What can we learn from the 2017 NFL season sports-betting-wise that may inform our bets in the playoffs and for next season? Let’s start with Las Vegas Westgate SuperContest winner, who didn’t make a single pick on the Houston Texans, New England Patriots or Washington Redskins. That’s across 85 total picks. It’s usually a bad idea to bet against Brady and Belichick, as we’ll see below.
If you bet on every single game, you’re probably doing it wrong, or at least saw your bankroll evaporate. If you’re betting recreationally (and can afford to lose it), well that’s all fine and good if you enjoyed the ride.
Sometimes professional bettors don’t make a single wager in a given week if there’s no line value or perceived edge in general. So before we shift our focus to the NFL playoffs, let’s take a quick look back at the regular season — which included an absurd stretch of favorites covering midseason — and see what we can learn from it.
NFL Betting 2017 Regular Season Review: Against the Spread, Totals And Takeaways
Via Oddshark, here’s the overall season breakdown:
- Underdogs vs. Favorites: 110-139-9
- Home vs. Away: 126-116-9
- Over/Under record: 118-133-5
- SU Underdog wins: 72
As you can see, this year went to the favorites. From Weeks 7 through 12, favorites covered at an incredible 70% rate or 44-21-4. Overall they covered at 55.8%, which would have been good enough produce a profit (assuming -110 wagers or better) if you had bets purely on all favorites, in every game. You didn’t do that, but you get the idea.
And on the game total side, unders prevailed. Typically recreational bettors prefer overs and watching shootouts, not defensive battles. Don’t be wary about banging those unders; unders hit at about 53%.
According to Pro Football Reference numbers, touchdowns were actually down this season across the league: teams scored 2.39 touchdowns on average per team per game, which is the lowest mark since the 2006 season when teams averaged 2.32 touchdowns per game.
The 2.39 mark translated to 21.7 points per game (per team), the lowest mark since the 2009 season (21.5 points per game). 21.7 points per game per team times two amounts to 43.4 points; 43 and 44 are major key numbers in NFL game total wagering.
Successful field goals were up a negligible tick at 1.69 per game; that figure has ranged between 1.64 and 1.69 since 2011. Overall scoring reached its apex in 2013 with 23.4 points per game per team. There’s far too many factors — including the downgrade from Aaron Rodgers to Brett Hundley — that contributed to the dip in scoring to pin it down to just a couple salient factors. The bottom line is: Let’s all be willing to look under, including first half unders. It’s just harder to score in the NFL than in college football.
Additional Against-the-Spread Notes:
Via TeamRankings.com, take a look at how each team covered, or didn’t, and by what margins:
- This is why you don’t bet against the New England Patriots, who were favored in all 16 games. No matter how big their spreads, they consistently cover and remain a liability for the sportsbooks.
- The Minnesota Vikings (13-3 straight up) shared the cover rate crown; they covered in seven consecutive weeks from Weeks 6 through 13 (with a bye in there), five times as favorites and twice as dogs. Perhaps everyone was slow to accept Case Keenum as an above-average starter and the year-over-year improvement of the offense in general, largely a product of major offensive line upgrades.
- Instead of piling on the Cleveland Browns (league-worst 4-12 ATS), let’s consider the recently-great Denver Broncos, whose revolving door of terrible QBs produced a dreadful season and a second-worst 4-11-1 ATS record. Their adjusted DVOA offensive rank (Football Outsiders) was dead last.
- The Broncos’ ATS margin — the average amount of points that the team covers the spread by — was league-worst at minus-six, over 1.5 points worse than the Browns, Raiders and Giants. The Broncos remained overvalued all season, I suspect because of faith in their defense, and were a good team to bet against
- One of the winningest teams straight up, the Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3), covered at a 7-9 click.
- The Jets played very well at home this season, covering in 7 of 8 games with a margin of +6.9, earning 4 of their 5 wins at home.
- The Rams (11-5), Packers (11-5) and Lions (10-6) were the over game leaders. Los Angeles led the league in scoring (29.9) and went over in each of their last 5 games with totals averaging 45.7.
- The total on the Rams-Falcons Wild Card game on Sunday is 49. When the Rams and Saints met in Week 11, the Rams won 26-20, going well under the total 54. The only other Rams game with a total over 50 occurred in Week 4 when the Over on 54 hit in a shootout 35-30 win at Dallas. I think the Under this week in Rams-Saints is the better side. Falcons games went under at 68.8% (tied for third-highest), probably in part because folks view them as the high-powered offensive team of 2016. But this year their 22.1 points per game was middle of the pack (15th).
- The Rams had the best ATS margin at +7, followed by another playoffs team, the Jacksonville Jaguars at +6.8. The Eagles were the only other team at 6 or better (6.0). Jaguars games were mostly lopsided, with only 5 games decide by 6 points or less. The Jags are favored by 8 over the Bills as of Wednesday afternoon. In games in which the Jaguars were favored by 7 points or more, they went 3-0 ATS.
- As an away dog, the Bills were 3-3 this year. The Bills make a great Cinderella story but I think the Jags might be one of the four big home favorites worth backing (or passing). The potential absence of LeSean McCoy would be a major blow to the offense. Obviously.
— Blake Bortles Facts (@BortlesFacts) January 1, 2018
- Kansas City, hosting Tennessee on Saturday of Wild Card Weekend, rattled off five straight covers to start the season before losing 6 of 7 straight up, covering just once in their only win during the collapse. That one cover was… over the covering-impaired Broncos.
- The Titans covered five of their final six games. On the season as an away underdog, they were 2-0 with a margin of +8. They are currently +8.5 underdogs at Kansas City for Saturday’s tilt.
I’m thinking unders and underdogs for Wild Card Weekend! Full game breakdowns to come on Friday in the TPS Report. Stay tuned and buckle up, the playoffs are here!