Football Betting Strategy Advice - Season Win Totals
Season win totals have become an increasingly popular type of wager in recent years, on both the NFL and college football. They're widely regarded as bets that are placed mostly for a bit of fun, and as a way to keep an interest in certain teams throughout the season. Many serious bettors will avoid them, for a couple of reasons that we'll explain later.
We firmly believe that there is some value to be had with betting season win totals though, providing they are approached correctly. There are a lot of things to take into account when deciding where to place your money, but some hard work can really pay off.
On this page we start by looking at the two main reasons why you might not want to bother with wagers of this type. For those of you that do want to give them a shot, we've got plenty of advice that will help you. We've also provided some historical data that you can analyze if you want to try to find some trends or patterns.
Are Season Win Totals For You?
Before you continue with this article, there are two points that you should consider. They may help you decide whether you even want to get involved with betting seasonwin totals.
Of course, the first point applies to football betting in general. There wouldn't be many bookmakers still in business if any aspect of it was easy. However, betting season win totals successfully can be especially challenging, so you really need to think about whether you want to devote any time to it.
Unless you are confident about your ability to predict how teams will perform over the whole season, you will probably be better off spending additional time handicapping other betting markets instead.
The second point is one that not a lot of people think about. You have to place wagers of this type before the season even starts, and you won't receive any potential returns until it's over. This means that you'll have a reduced bankroll throughout the whole season, which could affect your ability to make whatever level of profit you're targeting.
This doesn't have to be a major problem if you have a sizable bankroll, or if you are particularly cautious with your bankroll. It can be an issue if your bankroll is limited though, or if you use an aggressive staking plan.
We're not making these points to put you off the idea of betting season win totals, but we definitely encourage you to take them into account.
Season Win Totals Explained
The basic concept of betting season win totals is very simple. Prior to the start of the football season, bookmakers set a total for each team of approximately how many games they expect them to win. For example, they might set the total for the Buffalo Bills at 8.0. This would mean they anticipate the Bill winning 8 games during the regular season.
Wagers on season win totals are based only on the regular season. They do not include the playoffs and championship games.
The bookmakers also set odds on whether the on whether the actual amount of games won during the season will be higher or lower. Continuing with the same example, they might have the Bills at -130 to win more than 8 games and even money to win less than eight games.
To place a season win totals bet you have to predict whether a team will win more than the total set by the bookmaker, or less. If you think they'll win more, then bet on the over. If you think they'll win less, then bet on the under.
It's as straightforward as that, although making accurate predictions is not as easy as you might think.
Finding Value in Season Win Totals
The key to profitable betting, on anything, is finding value. It's not just a matter of betting on what you expect to happen, it's also about making sure that the odds are at the right level for your wagers. If you're an experienced bettor you should already know this, but if you're a beginner then you may not fully understand this point.
You need to understand the roles of value and probability if you are to have any chance of making money from betting. If you don't, or are not sure, please refer to the relevant article in our sports betting guide.
Finding value in season win totals is a challenge. The bookmakers are very skilled at setting their odds and lines in this market, so opportunities for a good value wager in this betting market are few and far between. They do exist though, and we'll provide some advice for identifying them later.
First we're going to look at a selection of totals, and the relevant odds, and then discuss a couple of the fundamental principles of finding value with this type of wager.
If you're wondering why some of the win totals include a half, this is quite standard in totals betting. It prevents their being a push (a tie), as obviously a team can't win half a game. When the win total is a whole number, any totals bet on that team would be a push if they win that exact number of games.
When betting season win totals, it's very important that you consider the odds as well as the actual totals. It's very easy to simply focus on whether or not a team is likely to win a certain number of games, but that's only one part of the equation. To find value, you have to consider risk versus return too.
Looking at the above table, something that leaps out is the fact that only one set of odds is odds against (i.e higher odds than +100). All the other odds are odds on (i.e. lower odds than +100), which means you have to risk more money than you stand to win.At -125, for example, you'd have to wager $125 in order to win $100. You'd get your stake back too of course.
We've already mentioned how challenging betting season win totals can be, and this is just one reason why. Wagers at odds against can represent value in the right circumstances, but you have to be very confident in winning them. Take the Seahawks for example. The odds on the over are -125, so you'd need to win this bet approximately 56% of the time just to break even. To make any kind of meaningful profit, you'd need to win the bet 60% of the time or more.
That's not impossible, and there are bettors who regularly achieve such win rates. But it's always hard to beat the odds, and the margins are particularly tight in these markets.
Because football betting is so popular, public opinion can have a significant impact on the odds available. For example, in the above table you can see that the Colts are -165 on the over. This is not solely because the bookmakers expect them to win 11 games or more, it's also because the public opinion is that they will. This means that a lot of people will bet on the over regardless of the odds, so the bookmakers deliberately reduce them.
As a result, the over on the most popular teams, and those held in high regard, will frequently be at very short odds. You therefore need to be really confident if you're going to put money on them winning the required total.
Please note that you don't necessarily have to go against the majority all the time. There is usually better value when you do, but the most important thing is that you at least consider the strength of public opinion when trying to find value on bets of this type.
Top Tips For Betting Season Win Totals
Predicting how many games a football team is likely to win during a season is part art and part science. You need to know which statistics take into account, and which statistics to ignore. You need to gauge the potential effects of roster changes, coaching changes, expectation levels, and a variety of other factors too. You also need to rely on your overall knowledge of the quality of teams and individual players, and to some extent you just need to trust your instincy.
Pretty much all of our advice on handicapping football applies when betting season win totals, but we have some additional tips about what you should and shouldn't do too.
It's never too early to start looking at the season win total markets. The betting sites will typically release their lines well in advance of the season starting, and as soon as you have that information you can start looking for the value bets. There's nothing to stop you doing some research and study before that point of either.
There's plenty of information to work with during the off-season, and if you spend that time effectively then you can give yourself a distinct advantage.
Our article on using the off-season effectively explains in more detail about how to spend your time before the season starts.
The effect of a football team's schedule should not be underestimated. A strong team can easily win less games than expected due to an unfavorable schedule, while a weaker team might out-perform expectations with an easy schedule. You must study the schedules closely when betting season win totals if you want to make accurate predictions.
Specifics to look for in each team's schedule include long distance trips to strong opponents, runs of games that should be quite easy, runs of games that could be very challenging, and games at venues where they traditionally perform particularly well or particularly badly.
In most seasons, most teams will lose players to injury at some point. How they cope with losing players to injury will have a significant bearing on how they perform overall. This is why it is important to assess the depth of their playing staff. Do they have good options in all the key positions?
A team that looks very strong at the start of the season might be just one or two injuries away from being beaten more often than not. A lesser team with more depth may well be capable of performing better over the course of the entire season. You can't predict injuries, of course, but you can certainly make allowances for them.
You're very unlikely to be able to make very precise predictions about how many games a team will win across an entire season. The goal should be to assign a range. For example, you might think the Jets will win between six and eight games. Or that the Dolphins will win between eight and ten.
Ideally, you only really want to place a wager when your entire predicted range goes above or below the line. So if you were predicting the Jets to win between six and eight, you'd want the line to be no higher than 5.5 to back the over. If the line was a 6.5, you've not got much leeway for your prediction to be wrong. You'd only win if their final total was at the higher end.
It's important to allow yourself a bit of leeway, as one or two surprise results shouldn't then affect your chances of winning.
Each season there is likely to be only a few lines that offer genuine value. These are the lines you should be looking to place your wagers on. There is no point trying to predict the over or under for each team, as you are never going to get a high enough percentage right to make an overall profit. We mentioned earlier how the people setting the lines are good at what they do. You might find three or four spots where they've misjudged a team, but no more than that.
Season win totals are not bets that you want to be risking a lot of money on. Not only are they difficult to get right, they also tie up a part of your bankroll for the whole season. If you stake too much, even if you get some right you might actually have cost yourself money. With less money to bet with throughout the season, the opportunity cost might be greater than the payouts for being right.
You should keep your stakes at somewhere between 1% and 5% of your total bankroll for any wager you place. For season win totals, the percentage should be right at the bottom of that range.
Previous Season Data
Author: Brad Johnson
Updated: January 2016
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