There are a lot of great backups – a backup plan (like a boy scout, be prepared), backup generator (keep the power running) and backup cowbell (more cowbell, baby!) – but a second-string signal caller in the playoffs isn’t one of them.

Nick Foles will start for Philadelphia on Saturday, filling in for Carson Wentz as he has since the MVP candidate’s season-ending injury in Week 14. The No. 1 seed in the NFC is a home underdog to the Atlanta Falcons (-3) as Foles will be the man for Philly during the postseason despite starting three games this season.

How have backup quarterbacks performed in the playoffs?

Everyone’s definition of a backup varies. Dak Prescott, for example, was second on the depth chart to Tony Romo last season but a Romo back injury forced the rookie quarterback into the lineup. Prescott started all 16 regular season games leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record. When the playoffs rolled around did you consider Dak a backup? No, me neither. The same is true for Case Keenum this season. The journeyman quarterback has started 14 and played in 15 games with Sam Bradford sidelined.

Ignoring quarterbacks like Keenum and Prescott, we’ll define a backup as a quarterback that started five or fewer games in the regular season. Chase Stuart of Football Perspective compiled a list of every backup quarterback (again five or fewer starts) in NFL history that has led their team in the postseason. I’ve edited the list to every quarterback since 1990 and pulled the straight-up and against-the-spread results. Cover your eyes, Eagles fans.

Since 1990, backup quarterbacks are 11-21 straight up and 13-17-2 against the spread in the playoffs. On average, second-string quarterbacks in the playoffs have been 3.5-point underdogs and lost by 5.8 points. The results are worse this century with backups going 2-11 (15.4%) straight-up and 4-8-1 (33.3%) ATS since 2000.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Eagles. In 1990, Jeff Hostetler led the Giants to a Super Bowl win as a backup. So there’s a chance, though New York started its playoff run as a touchdown favorite in the divisional round.

At the time of publication, 34% of spread bets are on the Eagles at home as casual bettors want no part of Philly. You can’t blame them, because backup quarterbacks are not to be trusted in the NFL Playoffs.


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NFL Playoffs: Backup Quarterbacks since 1990

YearTeamBackup QuarterbackPlayoff SUPlayoff ATS
2017EaglesNick Foles
2016RaidersConnor Cook0-10-1
2016DolphinsMatt Moore0-10-1
2015BengalsA.J. McCarron0-10-0-1
2014CardinalsRyan Lindley0-10-1
2012VikingsJoe Webb0-10-1
2011TexansT.J. Yates1-12-0
2008VikingsTarvaris Jackson0-10-1
2007RedskinsTodd Collins0-10-1
2005BearsRex Grossman0-10-1
2002BrownsKelly Holcomb0-11-0
2000SaintsAaron Brooks1-11-1
1999BillsRob Johnson0-10-1
1999BuccaneersShaun King1-11-1
1998PatriotsScott Zolak0-10-1
1997VikingsRandall Cunningham1-11-1
1993LionsErik Kramer0-10-1
1992BillsFrank Reich2-01-0-1
1992VikingsSean Salisbury0-10-1
1991RaidersTodd Marinovich0-11-1
1991CowboysSteve Beuerlein1-11-1
1990OilersCody Carlson0-10-1
1990GiantsJeff Hostetler3-03-0
1990BearsMike Tomczak1-11-1

Photo Courtesy of Eric Hartline – USA Today Sports