The New England Patriots have now completed one of the most successful betting seasons in recent NFL history. They covered in 16 of 19 games this season, including the playoffs. Based on data from The Gold Sheet dating back to 1976, only the 1989 San Francisco 49ers had an ATS record that matched 16-3 in a non-strike shortened season.
Here is a closer look at the top five NFL seasons against the spread since 1976:
T-1. 1989 San Francisco 49ers (W-L: 17-2, ATS: 16-3)
George Seifert's first season at the helm of the 49ers was the greatest ATS season in the past 40 years. The only time the 49ers were underdogs was in Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles, when they won 38-28 as 1.5-point underdogs. They went 2-2 ATS in their first four games before finishing the year 14-1 against the number, including a cover in each of their last eight games. They were even more dominant in the playoffs, outscoring their three opponents 126-26. The 100-point margin was the largest in a single postseason in NFL history. Joe Montana threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in those games.
T-1. 2016 New England Patriots (W-L: 17-2, ATS: 16-3)
The Patriots started the year without Tom Brady, going 3-1 ATS without their star quarterback. They were even 8.5-point underdogs in their season opener on the road against the Arizona Cardinals, a game they won 23-21. Once Brady came back, New England was never an underdog again. They went 12-2 ATS with Brady, including a cover in each of their last seven games. The Patriots covered a 15.5-point spread against the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round, the largest spread in a playoff game in 18 years. While this has been the best season New England has had against the spread in the Brady/Belichick era, the winning ATS record is nothing new. Since Brady became the starting quarterback in 2001, the Patriots have covered 59 percent of their games, by far the best mark in the NFL over that span. They also covered in Super Bowl LI, winning 34-28 over Atlanta.
3. 1985 Chicago Bears (W-L: 18-1, ATS: 15-3-1)
The 1985 Bears started strong and finished strong. They won their first 12 games, going 10-1-1 ATS in that span. They were underdogs twice, winning both times, including a 44-0 rout over the Dallas Cowboys as two-point underdogs in Week 11. Their only loss came on Monday Night Football against the Miami Dolphins in Week 13, which beat the Bears 38-24 as 4.5-point underdogs. Chicago went on to win the remainder of its games, culminating in a dominant postseason performance. The Bears outscored their three playoff opponents 91-10, including a 46-10 win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XX.
4. 2004 San Diego Chargers (W-L: 12-4, ATS: 13-2-2)
Coming off a 4-12 season that led to Eli Manning threatening to sit out if the Chargers drafted him, not much was expected of the Chargers in 2004. The Chargers were underdogs in each of their first seven games, but they won four of those games outright. They soon hit their stride, finishing the regular season 12-4, including 13-1-2 against the spread. The only team to cover a spread all year against the Chargers was the New York Jets, which covered against them both in Week 2 and in their Wild Card Playoff meeting, which the Chargers lost 20-17 in overtime. In games against all other opponents, San Diego was an undefeated 13-0-2 against the number.
5. 2015 Minnesota Vikings (W-L: 11-6, ATS: 14-3)
Minnesota's Super Bowl hopes were dashed in the Wild Card Round after Blair Walsh missed a potential game-winning 27-yard field goal against the Seattle Seahawks. However, the Vikings were a covering machine in 2015, including in that playoff loss (Vikings lost 10-9 as 4.5-point underdogs). Eleven of the Vikings' 17 games had point spreads of three points or fewer, with Minnesota going 9-2 ATS in those games. Only one game featured a spread of more than a touchdown -- a Week 14 game in which they lost 23-20 as 10.5-point underdogs against Arizona. It looked like the Vikings would continue to be covering machines in 2016, as they started 5-0 overall and ATS, but they only covered four of their final 11 games this season.
Honorable Mention: 1982 Washington Redskins (W-L: 12-1, ATS: 11-2)
The 1982 regular season was shortened to just nine games, but Joe Gibbs' Redskins took full advantage, taking the top seed in the NFC and eventually winning Super Bowl XVII. Washington got off to a 2-0 start prior to the strike, despite being underdogs in both games. Their only loss came on December 5 against the Cowboys as 2.5-point home underdogs. The Redskins later avenged that loss to the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game, again as home underdogs. They were also three-point underdogs against the Dolphins in the Super Bowl, winning that game 27-17.