NFL Picks: Broncos & Lions To Go 'Under' 44.5 on Sunday Night Football

Jason Lake

Friday, September 25, 2015 12:15 AM GMT

The Denver Broncos haven't seen totals this low since 2012. Have the NFL odds underestimated Denver's offense going into Sunday night's game against the Detroit Lions?

Jason's 2015 record as of Sept. 23: 11-5 ATS; 0-1 ML (–1.00 units); 4-4 Total

The Denver Broncos are 2-0, and apparently they're toast. Denver needed its defense to come up with the winning points in Weeks 1 and 2; on offense, the Broncos are the second-worst team in the league according to DVOA, and Peyton Manning is the worst quarterback in the league according to DYAR. Clearly it's time to send these guys to the glue factory.

Or maybe we're being a bit hasty. Whatever the case, Denver's defense/offense imbalance has the sharps backing up the truck and dumping a ton of money on the UNDER for Sunday night's matchup (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC) with the Detroit Lions. There's a total of 44.5 points on the NFL odds board as we go to press, and our consensus reports show 71 percent support for the UNDER. So much for the new, higher-scoring NFL.

 

Conicio Ergo Sum
Before we turn the Broncos into mucilage, let's revisit the way we're framing those advanced stats (as usual, freely available at Football Outsiders). This might seem like a minor quibble over semantics, but saying the Broncos “are” this and Manning “is” that adds a level of certainty to things that just doesn't exist. Better to say their performance levels through two weeks haven't been up to snuff.

The question is whether things will improve from here – and how quickly, and by how much. Manning himself doesn't have any upside left at age 39, but football is a team sport, and it's impossible to separate the decline in Manning's numbers from the decline in talent along his offensive line. There's also the issue of new head coach Gary Kubiak and his more balanced offense. We're not seeing as much of Manning in the shotgun, except when Denver's back is up against the wall, like that game-tying TD drive against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2.

 

Treasure Chest
On the other side of the field, it looks like Matthew Stafford will indeed start for the Detroit Lions on Sunday, although it has yet to be made official as we go to press. Stafford is practicing in full despite injuries to his ribs/chest and his throwing arm. Detroit's offense ranks No. 16 in DVOA after two weeks, and facing the league's No. 1 defense won't help that ranking improve, not even under the dome.

We're not terribly confident that the Lions watered-down defense can contain Manning and the Denver Broncos, even with that patchwork offensive line. And we certainly don't think there's much value to be found on either side of a 44.5-point total. But given what we've seen from Denver thus far, Stafford's growing collection of bumps and bruises, and the early action, a small bet on the UNDER seems like a reasonable addition to your Week 3 NFL picks. Just watch out for those defensive touchdowns.

NFL Pick: Take UNDER 44.5 (–110) at William Hill

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