NFL Handicapping: Possible ATS Disappointments
by Trevor Whenham - 8/26/2013
It is very hard for teams in the NFL to consistently deliver value to bettors. Betting on the NFL is both so popular and so difficult that a team that was a betting star one year is in real danger of being overbet the next year -- and not covering nearly as many spreads as a result. Here’s a look at the four teams that were successful against the spread that are in position to be much less successful at covering the spread this year:
Denver Broncos (10-6 ATS last year)
It’s impressive that the Broncos were able to cover so many spreads last year. Peyton Manning had arrived in town and brought massive expectations with him, yet the team was strong enough to exceed expectations. They were just 2-3 straight up and ATS in the first five weeks but then found their stride and covered eight of their last 11 - including their last four. This year, though, those expectations are even higher - at 6/1 to win the Super Bowl at Bovada they are the co-favorites along with the 49ers. Given the betting success last year, the public will be betting them hard early on - especially with fan darling Wes Welker on board. Manning is not getting any younger, though, and he headlines a roster that isn’t exactly young -- and which doesn’t have a viable, confidence-inducing backup if Manning does experience injury issues. The Von Miller situation is both a distraction and a big early loss. The schedule is very challenging -- especially on the road -- and everyone will be out to get them. There is a big gap between what the team is expected to do and what they seem most likely to do, and that’s a recipe for a lot of spreads that aren’t covered.
Seattle Seahawks (11-5 ATS)
Russell Wilson has to transition from great upstart and major surprise,\ to established starter who can thrive when everyone knows what to expect and is out to get him. Pete Carroll needs to prove that he can be a coach who can succeed in the NFL at a high level -- something he has yet to do despite multiple opportunities. The team needs to overcome discipline problems off the field and shine in the toughest and deepest division in football. Last year they were a popular bandwagon to jump on. This year that bandwagon is sagging under the weight off all the supporters. The team should be somewhat improved from last year, but I have real doubts that they will have improved enough to meet the expectations of the bettors who will be throwing cash at them.
Washington Redskins (11-5 ATS)
RGIII-Mania is out of control. Having him sit in the preseason to rest a recuperating knee should be a story that gets little more than a passing mention -- a nod for the logic it displays. Instead, it has turned into one of the big stories of the summer. Ridiculous -- and a clear sign that the public has bought into the myth of Griffin in a big way. He’s certainly good enough to justify the attention. The problem is, though, that the team hasn’t improved around him as much and as quickly as the public will be expecting. One man can’t do it all in this league -- even if he is completely healed from his major injury. The increased expectations are going to lead to disappointed bettors. The schedule is challenging, and the job of pleasing bettors will be too much even for a guy as talented as the 2011 Heisman winner.
St. Louis Rams (11-5 ATS)
Last year the Rams improved quietly, and bettors didn’t notice. After their bye week they were just 4-4 on the scoreboard but a strong 6-2 against the spread. This year people are starting to notice that Jeff Fisher and company are making progress. They had a strong offseason with an excellent draft and a strong free agency headlined by the theft of Jake Long. Sam Bradford is a talented QB (as his Heisman proves) that has yet to really find his stride in the pros. He has the talent and the maturity around him now, though, to take the much-needed step forward. If he can do that then this team will be significantly improved. They aren’t likely to be improved enough, though, to keep covering spreads at this rate. They are helped somewhat by the fact that they are in a division with the Seahawks and Niners -- two very public teams this year. That will help somewhat, but not likely enough. If bettors can break even betting on the Rams this year that would be a major success for the team -- one I don’t really expect.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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