The first three weeks of the 2019 NFL regular season have been a boon for contrarian bettors and underdog backers. A total of 47 games have been played and dogs have gone 27-20-1 against the spread (57.4%). A $100 bettor taking every dog thus far would be enjoying a profit of just over $500.

This early-season dog edge isn’t a fluke. Since 2003, dogs have now gone 376-318 ATS (54.7%) in Weeks 1 through 3, according to Bet Labs Sports. A $100 bettor would be up $4,265 over this time period.

Many new bettors might be thinking “Wow, I’ll just continue to hammer dogs and become a millionaire by the end of the season!” However, just as in life, all good things must come to an end. Early in the season, dogs have a distinct edge because they’re still healthy, motivated and most importantly, there isn’t much film to break down and go off of. This provides an element of surprise that levels the playing field and benefits the team getting points.

Unfortunately, as the season progresses the dog edge fades. The good teams start to hit their stride and now have a bigger sample size of film to analyze and game-plan against, which disproportionately benefits the “better” team with the superior players and coaching staffs. We see a distinct turning point when dogs stop barking and favorites start improving — Week 4.

In Weeks 1 through 3, dogs are 54.7% ATS since 2003. But from Week 4 through Week 17, they drop to 49.5% ATS. A $100 bettor would be down nearly $9,000 backing every dog over this time span.

In turn, favorites go from 45.8% ATS (-70.16 units) in Weeks 1 through 3 to 50.5% ATS (-25.76 units) in Weeks 4 through 17. Favorites are still a losing bet overall, but the cover rate jumps nearly 5% and you cut your units lost by nearly a third.

The key isn’t to play every single favorite the rest of the way, but instead isolate specific situations where betting favorites is profitable. Here are five spots to keep an eye out for.

Thursday Night Favorites: One of the best spots to back a favorite is on Thursday Night Football. The short week and one-off scenario provides a massive advantage to the better team.

Since 2003, favorites have gone 108-74 ATS (59.3%) on TNF. If they’re also at home, they improve to 61% ATS.

Favorites with High Totals: When betting favorites, you always want to lean on games with high totals. The higher the total, the more expected points scored, the easier it becomes for the favorite to cover the number. Since 2003, favorites are

51.8% ATS ( 12.64 units) when the total is 47.5 or higher. They are 49.2% ATS (-120.22 units) when the total is 47 or lower.

Road Favorites: We see a huge distinction between favorites at home versus on the road. Home favorites are grossly overvalued and have gone just 48.8% ATS (-121.10 units) since 2003. On the flip side, road favorites have covered at a 51% clip and won 0.74 units. The units won aren’t very impressive. You are pretty much break-even. But compared to home favorites it’s a vast improvement. Short to moderate road favorites (-3 to -6) are 53%

ATS ( 23.27 units). The sweet spot is non-division road favorites with high totals (47.5 or higher).

These teams have gone 56.1% ATS ( 17.76 units) since 2003. Road favorites that lost their last game going against teams that won their last game have also crushed it: 58.4% ATS, 15.47 units.

Favorites off a Bye: One of the most profitable and most consistent spots to back a favorite is coming off a bye. The extra time to rest, rejuvenate, rehab injuries and game-plan provides a massive advantage for the “better” team. Since 2003, favorites off a bye have gone 59.6% ATS winning 39.66 units. The first bye weeks start in Week 4, so from Week 5 on we should have at least one match a week through Week 12.

Bet Favorites Early: Timing is everything when it comes to placing your bet. It’s not just about picking the right side, but also getting the right number and beating the closing line. One simple adage bettors should remember is the phrase

“favorites early, dogs late.” In other words, if you’re looking to bet a favorite, it’s usually better to bet them quickly as soon as the line opens. Why? Because more often than not the public will back the favorite and push the number up (think -6.5 to -7). On the flip side, if you like a dog, it’s usually best to wait until later because you’ll likely get a better number in the form of an extra half point or two (think 6.5 to 7).

Bonus Trivia: Which team has the highest cover rate as favorites since 2003? You guessed it, the Brady and Belichick New England Patriots. The Pats have gone 120-81 ATS (59.7%) as favorites with 35.92 units won.

back to news

FREE Email Sign-Up

Get the latest sports betting news & VSiN programming updates with this free daily email from VSiN, The Sports Betting Network.


View All
  • Lauri_Markanen

    Tuley's Takes Today: Tuesday recaps, Contest Corner, Wednesday play (12/1)

    As we were getting ready for the Tuesday night sports betting action to begin with the NBA, NHL and college basketball, all I could think of is that I...
  • baylor

    Early CFB Conference Championship Sharp Report

    Today bettors have a loaded Wednesday slate to choose from including 9 NBA games, 6 NHL games and 70 College Basketball games. For an updated breakdown...
  • reynolds

    Hero World Challenge best bets

    While the official PGA Tour season is on pause until January, an elite field of 20 players gathers this week for the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas....
  • finocchiaro

    Best bets for Font-Aldo UFC card

    After a week off for Thanksgiving, the UFC heads into its last three productions of 2021 starting with Saturday’s UFC Fight Night from the Apex...
  • USATSI_17242641

    Peterson: Best bet for Nebraska vs. NC State

    The Big Ten/ACC Challenge will be decided on Wednesday and NC State will look to both help its profile, and also that of the ACC, as the Wolfpack...
  • vontobelnfl

    NFL Week 12 lessons learned

    It was an emotional week for me in the NFL, as the Indianapolis Colts’ failed cover cost me a share of the first-place prize in the Westgate SuperContest...
  • vontobelnba

    Three NBA trends to watch

    It was a somewhat quiet week in the NBA with the league taking a night off for Thanksgiving, but there is still plenty to discuss. This week we touch...
  • macneil

    Hockey bettors must beat closing line

    In the end, wins and losses are really all that matters, because every sports bettor’s goal is to make money. However, wins and losses don’t...
  • appelbaum

    Five NFL games wise guys like

    NFL underdogs continued to grind out a profit in Week 12, going 8-7 ATS. Dogs are now 101-77 ATS (57 percent) on the season. A $100 bettor taking every...
  • hill

    NFL capsules for Week 13

    Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints The Dallas Cowboys (7-4 SU, 8-3 ATS) visit the New Orleans Saints (5-6 SU and ATS) on Thursday night as both...
  • moore

    Let's re-examine Gonzaga wagers

    Those predictions we heard about this college basketball season being filled with upsets and uncertainty? Well, they seem to be pretty accurate just a...
  • makinennfl

    Simulating rest of NFL season

    (To view the charts associated with this report, subscribe to Point Spread Weekly) All NFL teams have either five or six games left in their 2021-22...

VSiN Logo Plus

Free Trial

Make a risk-free bet on VSiN!


  • Afternoon subscriber-only email with highlights and best bets from the day's programs
  • Point Spread Weekly, VSiN's digital magazine on sports betting
  • 24-7 Live video stream of VSiN programs plus replays
  • Any special sport-specified betting guides we do
  • All exclusive subscriber-only stories and data on
Sign Up Now
Google Play
App Store