NFL Winners Also Beat The Spread



The 2005/06 NFL season has come and gone and the 2006/07 campaign still is a couple of months away but before the handicapping buzzards pick the carcass clean, it's time to wash up, put on our scrubs, make like Kay Scarpetta or Temperence Brennan (or any other medical examiner on your fiction reading list) and perform a pointspread postmortem.

The first cut of the scalpel reveals that of the 12 NFL teams that qualified for the post-season, the not-so-dirty dozen was a combined 112-74-6 (.602) against the spread (ATS) and not one of them had a losing record against the points.

Coincidence? Probably not.

In fact, forensics reveal that of the 16 NFL teams which posted winning straight up (SU) records during the regular season, 12 of them also had winning marks ATS. Two teams with winning records SU, the Patriots and Buccaneers, broke even against the number while just two others that were above .500 on the field, the Dolphins and Cowboys, had losing records, though barely, (7-9) ATS.

On the other cleat, of the 15 teams that posted losing records on the field, 13 of them also were losers ATS. Only the Lions had a winning record ATS while the Browns broke even at 8-8 ATS.

Only one team in the league, the Falcons, finished with .500 record both SU and ATS.

So what does it all mean?

It appears that the best way to find a pointspread winner is to find a straight up winner.

Easier said than done.

For example, at this time a year ago, Philadelphia was the hot team and it was Head Coach Andy Reid, not Pittsburgh's Bill Cowher, who was expected to join New England's Bill Belichick as the next NFL coaching "genius" (or, as Joe Theisman might say, a "Norman Einstein").

Last February there was no indication that the Eagles, who began the season as +575 favorite (bet $100 to win $575) in Super Bowl futures at The Greek Sports Book would be anything but prime contenders for a second straight NFL title game appearance. The Falcons, Rams, Packers, Jets and Ravens also were expected to be formidable playoff threats again this season. Not one of those six teams even managed a winning record.

Given the failure of Philadelphia, Atlanta, St. Louis, Green Bay, the NY Jets and Baltimore, could bettors reasonably have latched their pointspread fortunes to the Giants, the Chiefs or the Seahawks, the three teams with the best records against the number last season?

Probably not because as the results indicate, it's not just teams with winning records that beat the spread, it's surprising teams, teams that play better than expected, that emerge as pointspread stalwarts.

So while this analysis may be intriguing, perhaps even interesting to some, sadly, an autopsy of last season's pointspread results provides few clues as to which teams will flourish against the spread in the next NFL campaign.

After all the splicing and dicing, successful NFL handicapping still comes down to a fundamental game-by-game analysis. No matter how you cut it, hard work, skill, talent, money management and a lot of luck will trump a postmortem trend, any time.

ACTUAL 2005 NFL SEASON RECORD VERSUS POINTSPREAD RECORD

Team W-L ATS PCT.
New York Giants 11-5 11-4-1 .733
Seattle Seahawks 13-3 11-5 .688
Kansas City Chiefs 10-6 11-5 .688
Denver Broncos 13-3 10-5-1 .667
Jacksonville Jaguars 12-4 10-5-1 .667
Chicago Bears 11-5 9-5-2 .642
Washington Redskins 10-6 10-6 .625
San Diego Chargers 9-7 9-6-1 .600
Indianapolis Colts 14-2 9-7 .563
Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5 9-7 .563
Carolina Panthers 11-5 9-7 .563
Minnesota Vikings 9-7 9-7 .563
Detroit Lions 5-11 9-7 .563
Cincinnati Bengals 11-5 8-7-1 .533
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-5 8-8 .500
New England Patriots 10-6 8-8 .500
Atlanta Falcons 8-8 8-8 .500
Cleveland Browns 6-10 8-8 .500
Dallas Cowboys 9-7 7-9 .438
Miami Dolphins 9-7 7-9 .438
Baltimore Ravens 6-10 7-9 .438
Buffalo Bills 5-11 7-9 .438
San Francisco 49ers 4-12 7-9 .438
Tennessee Titans 4-12 7-9 .438
Arizona Cardinals 5-11 6-10 .375
Green Bay Packers 4-12 5-10-1 .333
Oakland Raiders 4-12 5-10-1 .333
New Orleans Saints 4-12 5-10-1 .333
Philadelphia Eagles 6-10 5-11 .313
St. Louis Rams 6-10 5-11 .313
New York Jets 4-12 5-11 .313