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Week 11 NFL picks using the Golden Rules 2015

Laying down a few bucks in Vegas on the Week 11 lines? Or, maybe, it’s you and 49 other colleagues at the firm all staring curiously at the spreads wondering how to get a leg up in the office pool. Regardless of the reason, the Golden Rules are for you.

During the 2014 NFL season, I provided weekly insights for those betting NFL games against the spread (ATS). It’s what I like to call The Golden Rules. And I’m back for the 2015 regular season hoping to build on my 39-25 (61%) regular season record from a year ago.

There is no guarantee you can pick the winner by analyzing historical data from the past five, ten or 20 NFL seasons. But can you gain a competitive advantage? Sure you can. The Golden Rules are about asking the right questions, identifying differentiating factors and having faith that you are increasing the likelihood of success.


Sunday November 22, 2015 – Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons (-6.5)
Sunday November 22, 2015 – San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-12.5)

For my Week 7 NFL Picks Using the Golden Rules (2015), I examined the historical ATS performance of current head coaches in the weeks following a bye. The only problem with this analysis is that rookie head coaches are ignored because they have no individual historical track record. It just so happens that two rookie head coaches (Dan Quinn and Jim Tomsula) are coming out of their first NFL bye week in Week 11. Rookie head coaches might be lacking in individual data, but how do they generally perform against the spread following a bye? 

To undergo this analysis, I divided all the head coaches into the following four categories:

  • Incumbent: A returning head coach (examples include Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll and Mike Tomlin)
  • New: A head coach in his first year with a team, but with previous NFL head coaching experience excluding interim experience (examples include Jack Del Rio, John Fox, Gary Kubiak and Rex Ryan)
  • Rookie: This a head coach with no prior NFL head coaching experience aside from interim experience (examples include Quinn, Tomsula and Todd Bowles)
  • Interim: This is a midseason replacement for a head coach and they may or may not have prior head coaching experience (examples includes Dan Campbell and Mike Mularkey)

The chart below shows just how successful against the spread each category of head coaches has been following a bye week since 2005. Note that I have excluded pushes from the determination of a team’s ATS winning percentage or, in other words, a win only reflects profitable outcomes.


Since 2005, teams coming off a bye week are 184-154-6 against the spread. Incumbent coaches make up nearly 75% of the data and are profitable against the spread in and around 55% of their games following a bye week. New coaches have shown slightly better results as they approach a 60% ATS winning percentage under this scenario. Interim coaches, who often take over following a bye week, are significantly successful against the spread. Past performance often leads to oddsmakers undervaluing teams with interim head coaches and it can be challenging to separate poor teams with those who are simply desperate for a changing of the guard. 

However, it’s rookie head coaches that have the lowest ATS winning percentage (.431) among the four coaching categories. My theory is that experienced head coaches know how to keep their teams focused during the bye week and prepared to face their next opponent. Rookie head coaches take a while to develop this ability and their performance – against the spread, at least – suffers.

Golden Rules say to take Indianapolis and Seattle


Sunday November 22, 2015 – Washington at Carolina Panthers (-8.5)
Monday November 23, 2015 – Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-7.5)

Slowly, the ranks of the undefeated are being pared down one at a time. Week 8 witnessed the Green Bay Packers fall prey to Denver. Then, the following week, the Broncos suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts. This past week, Cincinnati failed to score a major as they dropped their first game of the season to the Texans. This leaves us with two. The 9-0 New England Patriots and the 9-0 Carolina Panthers. 

In Week 11, both powerhouse squads are enjoying home field advantage. Naturally, each team is favored entering their matchups as no one will doubt they are more likely than their opponent to win the game outright. But how does their likelihood of winning change when you factor in the point spread? Each undefeated team is favored by more than a touchdown. Could these lofty expectations be based primarily on the public’s perception of perfect records? You would think their opponent’s recent track record should dictate something. 

Carolina is facing a Washington group that ripped through the Saints last week for a 47-14 victory. Can the team from the nation’s capital carry their momentum into Week 11 or will they fail yet again to win back-to-back games? 

In the Monday night AFC East battle, Bill Belichick and the Patriots are meeting up with an old nemesis. Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills visit Foxboro with a two game winning streak since quarterback Tyrod Taylor returned from his knee injury following the team’s Week 8 bye.

So, how will the two undefeated teams perform against the spread this week? I decided to take a look at how teams with perfect records have performed historically this late in the season. Since 1995, in games taking place after Week 10, undefeated teams have covered as often as they haven’t covered. In 38 such games, undefeated teams have a 19-19 record against the spread.

I decided to dig deeper. There must be some trend that would apply to this week’s games. There must be some situation in which the undefeated team is either over or undervalued in comparison to their opponent. The size of the point spread was the variable I was looking for. The chart below shows how the overall .500 ATS record shifts based on the size of the point spread. 


Since 1995, undefeated teams have covered the spread in ten of 14 games following Week 10. This performance equates to 71.4%. In comparison, the results drop dramatically to 37.5% once the spread hits a touchdown or greater. In fact, it has been ten seasons since an undefeated team (the 2005 Indianapolis Colts) covered a spread between 7-9.5 points this late into the schedule. 

Golden Rules say to take Washington and Buffalo

Bob Sullivan writes periodically for and can be followed on Twitter at @mrbobsullivan.

The Golden Rules were 3-1 during Week 10 and are 22-22 for 2015

You can access last week’s 2015 Weekly Golden Rules Analysis below.

- Week 10 NFL Picks Using the Golden Rules


Historical data on NFL spreads was accessed via Sunshine Forecast, whose latest source was, or accessed from directly. Spreads were collected by Sunshine Forecast as close as practicable to game time.

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