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The NFL changes too fast to feel good about a winning streak while betting a team.
The Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers were basking in the post-Week 5 glow. The Bills beat the Kansas City Chiefs in prime time. The Chargers held on to a thrilling 47-42 win over the Cleveland Browns. The Bills were stamped as legitimate contenders and the Chargers were everyone's trendy pick. People debated whether Josh Allen or Justin Herbert should be MVP.
Then Week 6 happened.
The Chargers were eviscerated by the Baltimore Ravens. At least they were underdogs against a good Ravens team. The Bills were favored and the line kept rising throughout the week as bettors lined up to back them. The Bills closed as 6.5-point favorites. They were knocked off their perch by a close loss at the Tennessee Titans.
The NFL changes too often to trust any trend. Oddsmakers adjust too. If you find a team you think is going to make you money week after week, beware. The league is too good to maintain momentum for long. Unless it's the Dallas Cowboys, who are apparently never losing against the spread again.
Cowboys stay undefeated against the spread
The Cowboys' perfect record against the spread was drawing all but dead when the Patriots won the coin toss in overtime.
Bettors who had Cowboys -3.5 knew the situation. The Cowboys needed a stop without any points (a Patriots field goal would have realistically killed Dallas -3.5 tickets and a touchdown would have ended the game), then they had to take the ball down and score a touchdown when a field goal would end the game.
We know what happened. The Cowboys got a stop and CeeDee Lamb scored a 35-yard walk-off touchdown. The Cowboys are 6-0 against the spread this season, the only undefeated NFL team for bettors.
Here's where it would be wise to point out that no team wins against the spread forever and the Cowboys' ATS record is about to regress to the mean. But they're clearly on a rare heater. We'll have to wait until Week 8 to test it out again; the Cowboys are on a bye this week.
Raiders, Cardinals provide good lesson
When a team hits some adversity, whether it's with a major injury or something like a coach being fired midseason or missing a game, we assume the worst. We figure they'll be distracted or dejected and get blown out.
We don't give players and sometimes assistant coaches enough credit.
There were two examples of teams rallying despite adversity last week. The Las Vegas Raiders had a rough week when Jon Gruden's old emails forced him to resign. But the Raiders focused and won easily at the Denver Broncos, cashing as 3.5-point underdogs too. The Arizona Cardinals lost coach Kliff Kingsbury on Friday when he tested positive for COVID-19. No problem, the Cardinals played one of the most impressive games of the season, blasting the Browns.
Sometimes teams really will be thrown off by a significant event and come out flat their next game. But not underestimating players' ability to focus and betting on those teams when everyone is going the other way can be profitable.
Favorites can still cash, home teams can't
When favorites swept all seven games in the 1 p.m. Eastern slate on Sunday, it was havoc for sportsbooks. The house had its worst week in decades. Other games evened the favorites' record out a bit, as underdogs went 6-1 in the other games, including Pittsburgh winning but not covering Sunday night and the Bills' straight up loss Monday night. Yep, the Cowboys were the only favorite of that group to win.
The trend that's not bouncing back is for home teams. Home teams went 4-9 against the spread once we remove the Jaguars' London win. According to Covers.com, home teams this season are an unbelievable 44-50 straight up and 40-54 against the spread. That's a trend that might not regress to the mean.
The NFL's worst team for bettors
With some byes hitting, only one team stands at 1-5 against the spread this season. That would be the Washington Football Team. They're the only team with five ATS losses this season. WFT is the anti-Dallas.
Washington was a popular preseason pick for some (raises hand) but wasn't overvalued in the betting market. WFT lost quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1 but it's not like that's the only reason they're losing. Washington has just been bad, and much worse than the betting market anticipated. It's good if you caught onto that early, because it probably won't last too much longer. It seems the lines have adjusted to how bad WFT is. Washington is a heavy 9.5-point underdog at the Green Bay Packers this week.