NFL Playoffs: Best Teams Against the Spread
by Trevor Whenham - 1/6/2011
I don’t know about you, but when the playoffs start I become obsessed with looking at all of the teams in every way possible. It’s almost a sickness -- or at least a way to pretend to be productive while killing time until the big games finally get under way. Today’s useful way to pass time is to look at the performance against the NFL point spread of the 12 playoff teams to see what can be learned:
New England Patriots - The Pats were amazing on the field this year, and were solid at the betting windows as well -- they were 10-5-1 ATS, which is tied with Tampa Bay for the third best record in the league. If you are looking for some chink in the armor of this team, it would be that they were a less-than-thrilling 3-3-1 ATS against playoff teams. They finished strong, though -- they won eight straight to finish the year, and were 5-1 ATS in their last six.
Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers were just a tick behind the Pats at 10-6 ATS. That’s a little bit deceptive, though -- they were 3-1 ATS in the games Ben Roethlisberger missed due to his boneheaded suspension, and just 7-5 ATS after his return. Big Ben was an ugly 1-3 ATS against playoff teams with Baltimore being the only squad he topped.
Indianapolis Colts - This season has not looked like a typical Indianapolis season in any way, but it hasn’t been a disaster at the betting window - they are 8-7-1 ATS. While the team is getting a lot of credit for finishing strong, securing their playoff spot, they didn’t share that success with bettors -- they were just 2-4 ATS in their last six. They played a surprisingly weak schedule this year, but were a nice 3-0 ATS against playoff teams, so they seem to rise to the level of their competition.
Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs had a big turnaround on the field, and a less significant but still useful improvement for bettors -- they went from 7-9 ATS last year to 9-7 ATS this year. Bettors believed in this team after a few strong performances, and it didn’t serve them well - after a 5-1 ATS start they limped to 4-6 ATS in their final 10.
Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens were 8-7-1 ATS on the season. They were 3-2-1 ATS against playoff teams, with one of those covers coming against Pittsburgh pre-Big Ben. The best news is that they aren’t likely to play any lousy teams in the playoffs because they tend to take lesser teams for granted -- they were just 1-3 ATS against the two lousy teams from Ohio, and needed overtime to get past Buffalo as 12-point favorites.
New York Jets - The Jets weren’t always good this year, but they were never boring. They were also profitable -- 9-7 ATS. They didn’t finish strong, though -- they were just 4-6 ATS in their last 10. They were also a less-than-stellar 2-4 ATS in their six games against playoff teams. They join Cleveland as the only two teams to have beaten New England, though.
Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons had the second best record in the league, and they were the second best betting team as well -- their 11-5 ATS mark trailed just Detroit. They were particularly impressive down the stretch, with a 7-1 ATS mark in their last eight. Despite their impressive performance they were just 3-3 ATS against playoff teams.
Chicago Bears - Chicago improved dramatically on the field and just as much for bettors -- they were 6-10 ATS last year, and 9-6-1 ATS this season. They were very profitable in the second half of the season at 6-2 ATS. They were 3-2 ATS against playoff teams. Surprisingly, one of the games they didn’t cover -- or win -- came against the Seahawks, the worst playoff team in history.
Philadelphia Eagles - We finally have the first playoff team that wasn’t profitable on the season -- the Eagles were 7-9 ATS. The middle of their season was actually solid -- they were 5-3 ATS. It was the 1-3 ATS runs that bookended that stretch that hurt bettors’ wallets. They were an ugly 1-3 ATS against playoff teams, including an opening loss to the Packers -- the team they meet in the opening round.
Seattle Seahawks - Not surprisingly, the Seahawks join the Eagles as the second team that wasn’t profitable -- their 7-9 ATS record matched their overall record. They were actually perfectly predictable -- they covered every game they won, and failed to cover every game they lost. They were just 1-3 ATS against playoff teams.
New Orleans Saints - The Saints, at 7-9 ATS, are the third of three playoff teams that lost bettors money. That’s telling in and of itself -- nine of the 17 teams that were profitable made the playoffs, while just three of 15 that weren’t made it, so bettors are pretty good at picking out quality. It took until about the sixth week for me to believe that this team was going to make a return to the playoffs, and the betting results show that -- they were just 1-4 ATS in their first five, and 6-5 ATS since. They didn’t finish strong, though -- just 2-4 ATS in the last six. They were 3-2 ATS against playoff teams.
Green Bay Packers - The Packers wound up at 9-7 ATS. Their problem on the season was a lack of consistency, and that was true for bettors as well -- they were just 3-3 ATS against playoff teams.
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