NFL Handicapping: ATS Studs and Duds
by Trevor Whenham - 11/13/2012
Every team in the NFL has now played more than half of their schedule. That means we have seen more than enough games to get an accurate sense of the teams that are strong enough to be a solid bet in most situations and those that will found a way to lose your money in the most frustrating ways possible. As of right now if you had bet on every game played by every team only 12 teams would be profitable. Here’s a look at the studs and duds against the spread after 10 weeks of the NFL season:
Houston Texans (7-2 ATS)
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Not surprisingly, the best team in the NFL to this point has also been the best team to bet on. The formula isn’t hard to understand — they can score points, and they are hard to score against. They have won games by an average of 11.9 points per game. In the NFL double-digit spreads are rare, so winning like that will lead to a lot of covered spreads.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-2 ATS)
The Bucs are my favorite non-elite team this season. They are scoring a lot of points and running the ball very well. Their defense isn’t stellar, but it is solid. Most significantly, the team plays with a lot more heart under Greg Schiano than they have recently. They are a tough, feisty team.
Seattle Seahawks (7-3 ATS)
Seattle’s offense isn’t elite, but they have allowed the third fewest points in the league. So despite scoring fewer than 20 points a game they still are outscoring opponents by 3.7 points per game. Combine that with real toughness at home and you have a team that is a pleasure to bet on.
Denver Broncos (6-3 ATS)
I was skeptical of the Manning experiment, and I figured it would be almost impossible for him to deliver value given the massive media attention and his rust and fragility. Goes to show what I know. They have the second-best scoring offense in the league and a functional defense, and that is working well for bettors despite all the public attention.
Indianapolis Colts (6-3 ATS)
It is both fitting and completely unexpected that we are discussing the Colts right after we talked about Peyton Manning and his new home. Andrew Luck has been so good as a rookie that at this rate it won’t take him long to make people forget about that old guy who used to play for the Colts.
Atlanta Falcons (6-3 ATS)
Up until last weekend the Falcons were unbeaten, and they are outscoring opponents by more than eight points per game. Therefore it’s not surprising that they have covered spreads nicely. Despite all their success, they are a relatively anonymous team in the public eyes. That helps deliver value.
St. Louis Rams (6-3 ATS)
The Rams are a classic example of a team that isn’t very good, but which is significantly better than the public expects them to be. They can’t score, and they don’t play great defense, but they aren’t as bad as people assume. That’s a formula for betting success, and it can be sustainable because people aren’t likely to take notice.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-7-1 ATS)
The team had high hopes coming into the season, but it has all just turned into a disaster. Their superstar isn’t playing like one. Their long-term coach is about to get fired. Their defense is truly awful. Nothing is going right. When a reasonably public team struggles this badly a lot of spreads won’t be getting covered.
Kansas City Chiefs (3-6 ATS)
They have one win. That’s one more than the number of legitimate NFL quarterbacks they have on the roster. A lousy, poorly-coached team that gets outscored by more than 12 points per game — of course they aren’t covering spreads.
Oakland Raiders (3-6 ATS)
Here’s another team that has been outscored by double-digits on average. They have played some tough games, too, so when they lose they really lose badly. The public wanted to believe in the Raiders heading into this season because they are a public team despite their long struggles, so it’s not a surprise that the public overestimates them — and loses bets as a result.
Cincinnati Bengals (3-5-1 ATS)
The Bengals are an underwhelming team that is very poorly coached. With guys like A.J. Green and Andy Dalton as the new faces of this organization there is some optimism, but they just aren’t good enough at this point — especially on defense — to live up to the public expectations.
Arizona Cardinals (3-5-1 ATS)
The Cardinals have no offense to speak of. Their defense is solid, but not good enough to overcome their problems when they have the ball. Combine their issues with a team that sucked the public in with a deceptively strong start to the season, and you have a recipe for betting disaster.