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Favored to win or lose every game?

On Monday and Tuesday, I looked at the teams that had the longest streaks as either a favorite or an underdog. In the comments, James asked if I could put together a list of teams that were favored to win or lose every game in a single season.

Six teams — the ’98 Broncos, ’95 Cowboys, ’94 49ers, ’91 Redskins, ’84 49ers, and ’79 Steelers — were favorites in every game and won the Super Bowl. The ’97 49ers have the distinction of being the only team to be favored in every game during the regular season and be an underdog in the playoffs: that happened in the NFC Championship Game against the Packers.

In the table below, I’ve listed every team that was favored to win every regular season game since 1978, along with the average points spread, the team’s actual record, and their ranks in points and points allowed.

TmYearAvg. SpreadWLPF RkPA Rk

What about the teams to be underdogs in every game since 1978?

TmYearAvg. SpreadWLPF RkPA Rk

I’ll leave the comments to you guys today.

  • My thought process after reading the second chart:
    Wait, the 2008 Lions were favored somewhere? Did they play the Rams? I remember the Rams that year were at least as bad. Nobody else that year could possibly have been an underdog to the Lions, right?
    *Looks it up and sees that they were favored over Atlanta week one*
    How the (*#& did that happen?! Oh wait. Vick. That must have been in the aftermath of the dogfighting thing.
    *Looks it up and sees that Michael Vick also missed 2007 and the dogfighting issues in fact immediately preceded the 2007 season, not 2008.*

    I remain mystified. Was there a specific reason for it, or is it just because the Falcons had a rookie quarterback and head coach? People were talking about 0-16 possibilities for the Lions before the season began, so it’s not like their awfulness took anyone by surprise.

    • JeremyDe

      Our memories are differing here a bit. While the Lions were a bad team (found a few oddsmakers having them at between 10/1 to 6/1 to win their division) , I don’t remember any suggestions that they would go winless, at least until mid-to-late October or so.

      I did a quick web search and found preseason picks by a number of ‘experts’ on espn, cbs sportsline, sports illustrated, and a number of other sites all putting the Lions at 6 or 7 wins prior to the season, while the Falcons were in the 3-to-5 range. Whatifsports predicted them going 6-10 and 5-11 respectively, but their ‘absolute record’ (their simulation’s predictions) had the lions at 2 wins and falcons at 1.

      • I remember specifically that somebody on ESPN radio actually predicted them to go 0-16, because he then kept picking someone to go 0-16 every year after that and saying, “I told you the Lions would!”

        I guess people were higher on the Lions that season than I remember. That guy (I don’t remember who it was.) probably colored my memory a great deal.

      • Richie

        Yeah, the 2007 Lions were 7-9. I don’t remember going into the 2008 season thinking they would be horrible. That week 1 game was in Atlanta. If the spread was 3, then that just means that going into the season, the two teams were generally thought to be about equal strength.

        • Chase Stuart

          Yeah, that’s pretty much how I felt. Don’t forget, there was like a three year stretch where the Lions were THE sleeper team in the NFL. I don’t remember if ’08 was one of those years or not.

          • Richie

            And why not? They drafted all those WR’s!

            Has any team ever invested so much draft stock into a single position over such a short time?
            2003 – Charles Rogers, 2nd overall
            2004 – Roy Williams, 7th overall
            2005 – Mike Williams, 10th overall
            2007 – Calvin Johnson, 2nd overall

  • George

    Just took a quick look at this re: the Falcons/Lions thing. With the line being at -3, it would strike me that the line makers probably assumed that the public would be looking at going against the rookie quarterback in his first start despite being at home and there was probably a perception that the Lions would win by less than a field goal (both teams were below average in the previous season).

    Both teams looked fairly bad the previous year but the Falcons you would have thought had more potential to regress towards the mean having had the worse record (I know which makes even less sense when giving them a 3 point head start, plus the 3 for playing at home, which suggests someone rated the Lions about 6 points better (?), they were about 5 points better in the previous years SRS so I don’t know if there is something there?).

    One other factor, this from memory was before bookmakers put out lines for the whole season before the season started which again strikes me that the line should have been fairly genuine (which on reflection it wasn’t) as they didn’t need to accommodate for what they didn’t know (which again doesn’t make sense). The only thing that I can think of is that there was some sort of public bias that skewed how people wanted to bet this – maybe news in the week before the game (that forced the line into the wrong place – e.g. like the first Denver, San Diego last year where the line was just wrong for a lot of reasons) and the fact that early in the seasons, lines are typically off as both sides (gamblers and bookmakers) don’t have a firm set of ratings to base decisions on (and it comes down to the feel or texture of a contest and that can be classed as subjective rather than objective).

    Going back to the earlier point – I don’t know if there is a correlation there generally about rookie QB’s – regardless of being home or away how many rookie quarterbacks were favoured going into their first start e.g. Peyton Manning wasn’t but there again the Colts lost.

  • Kibbles

    I know that they were a great team for a while in the late-90s, but it still seems so bizarre to see the ’99 Jaguars on the short list of teams who were favorites in 16 regular season games- let alone all the way up at 7th (in terms of average spread), above 5 of the 6 Montana/Young Niners squads to accomplish the feat.

    Speaking of the Jags and Niners, it’s a pretty impressive turnaround for San Fran to go from never favorites in 1979 to never underdogs in 1984 and Jacksonville to repeat the feat from 1995 to 1999. It’s equally impressive for St. Louis to go two years without being an underdog from 2000 to 2001, and then go two years without being a favorite from 2008 to 2009, although I’d imagine the franchise is decidedly less proud of that particular accomplishment.