Two of the worst NFL teams straight up and against the point spread square off Thursday night when the Oakland Raiders (1-6 straight up and 2-5 ATS) visit the San Francisco 49ers (1-7 straight up and 2-6 ATS).
So much for all those commercials about how great the Thursday night TV matchups would be this season! This week . . . a regional non-rivalry (currently) featuring teams nobody wants to bet on.
That is bad luck for entertainment value (though, of course, it is always entertaining to hear Brent Musburger's voice as he does play-by-play on the Raiders games, 8:20 p.m. ET on SiriusXM 204).
But it gives us a chance to marvel at how few teams have had disastrous point-spread performances so far in 2018. San Francisco is worst in the league at 25% cover rate. Joining Oakland at 29% is the Atlanta Falcons. That’s a grand total of three teams (out of 32) at 2-5 or worse. Six teams are two games below .500, exactly 3-5 ATS right now. But that hunk could be strongly influenced by randomness rather than registering as pure “market misses.”
On the other end of the spectrum only four teams are at 5-2 ATS or better. You’d have to say the market has done a fairly good job of “creating parity” with its point spreads.
Let’s do a quick study of the extremes, starting with Thursday’s TV teams…
- San Francisco 2-6: Looks like the Niners were overrated out of the gate when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was healthy. SF went 0-3 ATS vs. Minnesota, Detroit, and Kansas City. Replacement C. J. Beathard did cover as a dog at the LA Chargers and Green Bay, but lost outright twice as a favorite to helpless Arizona.
- Oakland 2-5: Raiders fell off the cliff after sleazing an overtime cover vs. Cleveland (meaning Oakland is 1-6 ATS at the end of regulation). Raiders lost at San Diego 26-10 as a 5-point dog, to Seattle (in London) 27-3 as a 3-point dog, and at home to Indianapolis 42-28 as a 3.5-point dog. That tailspin trio missed by 11, 21, and 10.5 points.
- Atlanta 2-5: The Falcons were seen as a playoff contender with explosive potential when the campaign began (just one season removed from a Super Bowl appearance). Defense has been a serious problem.
- Kansas City 7-1: The biggest success story to date. The Chiefs were a perfect 7-0 before not covering vs. Denver last Sunday. Took the market a long time to accept they were really this good.
- Washington 5-2: Kind of a quinella with Andy Reid and Alex Smith. Smith left the Chiefs to play for Washington. The market underestimated BOTH in terms of their ability to thrive out of the gate in 2018.
- Detroit 5-2: You may recall the red herring season opener when the New York Jets crushed the Lions 48-17. Lions covered five straight afterward before falling to Seattle.
- New Orleans 5-2: More early red herrings, as the Saints were stunned by Tampa Bay 48-40 back in week one. That was followed by a survival win over Cleveland (a stat loss to Tyrod Taylor!). A big and easy 5-0 ATS record since.
Important to remember that bettors are typically better served by picking spots here and there rather than hoping to ride a hot ATS outlier or fade a cold one.