Observations of the 2017 NFL Spreads

For quite some time I've been participating in a NFL pick 'em fantasy football league/pool that is against the spread. That is, you pick a team based on if you think they'll beat the spread or not. If you need a primer on how the spread works, that is beyond on the scope of this endeavor. Very early into this competition I wondered if there were any patterns I could take advantage of to, you know...win more. It turns out that the patters of the spread of well known to just about everybody that bets on this kind of action. I was not one of those people, so I re-invented the wheel. Go me.

Here are my observations of the NFL 2017 regular season:

Conventional wisdom shows us that Vegas will set the spreads so that favorites and underdogs (my terms, do not use these if you want to sound like you know what you're talking about) generally finish the season equally. That is to say, 50% of the winners will be favorites and 50% will be underdogs upsetting the favorite. Yes, you may insert the obligatory "any given Sunday" reference here.

That Vegas can hit this 50/50 mark almost gives one the impression that the game is rigged. Seriously, 131 to 117 (with 8 pushes -- that is, the scoring gap was exactly equal to the spread and thus neither team "won") over the course of 17 weeks and 256 games is some Nostradamus level voodoo. Except Vegas pretty much pulls this off every year. So, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

The Spreads

Spread Favorites Covered Spread Underdog Covered
0 18 0 10
1 6 1 12
1.5   1.5 1
2.5 19 2.5 10
3 16 3 12
3.5 3 3.5 5
4 5 4 2
4.5 8 4.5 3
5 2 5 4
5.5 8 5.5 7
6 2 6 3
7 9 7 6
7.5 8 7.5 3
8 1 8 3
8.5 2 8.5 5
9 2 9 1
9.5 2 9.5 2
10 4 10 7
10.5 3 10.5 1
11 1 11 3
11.5 1 11.5 4
12 2 12 1
12.5 1 12.5 2
13 1 13 1
13.5 1 13.5  
14 2 14 3
14.5 1 14.5 2
15 1 15 2
17 1 17 1
17.5 1 17.5  

Clearly I'm no Edward Tufte. So, what about the teams? Who was dominant as a favorite, crushing the spread? Which teams were great at playing the spoiler? Which teams couldn't do either?

The Favorites

Minnesota and New England tied, each with eight in the win column when they had to beat the spread. Pittsburgh was alone at the top of pile of favorites that couldn't manage to beat the spread (closely followed by New England!).

Team Beat the Spread Team Failed to Beat
Min 8 Pit 8
NE 8 NE 7
Dal 7 Sea 6
NO 7 Atl 5
Ten 7 Bal 5
Atl 6 Car 5
Jax 6 Jax 5
KC 6 KC 5
LAR 6 LAC 5
Phi 6 LAR 5
Pit 6 NO 5
Bal 5 Ten 5
Buf 5 Was 5
Car 5 Cin 4
Det 5 Den 4
LAC 5 Hou 4
Den 4 Oak 4
GB 4 Phi 4
Sea 4 TB 4
Cin 3 Ari 3
Hou 3 Dal 3
Ind 3 Buf 2
Was 3 Chi 2
Ari 2 Det 2
Oak 2 GB 2
SF 2 Mia 2
Chi 1 Min 2
Mia 1 NYG 2
TB 1 Cle 1
NYJ 1

Underdogs

Team Covered Team Failed to Cover
NYJ 9 Cle 11
NYG 7 Ind 8
SF 7 Ari 7
Chi 6 Den 7
Cin 6 GB 7
TB 6 Mia 7
Ind 5 NYG 7
Ari 4 SF 6
Buf 4 Buf 5
Car 4 Chi 5
Cle 4 Det 5
Det 4 Hou 5
Hou 4 NYJ 5
KC 4 Oak 5
LAC 4 TB 5
Mia 4 Dal 4
Phi 4 Was 4
Was 4 Atl 3
Bal 3 Bal 3
GB 3 Cin 3
Jax 3 NO 3
LAR 3 Sea 3
Min 3 Ten 3
Oak 3 Car 2
Sea 3 Jax 2
Atl 2 Phi 2
Dal 1 KC 1
NO 1 LAC 1
Pit 1 LAR 1
Ten 1 Min 1

What Does It All Mean?

Mostly nothing. As I stated, these are all just observations that I made during the season. Sure, you can make generalizations, like Cleveland sucks, the Jets were underated, or the Pittsburgh offense was a disappointment.