There are few things as exciting as the start of the NFL season. Handicapping the NFL is not easy. You have to know which teams the odds makers overvalue and which ones they undervalue. Most teams with low expectations from the odds makers perform well against the spread.
However, when it comes to the best single-season against the spread records, those almost always come from elite teams. In fact, the top 3 on the list below, all went on to win the title. Here’s a look at the five best performances we have witnessed.
Best NFL ATS Single Season Records (Including Playoffs)
T-1st: 1989 San Francisco 49ers (16-3 ATS)
This was the first true elite team that the oddsmakers failed to adjust the number on. The 1989 San Francisco 49ers were favorites in 15 of their 16 games regular season games. Nearly half of those saw them at 9.5-point favorites or more. After starting out a modest 2-2 ATS in their first 4 games, they finished on an epic 14-1 run, that included a perfect 3-0 mark in the playoffs. The Niners outscored opponents 126-26 en route to the Super Bowl. They then dominated the Broncos 55-10 to bring home the Lombardi Trophy. The Super Bowl win cemented this 49ers’ team as one of the best of the ’80’s and all-time.
T-1st: 2016 New England Patriots (16-3 ATS)
New England’s epic come-from-behind win and cover in Super Bowl LI matched that epic season by the 49ers with a 16-3 ATS record. Keep in mind this is the same season that the Patriots had to play the first 4 games without their future Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady (started 3-1). They closed out the regular-season 13-3 and like San Francisco were perfect in the postseason. In fact, New England finished the year by covering their final seven games. Some might be surprised that this is the best Patriots team. I’m sure a few of you are wondering about that team that started out 18-0 (straight up) before losing to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. That team actually barely was above .500 at 10-9.
3rd: 1985 Chicago Bears (15-3-1 ATS)
Even if you weren’t alive or old enough to remember, most are aware of the 1985 Chicago Bears and how good that team was. They weren’t just a great team in the win/loss column, they dominated against the number as well. They started out the year 12-0 SU and 10-1-1 ATS. They would suffere a couple more ATS losses before the playoffs, but absolutely rolled in the postseason, outscoring their opponents 91-10, including a 46-10 win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XX.
4th: 2004 San Diego Chargers (13-2-2 ATS)
Here’s the first team on the list that didn’t end up winning it all. They are also the first team on the list that was more of a surprise than an elite team that exceeded expectations. San Diego (now the Los Angeles) Chargers had just finished 4-12 the previous year. Drew Brees was still the quarterback of this team, though not for much longer. Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson guided the Chargers to a 12-4 record and AFC West title, going an impressive 13-1-2 ATS in the regular season. San Diego went on to lose at home and fail to cover against the Jets in their Wild Card game (tied 3rd best record in AFC). It just so happens that the Jets were also responsible for their ATS loss in the regular season.
5th: 2015 Minnesota Vikings (14-3 ATS)
Here’s another example of a team that came out of no where and put together a remarkable run against the spread. The 2015 Minnesota Vikings surprised a lot of people by going 11-5 and winning the NFC North. During this shocking campaign, the Vikings posted a 13-3 ATS record. They would improve to 14-3 against the spread in a crushing playoff loss to the Seahawks at home. Minnesota lost to Seattle 9-10 as a 4.5-point dog. A game they would have won if Blair Walsh would have connected on a chip-shot 27-yard field goal. It’s worth noting that the Vikings opened up 2016 a perfect 5-0 ATS, giving them an incredible 19-3 ATS run over a 22-game span.