The first NFL Sunday of 2021 is in the books. One of the most intriguing discussions coming into this season centers around scoring. The NFL returns after the highest-scoring season in history but without some of the key variables that made 2020 unique. Last season it took the betting markets several weeks to adjust, so those who backed explosive offenses cashed in. Despite seeing the league open Thursday night with a thrilling 31-29 game, I cautioned bettors that the offensive fireworks may not shine as bright this weekend.
Unders went 9-5 Sunday with teams averaging 23.6 points per game heading into Monday night's battle between Baltimore and Las Vegas. Despite the higher percentage of unders, the average market total (47.4) almost mirrored the average scoring across the league, indicating the market's strong understanding of this year's scoring environment.
There will be plenty of opportunities to bet overs despite the regression. The NFL is an offensive-minded league, and we already saw nine teams score 30-plus points in this week's action. If the Houston Texans can score 37, any team is capable of lighting up the scoreboard in the right situation. Here are a few strong matchups that I see as solid bets to go over the total in Week 2.
Dallas Cowboys at LA Chargers over 55
The Cowboys are an over bettors dream. Dating back to last season, Dallas is 5-0 to the over in five straight games that Dak Prescott has started. Even with an average closing line total of 54.5 in those five games, the Cowboys cleared those numbers with ease. In Prescott's last five starts Dallas games flew over the total with combined scores 79, 69, 87, 71, and 60. Keep in mind that 60 is against the same Bucs defense that gave Pat Mahomes nightmares. This is a new season, but I don't see the Dallas defense improving under Dan Quinn. The Chargers hung 20 points and were 11th in offensive success rate against a much tougher Washington defense. Scoring 30-plus against Dallas is a reasonable expectation.
Minnesota at Arizona Cardinals over 51
The Arizona Cardinals put the league on notice with an offensive explosion in Tennessee on Sunday. Kyler Murray's five touchdowns propelled Arizona to 38 points, and it could have been much more if the Cardinals didn't take their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter. Arizona's high-octane attack scored on four of its first five drives and now takes on a Vikings defense that had no answer for the Bengals. The Vikes defense wins with pressure, but Murray's mobility on a fast track in Arizona could spell trouble for a defense on its straight second road game.
The Minnesota offense should have success against a Cardinals defense that might be overrated coming into this week. Vance Joseph's unit benefited from Tennessee transitioning to a new play-caller while falling behind big early. The Vikings were fourth in the NFL in yards per play last season, and have all their weapons back. Expect a shootout in the desert.
Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears over 45
The Rams rattled off 34 points against a Bears defense that showed signs of decline toward the end of 2020. Chicago allowed close to 28 points per game in its last six regular-season contests and showed little resistance against the Rams on Sunday night. We have two narratives working against each other in this one. The overrating of the Bears defense and little expectations for the Bengals offense. Burrow and Chase showed in Week 1 that the preseason concerns were overblown and will find success against a soft Chicago secondary.
In Week 1, the Bears tied the lowly Lions for most yards per pass attempt allowed (12.0). The Bears' pressure rate has declined the last three seasons, which will make it challenging to take advantage of an offensive line that has been Cincy's biggest weakness. I see enough points on both sides to push this total past 45, especially if we see more Justin Fields in the Windy City.
Stats Provided by Football Outsiders, teamrankings.com