Tom Brady tops NFL starting QBs against the spread

New England QB Tom Brady covers the spread 59.8 percent of the time. Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Mike Phipps isn't included on many lists of all-time great NFL quarterbacks, but the 1970s signal-caller for the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears tops this one.

No quarterback in the Super Bowl era with at least 48 starts covered the spread more frequently than Phipps, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. In Phipps' 71 career starts, his teams covered the spread 62.0 percent of the time (44-24-3) during the regular season, despite a 55-108 touchdown-to-interception ratio. When it comes to exceeding the betting market's expectations, Phipps, the No. 3 overall pick in the 1970 NFL draft out of Purdue, is a top-tier quarterback.

Joe Montana is right behind behind Phipps. The San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs covered the number in 61.6 percent of Montana's 101 starts during his Pro Football Hall of Fame career. Stan Humphries, who guided the San Diego Chargers to the 1995 Super Bowl, also is in the top tier of covering QBs at 60.5 percent, as is Tom Brady. The New England Patriots have covered the spread in 59.8 percent of Brady's 251 regular-season starts.

On the other side of the spectrum, Tony Eason, who quarterbacked the Patriots off and on in the 1980s, covered the spread in only 35.3 percent of his 51 starts (18-33 ATS). Rick Mirer and Jay Cutler join Eason on the bottom tier of covering QBs.

Using the point spread as a barometer, we separated every NFL starting QB into tiers based on performance against the number (minimum of 40 starts).

Elite tier

Tom Brady, New England Patriots (150-95-6 ATS record, 59.8 percent cover percentage)

Brady has been especially deadly in the rare occasions when the Patriots are underdogs. He is 33-13-1 ATS in his 47 games as an underdog, the best record of any current quarterback with at least a full season of starts.

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (41-28-1 ATS, 58.6 percent)

The spread is pretty revealing when it comes to Luck's value to the Colts. They've covered at nearly a 60 percent clip with him starting. Without him, they're a middling 16-15-1 ATS. Luck is coming back from a shoulder injury, and his status remains uncertain heading into the preseason, which appears to have tempered the betting interest on the Colts. In mid-July, the Colts had attracted the fewest bets to win the Super Bowl of any team at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Alex Smith, Washington Redskins (85-64-1 ATS, 56.3 percent)

Everywhere he has been, Smith has won, covered and then been shipped off. He has a winning record against the spread at home, on the road, as a favorite and as an underdog. In fact, his 56.3 percent cover rate ranks 12th all-time in the Super Bowl era, just behind Joe Theismann.

Highly profitable tier

Still profitable tier

No longer profitable tier (below 52.3 percent cover percentage)

Flip of the coin tier

Sinking ship tier

Bottom tier

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (36-40-1 ATS, 46.8 percent)

Tannehill has missed the past 19 games with knee injuries, but he is believed to be healthy heading into what could be a career-defining season in Miami. The Dolphins are 12-20 ATS as a favorite with Tannehill under center, the worst such mark of any current QB.

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (20-24-1 ATS, 44.4 percent)

The Bucs have been favored just 12 times with Winston starting, and they are 3-9 ATS in those games, the worst mark as a favorite of any starting QB in the league. Winston is suspended for the first three games this season: at New Orleans and at home against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Bucs almost certainly will be underdogs in those three games, and backup Ryan Fitzpatrick is 30-41-2 ATS as a 'dog.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (53-66-6 ATS, 42.4 percent)

Only seven quarterbacks with at least 40 starts have a losing record against the spread. Stafford is the worst of the bunch, especially as an underdog. The Lions are 23-35-2 ATS as an underdog with Stafford under center, the worst such mark of any current QB.

Quarterbacks with fewer than 40 starts: