NFL Week 3 betting cheat sheet: Why unders are hitting at historic rate

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense could struggle to score points while dealing multiple injuries to receivers on Sunday. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Not since 1996 have we seen unders cash at a 68% clip over the first two weeks. Rarely is the market that far off, even in a small size of 32 games. But that's the ripple effect of a scoring dip to 21.4 points per team, which would rank as the lowest since 2006, if it held for the entire season.

Naturally, the betting market has responded. Sunday's matchup of the Packers visiting the Buccaneers crystalizes this trend. In their previous four meetings, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady had an average betting over/under of 55.5 points, with a low number of 53. This week, oddsmakers posted the total at 45 and that was immediately bet down to 42.

From what I gather, it seems like the adjustments are team by team. Obviously, offenses like the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs can seemingly score at will but others are hamstrung by injuries (Bucs) and pedestrian quarterback play (Texans).

The Number You Need to Know

But perhaps it's an overall stylistic shift. "The big thing is two-high coverage. They're forcing teams to go on 10- and 12-play drives to score," Ed Golden, the founder of impactful betting syndicate Right Angle Sports, told ESPN. According to Next Gen Stats, NFL teams are using Cover 1 defensive formations at a 27% rate. That's the lowest in its database, which goes back to 2016. Other formations involve more safeties, theoretically using deeper coverages and keeping plays in front of them.

Those lengthy drives consume game clock and also force teams to execute in the red zone. In fact, right now teams have only converted 66.7% of goal-to-go situations into touchdowns, which would rank as the lowest pace over the past 15 seasons.

Logically, all signs point to regression toward the mean. "The market is pretty correct. I wouldn't blindly play one way or another right now," Golden said. "I expect the scoring to come back up a little bit."

New Orleans Saints (-2.5, 41) at Carolina Panthers
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte

Kezirian's Pick: Panthers (+2.5)

Perhaps the most critical trait in NFL handicapping is forgetting what you last saw. Picking winners practically necessitates it. In fact, with Carolina, you should maybe forget what you saw for the past year. Nine straight losses has Matt Rhule on the hot seat. In fact, the Panthers are riding an 0-9 ATS run, which is one shy of the all-time mark.

But Carolina feels like the right side, even though the Saints defense looked so strong last week. Jameis Winston is playing through an injured back, Alvin Kamara is also banged up and New Orleans lacks the ultimate kryptonite for Baker Mayfield. He's turnover-prone but not when he has time. So far, the Saints rank dead last in pressure percentage (11.1%).

Line Move of the Week

Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Chargers (-3, 42.5)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, SoFi Stadium, Inglewood

Kezirian's Pick: Jaguars (+3)

You don't need me to tell you that Justin Herbert is valuable to the point spread. The Chargers opened as seven-point home favorites to the Jaguars and are currently favored by a field goal. This line move started to take shape after Herbert did not throw at Friday's practice and speculation grew about his status for Sunday.

Betting adjustments to the most important position in all of sports are tricky and extremely nuanced. There just isn't a simple formula. It starts with key numbers, which represent common margins of victory. For this line to adjust below six and three points, that is regarded as significant.

But you might think that is still not enough, given the presumed drop-off to backup Chase Daniel. I would agree with you. I like the Jaguars, who are finally getting the version of Trevor Lawrence who many envisioned when he was drafted No .1 overall in 2021.

Split Decisions

This week's slate has two games with opposite sides on the money and ticket count. What that means is that in a particular matchup, one team is drawing the volume of tickets, which represents the public action. And in that same game, the majority of the money is on the other team. That indicates the respected action is on that side, especially because nearly all the public money arrives on game day.

In the high-profile showdown between Brady and Rodgers, the Packers have drawn a majority of the money. That has brought the point spread down from +3 to +1, even though Tampa Bay represents 64% of the tickets.

We have a similar situation for Rams-Cardinals. The public is backing the defending champs at a 60% clip of tickets but the home underdog has drawn 67% of the money wagered on this game. Thus, the line has come down from Rams -4.5 to -3.5. Keep in mind that is a fairly inconsequential line shift, since only about 4% of games are decided by exactly four points. That's a sign that if more respected money arrives on Arizona, the spread will likely hit three points.

Sharp Report

As I have indicated in previous pieces, professional bettors do not always overlap their opinions and wagers. Sometimes they land on opposite sides. This section tries to aggregate the sharpest of minds and convey the consensus opinions. And it's also important to remember that the market reacts to their wagers, so their exact positions are typically long gone.

Based on my conversations, sharps are on: Colts +7, Panthers +3, Patriots +3, Bucs +3, Cardinals +3.5, 49ers +1 and Bills-Dolphins over 52, which is my favorite play of the bunch. I am backing that one and also singling out Buffalo's team total over 29.5.

Favorite Prop

Kezirian's Pick: Josh Allen over 1.5 passing TDs (-200)

Eventually, oddsmakers will start to regard Allen in the same class as Patrick Mahomes. Yes, the Bills QB is the MVP betting favorite but for some reason, his passing touchdowns prop remains at 1.5 while Mahomes' is 2.5. I realize the juice differs but Allen has hit both overs before halftime in each game this season. Just imagine what must happen for this prop to lose. Do you think Allen has better than a 67% chance to throw at least two passing touchdowns against Miami? I sure do.