Besides the topic of home-field advantage without fans in the stands (colleague Doug Kezirian broke that down well here), the question of whether NFL offenses would be rusty in Week 1 was a hot topic in both betting and media circles the past few weeks. It was a unique offseason, of course, with less than ideal practice conditions and the cancellation of preseason games.
My concern was that there could be rustiness on defense as well. There are plenty of new players across the majority of defenses. Plus, picking angles and tackling the best athletes in the world at game speed without much of a warm-up seems like a daunting task.
We don't have an exact historical comparison to the start of this season, but the closest one is 2011, following the NFL lockout that lasted more than five months. The lockout ended 10 days before preseason games began in early August. Note that teams played preseason games that year, and defenses still struggled relative to betting-market expectations. Overs hit in 23 of the 32 games in Weeks 1 and 2 that season -- a 72% clip.
In Week 1 of 2020 thus far, overs have come through in nine of 14 games. We're working with a small sample, but it's good to have this on your radar. I decided to be cautious betting any unders to start this season, and I'll likely take the same approach in Week 2 (though Bengals-Browns at 45 on Thursday is awfully enticing to go under). On the flip side, if I show an edge to the over in any totals this week, then I will be jumping to bet them.
Here is an early look at two totals I project to be too low in Week 2. (Lines from Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.)