Bad NFL Teams Fail to Cover Spreads at a Staggering Rate

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(Photo by All-Pro Reels Photography/Wikimedia Commons)
Andrew Doughty Sep 08, 2021, 8:53 PM

The Philadelphia Eagles sucked on the field last season. They also sucked in the sportsbook and became another data point in a staggering NFL betting trend for bad teams over the last decade.

The Eagles suffered five losses by at least 10 points en route to a point differential of minus-84, their worst since 2012 and second-worst since 1999. They were one of seven NFL teams with an average point differential (APD) of minus-5 points or worse in the regular season. Only two of the seven teams were above .500 against the spread (ATS) – both of which, the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos, were only 9-7 ATS. 

And all seven had a negative average cover plus-minus, i.e., the average number of points by which they failed to cover the spread each week.

TeamATS RecordAvg. Point DifferentialAvg. Cover
Jets6-10-13.4 points-4.1 points
Jaguars7-9-11.6 points-3.8 points
Lions7-9-8.9 points-5.7 points
Broncos9-7-7.7 points-2.0 points
Bengals9-7-7.1 points-0.2 points
Eagles6-10-5.2 points-3.5 points
Texans6-10-5.0 points-3.5 points

From 2011-20, 74 teams posted an APD of minus-5 points or worse in the regular season. Those teams averaged only 6.3 ATS wins, and only nine teams finished above .500 ATS, none of which exceeded nine ATS wins. Exactly half of the 74 teams (37) had six or fewer ATS wins, including 12 teams with four or fewer ATS wins. 

Only two of the 74 teams finished the season with an average cover plus-minus in the black (2.7 percent). The 2017 New York Jets and 2019 Arizona Cardinals are the only two teams over the last decade to post a negative APD alongside a positive average cover plus-minus. And both teams barely made the cut; the Jets had an average cover of plus-1.1 while the Cardinals were plus-0.5.

No team with an APD of worse than minus-5.2 (2017 Jets) posted a positive average cover. Sixty-six teams had an APD of minus-5.3 or worse from 2011-20. None of the 66 had a positive average cover.

If you increase the range to all teams with an average PD of minus-1 point or worse, the rate of positive average cover increases, though it’s still just 17 percent (25 of 145 teams).

Just like good teams are good at covering the spread, when teams suck on the field like the 2020 Philadelphia Eagles did, they also suck at covering NFL spreads at a mind-blowing rate of 97.3 percent. 

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About the Author

Andrew Doughty

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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else.

Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else.