A broad trend in sports betting is that sharp handicappers tend to like underdogs – especially with big point-spreads – while the general public likes favorites. Joe Fan will happily give a touchdown, sometimes two, to be on the side of Brady and Belichick. I’m not saying you should blindly bet on big ‘dogs, though (don’t do anything blindly, actually) especially this year, when Joe Fan is doing more winning than the best and the brightest. There have been seven NFL games this season with a double-digit point spread. Favorites have covered four of those.
The big lines haven’t been motivated by the “good” team in the equation – Seattle has been huge chalk twice, and the Patriots, Panthers, Dolphins, Bengals, and Cardinals once each – they’ve been spurred by the dog. Apart from Seattle laying 10.5 to Miami in Week 1, the double-digit dog has been Cleveland or San Francisco. Both teams are 1-2 ATS in those games.
This brings up an observation worth considering. Not only are the bad teams in the NFL losing this year, they are getting crushed. The Browns are 0-10 and have covered just twice, while six of their games have gone over. The Niners are 1-8 overall, 2-7 against the number, and also have six overs.
By no means are the Browns and Niners the only teams that are awful both SU and ATS. The Jaguars are 2-7 straight up and 3-5-1 ATS, while Chicago is 2-7 SU and against the number.
While wagering on the Patriots has been a good gamble (7-2 ATS), and the Cowboys are an incredible 8-0-1 for bettors, you pay a penalty for backing good teams: the public money that comes in on them will drive lines higher than they should be. In the long term, it is not sustainable to wager with the public each week. (There is a reason casinos aren’t handed over to the gamblers.)
As the season moves along, New England, Dallas, and other public teams like Oakland will cease to provide value. That said, looking to the bottom of the league, and considering when they’ll give up a boatload of points is a worthwhile exercise. Don’t be surprised if the best opportunities come when they play mediocre or middling teams instead of the league’s elite.
Photo: Public domain.