- Last NFL season was unlike any that had come before due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 15 of the NFL’s 32 teams turned a unit profit at the betting window in the 2020 season.
- Only one team made more than five units of profit for NFL betting enthusiasts.
The COVID-19 pandemic transformed the 2020 NFL season into a unique exercise for players, coaches and staff. It was also a profound challenge for sports bettors who had to keep abreast of each team’s situation relative to the COVID-19 virus. If we’re lucky, we’ll never again have to deal with a NFL season that completely ‘flips the script’ for everyone involved.
The 2020 NFL season was such an outlier it’s difficult to see any value using statistical data and other handicapping concepts for comparative purposes. As horse racing fans like to say, the best response will be to ‘draw a line through’ the season altogether when it comes to handicapping analytics. Before we do, however, we’ll take one last look at the NFL teams that made money for bettors–and those that lost money in a subsequent article:
MIAMI DOLPHINS (+5.5 UNITS)
The Miami Dolphins finished the 2019 regular season at 5-11 so no surprise that they were near the bottom of the 2020 Super Bowl futures board. The Dolphins were priced at +10000 along with the New York Giants which put them ahead of only the league’s true bottom feeders. There was minimal hope for improvement as demonstrated by their O/U win total of 6. Fast forward a year and Miami now has an O/U win total of 9.5 UN -145. Sure, that suggests that the betting market thinks they overachieved last year but that’s precisely how Miami became the most profitable team in the NFL during the 2020 season. Miami finished 10-6 and had a few things gone in their favor could have actually made the playoffs. Miami opened the season with a loss at New England by a 21-11 final failing to cover as a +7 underdog. They then went on a run covering 9 of their next 11 games before failing to cover their last 2. It’s pretty evident that the linesmakers caught up with the Dolphins who probably weren’t good enough to be favored by -2.5 at Las Vegas against a Raiders team that finished 8-8. They were actually favored in their final game of the year at Buffalo–the Dolphins ‘controlled their own destiny’ but didn’t play like it losing 56-26 as a -2.5 point favorite. Look for Miami to ‘regress to the mean’ a bit in the 2021 season. They’re likely somewhere between a 5 win team (2019) and a 10 win team (2020) which makes the juice on the UN side of their season win total look extremely prudent.
BALTIMORE RAVENS (+4.4 UNITS)
BUFFALO BILLS (+4.3 UNITS)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (+4.3 UNITS)
We’ll hit these teams together because a) they made roughly the same amount of money and b) they have similar characteristics. First of all, they illustrate the difficulty in making a significant profit with NFL betting. In most sports, the most profitable teams create double digit unit profits for players. That doesn’t happen in the NFL very often–in fact, there hasn’t been a team with double digit profits at the end of the year since New England put +12.7 units in bettors’ pockets during the 2016 season. The common thread with these teams is that they both had decent expectations heading into the season and they managed to meet or exceed them. Baltimore and Tampa Bay were the second and third choices to win the Super Bowl respectively with the Ravens at +500 and the Bucs at +1000. Buffalo was more of a surprise at +3000.