Betting on Bad NFL Teams

Betting On Horrible NFL Teams Against the Spread

By Loot, NFL Handicapper,

In recent years, we have heard a lot about the benefit of betting on bad teams. The thought is that bad teams are usually perceived as being worse than they actually are. It leads to getting some favorable point-spreads when backing teams thought to be “bad.” Any knee-jerk betting style, or a system, is not really recommended. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at a couple things to see if there is anything behind the notion that the “money is with the bad teams.”

If an NFL team loses 13 or more games, they are pretty awful. Usually, only one or two teams per year will reach that level of futility. From 2006-2008, there were 7 teams who lost 13 or more games. In the following season after losing 13 or more games, those teams were a combined 43-63-3 against the spread. That seems to fly in the face of the notion of bad teams being good against the spread.

But from 2009-2010, there were 4 teams who lost 13 or more games. In the seasons following losing 13 or more games, those 4 teams were a combined 41-22-1 against the spread. Not bad at all. What could explain the spike in effectiveness of bad teams in more recent times? Well, with such a small sample pool. it could very well be random. Or perhaps the oddsmakers began making it more attractive to bet on bad teams after a run of 13+ loss teams stinking it up at the betting windows in subsequent games.


So from 2006-2008, 13+ loss teams were 43-66-3 ATS the next year. Then from 2009-2010, those same teams were 41-22-1 ATS the following season. The funny thing is that once you notice a pattern developing, it is due to change. It might have rained for a week straight, but that doesn’t mean to expect it for another week. Betting on teams with 13+ more losses the next season seems like a good move now. Then again, at one point it seemed like betting against 13+ loss teams was the move in 2009 and that would have led to a big losing record.

This analysis is only so telling. No conclusions can really be drawn over the performances of a small handful of teams in a modest collection of games. In addition, who’s to say a 13-loss team is a horrible team? A team with 10, 11, or 12 losses can be almost as bad and they’re not accounted for in this analysis. Also, betting on 13+ loss seasons the following year and for all the games is not something anybody does anyway. Take these results with a grain of salt.

Let’s look at betting on bad teams during the actual season in which they are horrible. And let’s talk about when they’re really horrible. As of 2012, let’s look at the last 6 teams to begin the season 0-10. Betting on an 0-10 teams seems like a hard thing to do. But in games 11-16 in the regular season, teams to begin 0-10 are a combined 20-15-1 ATS. That’s not gonna knock anyone’s socks off, but it’s a respectable figure.

Contrast that with the 6 teams from 2005-2011 to begin the season 10-0. Those teams are red-hot with a lot of people on the bandwagon. Whereas the 0-10 teams were 20-15-1 ATS in games 11-16, the 10-0 teams were only a combined 15-20-1 ATS. Again, this study doesn’t include 9-1, 8-2, or 7-3 teams. We’re only dealing with extremes on this one.

With patterns undependable because they’re always changing, what can be gleaned from this? One could perhaps say that in recent years, the notion that bad teams is where the money is holds water for the moment. And in extreme examples, the really good teams fail to deliver after a certain point. While this all suggests that bettors should not necessarily shy away from really bad teams, it also encourages us to look at every situation individually and not develop strong betting predispositions. Jumping aboard a certain pattern after it becomes a pattern rarely seems to yield particularly impressive results.