For Steelers-Bengals on MNF, consider the masochistic pleasures of betting the under

Monday, 21 December 2020 14:55 EST

NFL apologizes for the hubris of taking Kansas City -3½ as a “sure bet” on this website, though perhaps the Chiefs should be apologizing for their highly anomalous recent behavior: The SU win/ATS loss at New Orleans extends Kansas City’s current run to 6-0 SU/0-6 ATS and have missed covering by 1½ points or less in three of the past four weeks.

But NFLbets seeks to make amends, making it up with not only a solid prediction on the Monday Night Football game,

Pittsburgh Steelers -14½ at Cincinnati Bengals, over/under 40½ points

, but also by introducing you to the awesomeness of betting the under. The joy gleaned from this particular sort of masochistic betting – and isn’t all betting somewhat masochistic…? – is all about schadenfreude and contrarianism.

Taking the under forces the bettor into bizarro world: For those betting the under, holding penalties and offensive pass interference calls are far superior to 80-yard touchdown runs, any coach going for the touchdown on 4th-and-goal from the 1 is categorically insane, and the best players in the game are the punters. A 3-and-out is the best possible outcome for any single drive, particularly if at least two of the calls are running plays and all three stay inbounds.

Most self-flagellatingly of all, however, is the overwhelming dread of garbage time. While pointspread bets are readied for the cashing (or trashing) and fantasy football players cheer on more meaningless points, the under bettor is praying the slacking-off prevent defense manages to keep the slinging second-string QB with nothing to lose out of the end zone.

At least with a last-minute comeback – such as the Cardinals pulled off against Buffalo with the Hail Murray play or like the Rams failed to do against the Jets on Sunday – the losing under bettor has lots of miserable fans, pointspread bettors and fantasy owners with which to commiserate…

But back in happy Bizarro world, when else would a football enthusiast of any sort derive satisfaction from a score of 20-3 with seven minutes left, as in last night’s Cleveland Browns-New York Giants grinder. This feeling is absolutely addictive; as NFLbets watched the Browns and Giants alternately fritter away drives and clock, we were already calculating how low the line on MNF would have to go before we wouldn’t bang the under all over again.

And what a game this is for the under bettor Of all the low-scoring, possibly tanking offenses out there, none is an impotent as the Burrow-less Bengals’. In the past five games, they’re averaging 10 points a game but have only topped that number once; predictably enough, the under is 4-0-1 for Cincinnati’s “run.” Whereas normally, NFLbets would be looking for regression to the mean, but not with this offense.

In normal circumstances, too, NFLbets would consider covering the obviously more talented Pittsburgh side minus a lot of points – but it’s not as though the Steelers have been either blowing out the competition or running up scores: They’re on 0-3 and 2-4 jags ATS and unders are 5-0-1. With a 14½-point spread and a 40½-point over/under mark, sportsbooks are figuring on a final score of 27-13 or 28-13. Seems reasonable enough but since week 8, getting 27 points out of Roethlisberger & Co. is far from automatic as in the season’s first half; the Steelers are averaging just 23.0 points per game in the last six, a full TD down from the 30.0 ppg in the first seven.

Again, then, whereas regression to the mean might otherwise be meaningful, the bigger picture shows the Steelers’ recent losses are the regression: Pittsburgh started 2020 on runs of 6-1 and 8-2 ATS while Steelers games’ overs got off to a 4-2-1 start during the aforementioned weeks of high-scoring offense that by now must seem like long ago to Steelers backers right about now…

Besides – and this point cannot be emphasized enough – can the Bengals really put together 13 points right now? We don’t think so. Take the under on an O/U of 40½ points, sit back and enjoy the lack of fireworks!

–written by Os Davis