Don’t Forget the Lessons of 2014

With the exception of Patriot fans, everyone has put the 2014 season in the rearview mirror and is ready for the new season to begin. Obviously, a new campaign brings different faces, schedules, luck, and obstacles. However, don’t forget what you saw in 2014 as you make your initial bets in the new year. Indeed, for most teams, it’s the most reliable indicator of how they’ll perform in 2015.

Let’s take a look at some of the information we can glean from last year for a handful of teams.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cards were cash cows in 2014. They finished 11-5 against the spread and were actually better than that. When the roof caved in on Arizona’s season because of injuries, particularly at quarterback, the team was 11-2 ATS. When they were forced to start Ryan Lindley at QB, they understandably trended down, failing to cover as underdogs in Weeks 14, 15, and 16 and then losing a Wild Card matchup in Carolina. But when healthy, they were the most profitable team in the NFL last year, and it wasn’t close.

(Part of the reason for this was that no one expected much of the Cards heading into the year, and sportsbooks didn’t really adjust their expectations all that much over the course of the first ten or so weeks. Compare and contrast Zona’s early lines from last year versus their lines this year to see if the books are finally giving Carson Palmer and co. the credit they deserve.)

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys were one of the the surprise teams of last year and were good for bettors, too, piling up a 10-6 mark against the spread. Interestingly, Dallas was 8-0 on the road (7-1 ATS) while finishing just 4-4 (3-5 against the number) at home. The trend remained strong in the playoffs when the Cowboys won but failed to cover at home in their Wild Card against Detroit, and then lost but cashed tickets in the Divisional Playoffs at Lambeau Field.

Don’t expect another 8-0 SU road record this season, but there’s no reason to think Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and that vaunted offensive line won’t continue to play well away from home.

Detroit Lions

Detroit was two different teams last year. At home, they were 7-1 SU, 5-3 against the spread, and had four unders and four overs. On the road, the Lions were 4-4 and a dreadful 2-6 against the number, and failed to hit the over seven times. Detroit’s first two games last year detailed what would become a season long trend. In the opener, they crushed the Giants, 35-14, at home; then they fell at Carolina, 24-7, in Week 2. During a four game stretch late in the year, the Lions lost road games at Arizona (14-6) and New England (34-9) before coming home for back-to-back 34-17 triumphs over the Bears and Bucs.

Again, while the Lions home-road splits are likely to change slightly from last year, the trend of playing above expectations at home and below expectations on the road is likely to continue.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs just could not score at home in 2014. They only managed more than 17 points once, which led to a winless season at Raymond James, along with a 2-6 ATS record and a 1-7 O/U mark. Tampa Bay only managed two wins on the road, but were actually a solid bet away from home, covering in five of eight (and hitting the over in four).

Tennessee Titans

Tennessee was a league worst 3-12-1 against the spread last year. Over the previous three seasons, four teams lost 12 games or more against the number in a given year. Those teams rebounded the following year for a combined ATS record of 37-24-3.

Only the 2012 Eagles, who lost 12 games ATS, returned to have mediocre results the next season, finishing 8-8 against the number in 2013. Meanwhile, the 2011 Rams went from 3-12-1 to 11-5; the same year, Tampa Bay improved from 4-12 to 9-5-2; and the 2013 Texans jumped from 4-12 to 9-6-1. Tennessee may not be a great football team in 2015, but they are likely to be undervalued.

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