Ranking the NFL Divisions ATS
by Trevor Whenham - 09/27/2007
We are three weeks into the NFL season. That means that there are a lot of things that we thought we knew that have been confirmed (New England is very, very good, for example), some things that we thought we knew that have been proven totally and utterly wrong (New Orleans will ride their potent offense to a Super Bowl berth), and a whole lot more that we haven't really been able to figure out yet (Green Bay, Denver, Oakland, Cleveland, Detroit - I could go on). As usual, the NFL has created a ton of betting chaos, and that's what makes the league so interesting.
Though looking at the teams individually is obviously the most important part of NFL handicapping, it's a good idea to look at the betting performance of the divisions from time to time. The public bases a good part of their decision-making process on how the conference the team plays in is performing, so by looking at those divisions you can have a sense of what is really happening and how the expectations and beliefs of the public may be inaccurate. Here's a top-to-bottom look at how the divisions have shaped up so far:
1. AFC South (8-4 ATS). The AFC South has been wildly profitable so far. As observant bettors would know, but the public can never figure out, that has nothing to do Indianapolis. The Colts are 1-2 ATS and continue to be less productive against the spread than most would hope. The division is doing so well because of two of the rising powers have caught people off guard with the speed of their progress. Tennessee and Houston are both 3-0 ATS. Though the conference is winning at the betting windows, it isn't doing it by piling up the points - the teams have gone over the posted total just four times in 12 tries.
2. AFC North (7-5 ATS). Though the division is generally doing well ATS, there are teams at opposite ends of the extreme within. Pittsburgh is more powerful than many thought. Not only are they 3-0 ATS, but they have convincingly and overwhelmingly covered. On the other side of the coin, Baltimore is 0-3 ATS, and has lacked the rigid defense that the public has relied upon to win bets. Most strikingly, the division has only gone under the posted total twice in 12 games - keep an eye on whether the public gets a handle on that soon.
3. NFC East (6-5-1 ATS). This division has been only barely profitable, and they have Dallas to thank for that. The Cowboys have looked like the class of the NFC so far. Even though they are generally a public team, they have exceeded expectations to reach 3-0 ATS. To add to the betting pleasure, they have gone over all three times.
4. AFC East (5-4-3 ATS). The Patriots have lived up to the expectations of bettors (3-0 ATS, three overs). Unfortunately, the rest of the division isn't really doing their part to protect the investment of bettors. The Jets are the only other team with a win, and only them and Buffalo have managed to cover. Though Miami has been disappointing, they have been strangely kind to those that have been unfortunate enough to support them - they have hit the number twice, so backers have only lost their money once and have had it refunded twice.
5. NFC North (5-4-3 ATS). Though the NFC North has the same ATS record as the AFC East, it ends up lower down on this list. That's because, to borrow a phrase from Dennis Green, the teams of the AFC East are who we thought they were, while the NFC North is upside down. You theoretically could have seen Chicago's 0-3 ATS record coming because of their ridiculous quarterbacking situation and the defensive injuries, but if you tell me that you saw Green Bay's 3-0 ATS mark coming I will be forced to call you a liar.
6. NFC West (5-7 ATS). This division is going to be a close race, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it will be interesting. Each team here is promising but also flawed. Arizona is helping out the betting performance of the division with their 3-0 ATS record. This is particularly interesting - the Cards came into the season with unrealistic public hype on many fronts, so the fact that they are 3-0 ATS is testament to their progress. On the other hand, the Rams are 0-3 ATS, and have been just as dismal and disappointing as that record would indicate.
7. NFC South (5-7 ATS). Bettors who have been disappointed by the performance of the NFC South have just one team to blame - New Orleans. The Saints have been worse than terrible. It will be interesting to watch how the public reacts in the next couple of weeks. The team's problems are a bit of a mystery and the squad is still well loved by the general public and the media, so it's quite likely that this dismal betting trend could continue for a while.
8. AFC West (3-8-1 ATS). When the Kansas City Chiefs are the best team in the conference at anything then you know you have trouble. The fact that the Chiefs have the best ATS record in the division despite being just 1-1-1 ATS shows how bad this division has been on the betting front. Denver is the biggest offender. Their 2-1 record straight up is decent, but they are 0-3 ATS, and have only barely managed to beat two fairly weak teams in Oakland and Buffalo.