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Betting NFL Totals

When it comes to betting the National Football League, sports gamblers are given many options. They can bet against the point spread, bet with the moneyline, wager on teasers and parlays, and also bet the total of the game. The total, or over/under is simply a number that bettors can wager there will be more points scored *over) or fewer points scored (under.)
If the total on the Redskins and the Giants is 41, bettors win by betting the under if the combined score of both teams is 40 points or less. Gamblers who bet over the total will win their wager if the combined score is 42 or more points. If the combined final score is 41 points, the bet is declared a tie, or a push, and no money changes hands.

Most totals bettors will look at the average points scored and allowed for both teams and come up with an average. For example, say the Vikings average 24 points a game and allow 16, while the Bears score 18 and allow 20.

The typical bettor will add the Vikings’ 24 points to the Bears’ 20 points allowed, divide by two, and figure the Vikings will score 22 points. The bettor then takes the Bears’ average of 18 and add the Vikings’ total of 16 points allowed, divide by two, and estimate the Bears will score 17 points. Therefore, the bettors predicted total on the game is 39 points.

While figuring out averages is a good starting point, there is one thing it lacks. That is some type of a statistical relevance.

Finding Statistical Relevance

As sports bettors, it doesn’t do us much good to know that a particular football team averages 20 points a game if we do not have something to compare that to. There is no way of knowing if 20 points a game is the sign of a good offense or a bad offense unless there is a something to base that figure against. Fortunately, there is and that is the league average or the league median.
If we look at the points scored for every team in the National Football League, we would come up with an average of roughly 22 points. Now we know that a team averaging 2o points a game is slightly below average.

Other bettors prefer using medians as opposed to averages, as one or two extremely high-scoring or low-scoring teams can make the average slightly misleading.

Medians are simply numbers that separate a higher group of numbers in a sample from the lower half of the numbers in the same sample. The number in the middle, essentially.

In the following group of seven numbers (3, 7, 11, 15, 18, 21, 23), the median is 15. The average of the numbers is 14.

Once you have your league or median, whichever you feel more comfortable with, you are ready to predict totals.

Predicting the Total Points

Using our examples from above, we’ll say the average number of points scored per team in an NFL games is 22. Since both teams average 22 points a game, the average number of points scored in a game is 44. That suddenly gives a different outlook to the Bears and the Vikings match-up used earlier.
As you recall, the Vikings averaged 24 points and allowed 16 a game, while the Bears scored 18 and allowed 20. Now that we have a number (22) to compare those statistics against, we see that the Vikings offense is several points better than average, while the Bears are four points worse than the average offensive team. Defensively, both teams are better than average, with the Vikings allowing six points fewer than the average team, while the Bears allow two points less than the average team.

Now, our predicted total of 39 points, which we got by adding points for and points allowed by each team and dividing by two, seems a little high. What we need to do now is factor in the difference of the league average, which isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

Our predicted average (39 points) is five points less than the league average score, so we want to subtract five points from our predicted score of 39, which gives us 34. That becomes our predicted total. Likewise if our averages yielded a predicted total of 48 points, we would add the four points to our predicted total and come up with a number of 52.

Naturally, this isn’t the only step needed to win at totals, but it does give the bettor a solid foundation and can quickly point out bad numbers.

Where to Go From Here

Many bettors will want to incorporate additional factors into their total handicapping, such as rushing averages, percentage of run vs. pass, etc. These all have their uses, although I personally prefer to concentrate on the points scored and allowed more.
One thing I do include in my totals handicapping is the average difference between the over/under odds and the actual scores. The linesmakers tend to shade the numbers slightly to the over, especially on the nationally televised games, as more bettors feel inclined to make a wager on those games, regardless if they have an opinion or not. Since most bettors are more likely to choose the over, the number is probably .5 to 1 point higher than it actually should be. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good opportunities to bet the over in nationally televised games, just to pick and choose your spots.

This method is one that will be tracked in the forum and predicted scores will be given using both averages and medians. If you don’t want to perform the weekly calculations yourself, you can look for the numbers there.


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