I'm sure almost everyone already knows this, but there are two major aspects to the "odds" for each game, the spread (think of it like a handicap) and the Over/Under. Rather than explain in more detail here, I'll just encourage you to ask questions in the comments, as I'm sure plenty of folks will be able to explain at least the fundamentals.
As the year progresses, I might delve more deeply into the statistical side of NFL game odds, but for now lets just keep it simple, because this week provides an interesting case by itself.
The Eagles, playing on the road this week against the Broncos, are 11 point underdogs.
The Over/Under is 57.
First, here's some relevant information. As you read it, you should be thinking about what this means for the lines above.
- The Broncos are 3-0 and have the 2nd best point differential in the league (+56), just behind the Seahawks and well ahead of everyone else.
- The Broncos have scored 127 points and are, according to Football Outsiders, the best offense in the league. The Denver pass offense currently has a ridiculous DVOA of 93.2%.
- The Eagles have scored 79 points and are, according to Football Outsiders, the 6th best offense in the league.
- The Broncos have allowed 71 points and are the 12th ranked defense (FO).
- The Eagles have allowed 86 points and are the 26th ranked defense (FO). The Eagles Pass Defense is ranked 27th by FO.
- Denver is 2-1 ATS (against the spread) this season, the Eagles are 1-2.
So...where does that leave us?
First, let's look at the Over/Under.
With a 57 point line, clearly the game is expected to be high scoring. However, note that Eagles games have averaged 55 total points thus far while Broncos games have averaged an astonishing 66 total points. With the Eagles terrible pass defense going up against what looks to be among the best pass attacks in recent NFL history, the safe bet is that the Broncos will score a lot of points.
Denver scored 49 points against BAL, 41 against NYG, and 37 against OAK. Among those teams, the Giants rank most similarly to the Eagles on defense (DVOA of 14.7% versus 14.9% for the Eagles).
I just don't see any way, short of an injury to Peyton Manning, that the Broncos do not continue their offensive onslaught. Frankly, with Thomas, Welker, Decker, and other Thomas (Julius) against Cary Williams, Fletcher, Allen, Boykin, and Chung, the Broncos could conceivably score 60+.
You read that right, I think it's possible (though unlikely) the Broncos cover the 57 point line themselves, or at least get close. It's just about as terrible a matchup as you can draw for the Eagles right now.
Scaling it back a bit, let's put the Broncos at 40 points. Clearly that's a realistic expectation, since they scored 41 against the Giants, a nearly identically ranked defense.
That leaves just 17 points for the Eagles to score to hit the over. Seeing the 16 point "floor" the Eagles put up against KC (short rest, good defense, multiple turnovers, missed FG), I feel extremely confident that the Eagles can get at least 17.
Take the over, the oddsmakers/public hasn't yet adjusted to how good the Broncos are offensively.
Now to the tough part, the 11 point line.
The Broncos smallest margin of victory thus far has been 16 points (against Oakland last week). Meanwhile, the Eagles have lost by 3 points to the Chargers (a mediocre team) and by 10 points against the Chiefs (a good team). In light of those results, and the information above, the Broncos look like the safer pick, even with a really large line.
One note of caution though.
The Eagles offense is really good. Some people don't seem to believe that yet, but it's true. The reason I mention this is that, if the Offense plays well (avoids TOs and limits dumb penalties), it should put up A LOT of points. Regardless how how much better you think the Broncos are, asking any team to score 12 MORE points than the Eagles is a tall order.
Therefore, I'm taking the Eagles at +11. The Broncos deserve to be heavy favorites, no doubt, but giving 11 points against an explosive offense is too much for my common-sense test to bear. Also keep in mind that an 11 point home favorite is just begging for a late-game, backdoor cover.
Summing up, I'm "taking" the OVER and the Eagles, at +11 (though I've seen lines as large as 12.5). I put "taking" in quotation marks because, of course, gambling is illegal and I don't recommend that anyone do it.