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by Al McMordie - 01/05/2005
NFL Playoffs: Is It Better to be Hot or Cold?
By Big Al McMordie
Do teams have to be on a hot streak coming into the NFL playoffs? You certainly hear coaches and players say that all the time. Coaches talk about consistent play and not wanting their players to pick up bad habits late in the season, which can carry over when the games really mean something, which is the case this weekend as the NFL playoffs get underway.
However, good health and home field are more important than â€œbeing hot.â€쳌 For example, a year ago the Colts waltzed into the playoffs going 0-2 against the spread to end the regular season. One of those defeats was a jolting 31-17 loss at home as a favorite against Denver. However, that meant nothing as Indy ripped Denver 41-10 and won 38-31 at Kansas City as a 3-point dog in the playoffs.
This is going to be a hot topic much of the week, with teams like Minnesota, Seattle and St. Louis stumbling in the second half of the season but still sneaking into the playoffs. But consider the Green Bay Packers recent playoff history. Last season the Packers went 4-0 SU/ATS to end the regular season, certainly looking playoff-ready scoring 34, 38, 41 and 31 points in those games! They then struggled in the first round of the playoffs, needing a comeback to nip Seattle 33-27 in overtime as a 7-point home favorite. Two years ago, the Packers won 4 of their final 5 regular season games (3-2 ATS). In the first playoff game, Green Bay was a 6-point favorite at Lambeau over Atlanta, but looked completely out of sync in a 27-7 straight up defeat.
Which means there is a little hope for a team like the Vikings, who havenâ€™t done anything right lately and carry a 1-6 spread run into the postseason after losing â€“ again â€“ at Washington Sunday despite being a favorite. Seattle has lost six of ten games and is 2-8 against the number, yet still has home field this weekend. Such is life in this most-wacky of an NFL season.
Yet, the playoffs are a whole new season. Denver won four of its final five games a year ago, then went flat in its first playoff game against the Colts. The miracle Chicago Bears of 2001 won seven of their final eight regular season games and finished 11-4-1 against the spread. But despite having a bye, Chicago got walloped 33-19 at home in their first playoff game. While Iâ€™m not predicting any of these current NFC long-shots to make a run through the playoffs, I am saying donâ€™t get too fired up by what a team has done over the last month. Itâ€™s not always a strong indicator, both straight up and against the spread, how a team will perform in the playoffs. The postseason offers players and coaches a fresh slate, and many times a team can break out of its lethargy, or a hot team can fold faster than a wet envelope. Good luck, and bet smart!