Which NFL Teams Were Best Against the Spread Last Year?

Which NFL Teams Were Best Against the Spread Last Year?
© USA Today

When you check out the best NFL betting sites during the regular season, you might come across the letters ATS. If you are unfamiliar with the terminology, this stands for ‘against the spread’.

Read on to get the lowdown on last season's NFL against the spread stats, which should help you make informed decisions on spread bets for this season's NFL games. We'll also examine NFL against the spread history and look at which teams tend to outperform what is expected of them.

What is Against the Spread Betting?

Whether you're using a new betting site or a long-established bookmaker, spread betting should look the same on most sites. How much a team is tipped to win by is denoted by the spread figure in brackets beside the team name. This figure is used to level the playing field for betting purposes, by subtracting the value from the favourite’s final score or by adding it on to the underdog's score. In Super Bowl LV, for example, the Buccaneers were +3.5 underdogs to beat the Chiefs, but they ended up winning by 22 points to cover the spread by a long way.

Had the Buccaneers lost by three points, they would still have covered the spread because that margin of defeat is smaller than the 3.5 points they were given by the oddsmakers. Had the Chiefs won by three points, they would not have covered the spread because they had to win by four points or more. The half-point is important as it means the bet has to be won or lost, because no score in the NFL can include a decimal point.

Some NFL teams are used to making the play-offs and contending for the Super Bowl year after year, while others have a knack of covering the spread. Of course, every team would like to make the play-offs, but only 14 of the 32 teams can make the post-season.

Some teams are historically better at covering the spread and some teams should be avoided when it comes to against the spread betting. Be careful, because the spread can change because of injuries to key players.

The weather conditions in which the game might be played is also a factor, as NFL games in December and January can be played in heavy snow and wind. The only weather that can force an NFL game to be delayed or postponed is lightning, or if a hurricane makes it unsafe for the game to go ahead.

Make sure you have a solid NFL betting strategy when betting on teams to cover the spread and If you like spread betting on the NFL, why not try it on college football as well, where there are so many more games played during the NCAA season.

Last Season's NFL Against the Spread Stats

In last season’s NFL against the spread stats, the safest team to bet on were the Miami Dolphins. Miami were coming off a 5-11 season and they were trying to integrate rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa into their offense. Veteran play-caller Ryan Fitzpatrick was the back-up and the pair split time under centre.

The Five Best Teams Against the Spread in the NFL last season:

  • 68.8% Miami Dolphins
  • 63.2% Buffalo Bills
  • 61.1% Baltimore Ravens
  • 61.1% Green Bay Packers
  • 60.0% Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The best betting sites were unsure what to expect from the Dolphins, but head coach Brian Flores inspired his team to a 10-6 record to narrowly miss out on the play-offs. Of those 16 regular season games played, the Dolphins covered the spread in 11 of them. Not only did they cover the point spread in 68.5 per cent of their games, they did so by an average 4.1 points thanks to a defence that ranked sixth in the league.

The Dolphins’ AFC East rivals Buffalo were next on the list, covering the spread in 12 of the 19 games they played, including three play-off games. Their explosive offense - led by quarterback Josh Allen - made sure they covered the spread by an average 6.8 winning margin. Baltimore (11-7), Green Bay (11-7) and the eventual champions Tampa Bay (12-8) completed the top five against the spread teams.

Worst Teams Against the Spread Last Season

Dallas Cowboys have one of the biggest fanbases in the world after giving themselves the nickname ‘America’s Team’ in the 1970s. Last year, their first under head coach Mike McCarthy, was the 25th anniversary of their last Super Bowl win. The Cowboys lost their first choice quarterback Dak Prescott to a serious ankle injury early in the season and they struggled for the remainder of the campaign.

Five Worst Teams Against the Spread Last Season:

  • 31.2% Dallas Cowboys
  • 37.5% Houston Texans
  • 37.5% Minnesota Vikings
  • 37.5% NY Jets
  • 37.5% Philadelphia Eagles

In terms of covering the spread, Dallas were ranked last in the NFL. Their defence struggled to stop teams scoring points against them with an average of 29.5 points given up per game. The Cowboys covered the point spread in just five of their 16 matches. Staying in the state of Texas, Houston were next on the list, covering the spread in just six of their 16 games.

The Jets’ record in point spread betting was also 6-10, which is a record they would have been happy with at the end of the regular season. However, the Jets won just two games all year and missed out on the number one draft pick to the Jaguars. The Jets were in disarray last season under head coach Adam Gase and out-of-sorts quarterback Sam Darnold.

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Both men are no longer at the Jets and it remains to be seen how new head coach Robert Saleh stamps his authority on this team. Minnesota (6-10), Philadelphia (6-10) and Tennessee (7-10) make up the rest of the five worst teams against the spread last season.

NFL Betting Against the Spread History: Patriots Lead Way

New England are on top when it comes to against the spread history, covering in 58.5 per cent of the games they have played since 2003, during which time they have won five of their six Super Bowl titles.

Bill Belichick will go down in NFL history as the most successful head coach and the success he had with quarterback Tom Brady will prove very difficult to beat. The pair won six Vince Lombardi trophies together.

Five Best Teams Against the Spread Since 2003:

  • 58.5% New England Patriots
  • 56.1% Green Bay Packers
  • 55.6% Indianapolis Colts
  • 53.0% New Orleans Saints
  • 52.8% Buffalo Bills

The Raiders, who will be entering their second season at their Las Vegas stadium, were the worst of the 32 teams at covering the spread since 2003, doing so in 43.3 per cent of their matches. Last season, the Raiders covered the spread in half of their 16 games played and missed out on the play-offs for the 17th time in the last 18 seasons.

Tom Brady Belichick

Five Worst Teams Against the Spread Since 2003:

  • 43.3% Las Vegas Raiders
  • 45.0% Cleveland Browns
  • 45.9% Detroit Lions
  • 46.1% Tennessee Titans
  • 46.2% Los Angeles Rams

A point spread bet is one of the more popular forms of sports betting and certainly adds another dimension to gambling on NFL action. You should be able to find a spread betting market on any of the leading betting sites. If you receive a free bet when you open a new account, why not use it to see how a sports spread bet can sometimes be more fun than placing a moneyline bet.

The odds might be better than the straight moneyline bet, so it might be a market you focus on in more detail and you could consider yourself a spread bettor rather than a regular bettor.

Last season, when games were played in near empty stadiums because of the coronavirus pandemic, the underdogs covered the NFL point spread in 55.5 per cent of the games. Underdogs on the road covered in 56 per cent of games. It will be interesting to see how those percentages change this season, now that fans are allowed back in NFL stadiums.

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