Sports bettors love consistency. Through the first two weeks of the NFL season, teams have combined to score a total of 768 points each week. There is a slim chance of scoring landing on the exact same number for the third consecutive week, but it provides us a strong baseline on how to shape point totals moving forward. NFL totals have been balanced in both weeks, with unders edging out overs 17-15 on the year.
It's not hard to see where the biggest splits have occurred regarding totals because they have been broadcasted on national television. Prime-time games are now a perfect 6-0 to the over, with four games finishing with a combined score of 59 or more. It's only natural that the first prime-time game jumps off the board to me as an under. Trends are made to end so I hope it starts Thursday night. Let's dive into the Week 3 board and get ready to cheer on some punters this weekend!
Carolina at Houston under 43
The Texans have been a pleasant offensive surprise with Tyrod Taylor. Houston is 2-0 to the over and eighth in the NFL in scoring (29 ppg). Now that's all finished. Rookie QB Davis Mills now takes over for Taylor against a defense that is ranked No. 1 in defensive DVOA and leads the NFL in adjusted sack rate. Expect Matt Rhule to baptize the rookie third-round pick with a barrage of pressure and disguised coverages. Houston's first-time head coach David Culley now has to prepare Mills to make his first start on short rest.
It's going to be up to Carolina to carry this total and I'm not as sold on Sam Darnold. The Panthers scored only 19 on the hapless Jets and took advantage of a Saints secondary missing Marshon Lattimore and C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
Rookie QBs are 5-1 to the under in six starts this season. I'm betting it's 6-1 by Friday.
Miami at Las Vegas under 45.5
I am going to attack another total involving a quarterback injury. The Dolphins offense is off to a very bad start. Miami has scored only 17 points total in two games and averaged a futile 3.9 yards per play. Tua Tagovailoa's injury couldn't come at a worse time despite having a strong backup in Jacoby Brissett.
Even if Tua Tagovailoa can play through the pain on Sunday, I don't think it makes a significant difference in their expected output. The Raiders defense is surprisingly third in success rate and second against the rush. It should force Miami to rely on its passing game to stay competitive. Neither team is very efficient in the red zone (23rd and 27th), and we saw the Raiders total land on 42 when paired with another struggling offense last week.
I expect Miami's injury at QB and strong secondary to lure both coaches into handing off more than they should, increasing our chances of cashing in this under. Three of the four teams that started last year 2-0 to the under paid out the third week as well. Let's bet Miami follows suit.
Seattle at Minnesota under 55.5
If betting a prime-time game to go under wasn't risky enough, I am going to go after the second-highest total on the board. Seattle is No. 1 in yards per play, third in offensive DVOA, and has prioritized tempo in this year's scheme. Minnesota is averaging 28.5 points and has plenty of playmakers in Cook, Thielen and Jefferson.
Why am I betting the under? This is the first regular season home game with fans for Minnesota since 2019. At 0-2, this game is critical for Zimmer, who has covered 61% of the time at home during his tenure. When the stakes get raised, the Vikings coach reverts to his "three yards and a cloud of dust" mentality.
The Vikings will dictate the tempo in this matchup and lean heavily on Dalvin Cook. Per Football Outsiders, Minnesota has the second-slowest pace of play during a neutral-game script. If Zimmer has his way, the Vikes will drag Seattle into a trench war that Pete Carroll can't resist. A score of 28-27 gets the job done.