NFL Week 1: Betting Total on Green Bay Packers @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Packers @ Jaguars u48.0 (-110)
EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
September 11, 2016, 10:00AM PDT
The three independent simulation routines that we rely on in our efforts to handicap NFL totals uniformly favor the UNDER when the Cheeseheads travel to the Jags this Sunday in these teams' inaugural game of the 2016 NFL season. We are wagering accordingly.
Generally speaking, we like the bias in favor the UNDER, as Paul & Weinbach, (2005), for instance, observe that betting dollars tend to skew in favor of the OVER--a most curious circumstance given the oft circulated and widely accepted theory proffered by researchers such as Woodland and Woodland (1991) that bookmakers set betting lines to balance wagers.
Consistent with Paul & Weinbach's conclusion, DiFilippo, Krieger, Davis and Fodor (2014) present evidence that NFL offenses start new seasons slowly. Below average yardage gained, first downs converted and points scored are typical in the first outing of a new season. Importantly, these authors note that this diminished offensive proficiency has not historically translated to lowered week 1 betting totals, creating opportunity for UNDER backers early in the NFL season.
Last year, the Packers OVER went 6-12, owing to Green Bay's solid defense, which allowed only 20 points per game (for 11th best in the league), and ranked #13 in opponents' passing yards. Similarly, by Football Outsider's Defensive-adjusted Value Over Average (advanced) statistic, the Packers' defense ranked 9th overall and 6th versus the pass in 2015. By comparison, Jacksonville's offense was 21st last season, and at 20th, the Jags' passing game was only nominally better.
Moreover, Jacksonville QB, Blake Bortles, ranked 25th by Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, another advanced stat from Football Outsiders. Our work expects Clay Matthews and 'Ha Ha' Clinton-Dix to keep the young quarterback from finding his offensive groove Sunday.
Green Bay and Jacksonville have not squared off often, In fact, these teams have met only five times back to 1995. The O/U's is 3-2 over this stretch, including a two-game cover streak for the UNDER most recently. However, we do not read anything into head-to-head plays that has averaged one contest about every four years. Instead, our position is based 1) on a macro backdrop of support for the UNDER in week 1, in this case against a higher than average number, and 2) on our simulation work, which, with high conviction, recommends a play on the UNDER.
The betting total opened at 48, according to OddsShark and has held steady so far. To my prior comment about 48 being a bloated figure, over the last five NFL seasons (including playoff contests) the average closing O/U line has been 45, per AccuScore's database.
An overwhelming majority of totals bets (76%) are backing the OVER at present. We are content to side with the house and play the UNDER versus a relatively high number.