Small NFL Spreads Show Big Returns


By Malcolm Darnley | September 16, 2022 12:50 PM

A couple of weeks ago, Data_Josh and I dedicated a few hundred words to recency bias and its impact on sports betting.

Today, we remind you that in Week 1 last year, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers lost 38-3 to the New Orleans Saints.

All Rodgers and the Packers did after that 35-point defeat was go win 13 of their next 16 games (12-4 ATS).

For those who watched the Vikings beat up the Packers in Week 1 this year, let’s see how the two-time defending MVP rebounds against a team he once claimed to have an ownership stake in.

If Rodgers can’t beat the Bears, then Packers fans will definitely have reason to panic.

How To Bet NFL Spreads Less Than 3-Points

If you have placed a bet on an NFL game previously, chances are you have looked at a point spread that was less than three points and wondered:

“Should I take the +2 points and the Underdog ATS?

Or should I pass on the +2 and just take the ‘Dog to win outright on the moneyline?”

What are the chances that those +2 points actually come into play? Do the more enticing odds of the moneyline justify giving up a couple of points?

Fortunately, we are blessed with an extensive database of historical NFL games and our very own Data_Josh.

Let’s Go.

Small ‘Dogs On The ML

It’s our first data graph of the day, but it’s powerful.

Over the last seven years, betting slight Underdogs (+2.5 points or less) on the moneyline returned positive results in six of the previous seven years and an overall profit of $2,400. (4.3% ROI)

It’s very interesting to note:

  • Slight Underdogs are 192-192-3 straight up against Favorites.
  • ATS, slight underdogs are 209-178 (54%)

This tells us that the small point spread benefitted the underdogs in 17 of the 387 games we analyzed.

If a bettor had decided to take the points (+2.5 or less) instead of the ML, our profit would drop from $2,400 to $1,200 over those same seven years.

To recap:

  • Slight Underdogs Moneyline: $2,400 profit last seven years
  • Slight Underdogs Point Spread: $1,200 profit last seven years

Let’s Dive Deeper

The power of our graphing skills does not end there.

As we dig in further with our small ‘dogs on the ML theory, we can see that over the last seven years, betting Slight Road (Away) Underdogs (+2.5 or less) on the ML has been very profitable.

Slight road ‘dogs ML have an ROI of 12% since 2015 and have returned a profit of $2,300 for a $100 bettor.

12% ROI and positive returns in six of seven years give us some confidence in a trend like this.

But how does that compare to the Point Spread?

Moneyline vs. Point Spread

Since 2015, blindly betting slight road (Away) underdogs on the moneyline returned a profit of $2,347 compared to $1,200 of profit if we had bet those same teams on the point spread.

This tells us, at least over the last seven years, that the long-term play was to bet slight ‘dogs on the ML and stay away from those +2 or +2.5 spreads.

It’s worth pointing out the Carolina Panthers are +2 underdogs on the road this week against the New York Giants.

My boss Philipp won’t allow me to give picks or advice on games to bet. So instead, I will remind you to pay special attention to Graph #2 from today’s newsletter.

You will know what to do after that.

NFC North Line Shopping

In Week 1, The Minnesota Vikings easily handled the Green Bay Packers. Many were concerned what the loss of Davante Adams meant to Green Bay this offseason, and only putting up seven points in Week 1 didn’t help.

As a bettor, you can either decide that Aaron Rodgers (two-time defending league MVP) and the Pack will be just fine. (After an embarrassing Week 1 loss last year, the Packers covered their next nine consecutive games.)

Or, a bettor might determine that the balance of power has now shifted, and the Minnesota Vikings are the New Sheriff of the NFC North.

It appears Sportsbooks are currently split on that topic as well.

  • Three sportsbooks believe the Packers should still be the betting favorite.
  • DraftKings has dropped their line on the Vikings and now lists Minnesota as the betting chalk.
  • PointsBet can’t decide and has them both at +120.

If you believe Minnesota is now the team to beat, I strongly encourage you to shop that +100 offered at DK and grab them +140 @Caesars instead.

That’s where I got my Vikes ticket from.