CBS Sports’ senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco recently ranked the Top 100 NFL players heading into the 2013 season, and football bettors can’t help but find a correlation between elite talent and winning wagers on Sundays.
The six teams with at least five players ranked in the Top 100 – San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Atlanta, Baltimore and Tampa Bay - posted a collective 55-38-3 ATS (against the spread) count, covering the spread in 59 percent of their games last year.
The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens were the only ones in that group to finish below .500 ATS in the regular season but went a perfect 4-0 ATS in the postseason – three of those as underdogs.
On the other end of the scale, the six teams with just one player or none ranked among the NFL elite – San Diego, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Oakland, St. Louis and Jacksonville - combined for a dismal 39-56-1 ATS record last season (41 percent ATS success).
The biggest anomaly among that group is the St. Louis Rams, who failed to have one player ranked among Prisco’s 100 best but still managed to finish 11-5 ATS in the regular season.
Prisco gave top honors to Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers but had only one more Cheesehead among the Top 100, No. 18 LB Clay Matthews. Green Bay, which went 9-7 ATS in 2012, is roped in with the likes of the Jets, Browns, Vikings and Colts as franchises with just two players in the Top 100.
Could this be a forerunner for a fall from the Packers this season? Early action on their season win total has sided with the under and has dropped that number from as high as 12 wins to 10.5 at some markets.
The best NFL bet last year, the Seattle Seahawks, boasted six players among the Top 100 – CB Richard Sherman, S Earl Thomas, QB Russell Wilson, T Russell Okung, RB Marshawn Lynch – and finished with an 11-5 ATS mark in the regular season and covered in both postseason appearances.
The team with the most players on Prisco’s list is the San Francisco 49ers, who feature eight Top-100 talents: LB Patrick Willis, LB Aldon Smith, DE Justin Smith, LB NaVorro Bowman, T Joe Staley, G Mike Iupati, QB Colin Kaepernick, WR Michael Crabtree. The Niners finished the regular season with a 9-7 ATS record and went 2-1 ATS in the playoffs.
Among the other teams with the most players ranked are the Denver Broncos (6), Baltimore Ravens (5), and Atlanta Falcons (5). Perhaps the biggest surprise is the five players placed among the Top 100 that play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bucs, who went a profitable 10-5-1 ATS (7-9 SU) in 2012, have a roster highlighted by DT Gerald McCoy, CB Darrelle Revis (not with team last year), G Carl Nicks, WR Vincent Jackson, LB Lavonte David, who all ranked between No. 30 and No. 98.
Could this surplus of outstanding talent make Tampa Bay the team to watch in 2013? Oddsmakers have the Buccaneers’ season win total set at 6.5 (Over/Under -115) and they’re underdogs in nine of their first 15 games, according to the early NFL pointspreads.
Here’s how the NFL teams ranked in terms of Top-100 talents and their ATS records from the 2012 regular season:
San Francisco 49ers (8) – 9-7 ATS
Denver Broncos (6) – 10-6 ATS
Seattle Seahawks (6) – 11-5 ATS
Baltimore Ravens (5) – 6-9-1 ATS
Atlanta Falcons (5) – 9-6-1 ATS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5) – 10-5-1 ATS
Houston Texans (4) – 9-7 ATS
New England Patriots (4) – 9-7 ATS
Dallas Cowboys (4) – 6-10 ATS
Arizona Cardinals (4) – 7-8-1 ATS
Chicago Bears (4) – 7-9 ATS
Kansas City Chiefs (4) – 5-11 ATS
Detroit Lions (3) – 6-10 ATS
Cincinnati Bengals (3) -9-6-1 ATS
New Orleans Saints (3) – 8-8 ATS
Miami Dolphins (3) – 8-8 ATS
New York Giants (3) – 7-8-1 ATS
Pittsburgh Steelers (3) – 6-9-1 ATS
Washington Redskins (3) – 11-5 ATS
Carolina Panthers (3) – 9-7 ATS
Buffalo Bills (3) – 7-9 ATS
Green Bay Packers (2) – 9-7 ATS
Minnesota Vikings (2) – 8-7-1 ATS
Cleveland Browns (2) – 8-7-1 ATS
New York Jets (2) – 7-9 ATS
Indianapolis Colts (2) – 11-5 ATS
San Diego Chargers (1) – 7-9 ATS
Philadelphia Eagles (1) – 3-12-1 ATS
Tennessee Titans (1) – 6-10 ATS
Oakland Raiders (1) – 5-11 ATS
Jacksonville Jaguars (0) – 7-9 ATS
St. Louis Rams (0) – 11-5 ATS