Too bad I wasn’t on this game back in May. The Houston Texans and their mighty defense are about to collide with the San Diego Chargers and their not-so-mighty offense. And the early sharp action was on the ‘Under’, driving the total from 46 points at the open down to as low as 44 on our NFL odds board. Gosh darn dog.
But, soft! what half-point through yonder window breaks? It is the NFL betting market, and she’s coming to our rescue with a rush of action on the ‘Over’, edging the total back up to 44.5 points at many of our online sportsbooks. Every half-point counts, but some count more than others. The fair price for buying this particular half-point, according to the Wizard of Odds, would be 8.5 cents. Only three other totals are more expensive to move onto or away from: 41 (10.6 cents), 37 (10.6 cents) and 51 (8.6 cents).
Story checks out, bro. These are also the four most common combined final scores in the NFL, which means you are at your most likely to turn a loss into a push or a push into a win. We should be quite happy, then, to bet ‘Under’ 44.5 and not ‘Under’ 44. Unfortunately, both these totals fall in the middle of the NFL’s point distribution curve, so there’s not a lot of built-in value taking either side of Monday night’s matchup (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN). We need something specific about this game to pin our hopes on.
A Linebacker Named Brian
That Texans defense sure looks good. Safety Ed Reed won’t be starting and may not play at all Monday as he recovers from offseason hip surgery, but Reed wasn’t around last year, either. Neither was LB Brian Cushing for the most part, and Houston (‘Under’ 9-7) still finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in defensive efficiency, behind only the Chicago Bears and the San Francisco 49ers.
How far will they go now that Cushing is back in the lineup? We got just a little taste last year, as Houston started the season 4-0 SU and ATS before Cushing was knocked out of commission with a torn ACL. The ‘Under’ got paid in Weeks 1 and 2, thanks in part to rookie DE J.J. Watt racking up five of his 16 passes defended on the season – the previous record for defensive ends was 11. But Watt didn’t have any PDs the next two games, both of which went ‘Over’ the posted total on the NFL odds board.
Chewy Chewy Chewy
It wasn’t that long ago the Chargers (‘Over’ 10-6) had one of the best offenses in the NFL. In fact, it was just two years ago, when Philip Rivers made his fourth Pro Bowl and San Diego ranked No. 5 in offensive efficiency. Last year? No. 24 overall. Not many people are expecting a full recovery to 2011 levels; Football Outsiders projects the Chargers offense to rank No. 20 this year.
That’s a good sign for ‘Under’ bettors. It might be a little pessimistic; the Chargers have a new system in place under head coach Mike McCoy, whom I discussed in my earlier article on the NFL point spread for Monday. However, if the Chargers do succeed on offense, it will be in part because they’re running the ball more with Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead, and running the ball has the effect of chewing up the clock.
I also mentioned some of the small improvements the Chargers have made on defense, and some of the injuries the Houston offense has encountered since the start of training camp. This is a marginal play, but I’ll take the ‘Under’ as my official sports pick for this matchup, and I’ll grab that ‘Under’ 46 as long as William Hill is willing to keep it there.
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