NFL Picks: 49ers vs. Seahawks Betting the Total

Jason Lake

Thursday, January 16, 2014 4:23 PM GMT

The NFL totals for the NFC title game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks have been edging downward, even while more than half the bettors are taking the OVER.

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013-14, up to January 16 inclusive:

46-41-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

14-19-1 Totals

We’re living in interesting times, folks. The sharps and squares are united behind the San Francisco 49ers in their NFC Championship Game matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, and if that weren’t enough, we’ve got an intriguing dynamic when it comes to the football totals. Our consensus reports at press time show 55 percent of bettors pounding the OVER, but the total itself has dipped from 40 points at the opening of the NFL odds to as low as 38.5 at select online sportsbooks.

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Unity Version

Normally, I’d assume this means that the sharps are shelling out more money on the UNDER. We’ve definitely got the conditions for a low-scoring game on Sunday (6:30 p.m. ET, FOX). Four of the last five games between the 49ers (UNDER 10-8) and the Seahawks (UNDER 11-6) have slid below totals as low as 37 points. The two teams in question both have hard-nosed defenses and strong power running games, the Seattle crowd is the best in the NFL at inducing false start penalties, and there’s even a 20 percent chance of rain at kick-off.

But given the way the sharps and squares have aligned on the point spread, and without some more specific NFL betting data at my fingers, it’s hard to tell what the heck is going on with either of these Conference Round games. We do know (sort of) that in Vegas, bettors were split fairly evenly on the totals right out of the gate, and that the totals didn’t start falling until the OVER side was up to about 60 percent. But sadly, our beta consensus reports are limited to showing us the money balance on the point spreads and not the totals.

The Big Picture

This is where I fall into something of a blind spot as a football betting analyst. My strength is in reading the NFL betting market and taking a contrarian stance. Of course, I insist on backing that up with proper data, which is in and of itself contrary to the way a lot of squares go about their business. Ideally, the data and the betting patterns combine to deliver a 17-star stone-cold lock of the millennium. This is not one of those times.

Having said that, it’s still possible to take a step back and consider this particular matchup in broader strokes. The lower a football total gets in general, the harder it is for the two teams involved to go UNDER. Anything below 37 points should be a near auto-bet on the OVER; I’d also be leaning in that direction with any total below 41, which is the most common combined final score in the NFL.

Range Against the Machine

I’m leaning even further in that direction after seeing the more popular computer projections out there, which are churning out a range between roughly 39 and 44 points for this contest. Also, that 20 percent chance of rain is pretty sketchy and not consistent from one report to another. It’s a beautiful spring-like day in the Pacific Northwest as I write this, unlike last week’s Saints-Seahawks game, which had all the earmarks of a solid UNDER pick.

Here’s the tipping point for my pick: I’ve got the favored Seahawks as my ATS pick, and that usually corresponds well with taking the OVER in a parlay – even if that hasn’t been the case in this particular matchup. These are rough betting waters, so keep those NFL bets sized accordingly, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.

NFL Pick: Take OVER 38.5 at Hertiage