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Small Spreads And Big Value For NFL Underdogs In 2016

If you like to bet NFL underdogs, you may have noticed some astonishing numbers this year that show there is increased value in taking them on the moneyline.  

It's been a good year for underdogs this season overall with a 56 percent win rate against the spread (57-45-5 ATS) but it's the ‘live dog’ numbers that are incredible.

Live dogs are the ones that win straight up and those pups have come through in 46 of the 57 games that dogs have covered this season.  That's a rate of 82 percent (46-10-1) and it's a staggering number. The average rate over the past 10 years is only 67 percent – an insane increase of 15 percentage points above the average in 2016.  

No season since 2006 has seen underdogs win outright more than 72 percent of the time in games where the dogs cashed, so we are looking at more value on dogs than perhaps we’ve ever seen in NFL history. 

My attention came to the trend after seeing an article by Christian Pina, a professional handicapper who makes his living betting sports in Las Vegas.  

"I noticed this trend while handicapping Week 6," says Pina (@ChristianPina). "I was playing a bit more teasers and specialty bets in the sportsbook than normal and noticed they were hitting at what seemed to be an above-normal range. I realized that if I had parlayed the teams using the point spread instead of teasing them down, my return would have been much greater."

And that’s definitely one way this trend can help you. The pattern continued in Week 7 when seven of nine underdogs that covered also won straight up. 

It isn’t just the underdogs, though. Overall, teams that win the game are covering the spread at a rate of 90 percent this season (91-10-6). That’s up considerably from the average of 83 percent going back to 2006 (2228-448-101). 

So why is this happening? 

“I think that the market isn’t correcting itself as fast as it used to,” says Pina, “which would lead to answering the question of why favorites are covering the number, meaning it’s a little short. There have been a ton of small underdogs this season also, which suggests that something the NFL is striving for — parity — is actually taking place.”

When we looked into it, we found that almost 65 percent of spreads are 3.5 points or less in 2016. That’s a big number considering 45 percent of all spreads were 3.5 points going back to 2006. 

Eight spreads out of 13 opened at 3.5 points or less for Week 8, which makes 61.5 percent. 

I’ll continue to track these trends as the season goes on, paying close attention to whether underdogs continue to win straight up or whether that number starts to trend down toward the average. 

Records For teams that win & cover the spread in NFL in 2016
 All teams that win SU when they cover91-10-6 (90%)(Avg. since 2006 - 83%)
Underdogs that win SU when they cover 46-10-1 (83%)(Avg. since 2006 - 67%)
Favorites that cover when they win 45-10-4 (82%)(Avg. since 2006 - 81%)

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