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How Good NFL Records Can Hide Bad Numbers

How Good NFL Records Can Hide Bad Numbers

So your favorite NFL team is 5-0 to start the season yet they may still have horrible odds at beating the Denver Broncos (as an example) in their next game. Why is this? What should you look out for? Early in the NFL season, it’s very easy to lose money by betting on teams with good records that are hiding bad numbers.

Betting on them may not be advisable because of any of these reason: they earning that record beating up really weak teams, because their horrible defense was propped up by an on-fire offense, or because the QB performs horribly in cold weather. From a betting perspective, basing your interpretation of a team’s performance on its win-loss slate is like a doctor telling you you’ll live to 100 years old because you have low blood pressure.

We’ll take a look at some recent teams with winning records and then delve a bit deeper into it to see just how these NFL team records tend to cloud the fact that they were actually a few missteps from having a so-so win-loss slate.

ATLANTA FALCONS

The Falcons had a pretty good 13-3 SU record last season.  However, a big chunk of their total wins were very close to becoming losses.

Opponent

Spread on Atlanta + ATS Result

Opposing Team Winning %

Denver (27-21)

-3 W

.812

Carolina (30-28) *

-7 L

.438

Oakland (23-20) *

-10 L

.250

Dallas (19-13)

-4 W

.500

Arizona  (23-19) *

-9.5 L

.312

Tampa Bay (24-23) *

-1 P

.438

*Teams with losing records

What these numbers tell us is that even if teams are indeed strong their win-loss record is far from being a reliable betting reference. In the table above, notice how close Atlanta is to having a frustrating season too. Against teams with losing records, it even had an unimpressive 5-6 ATS record.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Another team with a good record in 2012 but was many times an escapee of close games was Indianapolis.

Opponent

Spread on Indianapolis + ATS Result

Opposing Team Winning %

Minnesota (23-20)

2.5 W

.625

Green Bay (30-27)

6.5 W

.688

Cleveland (17-13)

-1 W

.312

Tennessee (19-13)

3 W

.375

Miami (23-20)

2.5 W

.438

Detroit (35-33)

7 W

.250

Tennessee (27-23)

-3.5 W

.375

Indianapolis was among the leaders in the league in most wins by 6 points (a touchdown) or less with seven. To be more specific, the Colts won five of those games by 4 points or less. Against the spread, they won eight games against teams with losing records to further bolster their win-loss record. It can’t be overlooked that the Colts’ weak schedule compensated for their mediocre statistics; Indianapolis is 22nd in Rushing Yards (104.4/game), 21st in Opponent’s Passing Yards (236.8/game), Opponent’s Rushing Yards (137.5/game). When juxtaposed with opponents’ offensive numbers, you’ll be confused as to how these Colts managed to win 11 games.

Moreover, the Colts are 21st in the league in average scoring margin with just a -2.6 – the worst among teams with winning records in 2012 season.

DENVER BRONCOS

Last season, the Broncos made a huge turnaround after winning just two games in 2011. They entered the 2012 season with the second hardest calendar according to preseason strength of schedule rankings but as it turned out, most of their opponents ended that regular season with losing records. Denver won 10 games against eventual sub.500 teams. This partly explains how Denver ranked second in that season’s average scoring margin rankings (+11.1) as it was merciless against such teams blowing opposition out by an average 17.7 points as shown in the following table.

Opponent

(All Wins)

Spread on Denver + ATS Result

Opposing Team Winning %

Oakland (37-6)

-6.5 W

.250

San Diego (35-24)

1 W

.438

New Orleans (34-14)

-6 W

.438

Carolina (36-14)

-3.5 W

.438

San Diego (30-23)

-8.5 L

.438

Kansas City (17-9)

-10 L

.125

Tampa Bay (31-23)

-7.5 W

.438

Oakland (26-13)

-10 W

.250

Cleveland (34-12)

-10.5 W

.312

Kansas City (38-3)

-17 W

.125

Meanwhile, against teams with winning records, the Broncos only went 2-3 SU and ATS. And it’s not like it’s an isolated case because it has happened before in other teams. Take for example the 2011 Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons finished that season with a 10-6 SU record but seven of their victories were against teams with losing records. And when faced with winning-record teams, Atlanta came up with only a 2-4 SU and 1-4-1 ATS slates. Those are bad numbers right?

This is what this article is all about. The 2012 Broncos and 2011 Falcons were good teams based on the merits of their win-loss ledgers alone. But it doesn’t show us the real story behind their success and it could prove costly to bettors who rely on it too much. Same with the Indianapolis Colts who had an impressive 2012 season but a little scrutiny showed us how close were they to a couple more defeats.

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