There’s a mantra in Las Vegas: “Good teams win, great teams cover.” Well, no NFL team covered the spread more often this past decade than the New England Patriots, ESPN Chalk’s best team to bet of the 2010s.
The Patriots covered the spread in a remarkable 60% of their games (108-72-2 ATS) in the 2010s, easily the best mark in the league — despite bookmakers inflating lines in an effort to catch up with Bill Belichick’s covering machine. Belichick and the Patriots always stayed one step ahead.
• New England was favored on average by 6.8 points during the decade, nearly double the Green Bay Packers, who had the second-highest average spread at 3.8, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
• The Patriots covered those inflated point spreads by an NFL-best 3.5 points.
• The Patriots did not have a losing ATS record in any regular season this decade and were underdogs in a league-low 15 games. The Packers were underdogs in 40 games, the second fewest of the decade.
• New England went 12-3 ATS as underdogs and went 49-29-2 ATS at home this decade.
“They have been a thorn for us for a long time,” Alan Berg, senior oddsmaker for Caesars Sportsbook, said.
Week after week, season after season, sportsbooks found themselves rooting against the Patriots, as the betting public routinely loaded up on New England. They bumped up point spreads higher than what their actual projections suggested the numbers should be and were regularly able to attract money on the other side from sophisticated bettors that knew the lines were out of whack. It didn’t matter — the Patriots kept covering.
“Usually with the Patriots, we’ll eventually find a number that the sharps will take out of principle, because they know it’s too high,” Berg said. “Yet, here they come again covering the spread. They’re just a well-built franchise, with one of the best quarterbacks and coaches of all time.”
Kenny White, a veteran Las Vegas oddsmaker who consults with domestic and international sportsbooks, said he intentionally overrates the Patriots in his power ratings before the season and tries to adjust on a week-to-week basis during the season. It has still been a challenge to find a reasonable number high enough that New England couldn’t cover.
Even so, the Patriots were without question the best bet of the decade.
Best and worst bets of the decade
[Per TeamRankings.com and BetLabsSports.com.]
Best: Patriots 108-72-2 ATS
If you bet $100 on the Patriots point spread in every game over the last 10 seasons, you turned a profit of $2,880. In addition to New England, the Packers, Saints, Vikings and Seahawks each covered the spread better than 55% of the time over the decade.
Worst: Cleveland Browns 64-90-6 ATS
Best: Dallas Mavericks 423-363-10 ATS.
Dallas overtook the Spurs this season to capture the decade’s best ATS mark. The Spurs, at 11-19-1 ATS, have the worst ATS record this season, while the Mavericks are 18-14 ATS.
Worst: Minnesota Timberwolves 345-404-9 ATS
Best: Temple Owls 78-49-0 ATS
The Owls held off two Big 12 schools in Kansas State and Oklahoma State for this title. During the 2016 season, under coach Matt Rhule, Temple covered the spread in 12 straight games, the longest such streak of the decade.
Worst: Connecticut Huskies 42-76-4 ATS
Best: Virginia Cavaliers 172-121-6 ATS
The Cavs became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament in 2018, then returned the following year to win the national title and cap what was a prolific decade of covering the spread.
Worst: Cal Poly Mustangs 106-152-7 ATS
Moneyline (Based on a $100 bet per game)
Best: Washington Capitals +4,260
Washington won the Stanley Cup in 2018 and held off the St. Louis Blues (+3,783) to capture the title of most profitable bet of the decade. Washington was the best team to back as a favorite.
Worst: Edmonton Oilers -$10,330
Best: Texas Rangers +$3,731
Texas was the overwhelming best bet of the 2010s, taking the crown over the Oakland Athletics, who finished the decade up $2,132 on the moneyline.
Worst: Detroit Tigers -$9,852