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The 5 O'Clock Club: Picking the Divisional Playoff games (Sunday)

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Wild Card Round Buffalo Bills v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Just wanted to point out again the handy front page link to all the 5 o’clock club and Redskins By the (Jersey) Numbers features:

Bookmakers vs. Pollsters

Someone asked in the Saturday comments section why I didn’t give a point spread on the NFC game between the Falcons and the Eagles.

The reason is that I’m not a bookmaker.

Fans generally misunderstand the idea of point spreads; they don’t represent which team the bookmakers think will win, they are simply a way to balance the betting. Point spreads are a bookie’s method of risk management.

Writing poll questions on a website like this is an exercise in giving people something to think about (and hopefully discuss in the comments section). The key idea is to provide choices that don’t have an obvious answer.

I didn’t think the Eagles needed points for people to pick them. I was surprised that only 19% of respondents picked them straight up with no point spread. That’s what comes of listening to too much talk radio.

After a miserable 1-3 record on Wildcard Weekend, I thought the readers might be a bit more circumspect in their game predictions this week, but when given a straight-up pick-the-winner choice between the Falcons and the Eagles, 4 out of 5 poll respondents reflexively pressed the Atlanta button, apparently believing the press narrative that Nick Foles couldn’t win a playoff game.

I had honestly expected a much more even vote. By the time this weekend’s first game was over, 5 o’clock club poll respondents (collectively) had fallen to 1-4.

For the AFC game, I had included a point spread, as I thought it unlikely that more than a handful of deranged fans would press the button for the Titans against the Patriots. The question for that game asked if the Patriots could cover the 13.5 point spread.

This time, the bookies’ risk management tool made it a fairly close vote, but it was basically 6 to 4, with the poll respondents believing that Bill, TB12, 87 and the rest of Boston’s best would outscore the Southerners by at least two touchdowns.

It turned out that — after the Patriots got on the scoreboard — the game was never really that close. By the middle of the 3rd quarter, it was all Patriots. The final margin was 3 touchdowns, with the Patriots moving on to their 7th consecutive AFC title game.

The poll respondents finished Saturday with an overall record of 2-4 for the playoff predictions so far, with a chance to get to .500 today.

Today, the poll questions again offer a point spread in the AFC game, while the NFC matchup is a simple pick-the-winner choice.

Good luck!

Poll

Can Pittsburgh cover a -7.5 spread, playing at home against the Jaguars?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Yes, Steelers cover
    (38 votes)
  • 63%
    No, Steelers don’t cover
    (65 votes)
103 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Who wins the NFC game on Sunday?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    Saints
    (56 votes)
  • 49%
    Vikings
    (54 votes)
110 votes total Vote Now

Looking ahead to 2018

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Poll

Which of the following teams is most likely to fire its head coach at the end of the 2018 season?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Titans
    (10 votes)
  • 1%
    Bengals
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    Broncos
    (7 votes)
  • 17%
    Buccaneers
    (17 votes)
  • 29%
    Browns
    (28 votes)
  • 3%
    Jets
    (3 votes)
  • 10%
    Dolphins
    (10 votes)
  • 1%
    Packers
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    Cowboys
    (2 votes)
  • 16%
    Redskins
    (16 votes)
95 votes total Vote Now