There's something very liberating about playing the totals during the week rather than making picks straight up or against the spread. Heck, it's even more liberating than fantasy football. You don't have to worry about who wins, or by how much one team wins by. You don't need to care about who scores.
You just need the total points to either be over or under the total points listed by Vegas, whichever you've chosen. You can root for whichever team you want, so long as you come out on the right side of that total.
Below, I've liberated myself, sharing with you fine folks my over-under picks for the week. May they bring you much luck and joy.
|Seattle Seahawks||Green Bay Packers||47||Under|
|Miami Dolphins||New England Patriots||47||Under|
|Atlanta Falcons||New Orleans Saints||51.5||Over|
|New York Jets||Oakland Raiders||40||Under|
|Baltimore Ravens||Cincinnati Bengals||43||Over|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Jacksonville Jaguars||52.5||Under|
|Chicago Bears||Buffalo Bills||47||Over|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Cleveland Browns||41.5||Under|
|St. Louis Rams||Minnesota Vikings||43.5||Under|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Tennessee Titans||43||Under|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Carolina Panthers||39.5||Over|
|Dallas Cowboys||San Francisco 49ers||51.5||Over|
|Denver Broncos||Indianapolis Colts||55||Over|
|Detroit Lions||New York Giants||47||Under|
|Arizona Cardinals||San Diego Chargers||45||Under|
There are a few general reasons why I like the under in far more games than I live the over. For starters, you have a lot of new head coaches and coordinators in play and, generally speaking, offenses are often a little behind their defensive counterparts early in the year.
Also, when players like Matt Cassel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Chad Henne, Geno Smith, Derek Carr (he may end up being great, but he's still a completely untested rookie at this point), Josh McCown (his career suggests last year's numbers were a bit of a fluke), EJ Manuel and Shaun Hill are all opening the season as their team's starting quarterback, well, you should be inclined to take the under.
Even when some of these teams are playing explosive offenses, don't trust them to carry their own weight when it comes to reaching the total. Take the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sure, they're playing the dangerous Philadelphia Eagles, but even if the Birds reach 30 points, the Jags would have to get to 23 points to win you the over.
The Jaguars scored 23 points or more three times last year. Three times. And the Eagles, for as good as they were in the first year of the Chip Kelly regime, scored 30 or more points eight times. Are you starting to see how risky it is to assume that this game will reach the over?
Some games really are worth taking the over, though. Even with a total at 55, you'll want to take the over on the Denver Broncos facing the Indianapolis Colts. These teams combined to score 72 points when they met in Week 7 last year, and the Colts are even more loaded on offense this year while the Broncos will be missing Wes Welker but still remain dangerous.
The New Orleans Saints against the Atlanta Falcons is another game that seems destined for the over. It's no secret how good Drew Brees and company are on offense, while Matt Ryan has Julio Jones back and Roddy White is over the health issues that plagued him a year ago. This one has shootout written all over it.
Both the Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears vs. Buffalo Bills feel like solid "over" picks. The Ravens and Bengals each have underrated offenses and can put points on the board, while the Bears are both dangerous on offense and porous on defense. I don't trust Manuel, but I do trust Buffalo's running game against the league's worst run defense from a year ago.
Some games are really tough to peg, of course. Washington against the Houston Texans is tough because both teams have new coaches, Robert Griffin III had a poor preseason and we don't really know if Fitzpatrick and the Texans offense will hit the ground running or struggle. One thing is for certain—J.J. Watt will probably have a good game.
When in doubt, take the under, especially early in the season. The offensive explosion we've seen in the NFL in recent years will play out as the season wears on, but in Week 1, the cautious approach to totals is probably the smart one.
Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy questions and make some corny jokes, too. It's more fun than a trip to the Kentucky Derby with Wes Welker.