The best ATS season ever for every NFL team

Which teams rewarded Kezirian and Johnson against the spread? (1:11)

Doug Kezirian and Preston Johnson discuss which teams they had the most success betting on against the spread. (1:11)

The 2020 NFL schedule has been released, but there is still a ways to go until the season begins. So what better time to look back fondly on the best betting season for all 32 teams?

Our NFL Nation reporters give their perspective on the best individual seasons against the spread for each team, using research from ESPN Stats & Information.

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NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF

AFC East

New England Patriots

2003: 13-2-1 (.867)

This was when Tom Brady the sixth-round pick was starting to become Tom Brady the star. The 2003 season was his fourth in the NFL (third as a starter), and came after a 9-7 year in which the Patriots had missed the playoffs. Bill Belichick had shockingly cut safety Lawyer Milloy before the season opener and the Patriots lost their first game 31-0 to the Bills, who had signed Milloy. But after a 2-2 start to the season, the Patriots never lost again as Brady's star began to shine brighter en route to a second Super Bowl championship. -- Mike Reiss

Miami Dolphins

1972: 11-2-1 (.846)

Dolphins fans shouldn't have a hard time remembering why the 1972 season is their best against the number -- it is the only team to go undefeated in NFL history. Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris became the first pair of teammates to rush for more than 1,000 yards each in a given season, and the Dolphins won 11 of their 14 regular-season games by double digits. The No-Name defense never got the love that offense did but it was the best defense in football that season, securing three shutout victories (including a 52-0 win over the Patriots) and allowing opponents to score more than 17 points three times all year. This was the first Dolphins title in what ended up being a minidynasty from 1970-1974 with five division titles, three AFC championships (1971, 1972, 1973) and two Super Bowl wins. -- Cameron Wolfe

Buffalo Bills

1978: 12-3-1 (.800)

In the team's first season without star running back O.J. Simpson, the Bills turned to rookie Terry Miller -- who turned in the lone 1,000-yard season of his career, as well as seven of his eight career rushing touchdowns. However, their ATS didn't exactly translate to success on the field, as Buffalo went 5-11 in 1978. Only four of those losses, however, were by multiple scores; the Bills were able to hang around longer than their talent should have allowed. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

New York Jets

1998: 12-4 (.750)

The 1998 Jets were the best in franchise history ATS (12-4) -- and arguably the best team, period, since the 1968 Super Bowl championship squad. The team was balanced, but was known mainly for its offense. Vinny Testaverde, an interception-prone quarterback for most of his career, flourished in New York and delivered a career year -- 29 touchdown passes, only seven interceptions. He was surrounded by two future Hall of Famers in running back Curtis Martin and center Kevin Mawae, plus a dynamic receiving tandem in Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet. Coach Bill Parcells, with Bill Belichick as his right-hand man, did a masterful job, leading the Jets to 10 wins in their last 11 games and the AFC East title. They fell to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, blowing a 10-point lead on the road. To this day, Parcells calls it the most heartbreaking loss of his Hall of Fame coaching career. -- Rich Cimini

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals

2015: 12-3-1 (.800)

This was the season the Bengals were primed to win their first playoff game since 1991. Cincinnati started the season with eight straight wins behind a strong start from quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton was in the midst of his best NFL season when he suffered a season-ending thumb injury against the Steelers in Week 14. Backup A.J. McCarron picked up where Dalton left off and the Bengals won the AFC North and reached the playoffs for the fifth straight season. The Bengals were 12-3-1 ATS in the regular season and finished with a 12-4 overall record. The ending -- a playoff loss to the Steelers that featured that hit by Vontaze Burfict -- ended the year and the franchise's best run in nearly 30 years. -- Ben Baby

Baltimore Ravens

2008: 12-4 (.750)

The 2008 season marked the start of the most successful era in Ravens history, even though many wouldn't have anticipated it. Baltimore hired a little-known assistant (John Harbaugh) to become its coach and drafted a player with a big arm from a small school (Joe Flacco) to be its franchise quarterback. The Ravens were such an unknown that they were underdogs in half of their games (covering five of them) and were favored by more than a touchdown just twice. Baltimore relied heavily on an old-school game plan. With two Hall of Famers still in their prime (Ray Lewis and Ed Reed), the Ravens had the NFL's second-best defense. And, with a rookie quarterback, Baltimore kept the ball in the hands of running backs Willie McGahee, Le'Ron McClain and rookie Ray Rice. The Ravens finished as one of the hotter teams in the league and ended up in the first of three AFC Championship Games under Flacco. -- Jamison Hensley

Pittsburgh Steelers

1972: 11-3 (.786)

The Steelers' 1972 season laid the foundation for the run of four Super Bowl championships in six years during the Steel Curtain era. In Chuck Noll's fourth season, the Steelers went 11-3 and made the playoffs for the first time since 1947 to kick off a streak of eight consecutive playoff appearances. After losing two of their first four regular-season games, the Steelers went on to win nine of their final 10 games and capture their first division title. And, of course, rookie first-round pick Franco Harris delivered the playoff win against the Oakland Raiders with the Immaculate Reception on the deflected throw from Terry Bradshaw. Though the Steelers' season ended in the AFC Championship Game to the undefeated Miami Dolphins, the play -- and the 1972 season -- gave the Steelers momentum through the next decade. -- Brooke Pryor

Cleveland Browns

2007: 12-4 (.750)

The 2007 Browns didn't make the playoffs, but after going 4-12 in 2006, Cleveland went 10-6 on the way to becoming one of the NFL's biggest surprises. Among the primary reasons was quarterback Derek Anderson. A 2005 sixth-round pick who was then waived by the Baltimore Ravens, Anderson capitalized on Brady Quinn's training-camp holdout as a first-round rookie and Charlie Frye's flop as the Week 1 starter to propel Cleveland to -- still! -- its only double-digit winning record since returning to the league in 1999. Despite making the Pro Bowl in 2007, Anderson lost his starting job to Quinn the following year and never started a full season again the rest of his career. -- Jake Trotter

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts

1968: 12-2 (.857)

Success for the Colts in 1968 seemed like a longshot after quarterback Johnny Unitas -- league MVP in 1967 -- was injured in the final preseason game. However, backup quarterback Earl Morrall stepped in and threw for 2,909 yards and 26 touchdowns while going 13-1 as a starter during the 1968 season. Don Shula, the coach at the time, had a defense that was ranked first in the league and an offense ranked No. 2 that helped the Colts get to the Super Bowl where they were double-digit favorites over the Joe Namath and the New York Jets. Namath and his "guarantee" were this team's downfall, as the Jets upset the Colts 16-7. -- Mike Wells

Houston Texans

2011: 11-5 (.688)

The 2011 Texans got hot in the middle of the season, winning seven games in a row, but during that winning streak lost quarterback Matt Schaub for the rest of the year with a foot injury. Rookie quarterback T.J. Yates took over and won two straight, but Houston lost its final three to end the regular season. The Texans won their first AFC South title and postseason game in team history, but they went on to lose to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round. -- Sarah Barshop

Jacksonville Jaguars

2007: 11-5 (.688)

The Jaguars rode the one-two punch of running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew and got efficient quarterback play from David Garrard and Quinn Gray. Taylor ran for more than 1,000 yards for the fifth time in six seasons and Jones-Drew ran for nine touchdowns to help the Jaguars finish second in the league in rushing and make the playoffs. The Jaguars opened the playoffs with an upset in Pittsburgh, winning 31-29 on Josh Scobee's 25-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining. The winning kick was set up by one of the greatest plays in franchise history: Garrard's 32-yard scramble on fourth-and-2. The win made the Jaguars the first franchise to win two games in Pittsburgh in the same season. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

1975: 12-2 (.857)

The 1975 Houston Oilers went 10-4 but finished one game behind the Bengals for a wild-card spot. All four of the Oilers' losses came against the Bengals and Steelers. The Oilers' season was highlighted by a four-game winning streak starting in Week 4 and capped by a three-game winning streak that included a victory over the Oakland Raiders. It was the franchise's first winning season in seven years and its first season under coach Bum Phillips. Billy "White shoes" Johnson was their most dynamic player, returning three punts for touchdowns. -- Turron Davenport

AFC West

Denver Broncos

1973: 10-3-1 (.769)

The 1973 Broncos didn't make the playoffs -- they finished 7-5-2 -- but it still was a landmark season, the first winning season for the franchise, which began play in the AFL in 1960. And for a franchise that has since been to eight Super Bowls and had more Super Bowl appearances than losing seasons in Pat Bowlen's tenure as owner, the '73 season often is looked at as the year where, in some ways, the foundation was put into place. The lineup shows a Hall of Famer at running back in Floyd Little in his seventh season to go with future Ring of Fame members Tom Jackson, Charley Johnson, Billy Thompson and Haven Moses. The Broncos' defense also had Lyle Alzado. The Broncos were second in the AFC in scoring at 25.2 PPG. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

1997: 11-3-2 (.786)

The Chiefs in 1997 had one of their best teams in the 50 years between appearances in Super Bowl IV and LIV. They allowed 33 fewer points than any other NFL team that season and gave up just 43 total points over their final five games. Their one playoff game that season felt like the de facto Super Bowl involving the NFL's two best teams. The Chiefs lost 14-10 in the divisional round to the Denver Broncos, who indeed went on to win the Super Bowl. The Chiefs lost an apparent touchdown when Tony Gonzalez was ruled out of the end zone on a catch, and in those pre-replay review days the call couldn't be challenged. Gonzalez to this day will tell you he and the Chiefs were robbed. -- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

2004: 13-1-2 (.929)

In a stark turnaround from a 4-12 record in 2003, the 2004 San Diego Chargers finished 12-4 and won the AFC West. Rookie quarterback Philip Rivers watched from the sideline as Drew Brees set out to prove the Chargers didn't need to take a QB in the first round. Brees passed for 27 touchdowns with seven interceptions as he -- along with running back LaDainian Tomlinson and tight end Antonio Gates -- earned Pro Bowl honors. Tomlinson scored a league-best 17 rushing touchdowns and Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer was named the NFL Coach of the Year as the Chargers capped the season with their first playoff appearance in nine seasons ... a wild-card loss to the Jets. -- Lindsey Thiry

Las Vegas Raiders

1990: 12-4 (.750)

The 1990 Los Angeles Raiders were a team on the rise, one with the power and speed of Bo Jackson, Marcus Allen, Willie Gault, Mervyn Fernandez and a rehabbing Tim Brown on offense, and a stout defense that accounted for 48 sacks (second-most in the NFL) thanks to the likes of Greg Townsend (12.5 sacks), Scott Davis (10), rookie Aaron Wallace (9) and Howie Long (6). They just ran into misfortune (Jackson's career-ending hip injury in the playoff victory over the Bengals) and, well, a buzzsaw in the high-powered Bills, who blew them out 51-3 in the AFC title game. Aside from the 1983 Super Bowl-winning season, the 1990 campaign was the Raiders' best in Los Angeles. -- Paul Gutierrez

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

1991: 13-3 (.813)

Perhaps this was a sign of things to come for the Cowboys, who went on to win three Super Bowls in four seasons from 1992-95. They went 11-5 in 1991, just two years removed from a 1-15 campaign. This was a young team, growing together and learning how to win. And they won their last four games without an injured Troy Aikman. The Cowboys found their formula with Emmitt Smith running the ball at least 25 times per game and a stifling defense allowing more than 14 points just once in Games 13-16. Jimmy Johnson won his first playoff game, a wild-card victory against Chicago as his young team started to come of age. -- Todd Archer

Philadelphia Eagles

1980 and 2003: 11-5 (.688)

The 2003 season was the Eagles' first at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the famous "4th-and-26" pass from Donovan McNabb to Freddie Mitchell that helped lift Philadelphia over the Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs and into the NFC Championship Game for a third straight year, where they were upset by Carolina.

The Eagles shook off a bad start to create a memorable season and finish 12-4. They went 0-2 out of the gate and were on the cusp of dropping to 2-4 before Brian Westbrook ripped off an 84-yard punt return in the closing moments against the Giants, sparking a nine-game winning streak. -- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

1983: 11-4-1 (.733)

The Redskins parlayed their first Super Bowl win into a dominant regular season. They scored a then-NFL record 541 points, outscoring the opposition by a league-best 209 points. Running back John Riggins rushed for 1,347 yards and 24 touchdowns at age 34 and the Redskins went 14-2. Their losses came by a combined two points, including the season-opening Monday night game in which rookie corner Darrell Green chased down Dallas running back Tony Dorsett. They lost to Green Bay 48-47 in another Monday night game where the teams combined for 1,025 yards.

Their most memorable regular-season win came in a 37-35 shootout over the Raiders at RFK Stadium. The Redskins won 11 straight games entering a Super Bowl rematch vs. the Raiders. But the Raiders blew them out 38-9 and the 1983 Redskins were left with the title of being one of the best teams to lose a Super Bowl. -- John Keim

New York Giants

2008: 12-4 (.750)

This was the one that got away, with the team that Tom Coughlin said was better than the franchise's two Super Bowl winners. It's also the year their season was derailed by the Plaxico Burress self-inflicted gunshot wound. Before the Burress incident, the Giants were 10-1, which included wins on the road against three of the league's best teams. Their offense was never the same after the shooting. The Giants dropped four of their last five and lost at home in their playoff opener to the Eagles. -- Jordan Raanan

NFC North

Green Bay Packers

2007: 12-3-1 (.800)

In many ways, this season came out of nowhere. Two years earlier, Brett Favre had his worst season, throwing 29 interceptions on the way to a 4-12 season that ended Mike Sherman's coaching tenure. The next season began badly, too, as the Pack started 4-8 under new coach Mike McCarthy before winning the final four games.

Still, no one could have seen coming what happened next. McCarthy transformed Favre into an effective game manager and put together one of the QB's most efficient non-MVP seasons and led them to the NFC title game. However, it ended poorly when Favre -- on his final pass as a Packer -- threw an overtime interception that led to the Giants' game-winning field goal. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

2015: 13-3 (.813)

Mike Zimmer's second season in Minnesota featured a four-game improvement from his first. The Vikings finished 11-5, winning their first NFC North title since 2009 and clinching a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2012. Teddy Bridgewater showed promise in his first full season as a starter (3,231 passing yards, 14 TDs, 9 INTs, his first Pro Bowl) the same year the Vikings got Adrian Peterson back from suspension. Peterson led the NFL in rushing with 1,485 yards in his All-Pro/Pro Bowl season.

But all the excitement and hope built during the regular season came crashing down in a 10-9 wild-card loss to the Seahawks when kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard game-winning field-goal attempt in the final seconds of the game. -- Courtney Cronin

Detroit Lions

2010: 13-3 (.813)

The Lions were still rebuilding from their disastrous 0-16 season in 2008 and were starting to build for the future with Calvin Johnson in his prime and a first-round pick ready to take over the league in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and a dynamic young running back in rookie Jahvid Best. Detroit also had a young starting quarterback in Matthew Stafford -- and his shoulder injuries are a likely reason why the Lions were able to do so well against the spread. Stafford was limited to three games in 2010, but the combination of Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton -- though not imposing as quarterbacks -- could get Detroit out of a game.

The way the season unfolded -- starting 2-10 before winning four straight to end the season -- did two things: it set expectations low on the Lions toward the end of the year to pick up games against the spread and in a bigger picture helped set up the team's run to the playoffs in 2011 with a healthy Stafford. The Lions played all but four games -- losses to New England, Minnesota and Dallas, along with a win over St. Louis -- incredibly close, again helping the spread numbers. -- Michael Rothstein

Chicago Bears

1985: 12-3-1 (.800)

Led by the greatest NFL defense of all-time, the 1985 Bears struck fear in the hearts of their opponents and finished the regular season 15-1. Chicago cruised through the playoffs en route to winning the franchise's first -- and only -- Super Bowl championship. The fact the Bears failed to cover the spread three times that year is a surprise, given the dominant nature of that team. -- Jeff Dickerson

NFC South

Carolina Panthers

1996: 12-4 (.750)

Nobody expected the second-year expansion team to be a playoff contender in 1996, even though the Panthers won an expansion-record seven games in their first season. So a 12-4 record overall and against the spread and an NFC West title in a division with then-powerhouse San Francisco was nothing short of spectacular.

The key was the defense. First-time head coach Dom Capers was a disciple of the 3-4 zone blitz. He brought in a veteran-laden group, led by outside linebackers Kevin Greene (14.5 sacks) and Lamar Lathon (13.5 sacks), that caused opposing quarterbacks nightmares with a league-best 60 sacks. That group allowed only 13.6 points per game, the second-fewest in the NFL. It was old-school football at its best with a solid running game and shut-down defense that got this team of vagabonds to the NFC Championship Game in Green Bay. It was a true Cinderella story. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

2011: 12-4 (.750)

This was Sean Payton, Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles at their career peaks. The 2011 Saints still hold the NFL record with 7,474 yards gained in a season. And Brees threw for 5,476 yards and 46 TDs while surrounded by a ridiculous cast of talent that also included Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem. Many Saints fans will swear this was their best team ever, even though this 13-3 squad didn't reach the Super Bowl. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1999: 11-4-1 (.733)

The Bucs had a very specific formula for winning games under Tony Dungy. They relied on a stout defense led by Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Ronde Barber. During the regular season, that defense held opponents to 17 points or fewer in 12 games and eight times held foes to 10 points or fewer. They controlled the clock on offense, running the ball behind Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn and, at times, capitalized on the ultraconsistent kicking of Martin Gramatica, which protected rookie quarterback Shaun King, who stepped in for Trent Dilfer after he suffered a broken clavicle. -- Jenna Laine

Atlanta Falcons

1980: 13-3 (.813)

Behind quarterback Steve Bartkowski and running back Williams Andrews the Falcons won the team's first division title (NFC Western Division) with a 12-4 record. That season included a nine-game winning streak, which was a franchise best. Individual franchise records were established, too, with Bartkowski (3,544 passing yards, 31 touchdowns), Andrews (1,308 rushing yards) and receiver Alfred Jenkins (1,025 receiving yards) all hitting high-water marks at the time. Linebacker Al Richardson created a turnover in nine consecutive games out of the 3-4 scheme. And the Falcons had six Pro Bowl selections. -- Vaughn McClure

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks

2011, 2012 and 2013: 11-5 (.688)

The 2013 Seahawks were a trendy Super Bowl pick after making some marquee offseason additions (Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett) to an up-and-coming team that reached the divisional round the year before, taking advantage of the financial flexibility afforded by Russell Wilson's cheap rookie contract.

They lived up to the hype with the best season in franchise history. Seattle won the NFC West and earned the conference's No. 1 seed behind the NFL's top defense, a strong running game led by Marshawn Lynch and a second-year quarterback who was more than a game manager while leading five comebacks in the fourth quarter or overtime. That included Seattle's win in the NFC Championship Game, which was sealed by Richard Sherman's famous end zone deflection. Harvin missed most of the regular season with a bizarre hip injury and was traded early the next season, but he contributed one of the memorable plays of the Seahawks' Super Bowl XLVIII victory over Denver when he returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown to put the game out of reach. -- Brady Henderson

San Francisco 49ers

1989: 13-3 (.813)

It should be no surprise that the 1989 team, which went 14-2, was so good against the spread given that it was one of the best and most complete teams in NFL history. That juggernaut of a squad was first in the league in points scored, third in points allowed and had a plus-189 scoring margin on its way to a 45-point victory in Super Bowl XXIV.

Quarterback Joe Montana put together one of the best seasons in history, posting a passer rating of 112.4 in the regular season before a red-hot postseason run in which he improved that passer rating to a whopping 146.4 as he collected the NFL's Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year awards and was named Super Bowl MVP. The star-studded Niners had six Pro Bowlers and five first- or second-team All Pros. -- Nick Wagoner

Los Angeles Rams

1999: 13-3 (.813)

The 1999 Rams coached by Dick Vermeil were dubbed the "Greatest Show on Turf" as they outscored opponents 526-242, produced an 8-0 record at home and finished the season 13-3 with a Super Bowl XXXIV title.

The offense was led by four future Hall of Fame players, including quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk, receiver Isaac Bruce and left tackle Orlando Pace. The defense also was among the best in the NFL. It ranked first against the run, allowing only 74.3 rushing yards per game, was tied for the lead in sacks with 57 and produced seven interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. -- Lindsey Thiry

Arizona Cardinals

1993, 2013 and 2014: 11-5 (.688)

When Bruce Arians came to town in 2013, he changed the Cardinals' culture and their fortunes. A year after going 5-11, the Cardinals went 10-6, which led to one of the franchise's three best seasons since the merger against the spread at 11-5. No one thought this team would be any good considering what had transpired the previous season, which started with four wins before a nine-game losing streak. The perception of quarterback Carson Palmer was that he was washed up and riding out the final years of his career. But Arians and Palmer proved everyone wrong and did it again the next year, going 11-5 -- their same record against the spread -- after starting 9-1. Their march to a Super Bowl was cut short by Palmer's ACL injury. -- Josh Weinfuss