The worst ATS season ever for every NFL team
The 2020 NFL schedule is out and opening lines for Week 1 have been revealed, but it will still be a while before the season kicks off. After looking at the best betting season for all 32 teams, we also used the time to look back at the worst betting season for each team.
Our NFL Nation reporters give their perspective on the worst individual seasons against the spread for each team, using research from ESPN Stats & Information.
New England Patriots
1981: 3-13 (.188)
When the Patriots were visiting the Baltimore Colts in the season finale on an eight-game losing streak, some called it the “Stupor Bowl” because the loser would earn the top pick in the next year’s draft. The Patriots lost it to finish the season 2-14. Eight of the team’s losses were by seven or fewer points. Matt Cavanaugh and Steve Grogan split the quarterback duties; Tony Collins was the leading rusher (873 yards on 204 carries with seven TDs); and Don Hasselbeck (46 catches) and Stanley Morgan (44) were leading receivers on a club that had one Pro Bowler (guard John Hannah). — Mike Reiss
1971: 3-11 (.214)
When football fans talk about O.J. Simpson’s tenure with the Bills, rarely are his first three seasons with the team mentioned — the low point of which was a 1-13 season in 1971, in which Buffalo lost 10 straight games before finally beating the Patriots in Week 11. The worst season (against the spread or otherwise) in franchise history featured four shutouts and 10 multiple-score losses — including a four-week stretch in which they were outscored 110-20. Simpson rushed for a then-career-high 742 yards, but his 53 rushing yards per game was the second-lowest season average of his career. Head coach Harvey Johnson was reassigned to the team’s scouting department the next season, when the Bills went 4-9-1 and Simpson ran for more than 1,200 yards. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
New York Jets
1989: 4-12 (.250)
The 1989 Jets actually began the year with high hopes because of an encouraging finish to the ’88 season. It was fool’s gold. They started 0-2 and fell to 1-7 amid quarterback upheaval. They started four different quarterbacks, from Ken O’Brien to Tony Eason, a late-season acquisition. Coach Joe Walton was so desperate that he started a clipboard holder named Kyle Mackey, who had no NFL experience (Mackey was so bad that he lasted only a half). The season will be remembered as the end of era, as former 1980s stars Freeman McNeil, Wesley Walker and Marty Lyons played their final games with the Jets. The entire coaching and front-office staff was fired after the season. — Rich Cimini
1974: 3-10-1 (.231)
Coming off back-to-back Super Bowl titles, the Dolphins had a huge target on their back from opposing teams and Vegas, which made them heavy favorites against the number throughout the season. This Dolphins team, although still very talented, had lost some of the steam from the previous couple of seasons. Among the reasons: Mercury Morris was limited to just five games because of injuries. The Dolphins still went 11-3 and won the AFC East, but seven of those wins were by eight or fewer points, which led to the poor ATS record. Miami’s season ended prematurely with a divisional playoff loss to the Oakland Raiders that ended with the “Sea of Hands” play, in which running back Clarence Davis snatched a ball away from multiple Dolphins defenders to score the winning touchdown in the final minute. — Cameron Wolfe
1987: 3-12 (.200)
Cincinnati’s 1987 campaign was sandwiched between two pretty good seasons. The Bengals suffered a loss to San Francisco early in the season before the NFL players’ union went on strike. Cincinnati lost two of its three games with replacement players. That form continued once the 24-day impasse ended, as the Bengals dropped nine of the final 11 games that season. To add to the team’s problems, longtime quarterback Ken Anderson retired in June, leaving a short transition into the Boomer Esiason era. Cincinnati finished the season with a 4-11 record (one game wasn’t played because of the strike) and was a woeful 3-12 ATS. — Ben Baby
2007: 3-13 (.188)
It was an imperfect storm in terms of projecting Baltimore in 2007. The Ravens were coming off their most successful season, a 13-3 record and a No. 2 seed in the playoffs. But injuries caused the season to unravel quickly and led to the firing of coach Brian Billick. How bad was it? The Ravens went through three quarterbacks: an aging Steve McNair, an underperforming Kyle Boller and a rookie fifth-round pick in Troy Smith. Baltimore covered only three times, which included a near upset of the undefeated Patriots in which the Ravens were 19-point underdogs. The season hit bottom in Week 15 when the favored Ravens lost in overtime to the 0-13 Dolphins. That still ranks as one of the most embarrassing losses in franchise history. — Jamison Hensley
1980: 3-13 (.188)
If 1972 marked the start of Pittsburgh’s dynasty, the 1980 season signaled the end of it. After winning Super Bowl XIV against the L.A. Rams in January, the Steelers started to lose their effectiveness the next season and ended their streak of eight consecutive playoff appearances after a 9-7 regular-season finish. The defense, once the cornerstone of their championship seasons, went from second in yards allowed to 15th and surrendered 313 points (also 15th). The Steelers came out on the losing end of several close games, dropping seven games by an average of 7.5 points — including three by two or fewer points. After the season, running back Rocky Bleier retired, kicking off a slew of retirements of key players in the next couple of seasons and a slide into mediocrity that marked the 1980s. — Brooke Pryor
2017: 4-12 (.250)
The 2017 Browns suffered the ignominious fate of becoming just the second NFL team ever to go 0-16, joining the 2008 Lions. Cleveland was also miserable against the spread. The Browns lost nine of their games by double digits. Cleveland actually covered in two of its first three games — then amazingly went 2-11 ATS the rest of the way. — Jake Trotter
1981: 3-12-1 (.200)
The Colts’ defense found its way into the record books in 1981 — too bad it wasn’t for anything good. Indianapolis set then-NFL-records for most yards (6,793) and points (533) allowed in a season. The unit gave up at least 21 points in all 16 games and at least 25 points in all but two games. To make things even worse, the Colts scored only 259 points on offense that season. Things were so bad for the Colts that owner Bob Irsay sat with the assistant coaches, put on headphones and called plays during a game against Philadelphia; the Colts lost to the Eagles 38-13. — Mike Wells
2013: 4-12 (.250)
After taking the Texans to the playoffs in back-to-back years, head coach Gary Kubiak was fired at the end of the 2013 season. Houston got off to a 2-0 start but lost its final 14 games of the season. That season, the Texans dealt with injuries to running back Arian Foster and linebacker Brian Cushing, and they rotated between quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Case Keenum (because of injuries and benchings) in the worst season in franchise history. — Sarah Barshop
2008: 4-12 (.250)
Jaguars VP of player personnel Shack Harris, believing the franchise was close to competing for a Super Bowl after winning in Pittsburgh in the playoffs the previous season, traded four draft picks to move up from 26th to No. 8 and selected DE Derrick Harvey. Harvey had just 3.5 sacks as a rookie and is one of the biggest busts in team history. A rash of injuries to the offensive line — guards Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams went down for the season in the opener, and center Brad Meester missed the first two months — really hurt the ground game, around which the offense was built. Still, the Jaguars fought to a 2-2 record in September before losing nine of their next 12 games. Included in that stretch was a 21-19 loss against an 0-8 Cincinnati team that would win just four games that season. — Mike DiRocco
2014: 3-13 (.188)
The 2014 Titans won only two games and finished 1-5 within the division. Ken Whisenhunt’s first season as head coach was a forgettable one, as Tennessee had its worst season since 1994. Before the season started, the Titans didn’t pick up quarterback Jake Locker’s fifth-year option. Locker attempted only 146 passes in 12 games and was placed on injured reserve before retiring when the season was over. Eight of the Titans’ losses were by at least 14 points. — Turron Davenport
1990 and 2017: 4-11-1 (.267)
The 2017 season will often be remembered as the year that Denver’s plan at quarterback was effectively shattered. Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch all started, and a 3-1 start dissolved into an eight-game losing streak. Continued offensive struggles dogged the team throughout the season — only the Cleveland Browns threw more interceptions than the Broncos’ 22 — as the Broncos were a dismal minus-17 in turnover margin. Things got so bad that coach Vance Joseph fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy in November after having declared earlier that year that McCoy was his “first call” to hire when Joseph had been hired as head coach that January. And the problems rippled into the future as Lynch, who had been a first-round pick in 2016, was unable to turn his opportunities into any optimism about his future with the team. He had already lost two training camp battles with Siemian for the job by the time the 2017 season finished, and his struggles sealed his fate. The Broncos signed Case Keenum the next offseason, and Lynch was eventually released. — Jeff Legwold
Kansas City Chiefs
2012: 5-11 (.313)
As bad as the 2012 Chiefs were for those who wagered on them, they were even worse on the field, as the team finished an NFL-worst 2-14. The team was so bad it didn’t even have a lead during a game until Week 10, although it actually found a way to win one of those games: After trailing most of a game against the Saints, the Chiefs tied it on a late field goal and then won it with another in overtime. The season was also notable, sadly, for the murder-suicide involving linebacker Jovan Belcher. The Chiefs cleaned house after the season, firing general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel and ushered in better days with the hiring of Andy Reid. — Adam Teicher
Los Angeles Chargers
2001 and 2019: 4-10-2 (.286)
In 2019, a year after the Chargers appeared in the divisional round of the playoffs, they stumbled to a 5-11 season. Philip Rivers struggled to close out several close games, as nine of the Chargers’ 11 losses occurred in one-score contests. But it wasn’t just Rivers who faltered: The offensive line was unhealthy and unsteady, while the defense didn’t force nearly enough turnovers (14) to keep up with the number the offense committed (31). The disappointing season, which started with Super Bowl hopes, resulted in an unceremonious ending for Rivers and the organization. After 16 seasons together, the two sides mutually agreed to part ways in free agency. — Lindsey Thiry
Las Vegas Raiders
2003: 3-12-1 (.200)
Talk about Super Bowl hangovers. A season after getting thumped by once and future coach Jon Gruden and the Buccaneers 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII, the Raiders had the same pieces in place for another run at the Lombardi trophy. Alas, they got old overnight. Reigning MVP quarterback Rich Gannon got hurt, and neither Rick Mirer nor Marques Tuiasosopo could right the ship. After a 2-2 start, the Raiders dropped five straight and 10 of their last 12, prompting coach Bill Callahan to refer to his team as “the dumbest team in America, in terms of playing the game” after a Week 13 loss to the Broncos. That did not go over well in the locker room, especially with Charles Woodson, and the season, which had long since been lost, was an unmitigated disaster. The Raiders did not have another winning season until 2016. — Paul Gutierrez
1997: 3-12-1 (.200)
This was a team that had all but cashed out on Barry Switzer on its way to a 6-10 record. The Cowboys lost their last five games and were far removed from the team that won a Super Bowl in Switzer’s second season. The torch was passed to Green Bay on Nov. 23 in a 45-17 Packers win at Lambeau Field. The Bengals, riding the high of Boomer Esiason’s insertion into the lineup, even beat the Cowboys.
Perhaps this was the end of the Triplets’ dominance, but nobody really knew it at the time. Jerry Jones hired Chan Gailey as Switzer’s replacement and Dallas made the playoffs in 1998 and 1999, but while Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin remained, this team no longer struck fear into opponents. — Todd Archer
2012: 3-13 (.188)
Andy Reid’s distinguished 14-year run in Philadelphia came to an end after a very difficult 2012 season in which the Eagles finished 4-12. It started off well enough, with the Eagles winning three of their first four games, but that was promptly followed by an eight-game slide and a splintering inside the building.
Former offensive line coach Juan Castillo, who was shockingly named defensive coordinator the previous season, was fired from that role in October amid infighting on the staff and replaced by Todd Bowles. A litany of injuries to key players, including Jason Peters and Michael Vick, impacted Reid’s ability to fend off the collapse. — Tim McManus
1988, 1992, 2013 and 2014: 5-11 (.313)
The Redskins clearly weren’t a good bet after a successful year. They followed up a Super Bowl title in 1987 with a 7-9 regular season a year later. They won the Super Bowl in the 1991 season only to go 9-7 and lose in the second round of the playoffs a year later. They also happened to lose coach Joe Gibbs to retirement after the ’92 season. That season just never got going, as quarterback Mark Rypien held out early in training camp before signing a new contract. But he went from 28 touchdowns in 1991 to 17 in ’92. The Redskins tried to give him some help by trading up in the draft to land Michigan receiver Desmond Howard, but he ended up being a disappointing pick. And they suffered through the infamous “Body Bag Game” in a loss at Philadelphia.
The ’88 season was Gibbs’ only losing season during his first stint with Washington. After winning four out of five games to go 6-4, the Redskins lost five of their last six games and missed the postseason.
In 2013, the Redskins were once more coming off a successful season — a 10-6 mark and NFC East title — and expectations were high. But quarterback Robert Griffin III, coming off a terrific rookie season but also off a torn ACL, was not the same. He was, as he said, all-in for Week 1, but he struggled. Griffin threw 16 touchdowns and 12 picks after throwing 20 and 5, respectively, the year before. And his rushing total fell from 815 to 489. There was controversy behind the scenes with Griffin and the coaches. Finally, the last month became a steady stream of negative anonymous quotes about RG3 en route to a 3-13 finish and the firing of coach Mike Shanahan. Griffin was benched for Kirk Cousins with three games left. A coaching change didn’t help in 2014. Jay Gruden inherited a mess, and the Redskins lost seven of their last eight games. — John Keim
New York Giants
2003: 4-12 (.250)
The 2003 season was the final year of the Jim Fassel regime. The Giants were decimated by injury and finished the season with Jesse Palmer starting at quarterback in place of an injured Kerry Collins. Everyone knew Fassel was gone (even though he finished out the season), and the Giants lost their final eight games. They scored more than 13 points just once during that skid. — Jordan Raanan
Green Bay Packers
1973: 4-10 (.286)
The Packers were coming off an NFC Central title in 1972 and a renewed hope of a return to glory. But after a 2-1-2 start in 1973, things turned rotten with three consecutive blowout losses — at the Rams by 17, at the Lions by 34 and home against the Bears by 14. The Packers’ quarterback situation was a mess. They tried three different passers — Jerry Tagge, Scott Hunter and Jim Del Gaizo — who combined for six touchdown passes on the season. Six. Only Tagge even completed more than half of his attempts. This season began a nine-year playoff drought, and Dan Devine would last only one more season as head coach before bolting for Notre Dame, thus beginning Bart Starr’s tenure as coach. — Rob Demovsky
1999: 4-10-2 (.286)
Expectations were high for Minnesota one year after putting together a near-perfect (15-1) season in 1998. Seven games into 1999, Randall Cunningham was replaced at quarterback by Jeff George, who helped get the Vikings back to the playoffs after finishing the regular season on a three-game win streak.
The Vikings lost games by one possession six times, including four contests decided by three or fewer points. Minnesota beat Dallas in the wild-card round before facing eventual Super Bowl champion St. Louis in the divisional playoffs. Kurt Warner and the Rams put on an offensive show in the second half to beat the Vikings 49-37. — Courtney Cronin
1977: 3-10-1 (.231)
The 1977 season was perhaps the beginning of the end for longtime Lions quarterback Greg Landry, who started 11 games and threw just six touchdowns and seven interceptions to follow a 17-touchdown season the year before. The Lions finished 6-8, winning two games in a row once all season and losing two in a row just twice.
Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders played his final season in 1977 and posted career lows of 14 catches and 170 yards. It also marked the last season for Hall of Fame corner Lem Barney and Dick Jauron’s final year with the Lions. Head coach Tommy Hudspeth was fired after the 1977 season and replaced by Monte Clark. — Michael Rothstein
2019: 4-12 (.250)
The Bears began the 2019 season as Super Bowl contenders but cratered back to third place in the NFC North with an 8-8 record. Chicago’s defense — nearly unstoppable the year before — remained formidable, but quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the offense ranked near the bottom in most important offensive categories. — Jeff Dickerson
2010: 4-12 (.250)
If ever there was a tank season in the NFL, this was it. Owner Jerry Richardson dumped big salaries and high-profile players in anticipation of the work stoppage during negotiations for the new CBA before the 2011 season. The Panthers actually had a reported $112 million in profit the two years leading up to the lockout. Richardson also made John Fox a lame duck coach in 2010.
The Panthers’ 2-14 record overall — the second-worst in franchise history — was worse than the team’s 4-12 record against the spread. It was also no surprise. It set the stage for Carolina to select quarterback Cam Newton with the top pick of the 2011 draft and three years later be a team that would make the playoffs for three straight years — including a trip to Super Bowl 50 with a league-best 15-1 record in 2015. — David Newton
New Orleans Saints
1985: 4-12 (.250)
The Saints were finally starting to experience some success under coach Bum Phillips, going 8-8 in 1983 and 7-9 in 1984. And they had two future Hall of Famers in outside linebacker Rickey Jackson and kicker Morten Andersen. But the bottom dropped out in 1985. The Saints started 3-8, including a Week 1 loss in which QB Dave Wilson completed just 2 of 22 pass attempts. Phillips resigned in late November, turning the team over to his son Wade. Jim Mora took over as coach the next year. — Mike Triplett
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1976: 2-10-2 (.167)
This expansion team was classic “Yucks” (short for “Yuckaneers”) football, going 0-14 in its inaugural season — the first team in modern NFL history to go winless in a full season. The Bucs failed to score any points in five games and finished last in the league in points scored (125 for the season) and touchdowns (14).
While they did draft a future Pro Football Hall of Famer in Lee Roy Selmon, the rest of the team had little talent. NFL free agency didn’t start until 1993, and back then, NFL rules allowed existing teams to protect all but five players on their active rosters, meaning Tampa Bay was relegated to selecting from a pool of aging, injured players. — Jenna Laine
1984: 4-12 (.250)
Not long after the ’80 Falcons won nine in a row, the ’84 Falcons dropped nine straight. William Andrews, the career rushing leader for Atlanta at the time, was out for the season with a knee injury. Although Gerald Riggs stepped in for Andrews and rushed for 1,486 yards, it wasn’t enough to help the Falcons salvage the season. Riggs even had 202 yards on 35 attempts in a season-opening win over the Saints. The Falcons averaged just 10.9 points per game during the nine-game skid. — Vaughn McClure
2004: 5-11 (.313)
As bad as the 2004 Seahawks were against the spread, they were good enough to eke their way to an NFC West title with a 9-7 record. They made a deadline trade with the Raiders for 42-year-old Jerry Rice, who caught 25 passes and three touchdowns in 11 games for Seattle in what turned out to be his final season. The final play of the season was an incomplete sidearm pass into the end zone from Matt Hasselbeck to his most trusted target, Bobby Engram, who initially appeared to have caught the tying touchdown. But the ball slipped through Engram’s hands, giving the Rams a 27-20 win in the wild-card round and a season sweep of the Seahawks.
Seattle was vying for its first playoff win since 1984 but instead extended the NFL’s longest drought at the time. Mike Holmgren’s team got over the hump the next season, when the Seahawks advanced to their first Super Bowl in franchise history. — Brady Henderson
San Francisco 49ers
1978: 4-10-2 (.286)
Entering the season, the most exciting thing about the 1978 Niners was the trade for past-his-prime running back O.J. Simpson. But Simpson wasn’t enough to prevent one of the biggest disasters in franchise history. This group went 2-14, endured a nine-game losing streak and set an NFL record with a whopping 63 turnovers. Their 219 points scored was the fewest in the league.
At the center of the team’s struggles was all-time awful production from the quarterback position. Steve DeBerg and Scott Bull threw a total of nine touchdowns and 33 interceptions, and all four players who attempted a pass that season combined for a passer rating of 33.0. Simpson averaged 3.7 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns, while the first-round pick the Niners gave to Buffalo to acquire him turned into the No. 1 choice in the 1979 NFL draft. — Nick Wagoner
Los Angeles Rams
2011: 3-13 (.188)
Third season’s a charm? That certainly wasn’t the case for coach Steve Spagnuolo, who watched as his team sputtered to a 2-14 finish behind a dismal offense that ranked worst in the NFL and averaged only 12.1 points per game. The defense didn’t fare much better, as it got pushed around for an average of 25.4 points per game, which ranked 26th in the league.
There was notable talent on the roster, including running back Steven Jackson and defensive linemen Chris Long and Robert Quinn, but the Rams could not overcome a plethora of injuries and subpar coaching. Spagnuolo was fired after the season.
2000: 4-12 (.250)
Two years removed from their first playoff appearance since 1982, the Cardinals fell apart in 2000, winning just three games, their fewest wins and lowest winning percentage since 1959. They were actually better against the spread at 4-12, despite it still being the worst season against the spread since the merger.
They started 2-5, which cost head coach Vince Tobin his job midway through the season. He was replaced by Dave McGinnis, who finished the year 1-8 but still earned the permanent head-coaching job in mid-December. This was a team that had guys named Jake Plummer, Pat Tillman, Aeneas Williams, David Boston, Frank Sanders, Andre Wadsworth and Simeon Rice on it. But the injury bug struck often, costing 17 players to miss 109 starts. The Cardinals lost their last seven games. Three losses came by a touchdown or less. — Josh Weinfuss
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