It’s easily the worst NFL Sunday of the regular season for sports bettors. Week 17 always features a lot of lame-duck matchups with nothing at stake, or games in which “must-win” favorites are asked to cover inflated lines against disinterested ‘dogs.
But, “a day you should mostly pass” does offer an opportunity to take stock of teams and the betting market as the season ends. In fact, it’s probably best to throw out most Week 17 data anyway because it’s not a “real” week.
With that in mind, let’s use the final day of the regular season to recap the most overrated and underrated NFL teams of 2019. As VSiN has discussed often on these pages, point spreads are almost a perfect reflection of how teams are “rated” by informed observers on a week-by-week basis. Teams failing to cover have been overrated. Teams consistently covering and cashing tickets have been underrated. (ATS records below are from the NFL standings page at covers.com):
Chicago (4-11 ATS): A combination of regression and generic skill-sets caused a “budding juggernaut” to fall hard from a 12-4 straight up record in 2018. Betting markets never “caught down” to the Bears.
LA Chargers (4-9-2 ATS): Another respected playoff team from last season that also fell hard from a 12-4 straight up record. Quarterback Philip Rivers lost the ability to pull rabbits out of a hat. Then he lost the hat.
Cincinnati, Detroit (5-10 ATS): A pair of non-contending doormats that were hurt some by quarterback injuries.
Cleveland (5-9-1 ATS): The Browns weren’t a playoff team from last season, but were supposed to be this year after a coaching change and several personnel moves. Still a “no-ring” circus.
Note that the Jets just miss this list at 6-9 ATS. They will likely close Sunday as underdogs of +1 or +11/2 at Buffalo (1 p.m., CBS). The Giants can rally from 7-8 ATS to a .500 mark while getting 41/2 or 5 points at MetLife Stadium against the Eagles (4:25 p.m., Fox).
Buffalo (9-4-2 ATS): There was so much negative press in the offseason about Josh Allen’s passing accuracy that oddsmakers, sharps, and recreational bettors had trouble believing their eyes when the Bills bullied their way to the playoffs.
Green Bay, Kansas City, New Orleans, LA Rams (10-5 ATS): All crushed the classic “you can’t make money betting “public’ teams” canard. Markets often have trouble keeping up with contenders who are playing well. The Rams ended up missing the playoffs after a Super Bowl run, but still cashed 67 percent of their tickets in games that mattered.
Baltimore, Pittsburgh (9-6 ATS): The Ravens have covered eight of their past nine, stunning a market that was skeptical quarterback Lamar Jackson could thrive in the NFL.
In all sports, bettors should use point-spread performances to evaluate the betting market. That’s what you’re trying to beat. Learn to develop a sense of what gets overrated and what gets underrated.