NFL: Finding an edge with good defenses

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

June 17th, 2019

With all of the variables in play betting the NFL, it is sometimes important to step back and recognize when a defense is capable of taking over a game.

The 2000 Ravens are probably the greatest modern example of a team that won games and covered spreads almost exclusively on the overwhelming strength of their defense, but every year there are teams that have elite defenses that excel at throwing sticks in the wheel spokes of an NFL offense.

Last year the Denver Broncos finished 12-4 for the Under. When their elite defense combined with the relative ineffectiveness of quarterback Case Keenum, they became a fantastic Under team.

If you have a team like last year’s Broncos picked out for the upcoming season, there are several ways to approach betting them to take advantage of their defensive supremacy. The first and most obvious is simple wagers on the Over/Under. Betting $110/game on every Broncos game Under last year would have you netted you +$760. Not bad for a season’s work and zero amount of handicapping beyond, “The Broncos have a great defense, so I’ll blindly bet the under.”

Another strategy is to tease these teams when they play as underdogs. In a defensive battle, where points are at a premium, the points you receive when playing a teaser have more value than they do in an offensive shootout. Would you rather get six more goals in a soccer match where the total is 2.5, or six points in an NBA game where the total is 238? In football getting a defensive juggernaut +8 with a game total of 38 is significantly more valuable than teasing a three-point favorite to a three-point underdog in a game with a total of 62. If you think a defense is capable of keeping a team in a game and you’re already facing a low total, teasing a team with an elite defense gives you the chance to gleefully root for an ugly slugfest.

Defense wins championships, but it can also win you plenty of bets.