We Know the Best Teams, But When Are They Good Bets?

It will surprise nobody that the six best teams in the NFL have combined to win nearly 73% of their games this season. However, they have only covered a shade under 56% of those, a good number, but not miraculous.

If we could find a way to improve that number from 56% to 63%, would that be of interest to you?

Of course it would.

Using point differential as a means to evaluate who the best teams in the league are, six squads stand out as a cut above: New England, Green Bay, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Denver, and Seattle. (While arguing about a method to pick the elite teams is reasonable, that’s a completely different column.) Five of our “Super Six” have scored at least 100 more points than their opponents this year (and the sixth, Seattle, is at +97).

After the Seahawks, there is a significant drop to the next team, Philadelphia, at +69.

Our Super Six are 61-23 overall and 47-34-3 against the spread. However, if we take only their home ATS records, they stand at 27-14-2. What does that tell us about the final two weeks of the season?

New England

New England is 5-2 against the number at Gillette Stadium and their last several games have been laughers. They blew out the Dolphins on Sunday, after crushing the Lions in week 12, Denver in week 9, and Chicago in week 8. If the Patriots are playing for anything meaningful in week 17, it isn’t good news for the Bills.

Green Bay

Green Bay has been mediocre on the road, going 3-4 SU and 2-5 ATS. Besides a week 3 blowout win at Chicago, they have had to work hard for road wins. At home, it has been a different story. The Packers are 5-2 against the number and their only really competitive game was in week 13 against New England (26-21). Their other ATS home loss came in week 14, when they led Atlanta 31-7 at the half but eased off in the second, allowing the Falcons to make it a one-score game late (43-37).

The Packers average more than 41 points per game at home. If their week 17 game against Detroit is significant, the Packers are likely to roll. (Remember, the Lions last won in Green Bay shortly after Ronald Reagan left office.)

Baltimore

In all likelihood, Baltimore is the team you are most surprised to see on the list. The Ravens are 4-3 against the spread at home and have not looked good at M&T Stadium lately; they failed to cover against Jacksonville on Sunday and lost to the Chargers outright in week 13. However, when the Ravens win, they have tended to win big. The beat Pittsburgh by 20, Carolina by 28, the Falcons by 22, and Tennessee by 14. With a playoff spot likely to be on the line in week 17 against Cleveland, expect the Ravens to thump “Johnny Football” and the Browns.

Indianapolis

Of our half dozen standouts, the Colts are the most versatile. They are 5-2-1 against the spread at home and 4-2 on the road. They won’t be back in Indianapolis until the playoffs. File away that Andrew Luck is 19-5 all time at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Denver

America’s new team, the Denver Broncos, are over bet every week and bookmakers know it. That’s why they are 7-7 against the spread overall and just 3-4 ATS at home. However, they are a moneyline and teaser player’s dream. The Broncos are 7-0 straight up at home and they don’t eke out victories; they are simply victims of being huge favorites. They have three home wins by seven points this season and haven’t covered in any of them. They’re gold at home to win outright, and the Raiders will not provide a big obstacle in week 17, but the spread is likely to reflect that.

Seattle

That brings us to Seattle. The defending champs are 5-2 against the spread at home. They failed to cover in a loss against Dallas in week 6, and in a 30-24 victory over Oakland in week 9. Since then, look out. In the last four weeks (with two games at home and two on the road), Seattle is 4-0 straight up and against the number. They’ve held opponents to 20 points or fewer in five of six home wins and they have won their last two home games by a combined score or 36-10 (against division rivals Arizona and San Francisco, no less). The Seahawks will be looking for revenge in week 17 against St. Louis and seem likely to get it.

So you like our analysis and reasoning, but have noticed a problem: it doesn’t leave you anybody to bet on this week.

Fear not.

In week 16, Indianapolis travels to Dallas. The total opened at a high 55.5, but don’t let that automatically scare you off. In the Colts’ six road contests, five have gone over the total. While the Cowboys defense has been much better at home than on the road, four of Dallas’ last five overall have hit the over.

The Cowboys and Colts haven’t been benefiting from abnormally low totals, either. Dallas has played four games this season with totals in excess of 50 and three of those went over. It’s been a similar story for Indy. The total has been 50+ in six games for the Colts, and four of those went over. Moreover, the last time these teams met, the final score was 38-35. Expect a shootout in Big D.

(Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)