When I say to exercise caution, I mean just that. This article isn’t telling you to bet on the following five teams from the NCAAF, MLB, NHL, NBA, and NFL and their dishonorable mentions. This article is telling you that these snake-bitten teams and programs may disappoint you and lighten your wallet.
With that said, there are games, weeks, and even seasons where you may throw caution to the wind and bet on the following teams listed here. However, given their historically poor success rate, you definitely want to at least think twice before placing your bet.
For this article, I’ve selected five historical snake-bitten teams. Four of the teams play within the major North American sports leagues and one of which is a major college football program. I’ve also included some “dishonorable” mentions that you may also want to exercise caution with when it comes to betting.
1 – Michigan Wolverines, NCAA Big Ten
It seems like ever since Michigan dropped its 2007 season opener to Appalachian State, the team has become a pain for anyone betting on sports otherwise. Here’s some food for thought: The team hasn’t won a Big Ten title since 2004. They’ve seen one division title in 2018.
Oh, and at the time of this writing, it’s been 23 seasons since Michigan’s last national championship. Given the state of the 2020 season, which is nothing more than a race to the conference championship, you can add on another year in which Michigan won’t be raising the game’s most prestigious trophy.
While the Wolverines will continue to have their good seasons, this program is nowhere near the caliber it used to be. So, unless it proves otherwise, it’s unwise to bet on them to win anything more than a few spreads.
When facing rival Ohio State, or for picking the over/under in terms of wins, Michigan is a fringe bet. And it’s also best to forget this team exists if you’re thinking about betting on them to win the conference or a national title.
It’s just not worth it. This school’s football program continues to lose. And as a bettor, you’ll often end up disappointed if you bet them to win the big game.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2 – Pittsburgh Pirates, MLB
The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t won a playoff series since 1979. And they capped off their infamy by going two decades without a playoff appearance, the longest drought in North American Pro Sports history when they missed the playoffs between 1993 and 2013.
Since 2016, this team hasn’t finished higher than third place in the NL Central and probably won’t be relevant in the MLB soon. So, unless you’re betting on the team to finish 5th in the NL Central and near the bottom of the barrel in the NL, they’re not a wise bet, especially following the 2020 season when they finished an abysmal and NL-worst 19-41 during the 60-game sprint.
So, what’s the team’s problem? They refuse to spend money to keep high-end players around. Instead, they often opt to trade their big names for prospects.
It’s like Pittsburgh sportscaster Mark Madden will remind Pirate fans worldwide: “If you spend Nutting, you win Nutting.” It’s an obvious jab from the respected Pittsburgh sportscaster to team owner Bob Nutting, who is notorious for letting talent go just to save a few million bucks.
With that said, expect the Pirates to continue their losing ways until Nutting sells the team. Until then, the Pirates are nothing but MLB fodder where future stars will sign large contracts with big-market or big-budget teams later in their careers.
So, when you bet on baseball, remember that the MLB comprises 29 professional teams and one glorified minor league team. Only if Nutting sells this team will the Pirates be at least somewhat of a safe bet. Until then, it ain’t happening.
San Diego Padres
3 – Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL
The Leafs have 13 Stanley Cups, but most came before the expansion era in the NHL. Since then, they haven’t won a division championship since 2000. They have never won the Eastern Conference Championship and have never won the President’s Trophy.
They also haven’t won a playoff series since the 2003-2004 NHL Season. Given their continued futility, the Maple Leafs are the NHL’s team to bet with confidence only on single games until they prove otherwise.
You can count a few more teams in the mold of the Maple Leafs, but this historical team has reached a new level of low since the beginning of the century. But even between the years 1967 and 1999, the Leafs didn’t make a single Stanley Cup Final. So, it’s not just a millennium thing.
That says a lot about a franchise who historically played in 21 Stanley Cup Final matchups before the expansion era began in the late 1960s.
Other teams from the Original Six were hit hard, but each has either made or won a Final within the last 30 seasons. Only the Montreal Canadiens, who hold a record 34 Stanley Cups. The Habs are the only other Original Six team to have not appeared in the Final since 2009.
So, the Maple Leafs, despite their kind of sort of renaissance over the past six seasons, remains a fringe bet in the world of hockey. They’re just not a team to waste your money on until they can prove that they can at least make it to a Conference Final or even clinch a division championship.
4 – Los Angeles Clippers, NBA
In 2015, Magic Johnson thought the LA Clippers would win the NBA Finals. And when they took a 3-1 lead over the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Clippers looked like they would at least be on their way to the Conference Finals.
You know what happened. And Johnson admitted he was wrong. “The Clippers,” he said, “are still the Clippers.”
Fast-forward to the strange 2019-20 NBA season, where almost everything was abnormal except for one common denominator: The Clippers once again blew a 3-1 series lead in the Conference Semifinals. It happened once again to Denver, who would go on to play the LA Lakers in the Conference Finals.
Even as the second-best team in the NBA’s Western Conference, the Clippers, my friend, are still and will probably always be the Clippers.
Sure, they may be solid single-game bets when their roster is stocked with talent during an 82-game season.
As for winning their division, or better yet, the conference? Forget about it. Even if the Clippers do win the West and perhaps even an NBA Final, they’ve proven repeatedly they’re too risky of a bet. And your wallet will probably suffer.
New York Knicks
Oklahoma City Thunder
5 – Cleveland Browns, NFL
Perhaps the toughest team to bet on are the Cleveland Browns, and as I write this, the Browns nearly blew a 41-14 lead to the Dallas Cowboys in their Week 4 matchup. They eventually won the game 49-38 but gave up a 24-point run to Dallas in the fourth quarter before scoring their final TD.
The Browns are notorious for blowing leads, losing games in dramatic fashion, underachieving, further blowing our minds and emptying our wallets.
When you bet on the Browns, you don’t want to be disappointed if or when they lose in a never-before-seen fashion in the NFL, or if they look like they’re about to pull off a big upset only to find a way to lose in the closing minutes.
Or even have the spread covered before allowing too many points for comfort in garbage time.
There was the infamous meltdown in 2019, too. Many of us may have bet the team to win the division, or at least ace their projected over/under to becoming a popular Super Bowl pick only to, well, take a three-season hiatus, as in 1995.
While the Browns, like a few teams on this list, look like they’re turning the corner in terms of regular-season wins and losses, remember this is a team who hasn’t won a division title since 1989. They haven’t won a playoff game since 1994 and failed to make a playoff appearance since 2002. Although, as of 2020, this may change. Either way, they’ve also failed to win an NFL Championship since 1964. That should be enough to make you cringe.
Once again, these teams aren’t always poor bets. However, recent history shows that they have a tendency to upset bettors.
These types of things can change in the future, and a new slate of teams can easily be added here. However, over the past two decades and longer for some teams listed here, it’s been more of the same.
Regardless of the hype surrounding these teams—and with hype comes a popular bet—they almost always fall short of expectations.
You can buy into the hype if you choose, but don’t be disappointed if the inevitable happens once again. The Wolverines will fall short of the Big Ten Conference titles. The Pirates may just miss the playoffs again. The Maple Leafs and Clippers will blow playoff leads. And the Browns may just continue to underachieve.
Which teams do you exercise caution when betting? Let us know!
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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