They say history is a good predictor of the future. While a lot changes in the NFL from year-to-year, it’s important to remember what happened in the previous year to learn from it when it comes to betting on the NFL.
So let’s take a look at the best bets from last season. Clearly, the NFL bookmakers will adjust. But taking a look back will help us examine the characteristics of what teams might be good bets in the upcoming season.
These five teams were the most profitable against the spread from last season.
The Bills were one of the league’s surprise teams last season. Entering the year, they were the team with the longest playoff drought but finished 9-7 straight up.
Fresh off a 7-9 season and with a new head coach, few thought they’d be one of the six AFC playoff teams. But the Bills managed to cover plenty, mostly because of their unpredictable offense. While the defense was steady all season, nobody – including the oddsmakers – was ever sure what the Bills would get out of the offense.
There were games against Tampa Bay, Oakland and Denver in which the Bills scored at least 26 points. Then there were games against New England, New Orleans and Carolina in which the Bills averaged 5.3 points per outing.
What that translated to was some small spreads for this team when they were favored. When they won, they were mostly able to cover, which is why we see such a close correlation between their ATS and straight-up record.
Some people thought the Eagles might be good entering the 2017 campaign, but few envisioned a 13-3 regular-season record, let alone a Super Bowl victory. The fact that they were so underestimated is why they ended up covering so many games.
It wasn’t really until Week 3 that they got going. That was the start of their nine-game winning streak in which they won by an average of 16.8 points per game. They weren’t just beating opponents, they were crushing them with three separate 28-point wins.
Philadelphia had no problem covering and winning outright as a home dog to the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs, and then as a dog in the Super Bowl, too.
The Chiefs were one of the streakiest teams in the NFL last year. They were so good against the spread that the oddsmakers had a tough time keeping up with them.
The Chiefs started 5-0, blowing out in the Patriots in New England on opening night and then beating the eventual Super Bowl champs in Week 2.
Then, just as bettors started to have faith, the Chiefs hit a wall and lost six of seven, with many of those losses coming in embarrassing fashion. And then in Week 14, something once again clicked and the Chiefs would go on to win and cover their final four games and finish 10-6 on the season.
It’s hard to believe that the Patriots – one of the most popular NFL teams – was so great against the spread last season. Their betting lines are always inflated as the oddsmakers expect them to get bet regardless of the situation.
So what happened last season?
Well, the Patriots (13-3) were as dominant as ever. After starting 2-2, they won 11 of their final 12 games. And while they faced a number of huge spreads, they covered plenty of them. Their last seven wins came by an average of 18.9 points per game.
The Vikings finished the 2016 season 8-8 and were deemed a team that was close to contending. If they could just figure out their offense, they’d be able to complement one of the league’s best defenses and compete for the NFC crown.
However, almost all of that optimism was wiped away when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was lost to a knee injury before the season even began. That’s what dropped the perception of the Vikings and allowed them to overachieve.
First they had Sam Bradford under center and he was excellent. But then they lost Bradford in Week 2 – and then lost running back Dalvin Cook for the season – and the perception of the team again dropped.
With journeyman Case Keenum running the offense, they were supposed to struggle. But the Vikings never did, going on an eight-game winning streak and winning 11 of their final 12 games to finish 13-3.
While oddsmakers adjusted the spread, this team only gained confidence as the season went along, winning their final three games by an average of 18.7 points. All of those factors are why they were one of the best bets against the spread.