The 12 best betting seasons in the SB era

The NFL season is still a ways away. We know the 2020 schedule, and opening lines have been released for Week 1, Monday Night Football games and some other key matchups.

But while we wait for the real action to begin, why not take a look back at some of the best betting seasons in NFL history?

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

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

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

Success for the Colts in 1968 seemed like a long shot 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 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

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 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 the team’s most dynamic player, returning three punts for touchdowns. — Turron Davenport

Dolphins fans shouldn’t have a hard time remembering why the 1972 season is their best against the number — this 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 only three times. This was the first Dolphins title in what ended up being a mini-dynasty from 1970 to 1974 with five division titles, three AFC championships (1971, 1972, 1973) and two Super Bowl wins. — Cameron Wolfe

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