This season, NFL scoring has been a fun topic to discuss as defenses have adapted to slow down offenses and limit scoring overall. The league average of 22 points per game is trending close to a full point below last year’s mark. Blind-betting unders across the board for the first nine weeks yielded a profitable 58% hit rate, leaving sportsbooks to determine whether positive regression was coming or if more substantial adjustments were warranted. Just like the constant counter-punches that defensive coordinators throw at the league’s bright offensive minds, the oddsmakers’ next chess move over the past four weeks brought balance to the scales of NFL totals. Overs went 30-29 during Weeks 10-13, with the average closing total coming in at 43.96, slightly below the league’s pace of 22 points per team.
After spending the first half of the season grinding out unders and cheering on punters, I’m thrilled to be able to find some advantageous spots to play some overs. They say life is too short to play the under, so let’s seize the day with these four bets for this weekend’s NFL slate.
The Eagles’ offense is back after posting 75 points over the past two weeks, including putting 35 on Mike Vrabel’s Tennessee defense. It’s the same defense that held its previous eight opponents to 20 points or fewer, including offenses run by Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow. Eagles QB Jalen Hurts torched the Titans for 380 yards through the air and three touchdowns. Now, he gets the opportunity to bolster his MVP campaign against the Giants, who rank 28th in defensive DVOA against the pass and hold PFF’s second-lowest coverage grade (45.7).
The Eagles have faced three other teams with bottom-five coverage grades (Detroit, Jacksonville and Houston). Those games resulted in combined scores of 73, 50 and 46, with the Eagles scoring at least 29 points in all three games. I see this game going two ways. The Eagles jumping out to a big lead will allow New York to rack up some garbage-time points, or the Giants will strike early, forcing the Eagles to play aggressive offensively from behind. Both game scripts point to the over.
This total frames this as an average scoring game, but I can’t get past how Josh Jacobs ran for 229 yards on this Seahawks defense. Sam Darnold isn’t putting fear into any defense. However, if last week were any indication, Darnold will spend most of the day handing the ball off. Carolina rushed the ball 46 times in its 23-10 win over Denver. Winners of two of their last three, the Panthers believe they have found their identity, and it perfectly meshes with Seattle’s weakness on defense. Carolina hadn’t faced many teams with the scoring punch of Seattle (top-five scoring offense) and got exposed when it had to face potential playoff teams this year. The Panthers allowed 42 points to Cincinnati and 37 to San Francisco. Both of these defenses look better on paper than on the field, making this a solid opportunity to take advantage of this low total.
Detroit Lions team total over 26.5 (-125)
All the chatter is about the Lions being favorites for only the third time this season against the 10-2 Minnesota Vikings. Dan Campbell’s end-of-game management is far too cringe-worthy for me to lay points here. Although, I am happy to bet the Lions will score plenty against a Minnesota defense that I have been fading all season. Detroit is 5-0 ATS over the past five weeks and fifth overall in both EPA per play and offensive success rate during the same period.
Coming off a 40-14 blowout of the Jaguars, I can’t see why the Lions won’t keep things rolling against Minnesota. If Mac Jones carving up this secondary on Thanksgiving wasn’t a loud enough signal, let’s look at the Vikings’ recent form over the past four weeks. They allowed 30 points to Buffalo and 40 points to Dallas before succumbing to the Patriots‘ pedestrian passing attack. Last week, stingy red-zone defense helped them hold the Jets to 22, but they won’t be as lucky against Detroit. The Lions turn red-zone trips into touchdowns at a league-leading 73.91% rate. Getting this under 27 feels like a gift, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions end up in the 30s.
Lions, Vikings to each score 30-plus (+450)
Here’s a long-shot bet that has value, considering the defenses rank 30th (Minnesota) and 32nd in yards per play. The game features two dome teams playing indoors on a fast track against porous defenses. In the Lions’ seven home games this season, they average 33 points and allow 26 per game. Only twice (28%) have both teams scored in the 30s, but the +450 odds imply a probability of 18%. I will take the 10% edge and carve out a small stake to bet on a shootout.
Stats provided by PFF, Football Outsiders, rbsdm, teamrankings.