Christmas is now in the rear-view mirror and the new year is right around the corner, so the stretch run of the NFL is here. Due to an unusually-condensed group of contenders, more games this week hold playoff significance. Put another way, only a few games are truly meaningless.
Of course, ‘meaningless’ may not matter when betting online on point total over/unders. However, it’s nice to have action in games where both teams are motivated, since that means the result is a bit more predictable…though not always.
Let’s go through the current NFL football lines and pick out some of the more promising under possibilities. Remember that in early January, games outside in the north could be heavily impacted by wintry conditions, helping the under a bit.
Second Runner-Up: New York Giants at Chicago Bears
When: Sunday, Jan. 2nd, 1:00 p.m. ET
Total: 37½ Points
While this game doesn’t have any playoff implications whatsoever, it does feature two teams in the bottom-five of the NFL in scoring and two teams using second- and third-string quarterbacks.
Using “massive disappointment” to describe the Giants and Bears is more than appropriate. New York quarterback Daniel Jones regressed in terms of performance before a season-ending neck injury. The Giants have scored more than 13 points just once since Nov. 7th. Neither Jake Fromm nor Mike Glennon played with distinction in a 34-10 blowout loss at Philadelphia last Sunday.
Things haven’t been much better for the Bears, even with their late, 25-24 win at Seattle. Chicago beat Seattle with a last-second Nick Foles’ touchdown pass to former Seahawk tight end Jimmy Graham, plus a subsequent two-point conversion. The Seahawks are terrible against the pass and Chicago likely won’t have Justin Fields again this week. The Giants’ defense isn’t great overall, yet it’s middle-of-the-pack against the pass so Foles probably won’t throw for 250 yards again without a turnover.
These teams are both awful, and despite the point total set pretty low, you should strongly consider the under.
Pick: Under 37½ Points
First Runner-Up: Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals
When: Sunday, Jan. 2nd, 1:00 p.m. ET
Total: 49½ Points
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Giants-Bears, this game features two of the NFL’s more electric quarterbacks leading two top-10 offenses. Hence, there’s a very high over/under figure in a game where the Chiefs’ defense has actually worked itself to fifth in fewest points allowed. Kansas City has played great since the beginning of November, eying a ninth consecutive victory
Forty-nine-and-one-half points is a high total on the BetUS sportsbook, especially because Kansas City is coming off a complete shutdown of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ inept offense. The Chiefs have allowed more than 17 points just once during their current rampage.
The Bengals, of course, demolished the Baltimore Ravens, 41-21, Sunday, with Joe Burrow throwing for a team-record 525 yards. Cincinnati’s offense — filled with playmakers — has been able to explode for 40-plus points three times this season, but is also prone to lackluster performances against solid defenses. The Bengals scored 15 points against the Denver Broncos, 23 points against the San Francisco 49ers (in overtime) and 16 points against the Cleveland Browns.
Look for Kansas City to do a much better job than the Ravens reining in Burrow. Patrick Mahomes and Co. should be able to get their points, especially through the air, but the Chiefs’ defense ensures that this under hits.
Pick: Under 49½ Points
Under of the Week: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
When: Monday, Jan. 3rd, 8:15 p.m. ET
Total: 41 Points
For the best under bet of Week 17, stay in the AFC North and a divisional matchup between two teams that can’t find any sort of offensive consistency. For the Browns, Baker Mayfield keeps struggling while the team has been beset by injuries and COVID absences. Cleveland hasn’t thrown for over 200 passing yards in a game since the end of November and only amassed more than 290 total yards from scrimmage twice in their last six games.
The numbers are a little better for the Steelers, but just barely. If you’re making NFL predictions, look for this game to be a low-scoring battle played in nighttime cold conditions. There likely will be a big emphasis on both teams’ ground games as a result, helping Cleveland but hurting Pittsburgh, the latter with the fourth-fewest rushing yards in the league.
The only risk here is that Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt explode against the Steelers’ dead-last rushing defense. However, that won’t single-handedly sink the under since the Browns struggle to score even when Chubb and Hunt have big games.