Jason Lake’s been destroying the NFL betting lines – the pointspreads and moneylines, that is. Let’s see what he can do with the total for Thursday night’s matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders.

Jason’s record on NFL picks for 2012, up to December 3:

39-25-2 ATS 

10-4 ML (+7.82 units) 

11-14-1 Totals 

Carson PalmerIf you want to be successful at something, you need a special sauce. Some handicappers have computer systems and algorithms. I’ve got Moneyball. All my football betting decisions are based on finding inefficiencies in the betting market, using advanced stats and value-based strategies as my sword and shield. It works. Check out those numbers in italics. 

Yeah, but what about those totals? My special sauce hasn’t been working on them. It could be variance or the small sample size, but I’ve been thinking about it and looking at my work, and it seems to me I need to rebuild my recipe. 

Blowing the Bell Curve 

Let’s start with a fundamental value consideration. The distribution of both totals and final combined scores follows (more or less) a bell curve. It’s not a smooth curve because most scoring in football happens in bunches of three or seven. Nonetheless, the closer you get to the extreme ends of the curve, the more inefficiency you’ll find. Taking the OVER on low totals and the UNDER on high totals should be de rigueur for value-based handicappers. 

So where does 49.5 fall on this bell curve? That’s the total the Week 14 NFL lines have given us for Thursday Night Football (8:20 p.m. ET, NFLN). It’s a little bit on the high side, but not much. Something around 30 percent of NFL games from the past 10 seasons ended with a combined score of 50 points or more. You can bump that up given the increase in scoring. 

Mr. Efficiency 

I get a lot of mileage out of comparing efficiency stats to conventional stats and power rankings, which is a quick and dirty way of comparing truth to perception in the marketplace. This has been working great when it’s Team A versus Team B, not so great when it’s Teams A and B versus the total. 

But maybe I’m just not looking at the charts efficiently enough. How about I start from scratch; let’s take the points scored and allowed for both the Broncos (OVER 8-4) and the Raiders (UNDER 7-5), and compare those figures to their respective offensive and defensive efficiency rankings going into Week 13. 

Denver Scoring: 29.1 points per game (No. 3), 20.3 points allowed (No. 9)

Denver Efficiency: No. 3 offense, No. 5 defense 

Oakland Scoring: 19.6 points per game (No. 23), 31.3 points allowed (No. 32)

Oakland Efficiency: No. 25 offense, No. 31 defense 

Not much difference there between scoring and efficiency. Of course, defense and special teams also play a role in putting points on the board, but hey, this is all educated guesswork. 

What we can glean from those numbers is that the Broncos are likely to score more than 29.1 points given Oakland’s defense, and that the Raiders are likely to score fewer than 19.6 points given Denver’s defense. These two events don’t occur separately in a vacuum, though, so who knows. 

Weather-wise, we have a forecast of partly cloudy skies over Oakland with temperatures in the high 50s, so that’s no particular impediment to either team. We do have their Week 4 result to consider, when the Broncos won 37-6 to cash in the UNDER on a total of 47. That score fits the scenario I just laid out in the previous paragraph. The total’s even higher now. Might as well dial up another UNDER, especially with our European friends at bwin adding an extra rouge. 

NFL Picks: Take UNDER 50.5 at bwin