Belichick vs. McCarthy: Playoff success when big favorites

We all know New England Head Coach Bill Belichick is arguably the best coach in NFL history, but I was curious to see how he stacks up when the Vegas line is Patriots minus-7 or more in the playoffs. I also thought it would be interesting to see how Green Bay Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy has done when either favored by seven or been an underdog of seven or more in the playoffs since becoming the coach. It turns out, Belichick is pretty good.

Starting with McCarthy, he has been a favorite of seven or more points three times in the playoffs. Unfortunately for him and the Packers, they have fallen on their face more often than not. Of those three games, Green Bay actually lost two of those (both to the same team, the Giants) and has won just the Divisional Round game against Seattle in which Ryan Grant ran for a Packers-playoff record 201 yards.

He has also been an underdog twice by seven or more in the playoffs. Green Bay did not win either of those games, but did cover both. To put more salt in the wound for Packers fans, is that both of these games were lost in overtime. Those games could very easily have been won if Brandon Bostick recovers an onside kick in Seattle, and someone decides to cover Larry Fitzgerald in the flat.

Belichick, on the other hand, is a coaching Goliath. Even though he has been coaching for much longer than McCarthy, I went back to 2006 (McCarthy’s first year) to gather this data from Belichick. Of the Patriots 25 playoff games since then, they were favored by at least a touchdown in an astounding 15 of them. In the first five playoff games I collected data in (2006-2010), Tom Brady’s bunch was just 3-2 outright, having lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl and the New York Jets in the Divisional round in the 2010 season.

However, since then, New England has won nine of the last 10 playoff games when favored by at least a touchdown. As McCarthy and his 1-2 record can attest, it is tough to consistently win in the playoffs, even when favored by quite a bit. Of those first five games, New England also only covered the spread once. Since, Belichick has been quite good, covering six times in these last 10 games. That tells us that New England is not only winning, but winning by a lot. When the bullseye is on your back, Belichick has gotten his team to play great, and something McCarthy will have to learn to do.

This may not say as much about McCarthy as much as it does about Belichick. McCarthy is a solid coach, maybe even top five in the NFL. However, the leader of the Patriots is on another level, and these statistics show that. He will look to add his sixth title on Sunday against Philadelphia.


Jonathon Zenk is a writer for He is a huge Packers fan, and a graduate of The University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. You can follow Jonathon on Twitter at @jzenk42



One thought on “Belichick vs. McCarthy: Playoff success when big favorites

  1. Belichick, McMike? Not even close. Belichick by a marathon mile. Packer fan since 58.

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