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Friday, October 30th, 2009

Football picksOctober 30, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article questioning the existence of parity in the NFL this season. In that article, I stated that through the first five weeks of the NFL season, underdogs had been really struggling to cover the spread. I wondered aloud whether 2009 would turn out to be another 2005 (the worst year ever for underdogs – hitting 42% for the year).

Two weeks have transpired since then. Week 6 was a revenge week for the dogs as they went 9-5 ATS. But, as quickly as they gained some ground, they lost it and more the next week. Week 7 was one for the record books as just two underdogs covered the spread. That is truly unprecedented! Even in the original year-of-the-favorite (2005) when underdogs had their worst year, there was never a week where fewer than three underdogs covered.

The average margin of victory last week was 20.3 points per game. We saw six teams win by 28 or more points!

As they did in 2005, the sportsbooks have been getting absolutely hammered this year. The general public loves favorites and especially loves betting on the good or great teams vs. the awful teams. Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay, who has been in the business for 22 years said of last week, “No doubt, it was the worst day ever for the books.”

This year is most definitely a year of the have’s and the have-nots. Kornegay said this week, “I can’t remember an NFL season with this many bad teams.” The worst of the worst continue to lose against the spread, no matter how many points they are handed. How bad is it for the bad teams this year? The Buccaneers, Rams, Browns, Chiefs and Raiders are a combined 4-31 straight-up and 11-24 against the number!

The number of double-digit favorites this season is also on pace to break records. Over the past decade, we usually see somewhere between 20 and 30 double-digit favorites per year. So far in 2009, we’ve already seen 21.

Here are the updated numbers through seven weeks in 2009:

  • Underdogs all sizes: 45% ATS
  • Underdogs of 7+ points: 39%
  • Underdogs of 9.5+ points: 35%
  • Underdogs of 10.5+ points: 27%

So the question remains… Will this season continue down this very unique path, with favorites covering any number thrown their way? Or will the underdogs make a comeback? It could be that given the unique disparity in team strength this season, the favorites will continue to roll. Or, we could see the books adjust more, forcing teams to lay 17 or more points in games, and that is likely to result in dogs finally having their day.

A colleague of mine pointed out something very interesting this week. What we are seeing this year, in essence, is something we saw with one team back in 2007. The 2007 Patriots were simply on a tear through the first half of the season. It didn’t matter how many points the underdog had in the game. Through their first ten games, the Pats covered spreads of -7.5, -16.5, -16.5, -16.5 and -16. They were simply that good. But before you go lay your whole bankroll on big favorites the rest of this season, remember how the Pats finished that year. They faced lines of -22, -19, -10.5, -24, -21.5 and -13.5 in their final six games. Their ATS record in those games? 1-5. In the playoffs, they were favored by -13, -14 and -12. They lost all three of those, finishing the season on a 1-8 ATS run. Food for thought…