Why Betting the Under in NFL Games Has Been So Profitable

  • The under has hit in more than 61% of NFL games this season
  • Scoring across the league is down while penalties are up
  • Quarterback talent is on the decline compared to years past
  • The league’s best quarterbacks aren’t having memorable seasons
Tua Tagovailoa
Betting the under on NFL games has been extremely profitable through nine weeks of football. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

The NFL under is a money-maker

The Over/Under is one of the major betting markets in NFL wagering, but despite its goal of splitting bets at 50/50, it’s been totally dominated by the under through the first half of the 2023 NFL season.

22-7 in primetime and 10-1 on Monday Night Football

The under is a staggering 83-52 (61.5%) according to Covers. That includes being 22-7 in primetime and 10-1 on Monday Night Football, thanks to the Los Angeles Chargers and New York Jets only managing 33 points between them.

Is the market correction coming? How long will this trend hold? Why is this happening? Let’s explore a few potential answers.

Diving into the numbers

The short answer is no, the under should not continue to hit 61.5% of the time. Sports betting is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and sportsbooks are constantly tuning their algorithms so that they don’t give bettors the edge anywhere.

That said, the under should not have won as much as it already has, and it’s totally possible that it will continue to be a money maker until sportsbooks make major changes. 

tied for the second lowest average since 2009

Let’s start with why the under has been so profitable. Offenses across the league have struggled in the red zone, and teams are averaging 21.9 total points per game. That’s tied for the second lowest average since 2009, a time when the rules weren’t skewed toward the offense the way they currently are.

Part of the scoring decline is because teams are running the ball far more than they did even a year ago. 

The NFL’s 32 teams have combined to run an average of 225.5 times per team or 27 times per game. Compare that to the average passing attempts per team (287.2) and average passing attempts per game (34.3), and teams are running the ball on nearly 44% of their plays!

Now the refusal to hand running backs hefty contracts over the offseason feels even harsher…

There’s also been a significant increase in the influence of penalties. Teams are responsible for an average of 103 yards worth of flags per game, and at this rate, there will be more than 28,000 yards of penalties by the end of the season. That’s more than 3,000 yards greater than in 2022 and the most since 2019.

All of that is great. But what about the bigger picture? Well, we have an answer for that too…

Decline in play

Quarterbacks just aren’t that good these days.

Okay, perhaps that’s hyperbole. But looking around the league, the amount of available quarterback talent is in the basement compared to years past.

Whether through injury or coaching discretion, Tyson Bagent, Jaren Hall, Will Levis, Kenny Pickett, Clayton Tune, Brett Rypien, Gardner Minshew, and Aidan O’Connell all started games in Week 9. That list pales in comparison to other players, even low-level starters, that previously passed through the league.

The NFL’s best players also simply aren’t playing at their all-world level. Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes is on pace for a career-low in passing yards and touchdowns, QBR leader Josh Allen is tied for the league lead in interceptions, top MVP candidate Tua Tagovailoa is eighth in QBR and not even considered the best player on his offense, Lamar Jackson has fewer passing touchdowns than Joshua Dobbs and Mac Jones… the list goes on.

What hasn’t changed is that the league’s true championship contenders are built on defense. The Chiefs, 49ers, Ravens, and Cowboys, four of the top five Super Bowl favorites, are all ranked in the top seven in points allowed. 

boom-or-bust strategy pays off for few

Teams are also willing to invest in young quarterbacks and risk poor performance in hopes they can uncover the next diamond in the rough. That boom-or-bust strategy pays off for few and is yet another reason why the under has been in high demand. 

The bottom line is this: the under went 11-3 in Week 9 and is still a worthy investment. There’s a chance the NFL adjusts its rules again to create for higher-scoring games, or the next great quarterback draft class joins the league, but we need to see a long run of overs before we can call this trend a fluke.

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