I absolutely cannot wait for the 2013 NFL season to arrive. I’m anxious to figure out which teams are going to do the best against the spread, and which teams are going to be fade material. With the research I have put in, I have a very good base for figuring out both. Each season, there will be teams that will show a big profit by backing them for the entire year against the spread. I have gone back in time to find out which teams have been the most profitable bets ATS over a 16-game regular season. This is what I have found with the Top 5 best ATS bets of all-time.
In 2004, the Chargers were coming off a disastrous 4-12 campaign from the previous season. Many believed that they were in rebuilding mode and expectations were very low. However, San Diego would put together a 12-4 campaign to earn Marty Schottenheimer NFL Coach of the Year honors. It would make the playoffs for the first time in nine years while losing just once all season against the spread. Coincidentally, that one loss came to the New York Jets in Week 2. The Chargers would actually lose to the Jets again in the first round of the playoffs with a 17-20 (OT) setback.
Two seasons after winning Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots headed into 2003 after missing the playoffs in 2002. They would lose their opener 31-0 to the Buffalo Bills while starting 2-2 through their first four games. However, New England would rebound, not losing a single game the rest of the way for a league-best 14-2 finish and a 13-2-1 ATS mark to boot. In fact, the Patriots would go on to win Super Bowl XXXVIII for their second championship in three years. The would beat the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts before topping the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl thanks to a game-winning field goal from Adam Vinatieri.
The 1989 season cemented the 49ers as the best team of the 1980’s. Expectations were high as many felt they would make a run at their fourth Lombardi Trophy, which is what makes their 14-2 regular season record and their 13-3 ATS mark to boot even more impressive. In fact, they were favored in 15 of the 16 games, including 9.5-point favorite or more a whopping seven times. They would cover the spread in six of those seven contests as a 9.5-plus favorite. San Francisco would cap off its season with the most dominant run in NFL history, outscoring opponents 126-26 en route to a Super Bowl XXIV triumph over the Denver Broncos (55-10).
After going just 1-15 two seasons prior, the Dallas Cowboys had little expectations heading into 1991. It was the first year that Norv Turner served as offensive coordinator under Jimmy Johnson. This team featured a young offensive nucleus of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith. The Cowboys would go 11-5 that year and pick up their first playoff win since 1982 with a hard-fought 17-13 victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. While they would fall to the Lions 38-6 in the Divisional Round, this was clearly a sign of things to come as Dallas would go on to win three championships in the 1990’s behind the trio of Aikman, Irvin and Smith.
The 1999 season marked the fifth season in St. Louis for this franchise. The Rams hadn’t been to the playoffs since 1989, so expectations were very low. All they did was go 13-3 during the regular season in what would be the start of the “Greatest Show on Turf” offense. St. Louis beat Minnesota 49-37 in the Division Round before a hard-fought 11-6 triumph over Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship. The Rams would square off against the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV, winning 23-16 after getting a stop on the 1-yard line as time expired. Quarterback Kurt Warner was the MVP in both the regular season and in the Super Bowl.
Four of these five teams benefited from having little expectations heading into the season. The Chargers were coming off a 4-12 campaign, the Patriots had missed the playoffs the previous year, the Cowboys were 1-15 two seasons prior, and the Rams hadn’t been to the playoffs in 10 years. It’s easy to see how all four of these teams did so well against the spread. Then there’s the 49ers, who were the Super Bowl favorites and just blew teams out on a regular basis. That 1989 49ers team may have been the greatest in NFL history. What is most amazing is that three of these five teams actually went on to win the Super Bowl.