Ask James Harrison or any NFL defender. Ask any NFL defensive coordinator or anyone who has bet on the ‘under’ this year in the NFL. They would probably answer that this has been one of the more difficult seasons for anyone who is not a fan of offense.
Nearly every rule change made in the past three seasons has benefited the offense. The increased fines levied against multiple defenders and the scrutiny on those defenders throughout the league has even benefited the offense. Defenders are weary of more fines and potential suspensions. Harrison, Pittsburgh’s top linebacker, has already racked up $125,000 in fines. The league has made it clear that further questionable hits will lead to more fines and even suspensions, and Harrison and the rest of the league have taken note.
If you’ve been consistently wagering on the ‘under’ this season, maybe you have lost even more than Harrison. Through 13 weeks of football the ‘over’ is hitting 56-percent of the time, highlighted by a number of shootouts in the league when the ‘over’ was never in doubt.
There are a few reasons why this offensive outburst is outpacing the oddsmakers. The obvious reason is the rules crackdown. The league changed after Week 6, in which four different players left the field with concussions after brutal helmet-to-helmet hits. Dangerous hits knocking out Todd Heap, DeSean Jackson, Joshua Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi caught the attention of fans everywhere, and they definitely caught the attention of the league.
While the rules and fines may be relaxed in the future, there is absolutely no indication that league officials are about to call off the dogs this season. But it’s not just the rules as the reason why scoreboards are being lit up. The elite teams in the league this season are doing it with offense. The NFC is being run the Falcons, Saints, Packers and Eagles, and the four teams happen to have the four best offenses in the conference. The AFC is being run by the Patriots, owners of the best offense in the league.
This was not always the case. After Week 1 many may have been proclaiming this the year of the defense. The season started with a defensive showcase on a Thursday night in New Orleans with the Saints prevailing, 14-9, over the Vikings. That would start a trend for the week that saw the ‘over’ go only 4-11-1. But that week proved to be the exception. Since then the ‘over’ is hitting 59 percent of the time (104-71-1). Only one other week this entire season had more games stay ‘under’ than go ‘over’. That was Week 8. Since Week 8, an unheard of 61 percent (46-28-1) of games have continued to go ‘over’.
Of course, the oddsmakers realize what is going on and adjustments have been made. In the last three weeks there have been four games with a posted total of 50 or more, something usually rare in the league. In those games the ‘over’ is 3-0-1. This week the total for Sunday Night Football between the Eagles and Cowboys is 50.5. The oddsmakers are adjusting the totals, but not as much as the rules and enforcement has been adjusted.
Many say the crackdown on illegal or even borderline hits is not the reason for the offensive outburst this season, but after 13 weeks the trend is becoming harder and harder to disprove. The ‘over’ hit 10 times in Week 7 and Week 9 and 11 times in Week 10. We cannot expect this kind of consistency all the time, but it appears the season of offense is here to stay and so is the season of the ‘over.’