The National Football League kicks off their six game and first ever three day Wild Card weekend today in Cincinnati when the Bengals host the Las Vegas Raiders. Tonight, the Buffalo Bills entertain the New England Patriots and three games are scheduled for Sunday. On Monday, the league will stage their first ever Monday night playoff game featuring a pair of NFC West Division squads, the Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams.
Both sites for today’s games offer cold winter weather but no severe conditions. The temperature at Paul Brown Stadium will be around freezing while in Buffalo it will be near zero.
As we open the playoffs, there are some intriguing factors to consider.
First, only one team has won a Super Bowl that allowed more points than they scored in the regular season. That was the 2011 New York Giants, who gave up six more points than they scored in the regular season, 400 to 394, and completed that campaign with a win over Tom Brady and his New England Patriots, 21-17, in Super Bowl XLVI.
There are two teams that entered the 2021 playoffs that were outscored this year during the regular season, they are the Las Vegas Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers.
No team has ever won a Super Bowl that lost both games before and after their bye week. Since the bye weeks were adopted in 1990, the 31 seasons that have been played have seen the 31 Super Bowl winners compile a 54-8 straight-up mark in those games, while compiling a 27-4 record both heading into and coming out of their week off.
In 2021, three playoff teams lost the games before and after their bye weeks and six postseason teams won both games preceding and following their regular season open date. The three teams that lost both are all from the National Football Conference, and they are the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The six teams that won the two games around their bye weeks were the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tomorrow, two games feature teams that won both games against squads that lost on each side of their bye week. The teams that won both are the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, and they matchup against the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers respectively. On Monday night, the Cardinals, who won both of their games leading into and coming out of their bye week, meet a Rams team that lost both.
An edge for the Cowboys, Eagles and Cardinals?
Stats are stats.
Every time a game is played something is going to happen and as often as not the numbers one can produce from a set of circumstances are no more relevant to the future than the color of the bus that drove the teams to the stadium. Home teams, away teams, underdogs, favorites are all numbers that some will rely on to pick a football game. When in fact, evidence that something is going to repeat is more tied to the unique situations that govern a particular contest. And the only factors that count towards pointing to a winner are those that have logical ties that can reliably be depended on to repeat.
Now, Super Bowl teams most often will win both or at least one of their games before and after their bye weeks. History tells us that.
What those pure numbers don’t reflect is what the circumstances were that dictated the results during the regular season. Were the games before and after a team’s bye against good or bad opponents? Did regular season losses reflect a team that was struggling with injuries when the games were played?
In the 49ers case, while they lost both games before and after their bye week in October, they were struggling with injuries to key personnel during that time and lost games to a pair of tough opponents, the Arizona Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts.
The Cowboys two wins leading into and coming out of their bye week came at a time the team was playing their best football, in the midst of a six game winning streak. They followed those two wins with losses in three of their next four contests.
Tomorrow, these two teams square off in Dallas to write the next chapter of this storied rivalry. It is their first postseason meeting since the 49ers beat the Cowboys in San Francisco en route to their most recent Super Bowl win to complete the 1994 season.
That year, the 49ers interrupted a string of Super Bowl wins for Dallas that saw them win three Vince Lombardi Trophies in a four year span beginning in 1992.
How does all this work to pick Sunday’s game in Dallas?
What does matter is how these two teams are playing right now and how the unique factors governing Sunday’s game in Dallas will determine who advances to next week’s Divisional playoff round.
The Cowboys are favored on the point spread and at home and are coming off a game in which they tallied more than 50 points. Teams that score 50 or more points entering or during the playoffs have a losing record the following game.
You want stats?
I can give you stats to support either side.
You want a winner?
I’ll take all our research and evidence in balance and deliver you an upset win in Dallas.
Qoxhi Picks: San Francisco 49ers (+3) over Dallas Cowboys