Sports betting winners and losers: Who is NFL's best team against the spread? (It's not the Chiefs)

Frank Schwab
·5 min read

The Kansas City Chiefs are 14-1, already have the No. 1 seed clinched and are the clear favorites to win a Super Bowl.

That doesn’t mean gamblers like them much.

The Chiefs are just 7-8 against the spread, and sportsbooks have made a nice profit from their weird streak of seven straight games winning outright but not covering.

There’s another team, which is heading to the playoffs with one more win, that has been the champion of bettors this season: the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins are 11-4 against the spread according to BetMGM data analyst John Ewing. That’s a remarkable number, and was even better before Miami won but didn’t cover last week against the Las Vegas Raiders. Before that, the Dolphins had covered in nine of 10 games.

The Dolphins have beaten expectations all season, and the sportsbooks haven’t really adjusted too much for it. They’re a solid, well-coached team that has been mostly unspectacular, especially on offense. That’s the kind of team that can do well against the spread. Everyone loves betting on the Chiefs because Patrick Mahomes has made them a glamorous team that has an offense everyone loves to say is unstoppable. The spreads are high and even though the Chiefs win just about every week, it has been a long time since they covered.

The Dolphins weren’t expected to be very good this season. Their over/under win total before the season was about 6. But they finished last season strong, added a lot of talent in the offseason and have a good coach in Brian Flores. That’s a great team to bet on through a season and it has paid off. It’s a good lesson to remember for next season.

Even if the 2020 Dolphins don’t beat the Buffalo Bills in Week 17 and they miss the playoffs, they’ll always be remembered fondly by bettors who identified them as a good value early enough to turn a profit backing them.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Isaiah Ford, left, celebrates with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick after defeating the Las Vegas Raiders. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Isaiah Ford, left, celebrates with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick after defeating the Las Vegas Raiders. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Here are the winners and losers from the past week in the sports betting world:


Those late Aaron Rodgers MVP bettors: When Rodgers was +2500 to win MVP before the season started, there was very little action on him. But there was still a chance to get value on him the past couple weeks, and bettors took advantage.

As of Monday, a huge 43 percent of the money bet in the MVP market at BetMGM was on Rodgers. That’s an enormous shift, but bettors were quick to react to Rodgers’ late-season surge that pushed him ahead of Mahomes in the race. Until this week, Mahomes was still a big betting favorite to win. A lot of bets came in on Rodgers to win MVP. Rodgers took over as the favorite after a four-touchdown game in the snow in Week 16, and the odds have been shifting his way ever since.

As of Tuesday morning, Rodgers is -275 to win MVP at BetMGM. He was just -150 on Monday morning but bettors thought that line was too low and kept hammering it. There’s not much that can change Rodgers’ MVP case. Even if Rodgers plays poorly in the finale, Mahomes might not play at all as Chiefs rest starters and Josh Allen (+1400 to win MVP) has a big gap to make up. If Rodgers wins MVP as expected, a lot of people will be cashing tickets.

Trae Young and other NBA MVP movers: The NBA season is only a few games old, but already Young has made an impression on MVP voters.

Young, the star guard of the Atlanta Hawks, has had the biggest MVP odds move since the season started, going from +8000 to +5000. Young is averaging 34 points and 7.3 assists through three games.

The other interesting move is on Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic. Doncic was the favorite before the season, and he has become an even stronger favorite after a few games.

There is a lot of season to go, but even if you missed betting Young at 80-to-1 he still looks like a fun value.


NBA favorites: Some of the best teams in the NBA are having trouble covering spreads.

The Los Angeles Lakers are just 2-2 ATS, and lost to the Portland Trail Blazers at home on Monday night. The Milwaukee Bucks are 1-2 against the spread, with a straight-up loss to the New York Knicks. The Denver Nuggets have covered in just one of three games with an upset home loss to the Sacramento Kings in the opener. The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are also 1-2 against the spread.

Which NBA teams have been good to bettors so far this season? There are five undefeated teams against the spread: Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. Other than the Pacers, none of those teams were considered playoff teams heading into the season. If you identified any of those five as underrated coming into the season, you’ve won some bets.

Things should balance out. The best teams will cover plenty of spreads. But early this NBA season, it has not paid to back the preseason favorites.

Competitive bowl games: Here are the point differentials for the bowl games played already: 28, 11, 26, 35, 15, 14, 7, 7, 18, 3. At least it is getting better. Liberty-Coastal Carolina gave us a good game on Saturday night. Most of the rest haven’t been interesting. Bowl season has been defined by blowouts and cancelations.

The good news is there are many games yet to go. Three of the four teams scheduled for Tuesday’s games are ranked. Miami (-1) faces Oklahoma State in the Cheez-It Bowl, and Texas (-7.5) plays Colorado in the Alamo Bowl.

The New Year’s Day games are coming up, and more of the sport’s brand names will be playing. The first portion of bowl season hasn’t been great, but hopefully that evens out the rest of the way.