It appears that, for another week, a Patriots opponent will not be without bulletin board material as it prepares for its trip to Gillette Stadium. This time, however, the responsibility lies not with an employee of this site, but with the oddsmakers in Las Vegas.
Depending on which online sportsbook you consult, New England currently stands as 9- or 9.5-point favorites over the Baltimore Ravens, a team that it lost to earlier in the season in a Week 3 thriller. No doubt Ray Lewis and crew will feel a little slighted by such a spread, which suggests they have about a 20 percent chance of victory, but the Patriots should find some encouragement in the history of large postseason lines.
Pro Football Reference has compiled point spreads for NFL games since 1978 and counts exactly 71 games in which a team has been favored by nine or more points in the playoffs. Of these 71 favorites, 40 ended up covering the point spread, comfortably advancing to the next round, and another 17 still won their playoff game, despite not covering. That means that the historical rate at which these heavy favorites won—57 out of 71, or 80 percent—exactly mirrors the theoretical win probability implied by the spread in Sunday’s game.
Yet I don’t anticipate the Patriots will be particularly overconfident when they take the field this weekend; they own two of those fourteen losses, both during the Belichick era. They were 12.5-point favorites over the Giants in Super Bowl XLII and 9.5-point favorites over the Jets two seasons ago, but each of their New York opponents produced a performance that belied the talent discrepancy on paper. New England enters much the same situation against the Ravens on Sunday, and as this year’s playoffs have proved, things don’t generally stick to the script.
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He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrateds 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.
Now living in Marblehead, hes focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.