When it comes to wagering on the NFL, the majority of the betting public has a tendency to focus its handicapping efforts on the point spread of the games. However, there is a tremendous amount of value that can also be found in the ‘total line’ if you know where and how to look.
So far this season there have been some wild swings with the total line. The first two weeks, points were plentiful and the total went over in 23 of the 32 games, or 71.8 percent of the time. Defense finally stepped up to the plate in Week 3 with 10 of the 16 games staying ‘under’ the total line. The odds makers finally sharpened things up last week with nine games going ‘over’ and seven staying ‘under’. These results will vary from book-to-book depending on each one’s actual closing line, but the overall trends for each week still hold true.
The only thing to take away from these results is that the overall trend with this type of wager is impossible to predict. When wagering of the total line you always have to focus your efforts on one game at a time, while taking into consideration the current and past trends for each side in the matchup. Checkout all the days matchups here!
At the quarter pole of the NFL regular season there are a few teams that have already skewed heavily towards either side of the total line. The upstart Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills have yet to have one of their games stay ‘under’ with a combined 7-0-1 record on the total line. The Lions are tied for second in the NFL in scoring with an average of 33.8 points a game and Bills are ranked fourth with 33.2 points a game. Green Bay is ranked first in scoring with 37 points a game and New England is tied with Detroit at 33.8. These two teams are a combined 6-2 on the total line despite the fact the odds makers already take their ability to light up the scoreboard into consideration when setting the point total for their games.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the Jacksonville Jaguars at 0-4 on the total line. It comes as no surprise that the Jaguars are ranked last in the league in scoring with an average of just 9.8 points a game. The next two lowest scoring teams in the league are St. Louis (11.5 points per game) and Kansas City (12.2 points per game). They are a combined 4-3-1 on the total line so you can see how a low-scoring team does not always equate with the ‘under’ bet on the total.
Defense also plays a role in affecting the total line, but it is not nearly as much a factor as a team’s scoring trends. Tennessee leads the NFL in points allowed; giving up an average of 14 points a game and is 1-2-1 on the total line. Baltimore has the next stingiest defense, giving up 14.2 points a game, and is 3-0-1 on the total line.
Looking back at last season and a full slate of games, the top four scoring teams in the league were New England (32.4), San Diego (27.6), Philadelphia (27.4), and Indianapolis (27.2). The final record for each on the total ended with the Patriots 13-3, the Chargers 8-7-1, the Eagles 10-6, and the Colts 10-5-1. If you compile these records, the total went ‘over’ in 64 percent of the games.
Simply wagering on the ‘over’ for high scoring teams is not, on its own, a sure-fire way to bang the book on the total line. However, it does supply a good starting point for handicapping the line in their games. Sometimes the true value may actually lie in the ‘under’ as the odds makers are well aware that the betting public tends to hammer the ‘over’ in high-scoring team’s games.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.