Football

[Betting]

Hey, wasn’t offense supposed to trend down in the NFL this year?

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Patriots QB Tom Brady has set an NFL record with 1,327 passing yards in his team’s first three games.
Photo: J. Pat Carter/AP
Jeff Haney

Think back to the football preseason, when conventional wisdom had it that NFL offenses would be out of sync during the early part of the season, resulting in lower-scoring games. Quarterbacks and receivers would fail to have their all-important timing down, so that wisdom went, due to the layoff caused by the 133-day lockout. The chemistry of the offensive line, a subtle, often overlooked factor in how an NFL offense functions, would also be affected.

The theory sounded good at the time. Then it fell flat on its face.

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Jeff Haney is one of the nation's leading sports gambling writers. Connect with him at sophisticatedmaniac.com

During the first two weeks of the regular season, scoring was not only up, it was breaking records. NFL teams scored 1,502 points over the first two weeks, recording 172 touchdowns—both all-time highs. The league’s continued emphasis on passing played a big role in the early scoring burst. Quarterbacks racked up 15,771 net passing yards, another NFL record for the season’s first two weeks.

The bottom line at the betting windows has reflected the upswing in offense. Betting the over in each NFL game this season has yielded a record of 29-18-1 (62 percent). That’s an impressive performance by the over, considering you’re making money picking 53 percent against a standard sports-betting line, and picking 55 percent over time puts you in world-class gambling company.

Let’s say you believe the NFL has passed some tipping point and offenses are destined to become even more pass-happy, with scores continuing to rise. Let’s say you think the pass-first philosophy will become even more prevalent thanks to rule adjustments that serve to protect receivers as well as quarterbacks, perhaps at the expense of defenders. As a bettor, how do you play it from here?

First, realize that oddsmakers and the betting marketplace are responding to the surge in scoring. In Week 1, the average over/under on the betting board was 40.5 points. In Week 2, it was 42.4 points. In Week 3, it had crept up to 43.7 points, and only six games finished over the total compared with 10 that went under.

For Week 4, the average over/under in an NFL game is 44 points. So the market is adjusting. It’s up to you as a handicapper—and this is the tricky part—to determine if the market has adjusted enough.

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