Which of the NFL's worst teams could turn out to be a good pointspread bet?

Jul 13, 2017 |
Which of the NFL's worst teams could turn out to be a good pointspread bet?
Oddsmakers are tired of losing money on this team. Reminder – the Browns are 14-33-1 against the spread over the last three seasons. Just look at that Week 1 line: Cleveland is getting nine points at home against a division rival.
Photo By - USA Today Images
Oddsmakers are tired of losing money on this team. Reminder – the Browns are 14-33-1 against the spread over the last three seasons. Just look at that Week 1 line: Cleveland is getting nine points at home against a division rival.
Photo By - USA Today Images

The appearance of hope is a beautiful thing that can only exist in the offseason for some NFL fans.

NFL followers check their Twitter timelines and see stories about "Player X" coming into camp in the best shape of his life or "Player Y" who’s 100 percent recovered from that torn ACL.

Of course, there are a few teams whose fan base can’t even pretend to be optimistic about their 2017 outlook even before the first preseason game. The Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers. Call them the "Faulty 5".

As a collective group, these five teams won just 15 games outright and went 25-53-2 against the spread in the 2016 campaign. Many survivor pools were won by the simply picking against these four sides last fall.

The outlook, according to oddsmakers, is just as bad for these sides in 2017. These teams are the longest of long shots to win the Super Bowl (Browns as high as 300/1) and are tagged with season win totals no higher than 5.5 victories.

All that doesn’t mean these teams won’t be good ATS bets in 2017. Oddsmakers know the betting public isn’t going to want to back the league’s bottom feeders and they will do everything they can with the spreads to draw balanced action on the games involving our "Faulty 5".

Let’s look at each club and try to find the reasons why each team might be more competitive than the outward perception heading into the season - at least against the spread.

Chicago Bears

Reasons to be optimistic:


Well, the Jay Culter experience is over – although Chicago’s QB situation still seems up in the air.

There should be some better options for Chicago this season and not just under center. The Bears finished last year with 21 players on injury reserve, including Pro Bowl offensive lineman Kyle Long. Having those players back in the mix should improve their personnel options.

We’re not sure where head coach John Fox is sitting right now but his seat is definitely toasty. The Bears are just 9-23 (15-17 ATS) under Fox since he took over the club in 2015. He’ll be looking to put some W's on the board early on.

Reasons to be pessimistic:   

There still isn’t a ton of talent on this roster on either side of the ball.

A lot is riding on Kevin White (remember that guy?) demonstrating he can be a No. 1 receiver for the offense to click.

The Bears face three playoff teams (Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Green Bay) in their first four games.

Outlook: Stay away

Cleveland Browns

Reasons to be optimistic:


Oddsmakers are tired of losing money on this team. Reminder – the Browns are 14-33-1 against the spread over the last three seasons. Just look at that Week 1 line: Cleveland is getting nine points at home against a division rival. You can expect to see some heavily-padded lines for Cleveland as books try to protect themselves against a barrage of fade money from the public.

The offensive line is in good shape and we’re not just talking about Pro Bowl LT Joe Thomas. Pro Football Focus ranks Cleveland’s o-line as the second best in its rankings heading into the new season.

Reasons to be pessimistic:

Cody Kessler appears to be the Week 1 starter at quarterback, so there’s that.

ESPN analyst Bill Polian suggested the Browns tanked last season. Not sure if that’s true but the offseason trade for Brock Osweiler was a move that would make former Philadelphia 76ers GM Sam Hinkie blush. 

Outlook: There’s value here backing the Browns in 2017



Los Angeles Rams

Reasons to be optimistic:


New head coach and a new defensive coordinator. The Rams made Sean McVay the youngest head coach in the NFL and he brought Wade Phillips in from Denver to run his defense.

Defensive lineman Aaron Donald is a beast and has the potential to be the most disruptive pass rusher in the league next season, especially with Phillips calling the defensive plays.

Reasons to be pessimistic:

Jared Goff was reeeeally bad in 2016. He averaged just 5.03 yards per pass attempt with an ugly 54.6 completion percentage in seven starts.

Pro Football Focus ranks the Rams as the second worst roster behind only the Jets.

Outlook: Bet on this team. The games will be closer with Phillips running the defense

New York Jets

Reasons to be optimistic:


The defensive line could be really special with Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson and a healthy Muhammad Wilkerson.

The Jets play in a pretty weak division. Yes, the big bully Patriots will beat them up and take their lunch money, but the Jets should be able to hang with the Bills and Dolphins.

Reasons to be pessimistic:

The Jets are giving off a clear “we don’t care about this season” vibe. That’s what happens when you give the keys to the offense to Josh McCown.

Is there even one above average skill position player on this team’s offense?

Outlook: Fade them

San Francisco 49ers

Reasons to be optimistic:


New head coach Kyle Shanahan is an offensive guru. He should be able to improve the mess he inherits from Chip Kelly.

They play against the AFC South in non-conference competition this year, which should be one of the weaker divisions in the league.

Reasons to be pessimistic:

There’s a new coaching staff and new front office which means job security for both groups. Niners fans won’t be rioting in the streets if this team fails to win more than five or six games.

Outlook: Stay away


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