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Week 12 NFL picks using the Golden Rules

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 29, 2015 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Indianapolis Colts (-3.5)
Sunday November 29, 2015 – Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5)

You’re not going to see it happen every week, but once in a while those teams middling at or below the .500 mark will hand it to their opponent. Last week, the spiraling San Diego Chargers and the befuddling Philadelphia Eagles fell victim to the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, respectively. And not only did the Chargers and Eagles lose, but they were each routed by at least four converted touchdowns. But how will oddsmakers react to such convincing victories?

Any gambler will tell you there’s two sides to every coin. I can see the Chiefs and Buccaneers responding in one of two ways. Their dominant Week 11 wins could signal that the teams have arrived. Both squads improved to 5-5 and they might just be ready to take that next step. Although, there is always the possibility that their lofty margins of victory had more to do with the lack of fight within their opponent and less their own stellar play. If the latter scenario holds true, the betting public may be lured towards the favorite despite an overinflated spread.

In the chart below, I have analyzed the ATS results of teams coming off 28+ point margins of victory. I reviewed the data over the past 20 seasons and I focused on games that took place over the second half of the season (i.e., following Week 9). I split the results by those franchises with winning records and those without.


Both Tampa Bay and Kansas City sit at .500 and are represented in the grouping that is ≤ .500. Mind you, they are admittedly on the very edge of this grouping. Nevertheless, there appears to be an advantage against the spread for teams without a winning record following four touchdown embarrassments of their opponents. Upon closer inspection, the ATS results are still within an arm’s length of a 50/50 proposition range; therefore, further review is necessary. The Golden Rules would feel comfortable betting against one of either the Buccaneers or Chiefs, but both would be a stretch without further analysis.

Tampa Bay and Kansas City enter their Week 12 matchups with opposite expectations. The Buccaneers are underdogs versus the Colts; whereas, the Chiefs are giving points to the Bills. Could this dissimilarity provide any further insights as to which of the two teams will cover the spread? To help answer this question, I introduced the ATS results for favorites and underdogs in the following chart.


On both sides of the chart (≤ .500 and > .500), teams who have won by 28+ points during the preceding week are more likely to prevail against the spread as a favorite. For teams with winning records, favorites cover 60% of their matchups compared to the .444 ATS winning percentage of underdogs. This disparity grows when focusing on teams at or below .500. Under this scenario, favorites cover the spread in slightly over half of the games. However, the ATS results for underdogs plummet to below .300. This provided me with enough historical data to single out which of the Buccaneers and Chiefs would be most likely to be victorious against the spread.

Golden Rules say to take Indianapolis and Kansas City


Sunday November 29, 2015 – New England Patriots (-3.5) at Denver Broncos

The start of the 2006 NFL season signaled a new era for the league’s television broadcasting. The week’s premier matchup would no longer be set for Monday night; instead, Sunday Night Football on NBC would take center stage. In fact, the NFL allowed for late season flex games to ensure some of the most crucial confrontations occurred in prime time.

This week, longtime AFC combatants – New England and Denver – meet in the Mile High City. Everyone is on watch for another 16-0 Patriots regular season and the 8-2 Broncos figure that they can spoil the party in Boston and throughout the Northeast. It isn’t often that an 8-2 club is a home underdog; however, Tom Brady and the Patriots have been utterly dominant this season and Denver’s towering, but inexperienced, quarterback Brock Osweiler remains an unknown commodity.

The chart below depicts the ATS results for games played in prime time on Sundays dating back to 2006 when NBC began to air these games. To begin, I studied the performance of home teams vs. visitors and favorites vs. underdogs. I also added the historical ATS figures for road favorites considering New England’s circumstance this week.


Home teams, such as Denver this week, have only a narrow advantage against the spread compared to those on the road. And the favorite vs. underdog comparison proved to be even less valuable. Since 2006, favorites and underdogs have beaten the spread with the same frequency. You may wonder how it’s possible that both favorites and underdogs have sub-.500 ATS winning percentages. This anomaly occurs because I excluded pushes from the determination of a team’s ATS winning percentage or, in other words, a win only reflects profitable outcomes.

The one piece of information that proved helpful from the chart above was the marginal ATS performance from road favorites on Sunday nights. The ATS winning percentage for road favorites dip just below .450. Does this mean the perfect Patriots will have trouble covering a 3.5 point spread? To analyze further, I compared the results above with similar historical data restricted to the second half of the season (i.e., following Week 9).


Oddly enough, the outcome following Week 9 for home teams vs. visitors was reverse in comparison to the entire regular season. This inconsistent development presents challenges with using the home and road data as an indicator for future events. The spike in the ATS results for underdogs following Week 9 does help build a case for betting against the road underdog, but the winning percentages for underdogs and favorites are still relatively close to .500.

With most results inconclusive, I focused my final analysis on the experience (or lack thereof) of each team’s quarterback. Tom Brady slides on four Super Bowl rings when he leaves the house; and then there is Brock Osweiler who has started one National Football League contest. The chart below expands the results presented above, but narrows the analysis to games involving a starting Super Bowl winning quarterback and a pivot who has never started and won the big game.


Super Bowl winning arms have performed decently against the spread on Sunday nights through the entire regular season since 2006; however, their ATS numbers improve steadily as new variables are added. The ATS winning percentage for quarterbacks like Brady climbs to .667 when isolating results after Week 9 and further rises above .700 when considering both teams have straight-up records above .500. But who’s kidding who? The Patriots and Broncos are among the NFL’s best; therefore, I recalculated under the scenario that both franchises have straight-up winning percentages above .667. In this case, Super Bowl champion QB’s beat the spread in over 80% of these battles. Are you going to bet against Brady this week? The Golden Rules aren’t.

Golden Rules say to take New England

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

The Golden Rules were 3-1 during Week 11 and are 25-23 for 2015

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

- Week 11 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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