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Over/Under Totals in NFL Games: A Bettor’s Guide

Over/Under betting, also known as totals betting, involves wagering on the total number of points scored by both teams in an NFL game. Bettors decide whether the actual total points will be over or under a predetermined number set by bookmakers.

For instance, if the over/under line is set at 43.5 for a game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins, and you bet on the over, you win if the combined score is 44 or higher.

Over/Under & Totals Betting In NFL

Over Betting: Betting that the total points scored will exceed the set number. Example: If the line is at 50.5, and the game ends with a score of 30-21 (51 points), an over bet would win.

Under Betting: Betting that the total points scored will be less than the set number. Example: With the same 50.5 line, if the game ends with a score of 28-21 (49 points), an under bet would win.

Understanding historical trends is crucial. Over the years, the average points per game in the NFL have generally increased, affecting over/under lines.

For example, in the 1970s, a typical over/under line might have been in the mid-30s, while in recent years, lines in the high 40s or low 50s are more common.

The Significance of Over/Under Lines Set by Bookmakers

Bookmakers set the initial lines, but these can change based on various factors such as injuries, weather, and betting patterns. Understanding how these lines are created and how they can shift is crucial.

  • Initial Lines vs. Shifting Lines:
    • The opening line is the first posted but can move due to factors affecting the predicted game outcome.
    • Example: An injury to a starting quarterback might cause the over/under line to decrease.
  • Public Perception vs. Sharp Action:
    • Bookmakers also consider the general public’s perception and the actions of experienced bettors (sharps).
    • Public money can move the lines, but sharp money is often considered more influential. Knowing how to interpret these movements can be advantageous.

In summary, understanding the intricacies of Over/Under betting is the foundation of making informed wagers. Awareness of historical trends and recognizing how and why lines are set and shift is critical in finding value in your bets.

Fundamental Analysis

Fundamental Analysis involves evaluating the essential elements that can impact the outcome of an NFL game. By understanding team statistics, player matchups, and coaches’ game plans, bettors can make more informed decisions in over/under betting.

Team Statistics

A deep understanding of team statistics is crucial for predicting game totals.

  • Offensive and Defensive Rankings:
    • Consider how a team’s offensive and defensive units rank in the league.
    • Example: A matchup between two teams with top-ranked offenses could indicate a high-scoring game.
  • Points per Game (Scored and Allowed):
    • Analyze the average points scored by the team and points allowed against them.
    • Example: A team averaging 28 points per game facing a defense allowing 30 could imply an over bet.
  • Red Zone Efficiency:
    • Red Zone efficiency is the scoring success rate when inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
    • High red zone efficiency might indicate more touchdowns and higher scores.

Player Matchups

Individual player performances can significantly impact game totals.

  • Key Injuries:
    • Monitor injury reports closely as key players being out can dramatically affect a team’s scoring potential.
  • Player Performance Trends:
    • Evaluate recent player performances.
    • Example: If a running back has consistently racked up yards and touchdowns, it might indicate more points.
  • Matchups to Exploit or Be Wary Of:
    • Look for advantageous player matchups, such as a star wide receiver against a weak cornerback.
    • Conversely, be wary of matchups where key players face tough opposition.

Coaches and Game Plans

Coaches play a significant role in game outcomes through their strategies and play-calling.

  • Track Records of Head Coaches in Over/Under Scenarios:
    • Some coaches tend to be involved in higher or lower-scoring games historically. Use this data to your advantage.
  • Play-calling Tendencies:
    • Understanding a coach’s typical game plan can be valuable.
    • Example: A coach who prefers a run-heavy offense might be more involved in lower-scoring games due to the clock running.
  • Adjustments and Game Scripts:
    • Consider a team’s ability to adjust their game plan based on different situations.
    • How does a team typically perform when ahead or behind? This can impact the scoring pace.

In conclusion, fundamental analysis is about understanding the underlying elements that affect the game. By analyzing team statistics, player matchups, and coaching strategies, bettors can gain critical insights in predicting over/under totals in NFL games.

Advanced Analytics

Advanced analytics involves using statistical models and data analysis techniques to predict the outcomes of NFL games. When it comes to over/under betting, these analytics can be invaluable in making more accurate predictions.

The Role of Advanced Analytics in Predicting Totals

Understanding and effectively utilizing advanced analytics can give bettors an edge by providing insights that go beyond basic statistics. Some football betting apps in the US do offer key facts and statistics at a glance, though this is usually outdated and lacks the depth of information and detail you would need to make an informed decision.

Pythagorean Expectation

Pythagorean Expectation is a formula originally used in baseball and adapted for football. It estimates how many games a team should have won based on points scored and allowed. By comparing a team’s actual wins to the Pythagorean Expectation, you can gauge if a team is over or underperforming, which may affect the scoring in future games.

DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average)

DVOA is a metric that evaluates a team’s effectiveness by comparing their success on each play to a league average, considering the situation and opponent. A team with a high offensive DVOA is likely to score more, while a high defensive DVOA might lead to a low-scoring game. By comparing the DVOAs of both teams, it is possible to predict the game’s flow and total points.

Utilizing Models and Algorithms

Models such as Expected Points Added (EPA) and Win Probability Added (WPA) can be utilized to assess a team’s scoring ability and the likelihood of winning. However, it is important to test the model’s predictions against historical data and refine it for greater accuracy before relying on it.

You can also utilize multiple data points to create a more holistic view of the likely game outcome. For example, if a team has a high offensive DVOA but faces a defense with a high red zone stop rate, the scoring might be lower than expected.

Weather & External Factors

When predicting over/under totals in NFL games, it’s crucial to consider not just the teams and players but also external factors such as weather and playing location. These elements can have a significant impact on the game’s outcome.

How Weather Affects the Game Totals

Weather conditions can drastically affect the players’ performance and the coaches’ game plan.

  • Wind Conditions:
    • Wind can make passing and kicking more difficult.
    • Example: In a game with high winds, teams might rely more on the run game, potentially leading to a lower score and favoring the under.
  • Rain/Snow:
    • Rain and snow can create a slippery field, affecting players’ grip and mobility.
    • Wet conditions often result in more running plays and a higher chance of turnovers, which could affect the total points.
  • Temperature:
    • Extreme temperatures can impact players’ abilities and the ball’s characteristics (especially cold).
    • Cold weather might lead to a more conservative game plan, often resulting in lower scores.

Home/Away Dynamics

Playing at home or away can also influence a team’s performance.

  • Home-field Advantage Statistics:
    • Historically, teams playing at home tend to perform slightly better.
    • Home teams might score more due to familiarity with the field and the boost from the home crowd.
  • Crowd Noise and Player Morale:
    • The noise level from the crowd can affect players’ communication.
    • Example: In a loud stadium, an away team’s offense might struggle to communicate play calls, possibly leading to mistakes and lower scores.


In places with higher altitudes, the thinner air can affect players’ breathing and the ball’s flight, possibly impacting the total points scored.

Altitude is another external factor influencing the total points scored in NFL games. In locations with higher altitudes, such as Denver, the thinner air can notably affect players’ physical capabilities and the ball’s flight. The decreased air density at higher altitudes can make it more difficult for players to breathe, particularly for those unfamiliar with such conditions. This can result in players becoming fatigued more quickly, potentially affecting their performance and the overall scoring pace of the game. 

Additionally, the reduced air resistance at higher altitudes can impact the flight of the ball, leading to longer passes and potentially higher scores. As a bettor, it is important to consider the altitude factor when analyzing over/under totals, particularly when games are being played in cities at higher elevations.

External Events and Circumstances

Sometimes non-football events, like team controversies or travel issues, can affect player morale and focus and, consequently, their performance. In addition to team controversies or travel issues, some other external events and circumstances can have an impact on player performance. 

For example, changes in team management, legal issues involving players, or major events in players’ personal lives can all affect morale and focus. Furthermore, events that evoke strong emotional responses, such as a beloved coach retiring or a community tragedy, can either galvanize a team to perform above expectations or harm their focus. 

As a bettor, it’s essential to stay informed about such events and assess their potential impact on the team’s performance, especially in how they might affect the over/under totals in NFL games.

Psychological Aspects and Market Behavior

When predicting over/under totals in NFL games, understanding the psychological aspects that affect other bettors and the market is essential. These aspects can influence betting lines and create opportunities for savvy bettors.

Public Betting and Line Movements

The behavior of the betting public and how it impacts line movements is a key consideration.

How does public betting affect lines? If most of the public is betting on the over, bookmakers might increase the over/under line to balance the action. Conversely, the line might decrease if more bets are placed on the under.

When to follow or go against the public? Sometimes it’s beneficial to go against the public if you believe the market overreacts to certain information. For example, betting the under could be valuable if the public heavily bets the over because a star player is returning from injury, but you believe the impact is overstated.

Managing Bias

Bettors must acknowledge their biases and how such biases can influence their betting decisions. Biases that stem from being a fan, recent events, or focusing on certain stats or stories can significantly sway decisions. The best course of action is to base decisions on objective data and analysis rather than emotions or opinions to avoid the personal bias trap.

Perception of Teams and Players

Public perception of teams and key players can influence betting lines.

Hype and Media Coverage:

  • Teams and players receiving significant media coverage might have inflated lines due to public sentiment.
  • Evaluate whether the hype is justified or if it creates value in betting against the public.

Underestimation of Less-Publicized Teams:

  • Sometimes teams that don’t receive much attention can be underestimated by the public, creating opportunities for over/under betting.
  • It’s not because news outlets do not relay the information that it is not happening.

Emotional Control

Maintaining emotional control is essential for making rational betting decisions. Bettors can make more informed and rational decisions by understanding how public and personal biases affect betting lines and maintaining emotional control. Combining this psychological awareness with fundamental and advanced analysis will enable bettors to find value in the over/under market.

Avoiding emotional betting. It is imperative to avoid making emotional decisions when betting, as they often result in unfavorable outcomes. Maintaining a level head is crucial, especially after suffering losses.

Developing a systematic approach. Employing a systematic approach to betting is crucial in mitigating the influence of emotions on decision-making.

Techniques Used by Successful Bettors

Understanding the techniques employed by successful bettors in predicting over/under totals in NFL games can offer valuable insights. These techniques involve research, disciplined betting strategies, and effective bankroll management.

Data Analysis and Modeling

Successful bettors often utilize sophisticated data analysis techniques.

  • Custom Predictive Models:
    • Many successful bettors create and use their own statistical models to predict game outcomes and totals.
    • These models often incorporate team stats, player performance, and external factors.
  • Continuous Model Adjustments:
    • Successful bettors constantly refine their models based on new data and trends.

Line Shopping

Finding the best betting lines across different sportsbooks is a common technique among successful bettors.

  • Identify Value Across Sportsbooks:
    • Comparing over/under lines across multiple sportsbooks allows bettors to find the most favorable odds.
    • For instance, if one sportsbook has the over/under at 47.5 and another at 46.5, betting the over at the second sportsbook gives you a slight edge.

Bankroll Management

Effectively managing a betting bankroll is crucial to long-term success.

Set budget limits. Successful bettors set aside a specific amount of money as their betting bankroll and avoid exceeding this budget.

Utilizing a staking plan is key. They often use staking plans, like the Kelly Criterion, to decide how much to wager on each bet based on the perceived value.

Information Gathering and Networking

Regarding NFL total betting, having access to a network of knowledgeable sources and staying well-informed is key to making informed decisions. With so many variables in each game, from the weather conditions to the injury report, it can be difficult to predict the outcome accurately. That’s why it’s important to research and stay up-to-date on the latest news and analysis from trusted sources. By doing so, you’ll better understand the potential risks and rewards, allowing you to make more informed choices and increase your chances of success.

Keeping abreast with news and updates – successful bettors closely monitor news, injuries, and other factors that might affect game totals.

Networking and information exchange – they often have a network of contacts and sources they exchange information to gain insights that might not be publicly available.

Understanding Timing

Knowing when to place bets is a skill that successful bettors master – early bets vs. late bets! In short, betting early can secure better lines before moving, while betting later allows for more information gathering.

Early betting can be advantageous as it often allows bettors to secure better lines before they move. Sportsbooks’ opening lines might have inaccuracies or not fully factor in certain elements. By identifying value in these opening lines and betting on them early, you can secure better odds before they are adjusted. Additionally, if you anticipate that the public will heavily bet in a particular direction, placing an early bet in the opposite direction can be beneficial as you secure a more favorable line before it moves.

On the other hand, late betting has its own advantages, mainly revolving around having the most up-to-date information. As the game approaches, information such as final injury reports, weather conditions, and player statuses becomes available. This information can be crucial in making an informed betting decision. Additionally, waiting allows you to observe public betting trends and their influence on the lines. Sometimes, the public heavily influences the lines, and by waiting, you can capitalize on this by identifying value where the public has skewed the lines.

Common Traps to Avoid

When betting on over/under totals in NFL games, it’s crucial to know the common traps that can negatively affect your betting results. Avoiding these traps can help in making more informed and profitable betting decisions.

Chasing Losses

One of the most common and detrimental traps bettors fall into is chasing losses. Chasing losses occurs when a bettor tries to immediately recover lost money by placing more bets, often with poor judgment. 

How to Avoid:

  • Set strict bankroll limits and stick to them.
  • Accept that losses are part of betting and avoid making impulsive bets to recover them.

Placing too much emphasis on historical trends can lead to misguided betting decisions. Trends can be misleading and might not have predictive value. For instance, a team going over the total in several consecutive games doesn’t guarantee they will in the next.

Use trends as a part of your analysis but don’t rely solely on them. Combine them with fundamental and advanced analytics for a more balanced approach.

Recency Bias

Recency bias is when recent events are given too much weight in decision-making. Being overly influenced by a team’s recent performance without considering the larger sample size. Take a holistic view of a team’s performance over the season, not just recent games. How far back do you need to study depends on the team, your strategy, and your own understanding of the game.

Parlay Pitfall

Although parlay bets offer the possibility of big payouts, they are generally considered high-risk due to their nature. A parlay bet combines multiple bets in a single wager, where all selections must win to succeed. It is advisable to use parlay bets sparingly and instead focus more on single-game bets, which provide a better chance of winning.

Overconfidence in Star Players

Betting decisions for football should not be based solely on the impact of star players. Although they are important, the game’s outcome is determined by the performance and matchups of the entire team. To make informed decisions, evaluating all aspects of the team is crucial and not just focusing on the star players.

Based on Emotion or Allegiance

One of the most common mistakes people make is allowing personal biases or team loyalties to influence their decision-making. While having a favorite team or player is understandable, it’s important to remember that this is gambling, and relying on emotions rather than data can lead to costly mistakes.

To be a successful sports bettor, it’s crucial to remain objective and utilize analytical tools and statistics to make informed decisions. This means doing your homework, researching the teams or players you plan to bet on, and understanding the odds and probabilities of different outcomes. By relying on data and analysis, rather than your gut instincts or fandom, you can make more informed and strategic bets, increasing your chances of success.

This article was published on July 4, 2023, and last updated on July 4, 2023.

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