This season Qoxhi Picks is completing their 40th year of operation, and of the 39 Super Bowls played while we have been delivering National Football League selections only once were we unable to recommend a wager in the NFL’s biggest game. That was to complete the 1990 season when the New York Giants met the Buffalo Bills.
I couldn’t land on the Giants that year because they had such a narrow win over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, 15-13, by virtue of five field goals. The thinking being that backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler, who was pressed into duty when starter Phil Simms was injured in December and lost for the remainder of the year, just wasn’t the kind of QB that had the talent to win it all.
That same year, I couldn’t pick the Buffalo Bills. Despite them having a prolific offense and a quarterback, Jim Kelly, that had Super Bowl winning credentials, they had two major factors against them. First, they were making their initial trip to the Super Bowl, meeting a Giants team that had been there before. By 1990, the 24 previous Super Bowl games had produced a matchup where one team had been to the NFL’s biggest game previously and their opponent was making their first Super Bowl appearance. In those nine games, the team with experience had won the game seven times.
Now, neither of those game elements were enough to totally eliminate picking either team, after all, a few years prior we had a huge play on the Giants over the Denver Broncos even though the Broncos were making a second appearance and the Giants their first. New York won the game going away, 39-20.
The stat that cooled me most on the Bills was how they got to the Super Bowl, having beaten the Los Angeles Raiders 51-3 in the AFC Championship Game.
The way I handicap games, teams that blow out an opponent the previous week are likely not going to be a play for me in their following game. It is all about motivation, and teams that win too easy are subject to under preparing for their next game. When I skipped the Bills for this reason in January, 1991, I thought I had allowed the most significant factor to sway me off a loser. Super Bowl XXV ended with Scott Norwood missing a would-be winning field goal and the defensive dominated Giants eking out another postseason victory, 20-19.
I figured the bet against a team that scored 50 or more points the previous week in a playoff game was always going to be a solid play. That theory led me to taking the Dallas Cowboys over the Philadelphia Eagles while giving two touchdowns on the spread in 1996, and the pick won, 30-11. Four years later, after the Jacksonville Jaguars had scored 62 points against the Miami Dolphins in a Divisional Playoff game, the Tennessee Titans were the pick in the AFC Championship Game and as a touchdown underdog slammed the “overconfident” Jaguars, 33-14.
But, like so many edges that seem obvious, the books somehow have a way of wrestling away the advantage. Since the 2000 season, there have been four games involving teams that scored 50 or more points the week prior to playing a postseason game. In those contests, the team that scored 50 or more points has gone on to win their next game three times both straight-up and against the point spread.
Is an edge that worked like a charm for more than 30 years really gone?
The Oakland Raiders beat the Dolphins, 27-0, to open their postseason play in 2000 after closing out their regular season with a 52-9 win over the Carolina Panthers. The San Diego Chargers closed out their 2008 regular campaign with a 52-21 win over Denver, then opened the postseason as a home team underdog and downed Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts, 23-17.
The only loser this century coming off a 50 plus performance before playing a postseason game was the Arizona Cardinals, who traded points with the Green Bay Packers to open the 2009 playoffs, 51-45, before being beaten in New Orleans, 45-14. Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs overcame a 24-0 deficit to take a lead by halftime and roll over the Houston Texans, 51-31. The next week, in the AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs beat the Titans, 34-24, enroute to their Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers, 31-20.
So, what do we know after 40 years of handicapping teams in the playoffs that scored 50 points or more the prior week? They don’t necessarily lose … or win.
Other factors have to be in play. So, when I tell you that I think the Indianapolis Colts are a real good play on Saturday plus the points, know this, it’s not just because the Bills scored 56 points last week in their season ending win over the Miami Dolphins.
But, to be honest, that’s part of it.
Qoxhi Picks: Indianapolis Colts (+6½) over Buffalo Bills