It's rare that bookmakers show a sign of weakness, but we've got a trend to monitor as you prepare for Week 3, the last weekend of the month. In September games since the beginning of last season, under tickets have cashed 78.6% of the time when the over/under is set under 45 points. That number is down a considerable amount from the September rate over the previous decade (49.1%) and got me to thinking - do sportsbooks underestimate just how bad the bad teams are?
The thought behind that hypothesis is that low totals often involve at least one bad offense and, in this era of professional football, a bad offense is more often than not a bad team. This train of thinking gained some steam when I looked at games in which a team was favored by more than a touchdown.
2011-20: Those heavy favorites covered 47.9% of the time
2021-22: Those heavy favorites have covered 58.8% of the time
So we've got big favorites covering and low totals going under. To me, that reflects an underestimation of dominance. Now, it is worth noting, that overs connected on 53.9% of games in that low total window after September ended last season, so it's possible that this "flaw" is rectified sooner than later. Understanding that, we do have another week of September and we have plenty of low total spots in Week 3. There aren't many big favorites (the Bengals and Rams are both road teams favored by more than a field goal), but if the books are underestimating how bad some of these offenses are ... two of them playing in the same game (Texans/Bears, Falcons/Seahawks, Cowboys/Giants), feels favorable if you're buying this trend.
Here are our ATS standings, matchups and betting nugget for each team, updated weekly.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (-4.5, 38)
Steelers ATS: 1-0-1
What we know about the Steelers: Over their past four road divisional games, the Steelers are 3-0 ATS when the under hits and 0-1 when the over comes through.
Browns ATS: 1-1
What we know about the Browns: The Browns have dropped four straight ATS against the division and have failed to cover in each of their past five against the Black and Gold.
Sunday, 1p games
Buffalo Bills (-6, 52) at Miami Dolphins
Bills ATS: 2-0
What we know about the Bills: The Bills failed to cover three of Josh Allen's first four starts on short rest, but they've covered four of five since. Buffalo finds itself in such a spot.
Dolphins ATS: 2-0
What we know about the Dolphins: Under tickets have cashed in six of Tua Tagovailoa's nine divisional starts (including both starts against the Bills last season).
Cincinnati Bengals (-5, 45) at New York Jets
Bengals ATS: 0-2
What we know about the Bengals: Cincy has covered in 16 of their past 17 outright wins.
Jets ATS: 1-1
What we know about the Jets: The Jets have failed to cover in five of their past six games as a home underdog (lost by 15 in Week 1 as the host of 6.5-point favorite Baltimore).
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings (-6, 52.5)
Lions ATS: 2-0
What we know about the Lions: Detroit has failed to cover six of their past eight divisional road games. That said, they broke away from their struggles in their last such game, a 2-point loss as a 10-point underdog in Minnesota (Week 5).
Vikings ATS: 1-1
What we know about the Vikings: The Vikings haven't seen consecutive divisional games go under the total since December of 2019. They played Green Bay in Week 1 and the game went under by 16.5 points.
Houston Texans at Chicago Bears (-2.5, 40)
Texans ATS: 2-0
What we know about the Texans: Dating back to last season, the Texans have covered three straight games. They haven't covered four in-a-row since the final three games of 2015 and the first game of 2016.
Bears ATS: 1-1
What we know about the Bears: Baby steps. After failing to cover five straight at Solider Field, Da Bears have covered consecutive home games (won outright in Week 1 as a 6.5-point underdog against the 49ers).
Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5, 50.5) at Indianapolis Colts
Chiefs ATS: 1-1
What we know about the Chiefs: Be careful in blindly backing Patrick Mahomes on extended rest: the books are well aware. The Chiefs are just 7-6-1 ATS in the Mahomes era when having at least seven days off (unders are 7-6 in those games).
Colts ATS: 0-2
What we know about the Colts: The Colts have failed to cover four straight games and have seen each of their past seven games go under the total.
New Orleans Saints (-3, 40.5) at Carolina Panthers
Saints ATS: 0-2
What we know about the Saints: The Saints have covered six of their past eight games in Carolina, but bookmakers have been handicapping those matchups pretty accurately. Of those eight games, six saw a team cover by less than a touchdown.
Panthers ATS: 0-2
What we know about the Panthers: This is the first of three straight home games for the Panthers and normally, that's a good thing. The Panthers aren't normal. They've failed to cover 12 of their past 15 at their place, a stretch that includes seven straight ATS losses.
Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5, 47) at Washington Commanders
Eagles ATS: 1-1
What we know about the Eagles: Philadelphia is 1-4-1 ATS in their past six divisional games as a favorite.
Commanders ATS: 1-1
What we know about the Commanders: Washington is 4-1 ATS over their past five home games (they had failed to cover five straight games in front of their fans prior).
Las Vegas Raiders (-2, 45.5) at Tennessee Titans
Raiders ATS: 0-2
What we know about the Raiders: For the first time since the 2012 season, the Raiders are 0-2 ATS to start the season. In that tough 2012 campaign, they finished with a 5-11 mark ATS.
Titans ATS: 0-2
What we know about the Titans: The Titans do much to help the cause, but their Monday Nighter in Buffalo went over the total, just their second over in their past seven games.
Baltimore Ravens (-3, 43.5) at New England Patriots
Ravens ATS: 1-1
What we know about the Ravens: As exciting as last week was against the Dolphins, the final outcome was a bit predictable. The Ravens have failed to cover five of their past seven games that have gone over the total.
Patriots ATS: 0-1-1
What we know about the Patriots: Six straight games at Foxboro have gone over the total (they've gone over by an average of 13.4 points during this run).
Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Chargers (-7, 47)
Jaguars ATS: 1-1
What we know about the Jaguars: Since mid-November, the Jags are 2-0 ATS against the Colts and 0-8 ATS against the rest of the NFL. The Chargers would qualify as "the rest of the NFL".
Chargers ATS: 2-0
What we know about the Chargers: The Bolts went 0-3 ATS last season when they were a road favorite (-48.5 points against the spread cumulative in those games).
Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks (Pk, 42)
Falcons ATS: 2-0
What we know about the Falcons: The Falcons are 6-2-1 ATS (5-4 outright) over their past nine road games.
Seahawks ATS: 1-1
What we know about the Seahawks: Geno Smith covered the spread in his final three home starts with the Jets and has covered his first three home starts with the 'Hawks.
Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Pk, 41.5)
Packers ATS: 1-1
What we know about the Packers: The Packers have failed to cover back-to-back-to-back-to-back road games (over tickets have cashed in three of them).
Buccaneers ATS: 2-0
What we know about the Buccaneers: The Bucs are 5-1 ATS in their past six games that have failed to reach the expected point total.
Los Angeles Rams (-3.5, 48.5) at Arizona Cardinals
Rams ATS: 0-2
What we know about the Rams: The Rams go on the road for the first time this season. Each of their past two games in Arizona have gone under the total (over that stretch, overs are 4-0 in their other divisional road games).
Cardinals ATS: 1-1
What we know about the Cardinals: The Cardinals are 3-11 ATS over their past 14 home games, a stretch that includes six straight ATS losses.
Sunday, 8:20p game
San Francisco 49ers (-1.5, 45) at Denver Broncos
49ers ATS: 1-1
What we know about the 49ers: The 49ers are 1-5 ATS in their past six primetime games (overs are 4-2 in those games).
Broncos ATS: 0-2
What we know about the Broncos: New QB, same story. Both Denver games this season have gone under the total, this coming on the heels of going under in eight of 11 games to close last season.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (-1, 39)
Cowboys ATS: 1-1
What we know about the Cowboys: The 'Boys failed to cover in New York against these Giants in Week 17 of 2020. Since then, they've covered eight of nine road games, a run of success they hope to carry over into their first road game of the season.
Giants ATS: 2-0
What we know about the Giants: Six straight Giant home divisional games have gone under the total. Their three such games last season saw a total of 50 fewer points scored than bookmakers expected.