Handicapping Losing NFL Teams
LAS VEGAS, NV (The Spread) - It's easy to bet on teams on a seven-game winning streak, but what about betting on teams on long losing streaks?
Now the difficult part is figuring out which team's losing streak is about to stop or at least at what point will they play well enough to cover.
For example, this weekend the Washington Redskins travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. Washington has a five-game losing streak and Atlanta has lost six of the last seven games, although they have covered three straight. Washington is going through some major turmoil right now considering their coach is on the hot seat (Mike Shanahan). But this is an interesting game knowing that Washington is a seven-point road dog against a bad football team, with a new quarterback in Kirk Cousins taking over for Robert Griffin III. Cousins played well in his one start last year and while Washington is coming off a 45-10 pathetic showing against Kansas City, will their team play harder for Cousins than they did for Griffin?
When taking a look at teams on losing streaks, make sure you comprehend why they've been losing. In other words, have injuries piled up at one position like quarterback or have they been decimated by injuries in the secondary? There are many reasons why a team can continue to lose. Some problems are just not fixable because there are some bad football teams in the NFL. They have a lack of talent, but if you look at Jacksonville, as bad as they were in the beginning of the season, losing their first eight games, they somehow got out of their situation. Jacksonville has now won three straight games with talent that is not considered elite but in the NFL, there is a reason why they call it "any given Sunday". The Jaguars have enough talent and motivation as they may be playing for jobs, that they can sneak in a few wins.
Another big issue for teams on losing streaks is matchups. Some teams just have trouble matching up to others. They may have a great front four, but their secondary is terrible and if they are going up against a great offensive line and a quarterback that gets rid of the ball quickly, they could be in for a long day. If the defense has to spend a lot of time on the field and they get worn down, because the offense is mediocre, another loss could be on the way.
How is the team's focus and mental state? Houston has lost 11 straight games and just lost their coach Gary Kubiak. Wade Phillips takes over for the last three games, but he already coached the team when Kubiak fell ill. The Texans are very talented and all their last four games, they were favored three times. They've covered two of their last six games and both were as dogs. Despite their 11-game losing streak, Houston has fought all season with just three blowout losses of more than 10 points (Baltimore, St. Louis, San Francisco). The team's mental state might not be great, but they have played hard throughout their streak while other teams in the same situation might just pack it in.
Remember when handicapping teams on losing streaks to look at the state of the team, the injuries and coaching situation. Just because they are losing, doesn't mean they can't cover because there can be good value going with a team on a losing streak.