Are bettors getting double-crossed by NFL point totals in 2019?
Traditionally, the gambling public drives Over/Under lines a little too high, prompting “system” handicapping wiseguys to tout the Under in game after game. Historically the Under is a little bit stronger wager on average because recreational betting (and the lure of cheering for points) drives NFL Las Vegas totals too high.
But a rash of low-scoring contests in preseason and over the 1st few weeks of 2019-20 have caused O/U totals to dip downward, seemingly much more often than usual. There was a time when a (39) point Vegas total would cause 60% or more of online gamblers to go to the Over, thinking that at least 40 points would be scored.
But even as the more wide-open of 2 opponents – the Minnesota Vikings – is the public’s choice in the Norsemen’s upcoming match-up with the Chicago Bears, the Under is the play for a majority of speculators.
I’ve got a hunch that both line-movements in the Chicago-Minnesota betting markets are in error.
Who: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
When: Sunday, September 29th, 4:25 PM EST
Where: Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Lines: Point Spread (EVEN) / O/U Total: (38)
The NFC North division is shaping up to be one of the toughest in pro football, and a defensive battle is expected between a pair of 2-1 teams in a late Sunday kickoff in the Midwest.
Minnesota has a newfound running game with Gary Kubiak calling the shots, and the Vikings could be excited about the absence of Chicago DT Akiem Hicks, doubtful for Sunday after a knee injury flared up again vs Washington.
WR Taylor Gabriel, who caught 3 touchdowns last week, also suffered a concussion and probably won’t go for Chicago this weekend.
The Vikings are having a hard time pass blocking effectively, which could be murder against the Bears at Soldier Field no matter how solid the ground game is. Here’s how Sko North put it just 2 games into the fresh season:
With two weeks in the books, Cousins ranks No. 1 in percentage of drop backs under pressure at 60.9% with the next highest through two weeks being DeShaun Watson at 50.7%. Last year Cousins was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL when pressured, posting a solid 83.1 quarterback rating. However, his 2018 performance with pass rushers in his face was an outlier for Cousins’ career. In his previous three seasons as a starter he managed 61.1, 67.1 and 65.9 ratings under pressure.
Through two games, Cousins has completed just nine of 24 throws with pressure. Here are his numbers with and without pressure so far. No pressure: 13-for-18 (72.2% completion), 154 yards (8.6 per attempt), zero touchdowns, one interception, 74.8 rating. Pressure: 9-for-24 (37.5% completion), 177 yards (7.4 per attempt), two touchdowns, one interception, 74.5 rating.
The issues protecting the QB aren’t entirely on the Vikings’ offensive line. Cousins currently has the slowest snap-to-release in the NFL at 3.15 seconds. Last year amidst O-line issues he ranked 17th of 30 in snap-to-release time. A PFF study this offseason found that quarterbacks have a great impact on their own pressure rate. So in this case it has been a collaborative effort. But the performances up front haven’t been impressive. The Vikings have the second lowest team graded pass blocking score and center Garrett Bradbury received a 0.0 grade in Week 1 and 16.3 in Week 2.
Kirk Cousins may also have to try to do too much to compensate for a defense that is missing some pieces.
As for the betting odds, sharp line-movement toward Minnesota ((+100) after opening as a 1.4-to-1 underdog)) in addition to the subterranean Sin City point total of (38) are numbers which reek of irrational bias against Mitch Trubisky of the Bears.
Trubisky is just 1 of those guys who fans love to trash, and all of his good passing performances are seen as flukes while his effective runs are simply seen as a detriment that will cause injury. (If that’s the case, why don’t his haters cheer when he runs for 1st downs, since it will be sure to ruin his whole career? The mysteries of life.)
Chicago’s pass rush will loom large and the Bears’ offense may not have to get fancy to win. But that doesn’t mean the total is going under (38) points.
Minnesota is still a modern NFL team at heart despite Mike Zimmer’s flirtation with power-running, and with Chicago’s pass rush poised to produce sacks, turnovers, and mayhem for the offense to take advantage of on a short field, it’s not necessary to envision Trubisky throwing 5 touchdown passes to imagine the total going way over the market line.
It might rain a little bit in the Windy City but the temperature will be warm and DBs can struggle on a wet field.
I like Chicago to win on the moneyline or (Even) spread…but I like the Over a hell of a lot more.