You know the sinking feeling. The spread’s covered, there are a couple minutes to go in the game, and you’re on your way to earning a profit for the week.
Then, the opposition scores, recovers an onside kick, and scores again.
At 28-7, the teams were well under the 45-point under. Now, it’s 28-20, and they covered the over at the NFL betting sites. The over/under bet lost.
Well, that’s what this article is about! And the above is one of five reasons blowouts often encroach the over, yet at the same time, almost always handle the spread.
1. Prevent Defense
Let’s look back at the Chiefs and Texans in Week 1. After jumping to a 31-7 lead, the Chiefs ended up winning 34-20, covering the spread and the over/under.
For those of you who bet the under in that game, it came down to a meaningless field goal attempt within the game’s final two minutes. It was a field goal attempt from Harrison Butker and the Chiefs. And instead of sinking under the 53.5-point over/under, it pushed the teams over by a half-point.
Luckily for most of you, they covered the spread, which is what often occurs in these games. But the Texans and Chiefs are just one of many examples we can point to.
Another good example from Week 1 of the 2020 season is the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets game.
The Bills led 27-10 and as the time of writing, the over/under sat at 39.5 points. Then, the Bills allowed a Jets’ touchdown with 54 seconds to go in the game. The final score was 27-17, over/under diced.
So, sometimes a fully-fledged blowout isn’t such a good thing, as the heavy favorite may often back into prevent defense. And when this happens, the over/under is almost always in jeopardy.
Throughout this article, you’ll notice a bit of a pattern. This pattern that will tell you that oftentimes, when the over/under is encroached, often because of heavy scoring from a heavy favorite or because the favorite is in prevent defense, that the spread is often still safe.
That is, unless of course, if the major underdog is the one pulling off a massive upset.
2. Pouring It On
This one affects the over/under far more than the spread. What often happens is that the over/under sits at a specific number. But given the discrepancy in talent, some teams will wallop their opponents. And some teams won’t back into prevent nor will they let up. Instead, they’ll continue to pour it onto their opponents.
Granted, you don’t see this as often in the NFL as much as you do in college football. One reason is that making the playoffs and achieving a high national ranking is so much tougher at the collegiate level.
College teams have to make statements every week. NFL teams don’t often need to because there’s no real rankings system.
With that said, you’ll still see this occur in the NFL, but to a lesser extent. Often, it comes in the form of deep offenses who, even after putting in their backups, can still play well. A good example of this is the 2020 New Orleans Saints, who boast solid backups like Taysom Hill, Latavius Murray, Josh Hill, Jameis Winston, and others.
The 2007 New England Patriots loved doing this. They would leave their starters in and continue to pick their opponents apart. In an interview back in 2007, Tom Brady stated he and his Patriots played to “blow teams out.” Well said, Mr. Brady.
The Baltimore Ravens did this a few times in 2019, starting in Week 1, when they beat the Miami Dolphins 59-10. They’d often threaten the over/under in a few games and at times, they either scored the bulk of the points to encroach the over or close to it.
They defeated teams like the Patriots 37-20, the Cincinnati Bengals 49-13, New York Jets 42-21, and Los Angeles Rams 45-6. If you look at historical data, each of these examples either encroached or came close to encroaching the over/under.
The key point to take away from these examples is if a large talent discrepancy exists, straight betting is far more attractive than putting faith in the over/under.
3. Defensive Weakness
Nothing threatens to encroach the over/under like a couple of even mediocre defenses playing stellar offenses.
Let’s return to the Week 1 tilt featuring the Texans and Chiefs. The Chiefs foster a so-so defense, but one that’s good enough to hold opponents down when they need to.
The Texans’ defense is abysmal.
You’ll often see a higher over/under when this happens. Often, it’s either in the high 40s or lower 50s. The Chiefs-Texans sat at 53.5 and of course, garbage time and a botched onside kick doomed the over/under.
Keep solid track of teams facing off that feature stronger offenses and weaker defenses. Oftentimes, you’ll find them either encroaching or at least getting close to that mark.
There are outliers, as you saw in the Cowboys-Rams game when both high-flying offenses forgot to show. But if you look at examples from Week 1, you saw a lot of good offenses sweeping the over/under when they played decent at best defenses. It happened in the Seattle-Atlanta game, the Philadelphia-Washington tilt, and the New Orleans-Tampa Bay Game of the Week.
Sure, the better the offenses the higher the numbers are going to be. No, you won’t win every bet, so don’t expect to. But you should rest assured that, better offenses vs. poor-to-halfway-decent defenses almost always raise the probability to cover the over/under.
4. Future References
In these situations, blowouts occur, but opposing teams love to put in backup players and develop them. Most often, you see this at the high school level. But there are times when teams in the NFL will do this. Often, it involves a rookie or younger quarterback.
Other times, it’s a veteran backup quarterback coming in for the younger guy once the game is out of reach. What often happens is, you’ll see a team jump out to something like a 30-6 lead, and the opponents will put the backups in for the last half of the final quarter.
In high school, you see this occur as early as the third quarter, if not earlier—ditto for college. But let’s stick to the NFL scope for the purposes of this article. Oftentimes, it’s juxtaposed with a team going into prevent defense plus a massive discrepancy in talent.
I can’t stop stressing the Browns-Ravens affair in Week 1.
While the Browns failed to score late and cover the over/under, Baltimore started playing their backups at around the six-minute mark in the game.
Around the league, and as mentioned earlier in the article, you saw teams dropping into prevent defense. We already mentioned the Bills doing this. But so did the Seattle Seahawks when they took a 38-18 lead and had already covered the spread and the over/under.
Again, if you look at the above subheadings, you see some common denominators here. The Bills and Jets held a massive discrepancy in talent. The Falcons and Seahawks both have stellar offenses.
Common denominator? They both encroached the over.
5. Cardiac Kids
There’s always that one game each week where you don’t expect teams to cover the over/under yet end up doing so because of a nice little comeback. It’s games like these that just rip your heart if you bet the under.
The game is either a blowout, or it’s over with like seven minutes to go. Give or take a minute in either direction. Then, the team coming from behind puts up a touchdown, and there’s enough time to kick deep. Their defense comes up with a stop and the next thing you know, it’s a one-possession game.
With three minutes to go, that sinking feeling enters the pit of your stomach. The team with the massive lead early on is going to blow it.
It happened during the Week 1 tilt, featuring the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears.
Detroit led 23-9 before Mitchell Trubisky of all quarterbacks. I’m sure he’s the reason you bet the under if you did—tossed 3 touchdown passes en route to the Bears’ offense exploding for 21 points. The under you bet was just axed.
But hey, in terms of this game, it shouldn’t have surprised you too much. How many times have the Detroit Lions found strange ways to let teams back into the game? Too many to count. This often happens when two teams of equal talent, like the Lions and Bears, meet.
Often, one team builds a 2 or 3 touchdown lead, and the score is usually something like 24-7 going into the fourth. Then, the opponent finds a rhythm and scores 2 unanswered touchdowns. Next thing you know, it’s 24-21 and it’s a game.
Even worse is if the team on the comeback trail’s defense holds the leading team to a field goal. And within the last two minutes, the score is sitting at 27-21 and the over/under is 52.5.
Oh, and the team taking possession has a quarterback known for their fourth-quarter heroics, like Ben Roethlisberger or Aaron Rodgers. You just know how it’s going to end—a loss instead of a profit—and there’s nothing you can do about it.
There’s nothing worse than watching your over/under bet slip away. No, it’s worse when you see a team covering the spread and before you place your bet at the online sportsbooks, the gut said to go with the spread rather than the over/under.
The situations mentioned above almost always threaten to encroach the over. Talent discrepancies are the worst, as winning teams often allow the final score to be a bit more respectable.
But it also comes when teams like to test new players. Other teams are the opposite and love to pour it on. It’s less common at the NFL level and more so in college.
Then, there’s the infamous comeback, and it’s often seen among teams of equal talent. Usually, you see smaller spreads in these games as was the case with Detroit and Chicago in Week 1 of 2020.