Expert NFL Betting Advice: Teams That Could Improve Against the Spread
There were a lot of teams in the NFL that were not much fun to bet on last year. Eighteen of the 32 teams in the league were not profitable if you bet on them in every game they played. Not surprisingly, many of those teams weren't very good at football. Not many bettors are going to bet on every game a team plays - not many good bettors, anyway. Still, it can be very useful for bettors to identify teams that are likely to improve significantly against the spread from where they were last year. That can be one of the easiest ways to identify opportunities for profit - especially if the teams are likely to be more improved than the public expects them to be.
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Here are four ATS duds from last year that could be much improved on that front this season:
Cleveland Browns (3-12-1 ATS last year): I don't think the Browns are going to be a great team this year by any means. It has become very easy and popular to assume, though, that the team is going to be just awful. The negativity is such that it's now quite possible that this team could exceed public expectations - perhaps significantly - while still being far from good.
They don't have a great answer at QB, but at least they have options - and despite what people say they aren't entirely hopeless options. Their coaching situation has been a revolving door for far too long, but the current group seems at least as good as any in recent years. Hue Jackson can coach, and he aggressively and mostly positively overhauled his coaching staff this offseason. They drafted quite well, and have more young talent than in a long time. And the schedule has some very manageable spots - the Jets Jaguars, and Bears are very manageable, and the Colts and the Bengals (twice) could prove to be underwhelming squads.
I'm not saying that this team is going to be great by any means, but they have more reasons for hope than they did a year ago, and that could allow them to cover more spreads than their league-worst total last year. They are viable contenders.
L.A. Rams (4-11-1 ATS): In what will be a recurring theme on this list, a positive coaching change is the driving force for positivity here. I like Jeff Fisher fine, but he had been mailing it in of late, and it was time for a change. Sean McVay is young and raw, but he certainly doesn't lack for enthusiasm. The change alone should have this team sharper.
I'm not a huge Jared Goff guy - wasn't in college and haven't grown to love him. He finally got some game action last year, though, and has had a whole offseason to prepare as the starter. I don't think he'll ever be great, but he should be poised to take at least a little bit of a step forward.
The schedule is tough - certainly tougher than Cleveland's - but that gives them more opportunity to cover spreads as underdogs even if they don't win. I don't really expect this to be a profitable betting team - still too much work to do - but they should be solidly better.
San Francisco 49ers (5-11 ATS): By the time Chip Kelly arrived in San Francisco he was a walking circus, and chaos was all but guaranteed. The Niners doubled down on him despite no evidence out of Philadelphia that he could coach in this league. It went badly, just like Jim Tomsula had. After screwing up the Jim Harbaugh situation so badly, the team finally has done the right thing and found a hugely talented and stable coach. It's going to pay massive dividends. Kyle Shanahan is very good, and aside from the second half of his last game he has real credibility.
They dramatically overhauled the roster, had a strong draft and have a QB in Brian Hoyer who is far from exciting but will be fine. They have hope in the first time in at least two years, and they should play with a hunger that hasn't been seen in these recent dark days.
I don't think they are contenders or anything, but competence and positivity can go a long way towards betting excellence - especially when a team will be consistently an underdog.
Houston Texans (6-9-1 ATS): This team had a very solid defense last year, and they get a healthy J.J. Watt back (to start the season at least). They are freed from the Brock Osweiler debacle, and in Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson they have a QB battle with some real upside.
Five of their eight road games are pretty manageable, and they get Jacksonville (to start the season when their QB situation is likely to be messy), Cleveland and San Francisco at home. They made some positive coaching changes in the offseason - even if I'm not thrilled with Bill O'Brien acting as his own offensive coordinator. This team should be in a dogfight with Tennessee to win the division, and they are a legitimate playoff team - one others wouldn't be too excited to play, likely. All of it should add up to a squad that covers solidly more than six spreads.
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