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How to Use Against The Spread (ATS) When Betting Football

How to Use Against The Spread (ATS) When Betting Football: Tom Brady vs. Christian Barmore - Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New England Patriots

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There are plenty of sports betting strategies that you can utilize when sports betting, and they all value different types of data. This blog post helps break down how to use Against The Spread (ATS) records to bet, and also points out some teams in the NFL and college football that have started this year strong at the sportsbooks.

What Is Against The Spread?

To understand Against The Spread (ATS), you first need to understand what a point spread is. A point spread is a betting line set by the sportsbook. For this type of bet, the favorite has to win by at least a certain amount of points. If the team that is favored wins by less than that number or loses outright, then the bet loses. This is one of the most popular ways of betting. Some teams may win a lot but may not be good against the spread. This could be for a variety of reasons. Maybe the team is one of the best in the country and gets a lot of attention from the sportsbooks, so the lines are really sharp. Maybe the team has allowed a few backdoor covers with garbage time points by the losing team. Or maybe this team continues to win by the slimmest of margins. More often than not, the teams with the best ATS records are not the best teams in the country. For example, heading into Week 9 of the college football season, there are two teams with 7-1 records. That would be Syracuse University and the University of Texas-San Antonio. Syracuse is 4-4 on the year, while UTSA is 8-0 but without any ranked wins. Another important stat when looking at the ATS would be the ATS +/-. This measures the average amount of points that a team covers the spread by. When using this metric, it is clear that Georgia and Pittsburgh have covered ATS by the largest margins with each of them boasting +11.9.


ATS is one of the most common acronyms used in sports betting since the point spread is one of the most popular betting lines. Not only is this a valuable metric to look at when making your picks, but it is also a great term to know in the sports betting world because I am sure you will hear someone mention the ATS sooner or later. It is important to note that the spread is a bet in football and basketball, but a point spread in hockey is called a puck line, and in baseball is called a run line. Some people may still use the term ATS when talking about hockey or baseball, but it is less common. Knowing the ATS is also important if you follow handicappers or touts for picks. These bettors may mention their own ATS records on the season as reasons for you to follow their picks. “Against The Spread” is a basic sports betting term but it is very useful for a successful betting strategy.

The NFL, The NBA, & The ATS

Against the Spread (ATS) records are useful when looking to bet on the NFL or NBA, but these lines are often sharper than college games. That is because there is often a lot more action on professional sports, so in some cases, sportsbooks risk losing more in pro sports than in college. For example, heading into Week 8 of the NFL there are only 13 teams above .500, and a majority of the league is floating around that 50% mark. This is where the ATS +/- that I mentioned earlier in this blog post comes in handy. In the NFL, there are only four teams that are covering the spread by more than seven points on average. Dallas (+8.8 points), Cincinnati (+9.4 points), Buffalo (+11.0 points), and Arizona (+11.8 points) bettors have run away with money from the sportsbooks. These four teams combine for an ATS record of 20-6. Another good metric to look at is the MOV, which is the average margin of victory. Buffalo leads the NFL with the highest MOV this year, followed by Arizona, Tampa Bay, and Dallas. The Buccaneers are the only of those four with a losing record against the spread this year (3-4).

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Against the Spread

Tampa Bay may have a losing record ATS for a few reasons. A tough schedule to start the season saw the Bucs not cover against the Cowboys, Rams, Patriots, and most recently the Eagles. Tampa Bay is the returning Super Bowl champions, as well, so there is naturally a lot of attention and betting action going on them this year since the team brought back all 22 starters. That explains why Tampa Bay has only been favored by less than a touchdown twice this year, and one of those lines was Tampa -6.5 over New England. The more attention that a team gets, the more resources that a sportsbook puts towards those betting lines, and the Bucs have been a casualty to high point-spread lines to start the season.

Research Before You Bet

In summary, it is important to research before placing a bet. Personally, I bet a lot of point spreads so I love to utilize the ATS, MOV, and ATS +/- when I research my bets. It is important to not try and talk yourself into a bet though. You may like a line initially, but if the data doesn’t back it up, then you should probably stay away. Statistics like these can help talk me into or out of a bet. In fact, there are times where I have researched a pick with the intention of betting one side, but after looking at the data I decide to bet on the other side.

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