The 2021 NFL Wildcard Weekend was just that – wild. The LA Rams and Cleveland Browns both extended their season for another week against the odds.
Home Dog Trend Regresses
Betting trends is a risky business. They can mean as much or as little as a bettor wants depending on the final result. Ultimately, they aren’t a great indication of future performance and, more often than not, the tide turns on a once profitable approach. Home underdogs in the NFL playoffs have performed remarkably well historically:
Home underdogs in the NFL playoffs are 26-14-1 ATS (65%) and 23-18 SU (56%) since 1980
(via @CBSSportsHQ )
— Todd Fuhrman (@ToddFuhrman) January 7, 2021
Throughout Wildcard Weekend of the 2020-21 NFL season, however, both home dogs failed to deliver.
The Washington Football Team fought hard and pushed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but couldn’t cover the +7.5 line to lose 31-23. Later, Baltimore Ravens overcame their nightmare from last season to beat the Tennesse Titans (+3.5) 20-13 on Monday morning.
Home underdogs are still travelling at 61.9% since 1980, but this week provides some with a timely reminder that past performance is not indicative of future results.
It hasn’t been two weeks since Jared Goff had surgery on his broken thumb. Still, the 26-year-old came off the bench to throw for 155 yards and a touchdown as the LA Rams upset the Seattle Seahawks 30-20, avenging their loss to Seattle – which wrapped up the NFC West – back in Week 16.
John Wolford had been named to start in place of the injured Goff. However, Wolford soon found himself rushed to hospital with a neck injury. Goff found himself in a playoff game grossly underdone but under pressure to secure the result.
His performance hasn’t turned LA’s Super Bowl hopes on their head. Way out at $17, they’re still on the seventh line of betting to complete the unthinkable.
Take A Bow, Taylor
Taylor Heinicke had strapped himself in for a semester studying mathematics at Old Dominion University before being called up by the Washington Football Team to be their quarantine quarterback. He has been around the league before. Still, playoff football wasn’t on his mind when accepting the offer in early December. But when Alex Smith couldn’t get his body right to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wildcard Weekend, Heinicke all of a sudden found himself going head-to-head with the greatest to ever do it, Tom Brady.
There would be no fairytale. Brady and the Buccaneers took care of business 31-23 to extend their season. However, Heinicke may have extended his NFL career with an impressive individual performance.
Finishing up with 306 passing yards, 46 yards on the ground and a touchdown, those around Heinicke talked about being “teammates in the future” after the quarterback played with “no fear” on such a big stage. The man himself didn’t mince his words when claiming, “I deserve to be in this league a little longer” in the aftermath of Washington’s defeat.
A free agent moving forward, it will be interesting to see if anybody takes another chance on the ODU product.
Jackson Jumps Another Hurdle
Elite players eventually reach a point in their career that causes a certain sector of NFL fans to pick holes in their game and find any reason to argue against their elite status.
For Lamar Jackson, it was is 0-2 record in the playoffs.
The Baltimore Ravens beat the Tennessee Titans thanks to Jackson’s 315 total yards (176 yards in the air and 136 on the ground) and his incredible 48-yard rushing touchdown.
There goes that narrative: Lamar Jackson has his first postseason win.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 10, 2021
The new narrative: Jackson can’t beat Patrick Mahomes in the playoffs.
Browns Win! Browns Win!
15:00 – Kickoff
14:46 – Browns Touchdown (fumble recovery)
9:46 – Browns Touchdown (Jarvis Landry)
4:40 – Browns Touchdown (Kareen Hunt)
1:56 – Browns Touchdown (Kareem Hunt
0:00 – Browns lead 28-0
An incredible first quarter saw the Cleveland Browns beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh for the first time in 17 years.
The Browns' 28 points are the most by any team in the first quarter of a playoff game since the 1970 NFL merger#CLEvsPIT
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 11, 2021
The Steelers did mount a comeback. A touchdown late in the 2nd quarter and two more in the 3rd cut the Browns lead to 35-23. However, when faced with a 4th-and-1 and a decision to make, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin made the wrong one.
—> CLE (35) @ PIT (23) <—
PIT has 4th & 1 at the PIT 46
Recommendation (VERY STRONG): 👉 Go for it (+7.1 WP)
Actual play: 🚨 (Punt formation) PENALTY on PIT, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at PIT 46 – No pic.twitter.com/nSoFurKutk
— 4th down decision bot (@ben_bot_baldwin) January 11, 2021
Nick Chubb extended Cleveland’s lead shortly after and dashed any hopes of a Steelers miracle. Instead, the Browns – after an 18-year playoff drought – will play the Kansas City Chiefs next week.