Deconstructing the Divisional Round Betting Lines

Throughout the season we broke down implied team totals each week based on offensive and defensive scoring tendencies. Let’s do the same for the divisional round playoff matchups based on regular season scoring trends.

The percentages in the below tables refer to each team’s points scored and points allowed tendencies from the regular season. The “Tm %” and “Opp %” are rates of a team’s total points scored or allowed that come through each phase of the game. Those rates are applied to the team’s weekly implied total via two different calculation methods in the final two columns.1

The premise is that implied totals build in factors like matchup or home/road status, while applying scoring tendencies allow us to better define what that total is truly implying for each team. For more information, consult the Week 1 article or the original article in the series from the middle of last season. I also reviewed the accuracy of last season’s projections over the offseason, with positive results.

Here are your divisional round implied team totals broken down by passing, rushing, kicking, and DST scoring.

Passing Scoring and Notes

League Average Passing Points Rate: 40.5 percent

TeamOppImp PtsTm %Opp %Avg paPtsSD paPts

Note: Lines come from Vegas Insider on January 11th.

  • Even as 4.5-point underdogs, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers come in with the most projected passing points in the divisional round. They scored a league-high 55.6 percent of their points through passing TDs in the regular season, and four of their five TDs in the wild card round came through the air. Meanwhile, the Cowboys defense allowed the fifth-highest rate of points through passing TDs during the regular season. It’s a good bet the Packers will score more through the air than on the ground, and if you believe they have a legitimate shot to win (or at least score a high number of points), that’s only more of a reason to be on the Packers’ passing game.
  • On the flip side of that game, Dak Prescott and the Dallas passing game is intriguing. They tended to score more points on the ground than through the air, relative to league average rates in the regular season. But Prescott did throw all three of the Cowboys’ touchdowns when Dallas went to Green Bay back in Week 6. In fact, Dallas played four of the nine teams who allowed a rate of passing TDs at least five percentage points higher than league average — Green Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Detroit. In all four games, Prescott threw three TDs, his only such games of the season.2 Don’t be surprised if more of the Cowboys’ scoring comes through the air this weekend than on the ground.
  • Of all the matchups, Atlanta’s passing options look the worst on paper against Seattle’s defense. Keep in mind, though, that Earl Thomas is out. The Seahawks did well against Detroit’s passing game in the wild card round, but on the road at Atlanta is a different situation. I think it would be a mistake to use these lines as a reason to fade Matt Ryan or Julio Jones.

Rushing Scoring and Notes

League Average Rushing Points Rate: 22.7 percent

TeamOppImp PtsTm %Opp %Avg ruPtsSD ruPts

  • The notes about Ryan and Atlanta’s passing offense above aside, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have a good outlook. The two backs combined for 24 touchdowns in the regular season.3 They look like good bets to continue that as home favorites in a high-totaled game against a defense that gave up a high percentage of rushing scores.
  • The Patriots are 16-point favorites at home against Houston, who allowed a slightly higher rate of rushing scores than league average. LeGarrette Blount led the NFL with 18 rushing TDs in the regular season, the highest single-season total since Adrian Peterson in 2009. Can somebody say Blount Game?
  • Despite the NFL’s second-highest rate of scoring through rushing TDs in the regular season and a high team total, Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys have the third highest rushing point projection of eight teams. That’s because the Packers defense allowed the lowest rate of rushing scoring of the eight remaining teams. Elliott scored 15 rushing TDs this season so his scoring potential is still high, but this is a week where it’s lower than usual.

Kicking and Defense/Special Teams Scoring and Notes

League Average Kicking Points Rate: 31.5 percent

TeamOppImp PtsTm %Opp %Avg kiPtsSD kiPts

Over the course of the regular season, the 85 recommendations I highlighted in this article averaged 8.6 fantasy points, and 62 scored 7 or more (73 percent).

Based on this methodology, the divisional round’s top options are Stephen Gostkowski, Dan Bailey, and Matt Bryant

League Average DST Points Rate: 5.2 percent

TeamOppImp PtsTm %Opp %Avg dstPtsSD dstPts

As always, keep in mind that this is the one facet of this segmented analysis that performed worse last season than just using the implied lines alone, and it was pretty dramatic. The logic follows that defensive or special teams scores are random, and the teams who score a high percentage of points this way could potentially have inflated implied point totals. Additionally, their DST units could be potential fades in DFS due to inflated fantasy success built on an unrepeatable trait.

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  1. The first averages the offensive and defensive rates, while the second squares the difference between each rate and the league average, combines them, divides by two, and finds the square root, similar to the process for calculating standard deviation. This emphasizes teams with substantially higher or lower rates than league average.  (back)
  2. He also threw two touchdowns against Philadelphia, who allowed the 10th highest rate in the league.  (back)
  3. Freeman scored 13 to Coleman’s 11.  (back)
By Ben Gretch | @YardsPerGretch | Archive

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