As usual, I am going to take a dive into that week’s slate of games and try to dig up some trends. Hopefully, they give us an edge when making game selections each week.
Of course, trends are trends…until they’re not. The goal here isn’t to plant a flag based on a trend, rather to simply shine a spotlight on these trends that exist and talk through some of them as food for thought.
Betting on Winless Teams… is Good?
This one is interesting but makes some sense when hashing it out.
If you had bet every team without a victory at this point in the season over the past 10 seasons, you would only have two years in which you came up in the red. Over recent years, it’s only dramatically skewed in favor of these teams that have dug an early-season hole. There hasn’t been a losing season against the spread for these teams in totality since 2013.
Over the past five seasons, teams starting off the season without a win in either week to open are 29-13 (69%) against the spread. Those teams are 14-4 against the number (7-2 in each season) over the past two seasons.
If we remove the games in which we had two winless teams facing each other, winless teams are 24-8 ATS (75%) over that span and 12-2 over the past two seasons.
Why this makes sense is fairly logical for two reasons. For one, they are undervalued by the public based on recency bias. Over the past five years, 22 of those 32 teams playing a team with a win already have been underdogs (17-5 ATS) with 15 of those teams getting more than a field goal in return on the line (13-2 ATS).
But more importantly, we know the NFL game today is built on parity. In a given season, there are truly only a few elite teams and on the other end of the spectrum, only a few truly awful ones. In the middle is a dogpile of variance week-to-week and the majority of these teams that start off winless through two weeks largely ran on the negative end of that variance.
But in even the case of perception of being subpar, we’ve still seen teams like the Lions (who beat New England), Giants (beat the Texans) and Bills (beat the Vikings) all win outright in this spot a year ago.
This season, we have 10 winless teams entering Week 3 (the Dolphins, Jets, Steelers, Bengals, Jaguars, Broncos, Giants, Redskins, Panthers, and Cardinals). Just one game features a pair of winless teams (CAR @ ARI), while seven of the winless teams this weekend are not only getting more than a field goal to their credit, but six of those seven (Steelers, Bengals, Broncos, Giants, Jets, and Dolphins) are getting six or more points this weekend.
20-Point Lines in the NFL are Rare
Two of those winless teams (the Jets and Dolphins) find themselves in rare space as underdogs. The Jets are in New England and are a massive 23-point underdog. Meanwhile, after failing to cover an 18-point spread last week, Miami finds themselves as 21.5-point underdogs visiting Dallas.
These are college football-esque lines. Since data has been kept (since 1978), we’ve had just 11 games in which a team was giving or receiving 20 or more points in an NFL game. In that small sample, there actually was one other time in which we had 20-plus-point lines in the same weekend as we have this week.
In Week 5, 1987, the Eagles (21.5-point dogs) and Falcons (23 points) were both heavy underdogs to this degree and both covered. The catch? This was in the middle of a strike and replacement players were playing.
20-point-plus dogs are a healthy 9-2 against the spread, but the Dolphins may actually be a team of replacement players similar to that strike season of 1987. I’d rather sit back and watch things play out as they would before taking any number with either the Dolphins or Jets.
The Patriots are on a Home Hot Streak
We can’t trust the Dolphins with any number right now, and one of the reasons we can’t trust the Jets is that they are playing the only team that has even yet to allow a touchdown this season. Outscoring their first two opponents 76-3, the Patriots are the first team to have 30-point victories in each Week 1 and Week 2 to open a season since the 1981 Bills.
At home, the Patriots are on some kind of hot streak. Including the postseason, the Patriots have won 17 consecutive games at home, the longest home winning streak since their own 21-game streak over the 2002-2005 seasons. Over that span, they are 14-3 against the spread and 6-1 against the spread when laying double-digit points.
To top it off, the Patriots have won 10 consecutive regular season games at home against the Jets and have covered lines of 14.5, 17, and 17 points in their past three matchups in New England with victories of 35, 20, and 38 points.
The Broncos Hate The Scoreboard
If you’re someone who enjoys scoring, then games involving the Broncos have not been for you. In the 18 games played since the start of last season, games involving the Broncos have gone under the game total 14 times (82%) with one push.
With both games already going under the game total to start this season, there have been 10 consecutive games in which the under has hit in a Broncos game and 11 consecutive games since we had a game over the game total. In those 10 straight games of going under, all had 45 or fewer combined points with nine games of 41 or fewer points, including eight in a row.
The Broncos themselves haven’t scored more than 16 points in any of their past six games, the longest streak in franchise history of games failing to reach 17 points scored.