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Defensive Approach Pays Off in NFL Betting

Target Best (or Worst) Units for Over/Under Wagers

You can use so many angles when betting on the NFL that it can sometimes be dizzying. It’s important to pick and choose the best ones when formulating a system for betting each season. One of the game’s most important facets, especially when betting totals, is predicting which teams will have the best defenses.

If you can predict which teams will finish in the top three on defense, you can use that information to both make preseason bets on futures and week-to-week wagers against the NFL spreads (ATS).

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Head coach Jonathan Gannon of the Arizona Cardinals - Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

With that in mind, let’s take a look at my picks for the top three betting defenses in no particular order for the upcoming season.

Note that the defenses listed below are among the best, but not necessarily No. 1, in the NFL. Instead, they were chosen based on their betting records from 2022 and potential for profits in 2023.

New York Jets

If there were a Comeback Defense of the Year award, the Jets would have won it in 2022. They went from one of the worst groups in the NFL in 2021 to one of the best the following season. The Jets may not be a great team overall, but much like the Rex Ryan era, they hope to dominate enough on defense to win games.

If we’re being honest, the Cowboys probably have a better defense than the Jets. But, New York makes our list because of its 5-12 O/U record from 2022. As a result of such a one-sided record, the Jets had the best Under ROI in the NFL at 34.85%. Under bettors walked away with an extra 6.50 units thanks to New York’s combination of great defense and tepid offense.

I expect the Jets to once again be good NFL picks when betting under the total in 2023.

Philadelphia Eagles

While you may assume that because the Eagles’ top-tier defense earns a lot of Under wins, you’d be very wrong. The defense was among the best in the NFL last season, but unlike the Jets, so was Phily’s offense.

Because the Eagles’ offense was so good, they actually finished with the fourth-best Over ROI in the NFL at 5.00% with a 11-9 O/U record.

I believe they will once again be a good Over bet, perhaps even the best in the NFL, due to their regression on defense. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very talented group of guys, but they also got very lucky last season.

All 11 defensive starters were healthy for most of the season and the Eagles didn’t have to deal with any untimely injuries on that side of the ball. Philly’s defense also had the luxury of facing the second-easiest schedule of offenses in 2022.

The Eagles also sacked opponents on 11.2% of pass attempts and finished fourth in EPA on turnovers. It will be hard to repeat one of those feats, let alone two.

The Eagles are still going to be a very good team, but I think their defense takes a step back and their results over the total grow.

Dishonorable Mention – Arizona Cardinals

Knowing which defenses are expected to be the worst can be as useful for NFL betting as for good squads. Just lean toward the over instead of the under.

The preseason award for the team, I believe, that will have the worst defense in 2023, and the worst roster is the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals allowed the second-most points allowed in 2022 and the 11th-most yards. While the team should have a rejuvenated focus on defense under new head coach Jonathan Gannon, the talent just isn’t there. Gannon helmed one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, the Philadelphia Eagles. But without the right pieces in place, the Cardinals’ defense will be just as bad, if not worse, than their offense.

It doesn’t help that Arizona lost key contributors like J.J. Watt, Zach Allen, and Byron Murphy Jr. Their best secondary player, Budda Baker, has already requested a trade as the ship in the desert continues to sink.

Arizona is already 1-2 on the O/U during the preseason with an Under ROI of 27.27%. Last season, they finished with the fourth-highest Under ROI at 15.51%.

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