The revenge factor, revisited
“Honestly, I haven’t turned it on. I hate the Jets, so I refuse to support that show.”
--Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, when asked if he was watching the 2010 season of HBO’s Hard Knocks.
“Hell, he knows we hate the Patriots, so what’s the difference?”
--Jets head coach Rex Ryan, in response to Brady’s comments.
We want to believe that rivalries exist in the NFL, that the players and coaches of our favorite teams share the same disdain for certain opponents that we do. It would give us something in common with the people we’ve spent so much time watching. A mutual hatred rooted in divisional proximity.
So what happens when a team like the Jets comes up short against the Patriots or the Eagles fall at Dallas? Does this defeat set off a chain reaction of events that alters the team’s preparation the next time they encounter this much-hated foe? In essence, does revenge play a factor in the NFL?
We took a look at this topic a few weeks back with a ten-year study on playoff revenge. If a team was facing an opponent who knocked them out of the postseason the year before, did the loser in that particular game come back with a better performance the next time around? To recap, the answer is no. Teams out for playoff revenge went 37-30 straight-up and 30-32-5 ATS from 2002 until the publishing of that article in 2012.
Today we’re looking at divisional revenge and whether or not anything that has already taken place in 2012 can help us turn a profit over the final two weeks of the regular season. So far this year we’ve seen 28 games in which NFL teams were meeting for the second time. We’ve excluded the second matchup between San Francisco and St. Louis because the first game ended in a tie, thus no possible revenge could have existed the second time around.
All 27 divisional rivalries from 2012 that have already concluded are listed in the chart at the end of this article, which served as the basis for the following stats and trends:
1. If a team loses the first of two meetings with a divisional opponent, what happens in the second game: The loser from the first meeting is 10-17 SU (.370) and 14-12-1 ATS (.538) in the second meeting.
2. If the road team loses the first of two meetings, what happens when said team returns home for the second meeting: The road loser from game one is 6-7 SU (.461) and 6-7 ATS (.461) at home during the second meeting.
3. If the home team loses the first of two meetings, what happens when said team hits the road for the second meeting: The home loser from game one is 4-10 SU (.285) and 8-5-1 ATS (.615) on the road during the second meeting. Take note that if you eliminate the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions from this equation (who are a combined 6-22 on the season), the road team in game two would be 8-1-1 ATS (.888) so far in 2012.
4. Teams playing with revenge (meaning they lost the first of two meetings) as a favorite in 2012: 4-2 SU (.666) and 4-2 ATS (.666).
5. Teams playing with revenge as an underdog in 2012: 6-15 SU (.285) and 10-10-1 ATS (.500).
6. Teams playing with revenge with six points or more of line movement in their direction since game one: 2-2 SU (.500) and 2-2 ATS (.500). Example: The Browns were 11.5-point underdogs in their first game against the Ravens this season, but just 3.5-point underdogs for the second meeting. That constitutes eight points of movement towards Cleveland.
7. Teams playing with revenge with six points or more of line movement away from them since game one: 0-5 SU (.000), but 4-1 ATS (.800). Example: The Bills were 3.5-point underdogs for their first game against the Patriots this season, but 13.5-point underdogs for the second meeting. The Bills lost the game, but covered the spread (Final score: 37-31).
Think divisional rivals have a good feel for one another? Of the 27 first-time meetings between divisional opponents that took place in 2012, a grand total of 1,220 points were scored for an average of 45.1 points per game. In the 27 revenge games, a grand total of 1,260 points were scored for an average of 45.6 points per game.
1. The OVER is 15-12 (.555) in the 27 revenge games that have been played in 2012.
2. When the OVER hits in the first meeting between two divisional opponents, the OVER is 7-4 (.636) in the second meeting.
3. When the UNDER hits in the first meeting, the UNDER is 8-8 (.500) in the second meeting.
4. When books adjust the total for the second meeting, does the total hit in that direction? Example: If the total for the first meeting between Buffalo and New England was 48 and the books adjusted it north to 54 for the second meeting, does the OVER hit? Of the 23 games that saw adjustments, the total hit in that direction 12 times (12-11, .521).
5. With three points or more of movement south for the revenge game, UNDERS went 2-2 (.500).
6. With three points or more of movement north for the revenge game, OVERS went 2-1 (.666).
So what has this little study of 2012 divisional revenge games shown us? For starters, we’re once again seeing that there’s no such thing as a “revenge factor” in the NFL. We’d like to believe that a team who lost in game one is going to fire back with a much better effort in game two, but that’s just not the case. In fact, based on the 2012 numbers, it’s more likely that the team who lost game one will lose again in game two.
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Note: The team listed in caps is the team who lost game one and is thus, playing with revenge in game two.