Last year's NFL bottom feeders may offer lucrative betting opportunities when certain conditions are met. Consider these betting trends focusing on the 49ers and Browns.
Seven NFL teams won five games or less last season, but two standouts as last year's biggest losers: the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns. Each franchise lost by an average scoring margin of 9 points or more, a breakdown matched by 49 teams since 2000. To be fair, bettors did not expect much from either, each organization kicking off prior to last season with a win totals mark of 6.5 games. The Browns finished in fourth place in the AFC North for four consecutive seasons headed into the campaign, while the 49ers, under inexperienced new head coach Jim Tomsula, lost 14 players from 2014, including much of its core. There appears to be little upside for each this year as well, according to the betting market. Online Sportsbooks are dealing San Francisco over-under 6 wins, while the Browns' number sits at 4.5, the fewest on the board.
Using last season's abysmal points differential as our foundation, let us explore a couple of betting angles worth considering when the Browns and 49ers suit up this coming year. The idea here is that change comes slowly in the NFL, and using last year's scoring margin is a good barometer to weigh the potential strength of a team, particularly in the stats-starved first half of a new season. Out of the 49 teams to lose by 9 points or more the previous year, only 10 earned a winning record the following season (four went 8-8), with seven making the playoffs (Eagles 2013, Chiefs 2013, Colts 2012, Bengals 2009, Falcons 2008, Dolphins 2008, Saint 2006). For what it's worth, the latter went 1-7 SU and 0-7-1 ATS in the postseason.
In addition to just having a poor team, an NFL franchise probably endures a good bit of bad luck to lose by so many points per game in a season. It is probably not surprising then to find only six of the 49 organizations actually recorded a lower point differential the following season (Jaguars 2013, Rams 2009, Chiefs 2008, 49ers 2005, and Cardinals 2003). With experience, draft picks, etc., teams typically improve, and the breaks begin to come their way. One situation where bettors may capitalize on this momentum this season is when the Browns or 49ers go off as road underdogs of 4-points or less.
In this spot, our 9-point losers from last year are 40-42 SU and 50-31-1 ATS in the regular season since 2000. The betting market suggests, with home-field advantage factored in for their opponents, that the two teams are essentially even on paper if playing on a neutral field. The half-point hook accounts for the majority of point-spread victories here with a record of 22-9 ATS at 3.5-and-4 points. But it is the plus-value, money-line play bettors should consider. The straight-up record is nearly even across the spread (16-15 at 3.5 points or more; 24-27 at a field goal or less). Our situation boasts an average 3.0 spread and +135 money line, a bet on the latter requires just a 43 percent win rate to profit. This spot can offer a nice advantage for bettors all things considering.
Advanced NFL betting lines have the Browns (+3187 at Bookmaker to Win AFC North) as underdogs in every contest this year. Their Week 6 matchup against the Titans in Nashville may be worth circling if playing this angle. Currently, Tennessee is a 3.5 point favorite and likely a regular NFL pick when the time comes
The 49ers (+3300 at BetDSI to Win NFC West) away schedule is frontloaded with some tough opponents, including the Panthers, Seahawks, Bills, and Cardinals. Later in the season, they play four on the road which may see the number drop to within the angle's threshold. From Week 12 on, San Francisco visits the Dolphins, Bears, Falcons, and Rams. Each home team is 5-point chalk in advanced lines, but one or two of these are likely to fall within range nearer the matchup(s).
Well, so much for the positive spin. There is a potential angle to bet against the Browns and 49ers this season, too. Fade either against the spread when double-digit underdogs on the road in NFL odds. Since 2000, our 9-point losers are 32-58-1 ATS (10-80-1 SU) under these conditions with an average line of 12.7 points. Although these teams may be on the up-and-up, the market suggests a blowout, and it typically delivers.
Again, one can zero in on the 49ers first-half road schedule here. Advanced lines show them 11.5-point dogs at Carolina in Week 2, 14-points added in Seattle during Week 3 and spotted 10.5 for a Week 10 trip to Arizona. The Browns schedule is a little nicer. So far, they are double-digit dogs in only one contest, a road trip to Cincinnati in Week 7. This number may drop as the season unfolds, particularly since it is a heated rivalry. One will have to wait and see how each team fires out the gate. Best of luck.