As the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears slogged their way toward the finish line of Monday night’s game, which featured 16 punts and eight quarterback sacks, it became apparent that the teams weren’t even going to come close to the 46-point total.
And why would they? In the 38 games involving two NFC teams, the over has cashed in just 14 times.
That 41 percent over average (there have been two NFC pushes) pales in comparison to AFC games, where teams have eclipsed the total nearly 62 percent of the time (24 of 39 games have played above the number).
And, when teams from the AFC and NFC crossover and play each other, most of the time the number can’t be high enough with the over going 17-9 in inter-conference action.
The NFC results are particularly puzzling. In Week 3, all six NFC-versus-NFC games went under, and two weeks later a smaller slate of all-NFC games (four) were unable to top the total. In Week 6, all AFC-versus-AFC games put enough points on the board to trump the number.
Is this a statistical quirk that will be softened down by the end of the season? Covers Expert Ben Burns says the results could be just part of the natural cycle, and helped us break things down:
NFC vs. NFC (14-22-2 over/under):
“This is a case of there being some vastly improved defenses in the NFC,” said Burns. “Teams like the Cowboys, Rams and Cardinals are much better defensively than last year. Other teams like Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Philadelphia and the Giants are also either better defensively than last year and/or are still really good. Five of the top six scoring defenses are currently in the NFC, including each of the top four.”
AFC vs. AFC (24-15 over/under):
“Injuries to key defensive players have played a role. Normally stingy teams like the Jets, Ravens and Steelers have been without top defenders. Teams like the Bills, Chiefs and Titans have all taken a step backwards defensively.”
Inter-Conference (17-9 over/under):
“Conference games, particularly divisional ones, are often slightly lower-scoring than non-conference games. Teams typically know each other better in conference than outside of it and can gameplan better defensively. Still, I expect this stat will start to even out the rest of the way.”
If you plan to go hunting, there are four inter-conference games this weekend:
Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers (no number yet due to Blaine Gabbert’s injury)
New England Patriots vs. St. Louis Rams (London, England) – 47
Washington Redskins at Pittsburgh Steelers – 47.5
New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos – 54.5