Even though sports books balance spreads to account for differences between teams, NFL teams’ overall records can predict betting success. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Ability versus profitability
Does team success in the NFL directly translate to more money and winnings in sports betting?
Kansas City Chiefs went 14-3 during the regular season but were only 6-10-1 against the spread
For example, the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs went 14-3 during the regular season but were only 6-10-1 against the spread, the fourth-worst marking in the league.
With a steadily decreasing number of Sundays until football returns to television screens across America, the Vegas Slots Online News team set out to find the answer. Remember these words when the bookies come knocking in the fall.
Does NFL record mean sports betting success?
Before we can share our findings, let’s understand how we distinguished ability from profitability.
Ability was simply a team’s capacity to win games, which was reflected by their record. Profitability was determined by their performance against the spread.
Betting against the spread means that users only take a side after oddsmakers balance the scales between disparate teams. So, if the best team in the league is facing the worst team in the league, the spread could theoretically be around 14 points, requiring the favored team to win by more than 14 just to cover the spread and cash the bet.
Spread betting typically makes consistent underdogs more relevant and top contenders less dominant (from a wagering perspective).
Let’s look at the differences between ability and profitability in 2022, taking the teams with the ten best records (note: we are assuming a $100 bet on every game at -110 odds).
|team||records||spread record||cover rate||Profit/Loss|
|Kansas City Chiefs||14-3||6-10-1||37.5%||-28.41%|
|San Francisco 49ers||13-4||11-6||64.7%||+23.53%|
|Los Angeles Chargers||10-7||11-5-1||68.8%||+31.25%|
|New York Giants||9-7-1||13-4||76.5%||+45.99%|
There are several takeaways from this chart. The first is that the two best teams in the league – who were also widely regarded as the clear-cut tier-one contenders – both had negative returns in NFL spread betting.
were either consistently strong or exceeded expectations
Four of the ten teams with the best record in the league were also in the red. The standouts were the Bengals, Chargers, and Giants, who were all in the 6-10 range for best record. An outside perspective on this is that these teams were not viewed as obvious Super Bowl threats, but were either consistently strong or exceeded expectations.
The opposite perspective
Next, we used the same approach to analyze the 10 worst teams in the NFL in 2022. Here’s how that information looks.
|team||records||spread record||cover rate||Profit/Loss|
|Los Angeles Rams||5-12||6-9-2||40%||-23.64%|
|Las Vegas Raiders||6-11||8-9||47.1%||-10.16%|
|New Orleans Saints||7-10||7-10||41.2%||-21.39%|
Only one team that was in the bottom 10 for overall record, the Falcons, yielded any money for sports bettors. Interestingly, the Texans and Cardinals, two of the three worst teams in the league, were near the breakeven line. This follows a similar pattern of the five best teams being less profitable than the next five, except in this case they were less damaging.
influence of expectations
It’s also important to understand the influence of expectations. Most people around the league expected a productive season from the Broncos during Russell Wilson’s first year in his new threads, but were left disappointed. The Rams were also supposed to be a playoff challenger, but underperformed and were riddled with injuries.
Those expectations worked in favor of the Falcons, who many believed would be terrible, but were actually competitive, especially against divisional opponents.
NFL and sports betting: the broader scale
We’ve already presented an expanded model of how we analyzed ability and profitability. Now, allow us to show a more condensed model that applies to the five preceding years.
|Teams from 2017-21||Combined Records||Combined Spread Record||cover rate||Profit/Loss|
|Ten best records||586-224||463-326-21||58.69%||+12.03%|
|Ten worst records||226-581-3||347-439-24||44.15%||-15.71%|
The major takeaway from this chart is that the ten best teams found better success against the spread than the ten worst teams. In many instances, it was the teams in that 5-10 range that proved to be more profitable than the outright best teams in the league.
There was also more parity between the teams with the best and worst records in the five-year sample compared to 2022. The difference in deviation from the breakeven point was fairly similar, with the “best” group performing 3.68 percentage points better (15.71% -12.03%).
back the teams that win games
As far as the bottom line goes, the data shows that the best approach, in the most basic form, is to back the teams that win games, favorite or underdog. That may seem obvious, but lower-ranked teams are often gifted massive spreads and can appear to be enticing prospects, even against the best teams.
The difference in deviation from the breakeven point also shows that fading the top teams in spots is more profitable than outright backing underdogs weekly.
The influence of expectation was also a pattern that showed up frequently throughout the data collection. The message there is that it is important for bettors to have a keen sense of when to shift from long-term opinion to short-term viewing.
With that in mind, enjoy sports betting accordingly during NFL season. Be aware of expectations, track the winners, and update your opinions.