With less than a month until the official start of the 2023 NFL preseason, I’m heavy into my annual offseason of football betting research.
A major investigation pathway has been checking in on NFL ATS records for all 32 teams, both at home and on the road.
I’ve already written about the best home teams in NFL betting and how poor the overall numbers are for home teams. You should read the whole article for full context, but let’s just say that bettors wildly overrate how important home field advantage is.
The major corollary to that, as I explain below, is that there are lots of advantages to find in betting on NFL ATS road teams.
Best NFL ATS Road Teams in 2022
The Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, and New York Giants were the top ATS road teams last season. The Bengals and Chargers were both 7-2; the Giants were 6-1.
I talk in more detail about the Giants’ strange year in my Best Underdog Teams in NFL Betting investigation. So head over there later to read the full details, or just take my word for it that the Giants were a 53-man roster of statistical weirdos.
Of the two remaining teams, I’m much more interested in the Chargers. Los Angeles is often mocked as having a lousy home field, which is both funny and true. Recall the scene from a Steelers game in 2021, when the famously national Steelers fan base drowned out a measly home Chargers crowd.
Al Michaels just estimated that the crowd at SoFi Stadium (for a LA Chargers home game) was roughly 65% Steelers fans. Embarrassing for the local market. Don’t mean to stir it up here, but, based upon my recent observations, I just can’t see that happening in St. Louis.
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) November 22, 2021
If the Chargers are overestimated at home in Los Angeles, that could in turn lead to an underestimation of the Chargers on the road in the NFL point spread market. Since the Chargers beat the market both in 2022 and over the last five years, it does seem that this is a systemic, statistically valuable strategy.
NFL ATS Road Records
|Team||ATS Record as Road Team, 2022||ATS Record as Road Team, 2018-22|
Best NFL ATS Road Teams (Last Five Years)
There’s an old, cliche saying in football: Defense travels. And that’s true, to some extent.
After reviewing this chart, though, I might take a slightly broader view. Well-run NFL organizations beat the market on the road. As it happens, well-run organizations often value defense, too.
Look at Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Both have dealt with injuries, quarterback problems, and other serious franchise setbacks over the last couple of seasons. Still, both franchises posted strong road ATS records in 2022 and over the last five seasons as a whole because of their strong coaching staff and overall institutional control.
The other team that jumps out at me here is the Bills’ impressive road record. AFC rivals in Cincinnati and Kansas City have also posted good road ATS numbers, but those could be tied to nearly anything – most probably the thicker tails on the scoring variance for the Chiefs and Bengals’ well-oiled offensive machines.
Buffalo, on the other hand, has a much more interesting case to analyze. The Bills are a speed-dominant offensive team that plays home games on natural grass. That could be a limiting factor on its home dominance, which could subsequently depress its road ATS value.
The middling 2022 ATS road record suggests a simpler answer, though. Bettors really loved betting Buffalo and Kansas City in 2022, relative to all other teams. Their market positions suffered as a result.
The NFL’s Long-Term Losers Can Become Bettors’ Long-Term Winners
It’s not just elite franchises that routinely cover NFL spreads on the road. Bad teams seem to exceed expectations on the road, too. Typical NFL fans might expect a bad team to get blown out on the road, which softens the market and increases the value for betting on bad teams.
As a result, the Cardinals, Commanders, and Lions have all posted winning ATS road records over the last five years, despite the fact that they’ve combined for 11 total losing seasons over that stretch.
Remember that next time you can’t bear to take the points with an awful NFL team. Winning money with winners is often harder than it looks.
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