Betting

This season, five NFL teams have been bad for the books (and good for bettors)

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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure against the Denver Broncos during the second half of an NFL game Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in Denver.
Photo: Jack Dempsey / AP

Five NFL teams drew at least 80 percent of the money wagered on their respective games last week at William Hill sports books. Four of them ended up covering the point spread.

It was a rough week for local bookmakers, but that’s nothing new. Bettors have clobbered the books over the past month, with the most popularly gambled sides delivering at an extraordinary clip. Because of the juice sports books hold on every bet and their increased statistical advantage in exotic wagers like parlays and teasers, they aren’t going to lose money booking NFL bets on the year. But they’re also not going to have a profit margin as large as those in the past several seasons.

These five teams have dented bookmakers’ bottom lines the most over the last month while delivering for bettors’ bankrolls.

New England Patriots: It should come as no surprise that the Patriots have the best against-the-spread record in the NFL at 11-3, including a three-game covering streak. They’ve been the best team to bet on in the league over the past 16 years since the arrival of coach Bill Belichick, who is 169-124-5 against the spread as the Patriots coach. Bettors have loyally followed Belichick for more than a decade now. There’s no better way to ensure a mediocre season for the house than by the Patriots being as unstoppable at the betting window as they are on the field.

Cleveland Browns: Current odds give the Browns approximately a 65 percent chance to finish the season as the second 0-16 team in NFL history. They’re so bad, bettors have gotten into the habit of betting against them every week and have been rewarded for it. Cleveland hasn’t covered in eight straight games, or even come within a touchdown of the number in its last six. The Browns are an NFL-worst 2-12 against the spread, frustrating bookmakers who have needed them on a weekly basis.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders just slid past the spread in Week 15, coming back to beat the Chargers, 19-16, as 2.5-point favorites. The scene was familiar for bookmakers, as Oakland has now beaten the number in the final three minutes of the game or overtime on four occasions this season. The betting market fancied the Raiders as sleepers at the start of the season and has ultimately been proven correct. Oakland is tied for the second-best against-the-spread record in the league at 9-5.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It felt appropriate that Tampa Bay covered by a point in a 26-20 loss as 7-point underdogs at Dallas on Sunday Night Football. Consider it a passing of the torch: The Cowboys tormented casinos in the first half of the season, and now the Buccaneers have taken their place in the home stretch. Tampa Bay has covered in an NFL-best six straight games, and the majority of bettors have jumped on board with the young, improving squad.

Atlanta Falcons: Recreational gamblers love offense, and no team is doing offense better than the Falcons this season. Led by MVP frontrunner Matt Ryan at quarterback, Atlanta is gaining an NFL-best 6.6 yards per play. Twelve of the Falcons’ 14 games have eclipsed sports books’ over/under totals, another positive for the majority of gamblers. Sports books typically root for unders, as bettors prefer to wager on points. Over the past two weeks, the Falcons have outscored the 49ers and Rams by a combined 83-27 score to cash in big for bettors.

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