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Tapp-ing into the Numbers: NFL playoff games

Posted on Wednesday, February 01, 2017


We are just a couple of days away from Super Bowl 51 and the end of the 2016 NFL season. Many people are choosing sides hoping for either the New England Patriots or the Atlanta Falcons to come out victorious, while others really don’t care who wins… they just hope for a good game.

Will it be a close game? If history has anything to say about it, then we can expect a tight contest. In six of the last nine Super Bowls, the game was decided by eight points or less… a one-score game.

Looking at the last 10 years of NFL playoff contests, there is a very distinct pattern when it comes to how close games are from the Wild Card game through the Super Bowl. Here’s a breakdown of margin of victory for all playoff rounds from 2007-2016 (obviously the 2016 Super Bowl is not included in these numbers).


8 points or less

9-19 points

20 pts or more

Ave. margin of win

Wild Card games





Divisional games





Championship games





Super Bowl






As you can see, playoff games in the last 10 years have an average margin of victory that goes down with each round of the playoffs; the numbers of close games increase as we go from the Wild Card games to the Super Bowl; and blowouts (margin of victory of 20 points or more) happened more frequently in the early round versus the last two rounds.

One note: In this year’s championship games, the Patriots and Falcons both won their games by more than 15 points (New England defeated Pittsburgh 36-17, a 19-point win and the Falcons won by 23 over the Green Bay Packers, 44-21). It was the first time that both championship games in a season were decided by 15 or more points since 2005 when Pittsburgh beat Denver 34-17 and Seattle beat Carolina 34-14.

Yes, we all hope for a good, close game. Now that we have the numbers in front of us, watch, it will be a blo

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