NFL

NFL Regular Season Blowouts and Playoff Rematches

The Jets were destroyed in Foxboro 45-3 just over a month ago, and now return to the scene of the massacre. How have teams who were blown out in a regular season game perform in a rematch? Is there any hope for the Jets, or are the Patriots likely to roll again?

Fifteen times in AFL and NFL history a team has played a playoff opponent who defeated them by at least 30 points in the regular season. Here is the list, with both the regular season and playoff results listed.

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        Regular Season   Post Season
Year Team Opp   PF PA   PF PA
1969 CLE MIN   3 51   7 27
1991 DET WAS   0 45   10 41
1991 ATL WAS   17 56   7 24
2009 CIN NYJ   0 37   14 24
1980 MIN PHI   7 42   16 31
1969 DAL CLE   10 42   14 38
1977 MIN LA   3 35   14 7
1965 BUF SD   3 34   23 0
1990 CIN HOU   17 48   41 14
1981 DAL SF   14 45   27 28
1981 NYJ BUF   0 31   27 31
1979 HOU PIT   7 38   13 27
1976 OAK NE   17 48   24 21
2006 SEA CHI   6 37   24 27
1993 KC HOU   0 30   28 20

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If the Jets were to somehow win against the heavily favored Pats, it would be the largest reversal in league history, as no team that has lost by more than 32 and won the rematch.

Of course, teams that win in blowouts are likely the better team, and I would expect them to win the rematch more often than not. If we want to know if this Pats-Jets game is going to be more like that 45-3 blowout or how the teams have played on average over the entire season, we can test that.

The simple rating system rating available at pro-football-reference.com provides a power rating to evaluate the two teams based on all regular season results. This number, of course, includes the blowout in question, but that result counts as only one of many games.

For example, in 1969, the Minnesota Vikings had one of the most dominant NFL regular seasons ever, and were almost 17 points better than the league average, while the Browns were a roughly average team that emerged from the weaker Eastern Conference. Adding in home field advantage, the Vikings were a heavy favorite of almost 20 points, and the final score of 27-7 was exactly in line with that.

When I do that for all these teams and account for home field, the actual playoff results were +2.8 points better than expected in favor of the team that had been routed in the regular season. Only 1991 Washington (vs. Detroit) and 1969 Cleveland (vs Dallas) won the rematch by at least 10 points better than expected after adjusting for overall team strength with the regular season rating. In contrast, five of the blowout victims played at least 10 points better than expected. As strange as it feels, you would have more accurately predicted the playoff results if you ignored the effect of the blowout, treated it as a solid two touchdown win, and looked at the overall record of both teams, rather than focusing on what happened in that one game.

Even discounting that 45-3 result, the Patriots have been the better side on balance. If we subtract that same 2.8 points from the simple rating system ratings for the Jets and Pats this year and add in HFA, the expected line for this game is 8.9. Vegas opened with the Patriots favored by 9. As always, Vegas is good.

[photo via Getty]
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