It has been a long and winding road this season for fans of NFL betting. We have seen teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints look nearly unbeatable against the spread before falling back to the pack late in the season. And we have seen teams like the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys that started out slow against the number but managed to finish the season with a winning record ATS. In this final ATS power rankings of the year, we will show you exactly how each of the top ten finished the regular season this year. Let’s get started!
1. Chicago Bears
2018 Straight Up (12-4) 2018 ATS (12-4) 2017 ATS (8-6-2) Last Week’s Rank: 1
One team that has been consistently in the top three of these rankings all season long is the Chicago Bears. So, it makes sense that the Bears finished with the best ATS record in the NFL this season. And it wasn’t really close, as the Bears picked up two more ATS wins than any other team this season. The Bears were one of the few teams that actually had something to play for in week seventeen as they were fighting for playoff positioning, and had the opportunity to knock their division rival, Minnesota Vikings, out of the playoffs.
The Bears used their power running game, led by a 109 yard and two score day from Jordan Howard, to control the ball and dominate the game. Kirk Cousins continued his streak of playing awful against good teams, and the Vikings season is now done. The Bears are hosting the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC wild-card round of the playoffs. Chicago is laying -6-points in that one and that is a scary number against a Philly team, that despite lots of ups and downs during the season, hit the playoffs playing the best football they have all season long.
The Eagles have won five out of their last six games, including big wins over playoff teams like the Houston Texans and the Los Angeles Rams. We saw the Eagles find magic last season when they went on to win the Super Bowl, can they recapture that magic again and make another run this season? I’m not ready to say that they can, but I do like backing them with the points on Sunday in Chicago.
2. Cleveland Browns
2018 Straight Up (7-8-1) 2018 ATS (10-6) 2017 ATS (4-12) Last Week’s Rank: 4
When I published the first version of my NFL ATS power rankings this season, way back in week one, and had the Cleveland Browns ranked in the top three, it caught the attention of a lot of people. The Browns had been the laughing stock of the league for the last decade and had won a total of one game in the last two seasons. But I felt strongly that they had a core of winners in Cleveland and that with rookie Baker Mayfield at the helm, I expected them to surprise a lot of people this year.
And here they are, finishing the season with the second most ATS wins of any team. The Browns won five out of their last six games outright before dropping the season finale in Baltimore. But even in the week seventeen loss, they kept the game close and covered the number. If you could buy stock in a team for the next several years, I would be screaming buy like Jim Cramer on Mad Money. Things are finally looking up in Cleveland, and I wouldn’t at all be shocked if this team made a real run at their division title next season.
3. New Orleans Saints
2018 Straight Up (13-3) 2018 ATS (10-6) 2017 ATS (8-8) Last Week’s Rank: 3
It wasn’t like the New Orleans Saints were trying to lose in week seventeen, but they for sure weren’t trying to win either. Every once in a while, the books throw out a number that is absolutely laughable and is basically free money. That is what happened this week with the Saints. New Orleans had nothing to play for and before the game announced they would be resting key players. Drew Brees did not play, Alvin Kamara did not play, Alex Okafor did not play, but he still got paid. Yet, despite the fact that the Saints were going to sit the majority of their impact players, they were still laying more than a touchdown against a division rival. Huh?
It didn’t make any sense at all when they posted the number, and when the Saints got blown out with Teddy Bridgewater making his first start since the Reagan administration, it made even less sense. So, I am not going to let the fact that the Saints tanked a game that didn’t matter disguise the fact that this team was elite against the number all season long. The Saints will take a much-deserved week off this week with a first-round bye and will host the lowest remaining seed in the NFC at home in the divisional round. Will all this extra rest, two weeks for many of their best players, be enough to recharge a Saints team that was looking like it was running out of gas late in the season?
4. Seattle Seahawks
2018 straight Up (10-6) 2018 ATS (9-5-2) 2017 ATS (6-9-1) Last Week’s Rank: 2
All the Seattle Seahawks had to do in week seventeen was beat the lowly Arizona Cardinals to lock up the number five seed in the NFC playoffs. And they took care of business, but it was a LOT closer than most people thought it would be. In what was another terrible over-priced line, the Seahawks were laying more than two touchdowns. Seattle needed every bit of the clock in this game as they didn’t take the lead for good until Sebastian Janikowski kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired.
This week seventeen results are very hard to trust. The Seahawks came on strong both ATS and straight up to finish out the season and finished the year with the second fewest losses ATS in the league. The Hawks prize for beating Arizona in week seventeen? A road game in Dallas against a surging Cowboys team. These two teams played in Seattle early in the season, and the Seahawks dominated. The script is flipped this week though as they play in Dallas and the Cowboys are -2-point home favorites. Seattle is the sexy pick here, but something tells me the Cowboys find a way to get the job done and advance.
5. Dallas Cowboys
2018 Straight Up (10-6) 2018 ATS (9-6-1) 2017 ATS (8-7-1) Last Week’s Rank: 6
And how about ‘Dem Boys? The Cowboys hit the playoffs playing their best football of the year and seem to be peaking at the right time. The Cowboys have won seven out of their last eight games and took a different approach than many of the other teams that had already locked up their playoff positioning in week seventeen. Dallas told the media before the game that they would be playing their starters, but nobody seemed to believe them, and the Cowboys went into this game getting a full touchdown.
Well, I took them at their word and backed them at the very attractive price and came away a winner. The game certainly felt like a game that mattered as both teams fought hard and neither wanted to back down to a hated rival. But in the end, Dak Prescott hit Cole Beasley with a 32-yard score with just over a minute left in the game and Dallas elected to go for the two-point conversion and the win rather than playing for overtime. The gamble paid off as the Cowboys converted the try and won the game 36-35. Dallas has a home field showdown with the Seahawks next week.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
2018 Straight Up (12-4) 2018 ATS (9-6-1) 2017 ATS (10-6) Last Week’s Rank: 7
In a testament to just how hard it is to play at an elite level for an entire NFL season, the Kansas City Chiefs finish the season here at the number six spot. The Chiefs held the top spot for ten consecutive weeks as seemingly nobody could figure out how to stop Patrick Mahomes and this high-powered KC offense. It turns out the only way to stop Mahomes was to take away one of his biggest weapons. This team just hasn’t looked the same since they dropped Kareem Hunt from the team amid domestic violence allegations.
The Chiefs managed to flex their muscles one last time in week seventeen though as they pounded the Oakland Raiders to lock up the number one overall seed in the AFC playoffs. Mahomes broke a bunch of records, and the Chiefs easily covered the spread, thrashing the Raiders 35-3. The Chiefs take the week off next week and wait to see who they play next. This team was a Super Bowl favorite with Hunt on the team. Now that he is gone, and the running game is ineffective, they must be on upset alert in the divisional round.
7. New England Patriots
2018 Straight Up (11-5) 2018 ATS (9-7) 2017 ATS (11-5) Last Week’s Rank: 8
When I started these power rankings, I had the New England Patriots in the top spot in week one. Based on the reputations of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, and their ability to, year after year, cover spreads, I liked them to have a successful year against the number. New England finishes the year still in the top ten, having never dropped out of the rankings at any point during the season. They didn’t have quite as good of a season as many expected and losing Josh Gordon for the year will likely hurt in the playoffs, but this team finished with a winning record ATS, again.
Everyone is quick to name anyone not named Tom Brady as the greatest quarterback in the league. Is it Aaron Rodgers? Drew Brees? Patrick Mahomes? The answer is the same as it has been for a decade, Tom Brady. Brady isn’t going to wow you with his big arm anymore, and if you want him to scramble for more than a yard, you are going to be disappointed. But Brady does what he always has, and that is he finds a way to win games. In an AFC that looks wide open, how can the Pats not be the favorites to reach yet another Super Bowl? It might not always be pretty, but the Patriots never take days off and do their job. Expect them to advance in the playoffs.
8. Los Angeles Chargers
2018 Straight Up (12-4) 2018 ATS (9-7) 2017 ATS (8-6-2) Last Week’s Rank: 10
Heading into week seventeen, the Chargers had a shot to be the number one overall seed in the AFC playoffs. They did all they could do by beating the Denver Broncos in Denver, but they didn’t get the help they needed and hit the playoffs as the five seed. It is a tough pill to swallow that the Chargers finished the regular season tied for the best record in the AFC and are just one win behind the best team in the NFL, yet they are tasked with a road playoff game in the wild-card round.
And not only are they on the road, but they are also underdogs! The Chargers have a rematch against the Baltimore Ravens, the only team to have beaten them in the last six weeks of the season. It makes sense that the Ravens are favorites considering that they are at home and that they just beat the Chargers in LA, but something tells me that this Chargers team sneaks out of Baltimore with the win.
9. Washington Redskins
2018 Straight Up (7-9) 2018 ATS (9-7) 2017 ATS (7-9) Last Week’s Rank: 5
When the Washington Redskins lost their starting quarterback, Alex Smith, they were in first place in the NFC East Division and were in prime playoff position. But with Smith off of the field, the Redskins really struggled to stay competitive. They did manage to finish the season with a winning ATS record at 9-7, but you have to wonder what this team could have done had they stayed healthy. They closed out the season in week seventeen by getting throttled by the Eagles 24-0 at home. You have to wonder if the Redskins window to compete has closed. Smith may never play again, and despite the fact that Adrian Peterson somehow managed to scrape together another thousand-yard season at age sixty-five, he is clearly in the twilight of his career. This will forever go down in Redskins folklore as the season that could have been.
10. Detroit Lions
2018 Straight Up (6-10) 2018 ATS (9-7) 2017 ATS (9-7) Last Week’s Rank: Not Ranked
Rounding out the top ten for the season are the Detroit Lions. The Lions had a very disappointing season as many expected them to compete for the playoffs. But ten losses later, this team came up woefully short of that mark. They did finish the season on a very high note as they beat the brains out of the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau 31-0. They were able to beat one of their biggest rivals and also ended Aaron Rodgers season with a concussion. It is hard to know what the future holds for this cursed Detroit team, but against the number this season they finished with a winning record, so they are right where they belong, in my top ten.
And here they are, folks, my final against the spread power rankings of the year! It has been a fun and wild ride this season, and I hope that you used all of this information to win a lot of bets this year. Thanks for reading and I will see you all next season!