NFL Picks: Bengals vs. Texans Betting the Total

Jason Lake

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 5:50 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 5:50 PM UTC

The Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans have both been going UNDER lately. But the NFL odds board has a fairly low total of 43 for Saturday’s Wild Card matchup. Will we be adding the Under or Over to our NFL picks come Saturday?

Jason’s record on his final weekly NFL picks for the complete 2012 regular season:

51-38-3 ATS (–1.96 units vig)

10-6 ML (+5.82 units)

18-17-1 Totals (–1.71 units vig)

Profit: 16.15 units 

As promised, there are the complete numbers on my 2012 NFL regular season. Not too shabby – that’s about a 10-percent ROI in four months of betting on football. I was struggling on totals for a while there, but some added focus and discipline helped me come close to break-even in the end. Let’s see if I can keep that special sauce flowing in 2013. 

Read my thought's on this game's opening odds.

In Between Days

Let’s start with the most important number to consider: the over/under. My biggest mistake in 2012 was to underestimate the power of low and high totals. The closer you get to either end of the scoring spectrum, the more money you can make with the OVER on low totals and the UNDER on high totals. However, during the 2012 regular season, the UNDER went 6-4 in games where the total was 43 points. 

Almost neither here nor there, really. I put 43 at the low end of the middle of the scoring spectrum, with 48 at the other end. During the previous 10 NFL regular seasons, 18.2 percent of games had a final score that landed somewhere in this range. Compare that to 17 percent for scores between 37-42 inclusive and just 12.7 percent for 49 through 54. There’s just not enough market distortion in the middle of that “curve” for me to exploit.


Hot and Cold

Wouldn’t you know it, the Texans (UNDER 9-7) were one of the teams that went UNDER 43, and they did it in Week 16 against the Minnesota Vikings, losing 23-6. I’ve seen the “official” total for that game listed as both 43 and 43.5, but still. Houston went UNDER the NFL betting lines three times in a row to close out the 2012 campaign. 

The Bengals (UNDER 10-6) have gone UNDER in seven of their last eight games, coinciding with their 7-1 SU and ATS streak. And yes, they also went UNDER 43 along the way, beating the Baltimore Ravens 23-17 in Week 17. The fact that Cincinnati is hot right now and Houston is cold makes the UNDER look even more solid as one of my NFL picks for Saturday’s contest (4:30 p.m, NBC). 

Running to Stand Still

The final efficiency stats for the 2012 regular season validate why the UNDER has worked out for both teams. Houston sits No. 11 overall with the No. 16-ranked offense and the No. 3 defense. Cincinnati is No. 12 overall with the No. 17 offense and the No. 10 defense. Top-tier defense and mediocre offense at best are your top two ingredients for an UNDER team.

How about some power running while we’re at it? The more a team keeps the ball on the ground, the sooner the clock runs out. Houston was fourth in the NFL this year with 508 rushing attempts, most of those by Arian Foster (4.1 yards per carry). Cincinnati was No. 17 overall with 430 carries, most of those by BenJarvus Green-Ellis (3.9 yards per carry). That’s not a lot of yards per carry.

Our consensus numbers show the NFL betting market split pretty much down the middle on Saturday’s total, but the original burst of action was on the UNDER for a change. If the sharps aren’t even bothering to automatically pound the OVER right out of the gate for value, that tells me something. I’ll take the UNDER and I’ll take the extra half-point where available at a fair price.

NFL Picks: UNDER 43.5 at William Hill
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