And there were two upsets: the Packers went into Dallas and won, 34-31, in what was the best game of the playoffs. And the Steelers went into Kansas City and won in a sloppy game, 18-16, where Pittsburgh kicked six field goals.
The other 8 games? All were won by the favorites, and all were won by at least 13 points. That matched the number of times the favorite won by over 10 points in the three previous years combined.
Since 1990, the favorites have won 7.6 of 11 games, on average, in the postseason. With 9 wins by favorites in 2016, that matches the most times the favorite has won in the playoffs, but it happened six other times, too. So 2016 wasn’t all that notable in that regard.
And since 1990, teams have won by over 10 points in just over half of all playoff games. With 8 such wins, that is the most ever, but it happened four other times, too (although not since 2002). But what makes the 2016 playoffs stand out is the combination of the two factors: 8 times the favorite won and won by over 10 points, compared to just 4.4 times on average. The only other time that happened was in 1996.1
The table below shows the average results (from the perspective of the winning team) in every playoff year since 1990:
|Year||Home||Avg PF||Avg PA||Diff||Fav Won||Won by Over 10||Fav Won By Over 10|
The most comparable year would be 1996, which can be summarized succinctly: other than the miracle Jaguars who produced two stirring upsets as big underdogs, every game was decided by over 10 points, with the favorite winning nine of the ten.
- And 8 of the 10 times, the home team won, which is high, but also not particularly unusual (the home team won 6.8 games on average). [↩]