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What goes up, must come down. Or vice-versa when speaking about NFL totals this season. Targeting unders has been a solid strategy. Sunday night's 16-10 win by the Baltimore Ravens put NFL unders at 101-76 (57%) on the season. Week 12 saw oddsmakers and bettors adjust as the league's average closing total hit its lowest mark of the season (46). The result was a perfectly balanced 7-7 split between overs and unders throughout the fourteen games.
As we get deeper into the NFL season, the market matures and the edges become smaller. It's increasingly more important to bet totals early in the week before the betting market shapes them into the closing line. We are 6-2 in our last eight early unders, and hit both bets featured last Monday. This week I am targeting two games with high-powered offenses that are driving the totals to a point where I see value on the under.
Arizona at Chicago (Under 46)
The Bears got us to the bank on Thanksgiving as their 16-14 win landed well below the closing total of 41.5. The game moved the Bears to 8-3 to the under on the season and 8-1 when the total closes above 40. Andy Dalton did little to convince me he could eradicate Chicago's offensive woes. The Bears were 1-3 in the red zone where Detroit's defense allows touchdowns at a 75% rate. He also threw a red-zone interception and luckily had another potential pick dropped in the end zone.
The Cardinals' defense ranks top three in EPA allowed per play and should keep Chicago below its season average of 16 points per game. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins' anticipated return from injury is the key reason this total is coming in at the league average. Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury runs the ball at one of the highest rates in the NFL. If the Cardinals are playing with an early lead, it makes sense for him to grind out a win and reduce the hits on his quarterback in his first game back. Arizona already averages 10 more rushing attempts on the road vs. home, so it could be a tendency for Kingsbury to get more conservative when they are away from Arizona.
The forecast is fluid but low 40s with 10-20 mph winds is par for the course in the Windy City. That's not an ideal climate for a quarterback to return from injury and regain chemistry in an offense that has changed with the addition of tight end Zach Ertz. It's no surprise that Bears home games have only produced one over in five games this season. I'm betting that old man winter gives the Bears defense just enough help to keep Kyler's Cardinals in the 20s. If that happens, we are going to the bank. Count me in on the under.
Denver at Kansas City (Under 49.5)
Let's start with the basics. The Chiefs are 7-4 to the under this season. When we think of Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, we think of instant offense. The combination of Kansas City's explosive playmakers and porous defense screams over to sports bettors every weekend. That is exactly why the oddsmakers set KC totals at 55 on average. That's three full points higher than the second-highest team (Dallas). You are paying a premium if you are betting KC to go over. I'd rather play the other side at a discount when it makes sense with the matchup.
The Broncos are the ideal team to slow down Kansas City. Based on the closing line, Denver's totals are the league's third-lowest on average (43.8) and it's warranted. Denver has hit the under in its last five games and is 9-2 to the under this season. They ranked 29th in pace, and Broncos coach Vic Fangio will look to utilize the running game much like he did last year in the Broncos' 22-16 loss at Arrowhead Stadium. Denver rushed 33 times for 179 yards in that game, and this year's version of the Chiefs defense owns the second-lowest success rate against the run. KC is 4-2 to the under at home and getting a total of 49.5 in a Denver game sounds like a winning wager to me.