NFL Picks: Betting Angles Backing Last Year's Biggest Losers

Jay Pryce

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 11:33 PM GMT

Teams who have averaged a scoring margin of -10 or less in their last season, typically follow up the next year somewhat improved. We offer a profitable angle to look out for when playing last year's biggest NFL losers.

Margins of Victory
The Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Tennessee Titans each finished the 2014-2015 season averaging a -10 margin or less in points scored versus points allowed, a feat only 28 other teams have accomplished since 2000. That's pretty bad. In fact, if you tally their wins together as a group, they would accrue just enough to earn a .500 record with eight victories in total, missing the playoffs entirely—unless they played in the NFC South, but that's a different story altogether. The -10 or less point margin is significant because it sets the team in the minority in average league victory margin overall, highlighting just how badly the team performed against the NFL odds. In the last 20 years, for example, 55% of NFL games have been won at 10 points or less, versus 45% above this figure. One can't play much worse than this, and don't expect our extreme losers to continue in this direction. Since 2000, only four teams found themselves repeating this undesirable misstep the next season: the Jaguars, 2014; the Detroit Lions, 2010; the St. Louis Rams, 2009; and the San Francisco 49ers, 2006.

 

Issues Within the NFL Affecting the Odds
In today's salary-cap structured league where teams are closer in competition than in decades past, a franchise has to have some serious issues, injury problems, and really bad luck to maintain such an extreme points differential for a season. In an effort to reverse their fortunes, we often see these bottom-of-the-barrel teams make sweeping personnel changes in the off season. The Raiders hired the defensive oriented and seasoned NFL coach Jack Del Rio to right the ship. The Jaguars reached out to long-time league coordinator Greg Olson to run the offense, and signed former head coach and offensive line guru, Doug Marrone as second in command to help invigorate a team who scored a league worst 15.6 points a game. In addition to a host of front-office changes, the Titans wooed defensive mastermind and Canton-bound Dick LeBeau to serve as a defensive consultant and assistant head coach in charge of defense. In the midst of such changes, you can expect many of these teams to improve a good bit over their disastrous season from the year before. In fact, this group of 28 have won 41% of their games straight up with an average line of 3.8 the following season, nearly doubling their win totals from last year. In some cases, they even make the playoffs. Since 2000, six teams or 21% of our sample size (New Orleans, 2006; Miami, 2008; Cincinnati, 2009; Indianapolis, 2012; Kansas City, 2013; and Philadelphia, 2013) played in the postseason, where they went 1-6 straight up and failed to cover the spread in all seven games. Although the betting market seemingly has a handle on the big margin losers in their follow up season, as they move on to cover the spread an unprofitable 51% of the time overall, there are specific scenarios where the public often struggles to handicap their new season fortunes. It is with this in mind we like to share one of these betting angles with you to help you place your NFL picks at sportsbooks like Bovada.

 

NFL Betting Angle: Against the Spread & on the Road
Our situation is as follows: in the regular season, back the Raiders, Jaguars, or Titans to cover the spread when playing on the road and the line closes equal to or in between +3.5 and -3.5. In this scenario, our side is 43-13-2 (77%) with an average cover of 3.2 points over the spread. If one pulls out the six teams that made the postseason, for those that can't fathom one of these three squads making a run into the playoffs, the record still hits a healthy 66% of the time. Any seasoned NFL bettor knows three is a key number when handicapping games. For one, it's the most common margin of victory in the league, and shows our side is a real threat to win the game. This is especially telling since they are playing away from home, and more than likely carry a public perception of being a very poor team based on last season's performance. Secondly, many generic handicapping models provide three points or so for home field advantage, perhaps underestimating the true strength of our visiting team. Further analysis is needed to help determine the different forces allowing for this edge, but one stat that jumps out right away is the .7 turnover advantage our side holds in these contests (1.3 to 2.0). Some analysis suggest a turnover is worth roughly 3.5 points in the NFL, which falls right inside our ATS parameters possibly suggesting relevancy within our wager. Predicting turnovers is difficult, but perhaps your own methods can help boost confidence in backing this scenario. Regardless, look for last year's biggest losers to find their stride in closely predicted away games this coming season.

As always, use this information to support your leans, and best of luck.