Betting on bad teams is not fun. In fact, you may feel a physical repulsion when putting your hard-earned money behind some of the worst squads in the NFL.
That’s kind of the point. You and everybody else. Which tends to tip the betting scales in favor of those with a strong stomach.
Let me explain:
Take a look at the last three seasons. Find teams with the three lowest win totals (set by a sportsbook) heading into the season. Combine their record against the spread, and you’ll get 79-63 or 55.64%. Not too shabby.
Things get even better if we look at last year. The bottom five teams entering the season (in terms of win totals) combined to go 46-35 against the spread: 56.79%. This included Miami (11-5 ATS), who had the best ATS record in the league.
How does this happen? Here’s a theory:
The worst NFL teams are typically underrated on a week-to-week basis. This usually shows up as a few extra points towards the spread.
In other words, the sportsbooks put a little extra juice on good teams that people are more likely to bet. In a competitive climate like the NFL, this really makes a difference.
Below, we will outline five teams with the lowest win totals heading into 2021. These are the teams to keep an eye on when subscribing to this strategy. You may need to plug your nose while clicking on these sides, but don’t overlook them once the season starts.
All win totals and odds have been taken from DraftKings Sportsbook. There’s a good chance these lines will move as the season draws closer, so stay alert!
Houston Texans – Win Total: 4
Holy cow. It’s extremely hard to paint the Texans in a positive light. Consider the following anecdotes:
- 65-year-old David Cully takes over as Head Coach. This is his first head gig in the NFL.
- The Texans rank bottom 10 in almost every positional category heading into this season.
- They are in talks of trading their franchise QB who is alleged publicly to have sexually assaulted multiple women.
Despite that, there are a few positives to take away here. What if they get a really nice return on the Deshaun Watson deal?
On top of that, Houston actually has the eighth-best linebacker crew according to ProFootballFocus. I’m not sure how that happened, but they’ll rely heavily on guys like Kevin Pierre-Louis to keep things together on that side of the ball.
The Texans start things off as a 2.5 point underdog vs. Jacksonville. There are so many questions surrounding this game, and Deshaun Watson’s status is probably the biggest one. But there are tons of Jacksonville questions too. But trust that the Texans doubt will be far stronger, hence, the line.
Detroit Lions – Win Total: 4.5
I actually think the Lions could be a scrappy group that competes to the final whistle. That probably won’t translate to many wins in 2021, but they should see generous point spreads due to extremely low expectations.
As mentioned in the “14 Coaching Changes With Fantasy Football and Betting Consequences” article, their new head coach (Dan Campbell) is a self-proclaimed “true alpha” who drinks a mixture resembling gasoline for breakfast. Or like every guy who worked in the NFL in the last Millenium. Let’s take a quick moment of silence to miss them.
It’s not too far-fetched to think that the Lions can absorb some of Campbell’s tougher-than-nails persona.
Jared Goff will have to prove himself at QB, and the receiving corps doesn’t have a track record. However, the Lions have a top ten offensive line headed by Frank Ragnow and rookie Penei Sewell. This means some of the good work Goff showed in L.A. that was based on having a strong line may show through in Detroit.
Detroit starts the season as a 7.5 point underdog at home vs. San Francisco. The Lions have a ton of questions, but it’s hard to pass up a significant home dog who will do everything in its power to shorten the game. Plus there’s a solid chance in any game Jimmy G. plays his leg will snap somewhere. Bone and ligament strength is your NFL future.
New York Jets – Win Total: 6
The Jets will pin their hopes and dreams on rookie QB Zach Wilson. Things could be turbulent early in the season, but let’s not forget that Wilson is an absolute playmaker who can sling it with the best of them. People are down on him because he doesn’t have the build of a prototypical QB, but he could surprise in his rookie campaign. Size matters in football until it doesn’t. Especially at skill positions.
Head Coach Robert Salah served as San Francisco’s defensive coordinator for four seasons. The 49ers were pretty good under his control, ranking top five in total defense over the past two years. He has some talent on that side of the ball, as the Jets have the seventh-best defensive line according to Pro Football Focus ratings.
There’s reason to believe the offensive line will improve, which could help Wilson find his rhythm sooner than later.
The Jets are +4.5 at Carolina in Week 1. Sure, the Panthers probably have fewer things to figure out before the season starts, but are they that much better than the Jets? I’m sensing a value opportunity right away betting on the J-E-T-S Jets.
Cincinnati Bengals – Win Total: 6.5
The Bengals are going to be a fun team to play with on Madden 22. It’s like someone did a fantasy draft while prioritizing skill players over linemen and defense. Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Joe Mixon, and Tee Higgins should be fun DFS options throughout the season.
As you may have read, we ranked Chase as the third-best rookie in our “10 Best Offensive Rookies” article.
In fairness, the Bengals haven’t completely abandoned their offensive line, signing Riley Reiff and second-rounder Jackson Carman to help protect Burrow.
Jessee Bates III has developed into a great player, and he will spearhead a solid Cincinnati secondary that could keep them in games this year.
The Bengals open the season as three-point home underdogs against Minnesota. If Joe Burrow can not be killed through an entire season, literally and figuratively both, don’t sleep on the Bengals to play .500 ball.
Philadelphia Eagles – Win Total: 6.5
Will the Eagles pursue Deshaun Watson? Things seem murky at the time of writing this article, but Philadelphia will be an interesting team to support either way.
First off, they play in the NFC East, which doesn’t have the most stable teams on the ledger. The Cowboys have a nice roster and Washington has improved some weak spots. However, Philly will have a legitimate chance to win every divisional game put in front of them.
Jalen Hurts is the wild card here. He showed enough in 2020 for Eagles fans to remain optimistic. Bringing in Shane Steichen as offensive coordinator should help. You may recall that Steichen helped Chargers’ QB Justin Herbert assimilate to the NFL last season.
Philadelphia will travel to Atlanta as 3.5 point underdogs in Week 1. This is an interesting spot to keep an eye on the birds while getting more than a field goal.
You may have noticed that almost all of these “bad” teams open against not-great teams themselves. The NFL isn’t stupid. Multiple close games on Opening Weekend make for great drama.