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Right time to back NFL's 0-2 SU, ATS teams

By Steve Makinen  () 

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The NFL season has a way of tricking bettors. After seeing favorites win more than their fair share in the first couple of weeks and hearing stories of how much the books supposedly lost, bettors must think they have the system beat, right? Well, in recent years, Week 3 has had a penchant for evening the scales. So tread cautiously this weekend and perhaps have the courage to back some of the teams that have looked the worst so far. Bettors who have done so have reaped the rewards.

Let’s look at the recent lucrative history of NFL teams that have started 0-2 SU or 0-2 ATS. Both situations tend to make public bettors doubt those teams’ legitimacy. However, most bounce back very nicely in their third games, at least where the point spread is concerned. Let’s look at the system records:

NFL teams that start 0-2 SU are 33-16 ATS (67.3%) in their third games since 2014 (28-11 ATS, 71.7% when removing matchups of two 0-2 SU teams)

If you compare this with the record of 2-0 SU teams (21-26-1 ATS), it’s clear that losing early and the resulting desperation is a far greater motivator than winning.

The 0-2 teams in 2020, with their matchups for Week 3, are as follows. In the Cincinnati-Philadelphia game, both are 0-2.

ATLANTA (-3) vs. Chicago

CAROLINA (+ 7) at L.A. Chargers

CINCINNATI at PHILADELPHIA (-6.5)

DENVER (+ 6) vs. Tampa Bay

DETROIT (+ 5.5) at Arizona

HOUSTON (+ 3.5) at Pittsburgh

MIAMI (+ 2.5) at Jacksonville

MINNESOTA (+ 2.5) vs. Tennessee

N.Y. GIANTS (+ 4.5) vs. San Francisco

N.Y. JETS (+ 10) at Indianapolis

No distinct breakdown is evident in the dichotomy of home and road teams. These teams’ home record is 16-8 ATS, while the road mark is 17-8 ATS. But a strong line-range separator exists, as underdogs of 3.5 points or more are on a 19-7 ATS surge over the last four years. Teams included in that group would be Carolina, Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Houston, the New York Giants and the New York Jets.

There is also a nice separation when you consider teams that have endured the worst defensive performances in their first two games. Here is the system for that:

NFL teams that start 0-2 SU while allowing 24 PPG or more are 27-9 ATS (75%) in their third games since 2014 (25-7 ATS, 78.1% when removing matchups of two 0-2 SU teams)

The matchup list of teams that would qualify on this are:

ATLANTA (-3) vs. Chicago

CAROLINA (+ 7) at L.A. Chargers

CINCINNATI at PHILADELPHIA (-6.5)

DETROIT (+ 5.5) at Arizona

HOUSTON (+ 3.5) at Pittsburgh

MIAMI (+ 2.5) at Jacksonville

MINNESOTA (+ 2.5) vs. Tennessee

N.Y. JETS (+ 10) at Indianapolis

What about teams that have failed to cover a point spread in their first two outings? As it turns out, many of the teams are from the same group. But for 2020, Cleveland, Dallas, and Tennessee replace Atlanta, Cincinnati, Denver, Miami and the New York Giants. Interestingly, the Broncos are the first team since before 2014 to start 0-2 SU and 2-0 ATS. In this case, here is the system applying to 0-2 ATS teams:

NFL teams that start 0-2 ATS are 22-7 ATS (75.9%) in their third games since 2016 (21-6 ATS, 77.8% when removing matchups of two 0-2 ATS teams)

The Week 3 success level of these teams is far more telling evidence than the record of teams that started 2-0 ATS, as that latter group is 7-6-1 ATS in that span. Here are the 0-2 ATS teams and their Week 3 matchups. In the Minnesota-Tennessee game, both are 0-2.

CAROLINA (+ 7) at L.A. Chargers

DALLAS (+ 4.5) at Seattle

DETROIT (+ 5.5) at Arizona

HOUSTON (+ 3.5) at Pittsburgh

MINNESOTA vs TENNESSEE (-2.5)

N.Y. GIANTS (+ 4.5) vs. San Francisco

N.Y. JETS (+ 10) at Indianapolis

PHILADELPHIA (-6.5) vs. Cincinnati

Drilling a bit deeper on this system, you will find that NFL teams that were 0-2 SU and ATS in their first two games went on to a 16-3 ATS (84.2%) record in Week 3 over the last four seasons, including 5-0 ATS in divisional games. This would seem to be the ultimate motivator, being in danger of going 0-3 and falling another game back to a divisional opponent. However, none of the six teams that have started 0-2 SU and ATS in 2020 will be facing divisional foes. The 0-2 SU and ATS teams list includes:

CAROLINA (+ 7) at L.A. Chargers

DETROIT (+ 5.5) at Arizona

HOUSTON (+ 3.5) at Pittsburgh

MINNESOTA (+ 2.5) vs. Tennessee

N.Y. JETS (+ 10) at Indianapolis

PHILADELPHIA (-6.5) vs. Cincinnati

As hard as it may seem to back teams that have started their seasons poorly, recent history has proven it is the way to go.

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