NFL Betting the Total: Trends & Things to Look for

Jason Lake

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 3:57 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2014 3:57 PM UTC

Betting NFL totals grows in popularity every year. How do they work? Why do people who bet on NFL football games love the over/under, and what can you do to win as many of them as possible?

The Seattle Seahawks already had Super Bowl XLVIII in the bag by the time Doug Baldwin caught Touchdown No. 5. The Denver Broncos had virtually no chance of coming back and winning the Big Game, let alone covering the spread as 1.5-point favorites. But Baldwin’s fourth-quarter TD was one of the most important of the night. It made the score 43-8 for Seattle following the PAT, thus making winners out of everyone who bet the 'over' on the total of 47.

It isn’t just that extra dose of excitement that makes football totals worth betting. There’s also the potential of, you know, making some money. Isn’t that what betting on football is supposed to be about? Here’s a look at what makes the 'over/under' tick and how you can take advantage.


If you understand the mechanics of the point spread, you’ve already got what you need to figure out the total. Let’s take another look at the over/under for Super Bowl XLVIII:

Seattle                      47 (–110)

Denver                      47 (–110)

This is how the totals look on our NFL odds page. You’re betting on whether the combined score of the two teams will go 'over' or 'under' the posted total of 47 points. Otherwise, it’s just like playing a point spread. In this case, the juice is set at the standard –110, which means you’re betting $11 to win $10, or $110 to win $100. And as it is with their spreads, the sportsbooks should be trying to balance the action on either side, which means the NFL totals can and will move in response to the betting marketplace.


They Zig, You Zag
As far as NFL betting strategy is concerned, the general concept when you make your NFL picks on the totals is the same as any other competitive market: Look for value. Inexperienced and/or casual bettors tend to make the same mistakes as a group, and when they do, the totals move, adding or taking away valuable points. What are these mistakes?


Overbetting the 'Over'
We’re biased toward betting on the things we want to see happen, and everyone loves offense. Square bettors are worse at recognizing this bias. Sharp bettors adjust by giving a little more weight to the 'under' in situations where it already looks good.


Overreacting to the Weather
Most of us are smart enough to understand that poor weather conditions lead to less scoring. But novice bettors put too much mustard on their throws and bet the 'under' too heavily in cold conditions or in light snow, which don’t actually bother NFL players that much. Rain and wind, or really nasty snow, is when you really want to emphasize the 'under.' Scorching hot weather has also been good to the 'under.'


Failing at the Extremes
It’s difficult to go 'over' a really high total, and maybe even more difficult to go 'under' a low total. Casual bettors don’t appreciate this enough. They get swept up in the offensive talent on display in games where lots of scoring is expected. They also get a little carried away with the 'under' when two smashmouth teams are about to lock horns.

Having said that, there are also certain prevailing NFL betting trends that you have to keep in mind. Stricter rules on hitting and tackling, plus advances in scouting and technology, have helped usher in a Golden Age of Touchdowns – combined scores have gone up from an average of 43 points in 2009 to 46.8 points in 2013. Square bettors aren’t aware of this, but you are now. The more you know, the better sports bettor you can be!

comment here