NFL betting: Is it time to attack prime-time unders?

·Betting analyst
·4 min read

The last two weeks have been the highest-scoring weeks of the season. Teams averaged over 24 points for the second consecutive week, pushing the average closing game total to 48.3.

The market is always adjusting in an attempt to strike a balance, but the late-night action continues to pay out for over bettors. Prime-time games were even at 1-1-1 in Week 6, but overs are still 11-6-1 on the season. Monday night provided some fireworks with 65 combined points in the Titans' win. Last Thursday night, Tom Brady's victory formation inside the Eagles' 10-yard line crushed the souls of sports bettors by securing an under. The Steelers and Seahawks needed overtime to push at 43, so will the pendulum swing back to unders this week?

Two of the three prime-time games feature backup QBs, and the injury reports are growing fast as we approach the middle of the season. Let's take a look at our three prime-time games this week and the best bet on each total.

Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns (Over 41)

Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum are not the typical components to a prime-time over, but they are going to get the job done on Monday night. This total opened at 44.5 and plummeted with the announcement that Baker Mayfield's shoulder would force him out. Injuries are dominating the headlines for good reason, but 41 is too big of an adjustment.

Last week the Browns' offense was a mess because Arizona quickly forced it out of its comfort zone with a potent offense. That shouldn't be the case against Denver. The Broncos' linebackers are dealing with some injuries of their own. A quick passing game that attacks the linebackers in coverage will keep the pass rush off Keenum enough for the Browns to do their share of the scoring.

The Broncos will be able to keep drives alive against a Cleveland defense that struggles on third downs. Both teams have hit the over in consecutive games, and Denver's last two have combined for 104 points. Let's go against the grain and grab a winning ticket with the over on Thursday night.

Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers (Under 44)

The 49ers' defense gets an extra week of rest after holding Kyler Murray's Cardinals to 17 points. Now it faces a Colts team that will go as far as Jonathan Taylor's legs can take it. Taylor had an impressive 145-yard performance against Houston but averaged 3.5 or fewer yards per carry in three of his previous five starts. The San Francisco defense ranks seventh in running back yards allowed, so we should see QB Carson Wentz in some less than ideal spots on third downs.

With Jimmy Garoppolo returning from injury, both teams will look to the running game as the foundation of their attacks. The low total at 44 is warranted, considering the quarterback play and the critical nature of the game for both teams. Both coaches need to win to avoid falling further out of the playoff picture, and I am expecting a low-scoring chess match between Frank Reich and Kyle Shanahan.

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (Over 43.5)

Seattle has only hit the over in one game this season, but its average total was nine points higher before Wilson's injury. With QB Geno Smith at the helm, we are sitting at 43.5 points which is 4.5 below the league average. The Saints averaged over 27 points in their last three games and should be able to maintain their scoring punch against a Seattle defense that ranks outside of the top 20 in DVOA and yards per play allowed.

The pace of play is always a concern when two coaches are running the ball close to 30 times a game. The Saints are the second-slowest team in the league, but they speed things up closer to league average (18th) when the game is within six points. I do expect a competitive game and feel the market is overreacting a bit and discrediting the playmakers surrounding Smith. The Hawks pushed at 43 last week on prime time, and I think the Saints will provide enough offense to get this one over.

Stats provided by teamrankings.com and Football Outsiders.

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