The Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs earned the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences due to their impressive regular-season performances. As a result of earning the No. 1 seeds, they got byes in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs. Therefore, we'll be seeing them for the first time this weekend in the divisional round.
Obviously, both the Eagles and Chiefs had phenomenal seasons. They've also gotten an extra week of rest at a key time and they have home-field advantage. Both teams are favored by over a touchdown on Saturday. However, based on recent history, they might not be the best bet to make.
No. 1 seeds struggle in divisional round
Last season, the Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans earned the No. 1 seeds and first-round byes. Both teams saw their seasons end in the divisional round. While top teams losing in the divisional round isn't extremely common, they do struggle to cover the spread for bettors.
Visiting teams playing the No. 1 seed in the divisional round are 25-13-1 against the spread. When the spread is single digits, that record gets even better for the underdogs. No. 1 seeds that are favored by less than a touchdown in the divisional round are just 8-24-1 against the spread.
It makes sense on the surface. Elite teams are always a little overrated by the betting market. Bettors like backing good teams, so the betting lines might be a bit inflated. There's some built-in bias and overconfidence based on the top teams' regular-season performance. The underdog is coming in with momentum after pulling off a big win in the prior week.
On top of all of that, road teams that missed the playoffs in the previous season are good bets in the divisional round. According to the Action Network, teams that are on the road in the divisional round after missing the playoffs entirely in the prior season are 26-12 against the spread.
Are Eagles and Chiefs in danger?
Of course, these trends raise some red flags for bettors who are considering siding with the Chiefs or Eagles this weekend.
The Eagles went 2-0 against the New York Giants this season. They trounced the Giants 48-22 in a Week 14 matchup at MetLife Stadium. In Week 18, the Eagles' starters got out to a 19-0 lead against the Giants' backups before New York clawed back to lose, 22-16.
Of course, the Giants looked extremely impressive, especially offensively, against the Vikings last week. For Philadelphia, the health of Jalen Hurts is the main question as he was forced to miss Weeks 16 and 17 before returning in Week 18. Philadelphia is a 7.5-point favorite on Saturday.
In the AFC, the matchup between the Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars is also a regular-season rematch. The Chiefs beat the Jaguars 27-17 at Arrowhead Stadium in mid-November. Kansas City had a 20-0 lead before Jacksonville made the final score more respectable late. Kansas City is an 8.5-point favorite in the divisional round.
Both No. 1 seeds are heavy favorites for good reason. They are very good teams that performed well in the regular season. However, recent history tells us these games might be closer than some people expect. Betting against the No. 1 seeds in this round has been a very profitable endeavor.