NFL Handicapping: Teams Primed for ATS Improvement
by Trevor Whenham - 8/14/2014
NFL teams that are coming off a lousy season against the spread probably crushed the hearts and souls of bettors who backed them regularly. The good news for bettors, though, is that some of these teams that were so lousy to bet on last year will improve significantly - at least in terms of ATS performance - this year. If the public is fixated on their poor performance last year then there could be some value to be had this year until the public catches up.
Here are five ATS duds from last season that have a chance to be studs this year:
Chicago Bears (Last year 4-11-1 ATS): The Bears had to deal with an injury to Jay Cutler last year, but they still managed to have the top passing offense in the league - a fact that would come as a surprise to many. This is the second year under head coach Marc Trestman, and I expect the team to take a solid step forward under him. He and Cutler are working well together and could be poised for a strong year now that the team has given the quarterback a vote of confidence. They have plugged some holes and are a better team now than they were at this time last year. Last year one of their games was a push, and in four other games they failed to cover by just two or fewer points. With more consistent play and a bit more luck they will be a much stronger team to bet on. The division is far from a pushover, but this is a team I really like.
Jacksonville Jaguars (Last year 5-10-1 ATS): Jacksonville is not yet ready to be a great team or even a particularly good one. They were a much better team in the second half of last year than they were in the first half, though - they were 1-7 ATS before their bye week and 4-3-1 ATS after. They are a well-coached team, they have improved their talent, and they should again be able to take a small step towards respectability. The nice thing about this team is that they are flying so far under the radar that they could quietly improve enough to deliver some real value without drawing too much attention.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last year 6-10 ATS): The last three years in Tampa Bay have been a complete joke. Raheem Morris ran the team into the ground in his final year in charge then Greg Schiano covered everything in gasoline and lit a match. It has been more than a little ugly. Thankfully, though, they had the good sense to make a change, and in Lovie Smith they brought in respectability and stability. There are a lot of coaches I like more than Smith, but he knows what he is doing, and his presence alone improves this team dramatically. They have also improved at quarterback. Josh McCown is not a superstar, but he is an established veteran, and he has looked very good early on in his time with his new team. I still don't expect this to be a great team, but for the first time in three years they will at least be all on the same page and will be prepared for games. They have been their own worst enemy lately, so that alone should offer a better chance at betting success.
Detroit Lions (Last year 6-10 ATS): Jim Caldwell is a coach who is easy to respect, and he is a major improvement at the helm of this team. He immediately improves the attitude around this team, and that has been their downfall for too long. He is good at dealing with quarterbacks, and he has made good hires on his offensive staff. Matthew Stafford has talent to burn, but he makes too many mistakes and plays too sloppy. If Caldwell and company can get him back on track then he and this offense could lead this team a really long way.
Atlanta Falcons (Last year 7-9 ATS): The Falcons are coming off a season that was an epic disaster by nearly every measure. They were 5-1 ATS in their last six games, though, so they were not as bad as they could have been. At the very least they hadn't give up late in the season despite how poorly things went. They have improved in the offseason, and they already had the talent to be far better than they were last year. This team should be significantly better on the scoreboard, and they should treat bettors better as well.
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