How Often Do Underdogs Cover NFL Spreads?

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Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) dives for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams in the second half of an NFL football game in Green Bay, Wis. Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. Running back Aaron Jones has agreed to remain with the Green Bay Packers on a restructured deal with a reduced salary for 2023.
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Jun 02, 2023, 1:14 PM

When it comes to NFL spreads, there are three main outcomes for any given game. The favorite can win and cover; the favorite can win, but not cover; the underdog can win outright. 

Two of those things are good for underdog bettors, who are showing some serious profits in the NFL over the last five years. Yet the psychological pull of the betting favorite is so powerful that most bettors opt to lay points anyway. 

NFL spread underdogs are in a golden age of betting value right now. Here are the numbers to prove it. 

How Often Do Underdogs Cover NFL Spreads?

Over the past 10 seasons, NFL regular-season underdogs have gone 1304-1206-62 against the spread. That’s a 52% win clip. Bettors who bet every single favorite over that time period would have a 0.8% ROI. 

The profits get far more lucrative when limiting the sample size to just the last five years, when NFL underdogs were 694-581-28. That’s a win percentage of 54.4%. 

And as any professional NFL bettor can tell you, that’s a real, winning split. The ROI is nearly 5%. 

There’s a reason advantage bettors emphasize the importance of betting on underdogs. It’s because it works.

NFL Underdogs: Avoid Overreactions to Bad Performances

It’s human nature to be fickle and reactionary. When it comes to NFL betting odds, that often means that bettors – particularly public bettors – don’t remember much beyond the previous week.

This is a big mistake in handicapping, and it may be getting worse as more public bettors enter the betting markets. Point spreads are seeing more dramatic line movement, which has actually led to less efficient betting markets. I wrote about this with a bit more detail in my exploration of how often favorites win in NFL betting

Teams after a loss often play harder and fix their mistakes. They may also just get luckier with the random bounces of the ball. This kind of natural regression to the mean doesn’t even account for the betting markets, which soften on most teams after a loss.

If you have the fortitude to buy a team after a loss, you’ll often be rewarded. The underdog ATS numbers are pretty clear. 

NFL Point Spreads Are Like Stock Prices

For sports bettors who want to find success in the hyper-competitive NFL odds market, it’s important to stop thinking of teams in conventional sports terms.

Instead, envision the stock market. Every company has a stock, and every stock has a price. The price is somewhat arbitrary, set by the market, and constantly subject to change. There’s no reason that a given stock should be valued at any given price, other than that’s what everyone says it should be valued at. 

What is it that makes Disney worth $89, or the Bills a 13-point favorite? There’s no absolute truth involved. It’s just what the market is willing to pay on that particular week. 

There’s also human week-to-week variation to consider. No team is ever as good as its best win or as bad as its worst loss. That means another tried-and-true stock market stratagem is in play: buy low, sell high.

Keep that in mind when the market gets beyond the Week 1 NFL odds, when bettors and online sportsbooks start overreacting to everything they just saw.

Read More: How To Master Underdog Betting

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.