Amid the audacious effort to bring the NFL back during the COVID-19 pandemic this summer, something was lost.
Teams simply haven’t done much of it — if they’ve done any at all — since the end of last season.
And while most NFL squads rarely tackle during practice anymore, the lack of a normal build-up to Week 1 has eliminated the already small amount of half-contact work teams were doing ahead of the season.
Every year we ask “will the offense or defense be ahead?”
And while both units have no doubt been hindered by this hopefully one-off summer, I’d venture to say the defense is going to be significantly behind for the first few weeks of this campaign.
Tackling is kind of fundamental to what they do.
And that’s why I think there’s tremendous value in betting overs this weekend.
In the modern, spaced-out NFL, there is all too often only one defender standing between the man with the ball and the end zone. How many of those guys — most of whom aren’t good tacklers to begin with — are going to whiff?
Even if the markets are trying to price bad defense into their lines, I don’t think they’re accounting for one whoopsie-daisy touchdown a game.
I’m targeting teams with offensive continuity: Same quarterback, same play-caller, and – best case scenario – similar pass-catchers.
Games like the Packers-Vikings showdown (total of 45) seem ripe for the taking. I don’t believe Aaron Rodgers or Kirk Cousins are top-tier quarterbacks but an extra – likely ridiculous – touchdown in that game would be absolutely massive. One of those teams can put up 30. I believe that in my bones.
Over on San Francisco vs Arizona
The San Francisco versus Arizona total has already been bet up by a point and a half to 48. I’m still taking the over. Arizona spaces the field too well to not expect at least a few big-chunk plays thanks to San Francisco’s defensive rustiness — not to mention the offense is pretty good without the help. Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ defense hasn’t tackled since well before the pandemic season, so the 49ers — who finished second in the NFL in points last year — should have a nice day as well. This game has a chance to go way over.
Monday Night Football
So does the Steelers/Giants Monday Night Football game. The Steelers might not have quarterback continuity year-over-year, but that’s a good thing. Pittsburgh is going to throw far more often in 2020 with Ben Roethlisberger back under center. The market has provided half a point, as the total now sits at 46.5. I’d take it. Garbage-time points are still points.
And the other Monday Night Game between the Titans and Broncos is a laugher, with a total as low as 40.5. Remember: you don’t have to believe in either offense, you just have to believe that something stupid is going to happen because of bad defense. One flukey touchdown gets you one-sixth of the way home. It might not be rational betting, but you’ve never experienced joy quite like the inherent high of a Benny Hill moment being paired with a profit.
Go down the board and it simply seems that there’s value in the over in every game — at least for this week. Don’t worry, we’ll switch to unders in a few weeks, once everyone freaks out about all this scoring.
But for now, follow your gut: where are things going to get weird?
And ask yourself this question: do you want to enjoy the games?
Because I know this to be a fact: sloppy defense makes for fun football.
Unless you have the under, of course.