For years, we’ve been hearing about how the NFL is getting more and more offensive. The vast majority of head coaching hires these days have offensive backgrounds. Scoring across the league has increased in recent years. However, that hasn’t really come to fruition so far in 2022.
Slowest start since 2017
In Week 4, eight games went over the total and eight games went under the total. That was the first week this season that the subs didn’t win the week. Overall, though, it’s been a solid start for smaller bettors. Through four weeks, the unders are 36-27-1. That’s good for a winning percentage of almost 58%.
Overall, over four weeks, we’re looking at an average of 43.9 points per game and an average final total of just 42. By comparison, through the first four weeks of the 2021 season, the average number of points per game was 47. The median was 44.5 points. In 2020, those numbers were 51.3 and 49 respectively.
Overall, the scoring to start this season is down more than 3 points per game this year compared to last, and more than 7 points from two seasons ago. At the start of each season, bettors rely on data from previous years to determine much of their handicap. Gamblers do the same. It’s the reason we’re seeing so many games go under.
As a result of the lower score, the games are tighter. Through four weeks, we have already seen 23 games that have been decided by three points or less. Of course, lower scores also cause more and more props to fall below compared to those above. Everything is correlated.
Punters are adjusting
Your first thought might be that punters are setting inflated totals, knowing that the majority of the public would rather bet higher than under. That hasn’t really been the case.
The average closing total through the first four weeks of this season has been 45.1 points. Last year, through the first four games, the average closing total was 48.3 points. Bettors are setting totals three points lower than last year. In 2018-2020, the average closing total for the first four weeks was higher than this year.
That trend continues into Week 5. The average total at BetMGM for the coming week is set at 45 points. Last season, the average total in Week 5 was 47.6 points. Last year, there were four totals in Week 5 that exceeded 50 points. This week, only the Raiders-Chiefs game has a total in the 50s. This coming weekend, there are seven totals listed at or below 44 points. Last year, in week 5, there were only three.
Gamblers are lowering the totals. That could be why we didn’t see as many unders last week. The question is, will the points return as the NFL season progresses?
Why is the score going down?
It’s hard to pinpoint why the score is low. This breakdown from a week ago by the NFL’s Extra Point blog basically concluded that the main reason is the efficiency of passing offenses throughout the league.
That would make sense. The league is getting heavier as teams try to get ahead of the chains on first downs. However, there is another reason that games may be flying below totals.
If you look at the top 10 teams in terms of EPA/game in RBSDM, you’ll see a mixed bag. No one is surprised to see teams like Kansas City, Buffalo, Baltimore or Philadelphia there. However, you’ll also see quarterback teams like Geno Smith, Marcus Mariota, Jacoby Brissett and Jared Goff in the top 10.
If you keep scrolling down the list, you’ll see even more surprises. Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay rank 14th, basically league average. Joe Burrow and the Bengals are 18th. Offensive genius Kyle Shanahan’s team is ranked 20th. Russell Wilson’s Broncos are ranked 22nd. Last year’s highest scoring offense, Dallas, is ranked 23rd. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers rank 24th. Last year’s champions, the Rams, rank 28th.
Those are a lot of the league’s most respected offenses that are struggling hard to open the season. We should expect most to recover. In the meantime, it could create some betting opportunities. For example, on Sunday night last week, the Chiefs played the Buccaneers. The total closed at just 46.5 points. Last season, that’s a game that closed well over 50 points. When these teams met in the Super Bowl in 2021, the total was 56 points. Sunday night’s game finished with 72 points, well above the closing total.
Thursday night’s game is ugly on paper. Both Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan are struggling a lot with their new teams. The total between the Colts and Broncos is just 42 points. At BetMGM, 80% of bets are low. Punters and odds makers are well aware of the low scoring start to the season. The question now is if and when the score is recovered.