I wonder how the New England Patriots would have performed if they had another game after they lost to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII?
Why do I ask?
Because that season, 2007, the Patriots opened the regular season with eight straight wins both straight-up and against the point spread while outsourcing their opponents 331 to 127. For you math majors, that computes to beating each of their opponents by more than 25 points. After a narrow win in the ninth week that season, beating Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts by four points while favored by five, they won their ninth point spread decision in their next game over the Buffalo Bills by a 56-10 score.
When a team does that good, hammers opponents like they are little more than a nail on a two-by-four, you have to realize that the books are going to take drastic action to make them less of a sure thing. Two factors come together in this situation. First, the books are pinning the Patriots with points akin to mounting a two-hundred pound jockey on a race horse, and the team no doubt plays with a confidence that flattens their edge to gain blowout wins.
That is exactly what happened in 2007 to the Patriots. Over the final nine games that year they only once beat the point spread … but still won every game until they lost the Super Bowl, while favored by 12 points, to the Giants.
So, how would the Patriots have done that year if they had lost a game before the Super Bowl or if the game against the Giants wouldn’t have ended their 2007 season?
According to my research, a team that is winning consistently but failing to cover a point spread will continue to lose against the line until they get a reboot only achieved by suffering a straight-up loss. In 2007, I would have taken the Patriots if they had a game after their Super Bowl loss.
In 2020, we get to test this theory real time.
The Kansas City Chiefs this season were not unlike the 2007 Patriots, given they continued to win games but failed to cover any point spread while winning seven straight games. They suffered only their second loss of the 2020 campaign in their regular season finale two Sundays ago against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Maybe Andy Reid knew, but if I had a pipeline to him I would have altered Andy to a tried and true fact that if he had beaten the Chargers on the final day of the regular season he would have been vulnerable to losing his opening playoff game. The Chiefs didn’t need the win against the Chargers, they were the only NFL team to enter the last week of the regular season with their playoff spot assured. They were the number one seed in the American Football Conference with a win or loss.
When a playoff bound team doesn’t need their final regular season game they are best not to win it. I have never seen a team win when they didn’t have to and win and cover the point spread in their postseason opener. The most graphic example of this is the 1987 San Francisco 49ers. Bill Walsh went to his grave still contending that the loss to the Minnesota Vikings to open the 1987 playoffs was the toughest of his career, and one he couldn’t explain. The 49ers were favored by 10½ points over the Vikings and as the top seed in the National Football Conference were expected to easily advance.
Why not? After all, they had pinned the Los Angeles Rams with a 48-0 loss in their regular season finale, a game they didn’t need, already assured of the top seed.
They won the game they didn’t need, and stumbled in their first playoff game, just like the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers did when they won in Buffalo against a Bills team looking to crack the playoff field but failed while the Steelers won a game they didn’t need. The Bills were 9½ point favorites over Pittsburgh in that last regular season closing game, because everyone knew the Bills needed it and the Steelers were locked into the AFC top playoff spot.
The underdog Steelers beat Buffalo, 29-24, and I can still see Jerome Bettis leaving the field with his right arm stretched out while the pursuing television crew picked up the audio of him saying, “Nobody can beat us.”
Turns out, he couldn’t have been more wrong.
Two weeks later, when they opened their postseason against an overmatched New York Jets team, the underdog Jets nearly upset the Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium, 20-17. A week later, in the AFC Championship Game, the Steelers lost at home by two touchdowns.
Had the Chiefs beaten the Chargers last Sunday, they would be in line to lose at least against the point spread to the visiting Cleveland Browns this week … maybe even the game.
But, they didn’t. And that loss to Los Angeles is the key to them winning this Sunday when they host Baker Mayfield and company. There was no chance to bet on the Patriots after they suffered their first loss of 2007, but we get a great opportunity to ride with the Chiefs this week when they end the Browns season.
Qoxhi Picks: Kansas City Chiefs (-10) over Cleveland Browns