This picture has two of the best teams against the spread all time
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Good teams win. Great teams cover. We’ve all heard this before and when you dive into the NFL it’s something that is true…most of the time. The top three NFL teams against the spread were Dallas (13-5), Green Bay (12-6), and Cincinnati (14-7). All three teams made the postseason and the Bengals, of course, advanced to the Super Bowl. The fourth-place team was the Detroit Lions who finished just 3-14-1 but wound up with an 11-6 ATS record.
The Lions record against the spread last season is an anomaly. It happens from time to time. A team with a history of struggling in the NFL may have a season or two where they cover the spread more often than not. Historically though, it all goes back to the idea that good teams win and great teams cover.
The Top 10
NFL against the spread numbers exist dating back to the 1979 season. For most teams, that’s a sample size of over 700 games. A handful of teams – expansion teams like Carolina and Jacksonville, for example – have played fewer games but still have a sample of at least 400 games.
Reading through the top 10, one can see that great teams really do cover. Nine of the ten teams have all won Super Bowls and eight of them have won multiple Lombardi Trophies. The only team in the top 10 that has yet to win a Super Bowl is Carolina, which is currently No. 8 with a 225-212-14 ATS record.
Starting at No. 10, the top 10 NFL teams against the spread include the Dallas Cowboys (355-345-19 ATS). The Cowboys, of course, are a storied franchise with eight appearances in the Super Bowl. They have won five.
One spot ahead of Dallas is NFC East rival, the New York Giants. The Giants have played in five Super Bowls and are 4-1 in those games. Even though they haven’t been good for most of the last decade, the Giants have a 357-339-15 ATS record dating back to 1979.
Kansas City (357-330-19 ATS) is No. 7. The Chiefs have been to four Super Bowls, including consecutive trips in 2019 and 2020. They have won two Lombardi Trophies. The San Francisco 49ers were the dynasty of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Niners have played for seven Super Bowls, winning five. They rank No. 6 on this list with a 368-339-19 ATS mark.
The Top 5
The top five on this list confirms that great teams do indeed cover. The Pittsburgh Steelers (367-337-20 ATS) have been to eight Super Bowls and won six of them. They are tied for the most Super Bowl wins with six. The team they are tied with? The New England Patriots.
The Steelers rank No. 5 on this list and the Patriots (379-329-23 ATS) are second. At No. 4 is Green Bay (369-338-18 ATS). The Packers are 4-1 in Super Bowl appearances. The Philadelphia Eagles (368-334-16 ATS) are third on the list and they have one Super Bowl win (2017) in three tries.
Coming in at No. 1 is the Baltimore Ravens (230-199-16 ATS). The Ravens have the highest cover percentage (51.3%) since 1979. They are also a perfect 2-0 in their two trips to the Super Bowl (2000, 2012). Under head coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens are 126-111-11 ATS, covering 53.2 percent of the time.
While the Detroit Lions had a pretty good season ATS in 2021, they rank No. 22 on this list with a 328-343-20 record. The bottom 10 is littered with teams like the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets proving that great teams do cover the spread.