NFL Favorites Facing Big Numbers in Week 3
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 09/17/2008
This week in the NFL five home teams will take the field as heavy favorites, with the point spread hovering around 10 or more. Two teams with the coaches admittedly on the hot seats, Oakland and St. Louis, are facing point spreads of 9.5. Buffalo is hosting Oakland and St. Louis travels to Seattle. Also on Sunday, two teams are pushing towards two touchdowns in the favorites category with the defending Super Bowl champion Giants laying 13.5 at home against Cincinnati and New England giving 13 while hosting winless Miami. On Monday Night Football the winless Chargers are favored, yes favored, by 9.5 over Brett Favre and the New York Jets.
Last season double-digit favorites went 35-27 overall. The 62 games played with high spreads-an anomaly among most NFL seasons-was fueled mostly by New England's unprecedented undefeated regular season run where they faced 14 spreads of nine points or higher. The winning mark posted by the double-digit favorites last season was a rare occurrence. In the last 27 seasons dating back to 1980 double-digit home favorites have only covered the spread 47 percent of the time. This season they are off to a 2-3 start after two weeks.
Generally, a few teams stand out each year and the oddsmakers tack on large spreads with them all season. The New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys stood out last year and, with a few exceptions, these teams that face a large amount of double-digit spreads fail to cover in the long run. The Patriots went 6-8 ATS last season with a double-digit number and the Cowboys went 3-6 ATS. Two years ago the eventual Super Bowl teams, the Bears and Colts went a combined 5-10 ATS when facing double digits.
The last time a team faced at least eight double-digit spreads in one season and won money was the Indianapolis Colts in 2004 when they were 6-2 against the high number. After two weeks in this season it appears that teams like the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots will be dogged with high spreads throughout the season.
Nothing says "I am a square" quite like pounding heavy point spread favorites constantly against so called "hapless" competition. Often times they forget that this is the NFL where even the worst team in the league is still full of professional players. Teams facing the large number have also been able to win straight up occasionally. Already twice this season in Week 1, the Panthers against the Chargers and the Bears against the Colts won outright. Six double-digit underdogs paid out on the money line last season and an impressive 11 underdogs managed the feat two years ago.
Very rarely are teams able to win money throughout a season when constantly facing high numbers to cover. Looking back in the nineties with the Cowboys dynasty that won three Super Bowls, the team managed to go 16-18 ATS in double digit games during their Super Bowl years.
The San Francisco 49ers of the late 80s and mid 90s prove to be an exception to the rule. After only facing two double-digit spreads during their 1988-89 Super Bowl campaign, the 49ers went 7-1 against double-digits spreads in 1989-90 and then 10-3 in 1994-95 when they closed out the season by covering an 18-point Super Bowl spread against the San Diego Chargers.
In a year with more struggling teams than usual--the Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams--this year could rival the 62 double-digit spreads laid out by the books last season. As the trends show, the favorites will have a hard time covering the high spreads and the teams accustomed to high spreads for repeated weeks will have an even harder time.