The season within the season begins Thursday night. For many, when the ball goes up in the air and defending Super Bowl champions New England Patriots start butting heads with the Kansas City Chiefs, the competitive aspect of the NFL means they can start breathing again and live life to the fullest.
However, to many more fans, the experience is heightened the moment they make a wager on the game. Many fans love to pick out the favorite or the underdog, add or subtract points and make a bet on one side or the other.
However, a different percentage of fans will make their play on the number of points scored. Over-under bets, also known as totals, are usually offered on every NFL game, and sometimes they can be more clear-cut than picking a point-spread winner.
In this piece, we look at three games and make the case for over-under wagers, as well as make predictions on the full 15-game card. (The game between the Tampa Bay Buccanneers and the Miami Dolphins has been postponed until Week 11 as a result of Hurricane Irma, which is likely to hit Florida this weekend).
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patirots
One thing you can count on from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is that he is not going to let early-season opponents know what is in his game plan by giving it away during the preseason. Belichick knows that the preseason means that players must get in shape and lower-level players must fight for roster spots, but the game plan is not supposed to be revealed in August.
Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady should have plenty of surprises and wrinkles Thursday night in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots will raise their fifth Super Bowl banner, and then the Pats will attempt to show off their offensive skills once more.
The Patriots are nine-point favorites, and the total is 48.5 points, according to OddsShark.
Remember that Brady missed the first four games of the season in 2016, and with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the house, this is an opportunity for Brady to get his season off to a memorable start.
Brady's greatest strength is his ability to read defenses and come up with the right adjustment, and he has a slew of weapons at his disposal. While Julian Edelman is out for the season with a torn ACL, newcomer Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, running back James White and tight end Rob Gronkowski are all available and dangerous targets for Brady.
Alex Smith is somewhat limited in his approach while running the Kansas City offense, but he does not make mistakes and he takes advantage of what the defense gives him. He should be able to move the ball up and down the field fairly easily, and he is a couple of big-play weapons in tight end Travis Kelce and wideout Tyreek Hill.
Hill has game-breaking speed, and if he can catch the ball on the move, the New England defense will have a hard time keeping up with him.
Look for this game to go over the total.
Matchup, Point Spread, Over-Under, Prediction
Kansas City at New England, NE -9, 48.5, New England/Over
Atlanta at Chicago, Atl. -7, 48, Atlanta/Under
Jacksonville at Houston, Hou. -5.5, 39.5, Houston/Under
Oakland at Tennessee, Tenn. -2.5, 50.5, Oakland/Over
New York Jets at Buffalo, Buff. -9.5, 40, NYJ*/Under
Baltimore at Cincinnati, Cin. -3, 42.5, Baltimore/Over
Pittsburgh at Cleveland, Pitt. -8, 47, Cleveland*/Under
Arizona at Detroit, Ariz. -1.5, 48, Detroit/Over
Philadelphia at Washington, Phil -1, 48, Philadelphia/Over
Indianapolis at Los Angeles Rams, Ind. -4, 41.5, Los Angeles/Under
Carolina at San Francisco, Car. -5.5, 47.5, San Francisco*/Under
Seattle at Green Bay, GB -3, 51, Green Bay/Over
New York Giants at Dallas, Dall. -4, 47.5, NYG/Over
New Orleans at Minnesota, Minn. -3.5, 48, New Orleans/Under
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver, Den. -3.5, 43.5, Los Angeles/Over
*Will cover the spread but fail to win
Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears
Mike Glennon inherits the Chicago starting quarterback position, but he may be just holding on to it for a short time until the Bears turn it over to rookie Mitchell Trubisky.
Glennon is likely to have his job for at least half the season as long as he stays healthy, but he is not the kind of quarterback who seems likely to light up the scoreboard. The Bears will try to make a respectable showing against the defending NFC champions Atlanta Falcons, but head coach John Fox does not have the weapons to cause many problems for the opposing defense.
The Falcons are seven-point road favorites, and the total is 48. Atlanta should easily be able to score 24 points or more, possibly even 31 points at Soldier Field. Quarterback Matt Ryan has one of the best receivers in the game in Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman can make big plays as a runner or a receiver.
The Bears should be an improved defensive team that won't get completely overwhelmed, but they will have a difficult time stopping the Falcons at key moments.
It's difficult to see Glennon sustaining much of an offense against the Falcons. Atlanta will focus its defense on stopping running back Jordan Howard, and that should give Glennon an opportunity to exploit the Atlanta secondary.
However, he has been a backup through the majority of his career, and he was not overly impressive during the preseason. It would be difficult to see him having a consistent passing game and threatening the Falcons.
These two teams could reach 41 or 42 points, but they will not threaten the 48-point total. This is a strong under play.
Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions
The Cardinals are 1.5-point favorites as they open their season on the road at Ford Field against the Detroit Lions. The total is 48 points in a game where both teams have powerful quarterbacks who should be able to throw the ball with relative ease.
Carson Palmer decided to return to the Cardinals this year because he believes that the team has a chance to have an excellent season that includes a postseason run.
The Lions clearly believe that the best is ahead of Matthew Stafford, who signed a lucrative contract extension before the start of the season that makes him the highest paid player in the game.
Stafford is coming off a sharp season in which he threw for 4,327 yards and had a 24-10 TD-interception ratio. The 29-year-old cut down on his mistakes last year, and he also does an excellent job of waiting an extra split second before throwing the ball. That has given receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones a greater opportunity to get open.
Palmer has star running back David Johnson giving the Cardinals an explosive ground game and a superior receiving target out of the backfield. Veteran Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best route runners and has excellent hands, while John Brown has the speed to make big plays.
The Cardinals did a much better job of defending the pass than the Lions did a year ago, ranking third in yards per pass allowed, while Detroit was 26th in that category.
That should make it harder for the Lions, but they are at home in their season opener and the environment should be comfortable for Stafford.
Look for both offenses to succeed as these two teams shoot past the 48-point total.