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NFL betting: Texans, Lions and Jets are in rare (bad) company

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We spend a lot of time talking about the elite teams in the NFL. However, there's also money to be made when discussing the bad teams. This season, we're graced with three teams that have yet to be favored in a single game. Is this normal? Which of these teams do oddsmakers view as the worst? And has the gap between elite teams and bad teams widened? 

Jets, Texans and Lions yet to be favored

At this point of the season, I'd feel fairly comfortable saying that the New York Jets, Houston Texans and Detroit Lions are three of the worst teams in the league. Oddsmakers would agree, as the three teams have yet to be favored in a game this season. The three teams have combined for three total wins. The Lions are on a bye this upcoming week, but the other two are significant underdogs again in Week 9 against mediocre competition. 

The Jets are probably the best of the bunch when it comes to this group. They've won two games this season, including this past week when they beat the Bengals as 11.5-point home underdogs. QB Mike White had a tremendous game in Week 8, but oddsmakers aren't expecting a repeat. New York plays on Thursday night this week, and they are once again underdogs. The Jets are giving 10.5 points to the Indianapolis Colts.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - OCTOBER 17: Brandin Cooks #13 of the Houston Texans walks off the field after a loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Brandin Cooks has been one of very few bright spots for the Houston Texans this season. (Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Houston has a win, which makes it the second-best team of this bunch. The Texans won as 3.5-point underdogs in Week 1 against the Jaguars, but they've lost seven straight games since then. While they're not winning games, the Texans have done a decent job against the spread, posting a 4-4 record. To underscore just how little respect oddsmakers are giving the Texans, Houston is a 6.5-point underdog against the one-win Dolphins this weekend. 

The Lions have yet to win a game this season, and there are actually posted odds of +500 on Detroit going 0-17. Detroit has had a lot of tough breaks this season, losing heartbreakers in the final seconds numerous times. In Week 8, many predicted the Lions would win outright against the Philadelphia Eagles as 3.5-point underdogs. They proceeded to lose 44-6. 

Will these teams ever be betting favorites?

Since 2015, only four teams have gone through a complete regular season without once being favorites in a game. The 2015 San Francisco 49ers, 2016 Cleveland Browns, 2019 Miami Dolphins and last season's Denver Broncos are company that you don't want to keep. 

Thankfully, one of these teams will be favorites at least once. The Jets visit Houston in Week 12. If Tyrod Taylor is back in action by then, I'd expect the Texans to be the slightest of favorites. Houston's other winnable game comes in Week 15, when it visits the Jaguars. 

For the Jets, they have a soft schedule. They have the game in Houston, home games against the Jaguars, Dolphins and Eagles as well as a visit to Miami. You'd have to think they'll be a favorite in at least one of those games. 

Detroit, on the other hand, will likely not be a favorite at any point this season. The Lions' most winnable games come against the Bears at home in Week 12, at Denver in Week 14 and at Atlanta in Week 16. All three of those teams are better than the Lions, and two of them are on the road. 

How do these teams compare to other bad teams in recent years?

The New York Jets have played seven games and have another game this week. They've been an average underdog of 5.9 points this season. 

Detroit has played eight games this season and has a bye week coming up. The Lions have been an average underdog of 8.4 points. 

Houston has been an average underdog of 11.4-points through its first nine games. This is the second-highest mark of any team since 2015. 

The only team rated worse than the Texans over the past few years is the 2019 Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins lost their first seven games of that season, including their first two games by a combined score of 102-10. It took a while for the Dolphins to shake off that rough start, but they did end up finishing the season 5-11. 

Here's a list of teams that were underdogs in each of their first nine games, as well as the average spread in those games:

2019 Miami Dolphins - 12.7 points
2021 Houston Texans - 11.4 points
2018 Buffalo Bills - 9.8 points
2016 Cleveland Browns - 7.1 points
2017 San Francisco 49ers - 6.8 points
2015 Chicago Bears - 6.3 points
2015 San Francisco 49ers - 6.1 points
2020 Denver Broncos - 4.6 points
2018 New York Giants - 3.5 points