NFL Handicapping: Biggest ATS Surprises
by Trevor Whenham - 9/25/2013
The NFL never turns out like you expect it to. That’s both the best and worst part of the league. We are only three weeks into the long season, yet for bettors there have been all sorts of surprises already. Some have been pleasant, while other have probably made you want to punch yourself in the face.
Here are the six situations or trends that have been the most surprising so far:
Coming into the season, the Texans were expected to be one of the top tier of contenders. They have talent all over the place, and their core is returning, so they should have been able to hit the ground running and rely on their experience. So far, though, that just hasn’t been the case. They took most of the game off against the Chargers in their opener before stealing the win with a furious comeback. The next week they somehow required overtime to beat the Titans at home. And last week they were MIA as the Ravens rolled to a 30-9 victory. That all means that this so-called contender has limped to a rough 0-3 ATS start. They were a profitable 9-7 ATS last year and seemed to have improved in the offseason, so this is certainly not what was expected from them.
This division was looked at as one of the toughest and most competitive heading into the season. So far, though, its teams have been just plain lousy. The division is just 3-9 straight up and an ugly 4-8 ATS or an even uglier 2-6 ATS when you take out the divisional showdowns — and that includes a strong 3-0 ATS start from the Cowboys. In other words, the Giants, Redskins and Eagles have combined to start 1-8 ATS, with the only cover coming when the Eagles beat the Redskins in their opener.
New England Patriots
In each of their last two years, the Patriots went “over” the total in 11 of their 16 games. The year before they went over 13 times in 16 tries. Trusting the Patriots to score has been some of the easiest money in the league the last three years. This year, though, they have started out by going “under” in all three outings. Some of their struggles were anticipated thanks to the departure of Wes Welker and the decimation of their tight end ranks. They have gone under by an average of 15 points per game, though, so they are struggling even more than might have been expected.
New York Jets
This is proof of how you need to look beyond the headlines to handicap a team. Heading into the season, this team was a circus. They had a coach who seemed to be out of control, a QB situation that was a mess, and questions all over the field. They looked poised to be really bad. While they haven’t been an elite team by any means, they have far exceeded those expectations. They are 2-1 SU and are one of just four teams in the league to start out 3-0 ATS. The public was so quick to jump off the bandwagon and bet against this high-profile squad that there has been some real value here.
Heading into the season, it was widely assumed that the race for the top pick in the draft next year was a two-horse showdown between the Raiders and the Jaguars. While Jacksonville has certainly done their part, Oakland has been somewhat of a surprise. They handily beat Jacksonville to get their first win. More significantly, at 2-0-1 ATS they have been very kind to the bettors who were brave enough not to write them off out of the gate. They covered by a full touchdown in their opener at Indianapolis, did their job as favorites in Week 2 against the Jags, and salvaged some late pride to match the 16-point spread against the potent Broncos. This team is far from a legitimate contender, and they will struggle mightily at times this year. However, behind the surprising Terrelle Pryor, this team isn’t the betting disaster they could have been — unlike the 0-3 ATS Jaguars.
San Francisco 49ers
It’s not just that the 49ers have lost two in a row for the first time under Jim Harbaugh after ending the season as NFC favorites and rolling through their opener against the Packers. It’s how short of expectations they have fallen. Two weeks ago in Seattle they were three-point underdogs, and they lost by 26. Last week, at home against the Colts, they were favored by 10.5 points and lost by 20. That means that in the last two weeks they have failed to cover their spreads by an average of nearly 27 points. That’s not just a slight degree of underachievement. It’s no wonder that the team has already fallen from 6/1 to 12/1 in Super Bowl futures.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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