The end of the NFL regular season signals change for many teams. For some, it means the firing of coaches or general managers. For others, it entails the realization that rebuilding and significant personnel changes lie ahead. And for the Minnesota Vikings, it means losing all your running backs to knee injuries.
But here at Behind The Bets it's business as usual, where we ring in the new year by looking back at the best and worst teams ATS in the regular season and looking forward to the Detroit Lions-New Orleans Saints matchup Saturday night.
Best ATS teams of 2011 regular season
New Orleans Saints (12-4 ATS, 8-0 home ATS, Sweat Barometer number of 6.75)
The Saints were perfect ATS and SU at home, which is even more impressive considering that they were favored by an average of 7.63 points and covered by an incredible 15.63 points a game in the Superdome. They did suffer a couple puzzling midseason road losses SU and ATS, though, losing to St. Louis and Tampa Bay.
Seattle Seahawks (11-5 ATS, 5-3 ATS/A, 5-2-1 ATS/H, SB of 4.31)
The Seahawks may have only finished with a record of 7-9, but they were a strong play at home and on the road this season -- where wiseguys usually faded them in years past.
Worst ATS teams of 2011 regular season
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12 ATS, 2-6 ATS/A, 2-6 ATS/H, SB of -9.56)
Not the best season in Tampa. We predicted during the lockout that the Bucs would regress, but we never imagined by this much. This team looked lost.
St. Louis Rams (3-12-1 ATS, 1-7 home ATS, SB of -6.66)
The preseason favorite to win the NFC West has a ton of holes to fill, including finding a coach.
Indianapolis Colts (6-10 ATS, SB of -3.97)
In a horrific season in Indy, the Colts were favored by fewer points on average at home than any team except the Rams.
Turning our attention to the postseason, the Saturday night game is an interesting matchup between two high-powered offenses. A rematch of a 31-17 Saints win in Week 13, this game opened at the Las Vegas Hilton at -10.5 and a total of 59. As mentioned in this week's Vegas Rankings, that's the highest total for a playoff game in NFL history.
A couple notes on this game:
• The Saints come in on an eight-game winning streak in which they've covered every game. They are white-hot and as noted above are perfect ATS at home this season. That's not good news for a Lions offense that just saw Matt Flynn throw for 480 yards and six TDs against it.
• New Orleans did lose in the wild-card round as a double-digit favorite to the Seahawks last season, but that makes it much less likely it'll do it again. "The Saints aren't likely to get caught sleeping this year," says Geoff Kulesa of Wunderdog Sports. "Although teams playing with same-season revenge in the playoffs win against the spread about 65 percent of the time, so that may actually favor the Lions."
• The money will likely be coming in on the Saints. "The Saints line is somewhat inflated due to their recent good play, a Saturday prime-time start and their popularity. We expect to write a lot of tickets on New Orleans," Jay Kornegay says. "The sharps won't let it get too out of hand. We hope."
To see a Vegas expert's pick on the Detroit-New Orleans game plus the last full week of the Sweat Barometer, including which teams are the best and worst to bet on this season, you must be an ESPN Insider.