Week 1 NFL underdogs coming off a 10-loss season have covered the spread at a 58.4 percent rate since 1990.
Geoff Kulesa, a handicapper at Wunderdog Sports, was the first to make the claim prior to the 2011 season while appearing on a Chad Millman podcast. Then, a few weeks later, underdogs who fit the system promptly went 6-0-1 ATS, including three outright victories.
Kulesa, who says he uses “around 500 or 600″ different systems to determine his week-to-week NFL plays, said at the time that the reasoning behind the trend is quite simple: The public doesn’t want to bet on what they believe to be bad teams in their first NFL action of the year, and oddsmakers overadjust to compensate for this tendency.
That, in turn, creates value on the underdog.
“People can’t bring themselves to bet on that crappy, cruddy team … They see it in their head, they see the game unfolding and the team losing by 20 points, so they go with the safer one, the one they feel is going to win, the big favorite.
“Generally, people are going to bet against these teams in Week 1, and the oddsmakers know that, and they’re going to shade the lines a little bit. All you need is a small edge.”
Teams that fit this system are 83-59-1 against the spread since 1990 and, by our count, there are eight such teams in Week 1. Here are current odds, courtesy of 5Dimes:
Indianapolis +9.5 @ Chicago
Philadelphia @ Cleveland +9
Buffalo +3 @ New York Jets
Washington +8 @ New Orleans
Jacksonville +3 @ Minnesota*
Miami +13 @ Houston
St. Louis +8.5 @ Detroit
Carolina @ Tampa Bay +2.5*
*Both teams finished with at least 10 losses in 2011.