NFL Football Best Bets: Divisional Playoff Weekend (2021)

Ryan’s Season Totals

Best Bets: 37-23-1, Up 1758%

3-0 last week, looks even better when you consider the reasoning behind the plays hit as well as Josh Allen graded out at 92.3 when NOT blitzed, yet 68.6 when blitzed!

Best Bet #1: Kansas City Chiefs -6.5 (buy the ½ point to -130) OVER Cincinnati Bengals

Anyone that watched the Chiefs game last week (or really the last 3 years) knows how hard it is to beat QB Pat Mahomes in the playoffs. As a matter of fact, outside of Tom Brady, no other QB in the league has beaten Pat Mahomes in the playoffs.

This is where this play starts: the subjective instinct to NEVER bet against Pat Mahomes, Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers (but especially Mahomes).

Yet, this game is setting up to be full of “always bet slogans”

  1. Count on Mahomes winning a playoff game (vs. non-Tom Brady)
  2. Home Playoff team, with a top-3 crowd (I know, I know home field advantage is dying/and always had to do with the Referees, but not my point)
  3. How hard it is to beat a team twice in a season

Yet, despite all this our selection here really has to do with an interesting split we’ve discovered within the Bengals offense.

According to Football Outsiders, the Bengals Offense has the second largest difference between performance at home vs. away by DVOA (see top 10 “better offenses at home” below).


When you dig into this a little further you learn this is largely due to the QB play from Joe Burrow. Take a look at a few select home and away stat split rankings from our friends at SIS for the star QB:

Home RankAway Rank
Positive Play Rate3rd17th
Deep Passing EPA/play1st9th

Two things to note, long-time readers probably know I’m not as big a fan of these types splits, that is ones we aren’t certain of their “stickiness”/predictive ability. Yet as you drill down further, you see Burrow has had a similar split throughout much of his young NFL career. In fact, in 2020, he went from 18th to 23rd in WAR when playing at home vs away, respectively.

Additionally, compared to all the remaining QBs in the playoffs, this seems like an outlier:

Home WAR RankingAway WAR Ranking
Joe Burrow1st19th
Pat Mahomes5th5th
Jimmy Garropolo20th15th
Matt Stafford4th6th

As you can see, this really does seem to be a “Joe Burrow thing”. As a matter of fact, we can find evidence of this split dating back to college. Despite his insane rise in 2019, during his two “LSU years”, you can see a similar phenomenon. Take a look at his SIS PE/Play (min. 100 attempts) ranking splits:

Home RankingAway Ranking

*Granted we don’t put much in terms of the deviation during his “magical 2019 year” (the difference between 2nd and 4th really isn’t significant), but look at his 2018 season. Many thought Joe Burrow “came out of nowhere” in 2019, but if you ONLY considered games played at home, maybe more would have noticed his top 20 performance.

Add it all up, and this seems like a pretty strong angle to exploit.

Bet: Kansas City Chiefs -6.5 (but the ½ point to -130) OVER Cincinnati Bengals

Best Bet #2: Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals UNDER 10 Points in 1st Quarter (-105)

If you read, and hopefully cashed in on our play from last week, Bengals/Titans UNDER 1st Quarter 9.5 Points, you’re familiar with this angle.

Summing up the play from last week, essentially the Bengals are one of a few teams that by DVOA BOTH have a better defense in the first quarter (compared to quarters 2-4) AND a WORSE offense in the first quarter (again compared to quarters 2-4).

Now the Chiefs are NOT as strong as the Titans were in this same spot last week, since they have a strong first quarter offense (2nd in the NFL), BUT they do have a strikingly better defense in the first quarter (13th) compared to their overall rank (24th).

And given what we know about how the Chiefs prepare for opponents, and the likelihood they may try to slow this game down compared to the shootout earlier in the year (when they lost), we are counting on the Chiefs scoring early here, then holding the Bengals in the 1Q, with a 7-0 / 7-3 type start in the first quarter.

*Note: Given that the Under here is -105 and the over is -115, the juice may PUSH this to 10.5. Because of where its at right now, I would wait (and hope) on that happening before you play this.

Bet: Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals UNDER 10 Points in 1st Quarter (-105)

Best Bet #3: Matthew Stafford UNDER 280.5 Passing Yards (-115)

There are two keys to this play. The first is an obvious one that the market hasn’t been talking about much:

Despite Stafford hitting his over on passing 10 of 19 times this year, San Francisco opponents are currently 4-15 OVER their passing yardage marks for the season. Much of this has to do with the 49ers pacing, and “run-heavy-ness”. As the 3rd most frequent running, and the 4th slowest team there is a baseline here for opponents to not get as many opportunities with the ball as expected. This was especially true in the previous two matchups between these teams.Additionally, as Ryan Mccrystal of Sharp Football Analysis, pointed out:

The 49ers have also had success limiting Stafford’s productivity with their combination of zone coverage without a blitz. In a one-score game, Stafford has faced the no blitz/zone combo on 61% of his dropbacks against everyone other than San Francisco, but 74% against the Niners. On the year, Stafford ranks 16th (out of 39) in EPA per dropback versus the no blitz/zone combo, and leads the league in EPA per dropback in all other scenarios combined.”

That is a legit split, #1 vs all splits EXCEPT Zone/NO blitz, where he is 16th. These types of plays, where we have multiple, predictive splits, independently pointing in the same direction, are always our favorite to hammer.

Bet: Matthew Stafford UNDER 280.5 Passing Yards (-115)

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