NFL Playoff Power Ratings: Is Super Bowl Hunt Wide Open?

Written By Mo Nuwwarah on January 12, 2022
NFL playoff power ratings

The new 18-week regular season has ended, and it’s time for the NFL playoffs. Just like in the regular season, bookmakers and sharp bettors use their NFL playoff power ratings to generate lines or find betting value.

But which teams does the betting market have atop those ratings? Which teams will be favored in a given matchup going forward? Let’s take a look at the NFL playoff power ratings and find out.

Remember that these are different than TheLines’ NFL Power Rankings, which our staff compiles each week to rank who we would have favored on a neutral field.

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How NFL Power Ratings Work And How To Use Them

NFL power ratings offer an objective look at team strength. We did this exercise during the regular season to give a snapshot of where every team sat in relation to each other and to preseason markets. Hopefully, it helped you find value going forward on teams like the Cowboys, Chiefs and Dolphins. Selling the Cardinals high would have also worked out well.

Essentially, what we do is take the market prices for various games and try to use them to rank the teams based on betting market opinion. With multiple weeks of data, you can get a decent picture of where each team stands, though it’s far from perfect.

For example, a team like the Giants probably got downgraded hugely between Week 17 and 18. This messes with the translations a bit and requires a bit of guesswork on the part of the author. Things like varying home field strength, QB injuries and unique Week 18 cases (the Bengals benching many starters) also make the numbers inexact.

You can use these in a few different ways. For one thing, you can try to prognosticate what the lines will be for the second-round games. If the market makes an over- or under-correction after the Wild Card round, pounce on some early value.

You can also project the betting lines going forward and see how a futures bet would pay compared to a rolling parlay. Or, you could just wait for an article on TheLines later this week if you don’t want to do the math yourself.

On to the numbers.

Estimated NFL Market Power Ratings: Playoff Teams

Remember that, just like the regular season ratings, we’ve set the median team to 0 to make this easier to read and use. That means the best teams — Chiefs, Packers and Buccaneers — are 3.5 points better than a median playoff team. The worst team — the Steelers — rates as 7 points worse.

TeamPower NumberBest Super Bowl Price

General Takeaways

One can immediately see that the market considers the path toward cashing Super Bowl futures tougher in the NFC than the AFC. Notice that the 49ers rate behind a couple of AFC teams in the futures markets despite the market seeming to consider them a stronger team. Their likely Super Bowl path would take them on the road through Dallas, Green Bay and Tampa.

Notice also that the market has the teams bunched fairly close together for the most part. Aside from the top teams matching against the Steelers and maybe the Raiders or Eagles, no team is really a slam dunk to beat any other.

Combine those two concepts and, if you’re looking for a Super Bowl future to sweat, targeting an AFC team a little down the board makes sense. The Bengals are even first-round favorites and could conceivably play the Titans in the second round without a 100% healthy Derrick Henry.

Some Team-Specific Notes

Tennessee Titans

Against all odds, despite losing probably their most important offensive player for most of the season, the Titans finished as the AFC No. 1 seed. They got a much-needed bye to give Henry an extra week to heal up and keep rehabbing his foot.

The Titans are priced with the Bills and Bucs in the second tier of contenders, which may surprise many. But, remember that with Henry in the fold, this team beat the Bills and Chiefs. Sure, both wins came at home, but prospective rematches will as well. Even without Henry, they beat the Rams and 49ers.

Advanced stats like DVOA are not fans of the Titans. But these stats reflect a ton of games that happened without Henry, and the market seems well aware. It has priced the Titans like a solid contender, and with home field, be wary of running to the window to fade the improved version of this team.

Green Bay Packers

Speaking of teams that look stronger in the playoffs than their regular season forms, the Packers come to mind as another.

This team put together the best overall record in the NFL, but if anything, that understates their strength. Remember, they have four losses, and three of them can be pretty heavily discounted from having predictive value at this point:

  • Lions 37, Packers 30: Many starters only playing the first half
  • Chiefs 13, Packers 7: Aaron Rodgers sidelined by a COVID-19 positive case
  • Saints 38, Packers 3: Took place way back in Week 1

Furthermore, the Packers might finally be getting several elite players back who missed most or all of the season. CB Jaire Alexander, EDGE Za’Darius Smith and LT David Bakhtiari could be back in the fold. Each one performed at an All-Pro level in 2020.

Combine that with the bye and you have the clear market favorite.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

On the other side of that injury coin, Tampa Bay looks like a team well below its peak.

Unfortunately for the Bucs, they’ve lost several critical players, particularly in the pass-catching corps. Both WRs Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown won’t suit up for the team again this season. Additionally, even backup Cyril Grayson is banged up and looks unlikely to play this week.

RB Leonard Fournette should return from injury but how close is he to 100%?

Several critical defenders are in the same boat. LB Lavonte David and EDGEs Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett should be back next week at the latest. But will they be their normal excellent selves?

The market seems quite confident in this team, having steamed them hard after the playoff opening lines. The advanced numbers back the notion that the Bucs remain elite.

Mo Nuwwarah Avatar
Written by
Mo Nuwwarah

Mo Nuwwarah got his start in gambling early, making his first sports bet on his beloved Fab Five against the UNC Tar Heels in the 1993 NCAA tournament. He lost $5 to his dad and got back into sports betting years later during a 15-year run in the poker industry. A 2011 journalism graduate from Nebraska-Omaha, he combines those skills with his love of sports and statistics to help bettors make more informed decisions with a focus on pro football, baseball and basketball.

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