hitting in 24 of those games
- Since 2010, the 2-seed is 14-10 ATS (58.3%) and 18-6 SU (75%) in the divisional round, with the Over hitting in 16 of those games
- Since 2000, the 2-seed is 23-20-1 ATS (53.5%) and 30-14 SU (68.2%) in the divisional round, with the Over hitting in 26 of those games
Preseason long shots continue to advance
We mentioned this in last week’s trend piece and wanted to note it again as the preseason long shots continue to advance in this year’s playoffs. Both the Giants and Jaguars were given 150-1 odds or greater to win the Super Bowl before Week 1 of the season. Each team will now face the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences. This is the first time that two teams with odds of 150-1 or greater have both made the divisional round since 1980 – as far back as our preseason Super Bowl odds data goes back.
So are you ready to place some NFL divisional–round bets? Head over to FOX Bet now for all your wagers!
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