Betting on football consists of many different types of wagers. One of the most popular types of football wagers is the Totals, also known as the Over/Under. This bet is placed on the total points scored by the two teams playing.
It's an exciting betting option, as you don't have to worry about who wins or loses, just how many points are scored. The simplicity of this bet makes it very appealing to casual bettors and experienced bettors alike. However, don't let the simplicity of this wager fool you. Just like with any other type of football bet, there are strategies and risks involved.
How Do Football Totals Work?
Although they're called Totals, this type of bet is better known as Over/Unders due to the nature of the wager. In short, you are betting on whether the total score of a football game goes Over or Under the Totals Line (number). Let's take a look at an example:
In this example, the Totals Line is set at 39.5 points. This means you are betting on whether the total points scored between the Seahawks and the Vikings will be Over or Under 39.5 points. In the 2017 football season, the Vikings had one of the best defenses in the league. Additionally, the Seahawks were also a Top 10 defense, which means this hypothetical matchup had all the makings of an epic defensive battle.
If you were inclined to believe that these two defenses would keep the opposing offenses in check, then you would bet on the Under (under 39.5 points). If you had a sneaky feeling that the offenses would surprise the opposing defenses and score more than 40 points, then you would bet on the Over (over 39.5 points).
So, we all know that there are no half points in football. But in our example, we see that the Totals Line is 39.5 points. Sportsbooks use the half point to prevent a push, which is a tie in sports betting. If the Totals Line was 40 points and the final score of the game was 24-16, then your wager would be a push, and nobody wins the bet.
Take a look at the next important number in the example above: "-110." This number means that you would have to bet $110 to win $100. It's not an even money wager. This is how sportsbooks make their money no matter who wins the game. They create appealing lines for bettors on the Over and bettors on the Under with the hopes of an even amount of betting action on both sides.
For the more experienced bettor, some sportsbooks offer Quarter Totals and Half Totals to wager on in addition to the Game Total. Football has 4 quarters and 2 halves per game, which allows for 6 more Over/Under betting options:
- 1st Quarter Total
- 2nd Quarter Total
- 1st Half Total
- 3rd Quarter Total
- 4th Quarter Total
- 2nd Half Total
Sticking with the example from above, the Seahawks vs. Vikings 39.5 total points line, the sportsbook could also have the following Quarter and Half Over/Unders: Make a table for the following
|1st Quarter||10.5 points|
|2nd Quarter||10.5 points|
|1st Half||20 points|
|3rd Quarter||10.5 points|
|4th Quarter||10.5 points|
|2nd Half||20.5 points|
With these additional Over/Under wagering options, you could end up placing several Totals bets on just one game. For example, if you know that the Seahawks lead the league in 1st Quarter scoring, then you might be inclined to take the Over for the 1st Quarter Total Line of 10.5 points.
Advantages of Betting on Football Totals
Betting on football totals has its advantages. None are more obvious than the simplicity of this type of wager. You either bet on the Over or the Under. There's no confusion with this type of sports bet. Other advantages are as follows:
- It's great for casual bettors or beginners due to how simple it is to understand and to wager on.
- You have a 50/50 chance of winning. But keep in mind that the wagers are not even bets. You typically have to bet slightly more than $100 to win $100 - most likely $105 (-105) or $110 (-110) to win $100.
- You don't have to bet on either team to win. You just have to bet on total points scored between the two teams, whether it's per quarter, half, or game.
Tips for Betting on Football Totals
As mentioned above, don't let the simplicity of these wagers fool you. When betting on sports, there's always risk involved. If you are looking to jump on the popular Over/Under betting train, then consider the following betting tips and strategies:
In your excitement to hurry and place a bet, you might end up making the biggest Over/Under mistake a bettor can make - overlooking the matchups.
When it comes to betting on the total points scored, you have to seriously consider the teams playing and how they match up against each other. For example, the Cincinnati Bengals have the best running game in the league, but they're going up against the Denver Broncos, who have the top defense against the run. The concern here is that the Bengals could be limited on offense due to their strength being nullified by the Broncos strength. If that happens, then you can expect it to affect the total points scored in the game.
Another example would be that those same Bengals are playing against the Cleveland Browns, who have one of the worst rush defenses in the league. Cincinnati would most likely run the ball all over the Browns, which would allow them to chew up the game clock and prevent Cleveland's offense from having enough offensive opportunities to score.
In addition to the teams' strengths and weaknesses, there are many other factors to consider when examining the matchup:
How many points does each team score per game? But don't stop here in your matchup examination. Too many beginners and casual bettors will look at the PPG for each team, add them up, and then think it's a lock that this game will hit that total. Remember, PPG is a good indicator that team has potential to score points. It's not the definitive factor.
Another good stat to consider is how many yards per game each team accumulates. If one team has a hard time moving the ball, then it might be a good indicator that they won't score many points, especially if it's against a defense that doesn't allow a ton of yards per game.
Does the home team play well and score more at home? How does the visiting team fare on the road? The location of a game could affect the on-field success of the teams involved. In football, home field advantage is profound for the majority of teams.
The time of the football season could be a huge factor in your desired betting matchup. For example, if it's late in the season and one of the teams is already eliminated from making the playoffs, they might lay down and get steamrolled by the other team who's still trying to win their division.
Another example could be teams that start off slow at the beginning of the season. Over the last decade, the Chargers have been a notoriously slow starting team who typically begin the first quarter of the season with a losing record. Not only do the Chargers have to dig themselves out of a hole each year, but they also don't put up many points on the scoreboard during this dismal opening stretch.
Looking over previous encounters between the two teams can help shed light on the potential outcome. For example, the Saints and Falcons have played in shootouts 7 of the last 8 games against each other. Odds are that this trend would continue, especially since both teams have a higher PPG average.
Speaking of divisional foes, these games are almost always tough. Both teams know each other really well, and it typically leads to close contests. With divisional opponents, you have more data of past matchups to analyze. This helps you more than the Bears playing the Jets once every 4 years. More data equals more insight.
Unless you really follow football, you might not understand the impact that a head coach's style has on a game. There are some coaches that are more aggressive than others who like to play it safe. An aggressive coach may go for it more on 4th and short than a safe coach would. Additionally, aggressive coaches also like to go for 2-point conversions, onside kicks, and fake punts. These all equate to the potential of scoring more points. Safe coaches would prefer to punt, play the field position game, and allow their defense to dictate the game. This tends to lead to fewer points scored in a game.
One last factor to examine between the two teams is their Over/Under record on the season, on the road, at home, or against each other. If the Rams currently have a 2-6 Over/Under record, it means that their scoring outcomes have gone Under the Totals Line 6 of 8 times. Conversely, if their opponent, the Cardinals, have a 7-1 Over/Under record, then that means they've hit the Over in 7 of their 8 games.
If both teams come into the matchup hitting the Over or the Under in the majority of their games, then the odds are these two teams will continue that trend. For example, if the Titans and Colts each have a 1-7 Over/Under record, it's a good indicator that they're more likely to hit the Under in this betting matchup.
Always check the weather before any football bet. The weather can have a significant impact on a football game and the betting lines. If the game is being played in inclement weather like rain or snow, then it will limit the offense's ability to move the ball.
For example, high winds and heavy rains will affect the passing game by making it harder to throw the ball down the field. Snowfall will make it hard for players to run, cut, and juke. If a team can't throw effectively and the players can't stay on their feet, then it's going to severely limit the number of points scored.
Injuries are a part of the game. However, there are some injuries that can be more detrimental to a team than others. When Packers QB Aaron Rodgers went down for most of the 2017 season, Green Bay was an awful team. Their scoring average went down per game, and the offense was atrocious. Many bettors jumped on the Under bandwagon, thinking that since Green Bay couldn't score points, the combined point total would have to be Under the game's Totals Line. And they were wrong!
This was a classic case of overreacting by bettors, because the opposite happened. Although Green Bay lost most of their games when Rodgers was out, the Total Points scored actually hit the Over more times than not. The Packers finished the season hitting the Over 11 times, with a 7-3 Over/Under record after Rodgers was injured and made a brief late-season cameo. What ended up happening was that the Packers defense started giving up more points and the Packers offense turned the ball over at a higher rate during Rodgers absence.
Don't overreact to an injury. If you are unsure how an injury may affect a team, then give it a week to see how the team plays.
For many casual bettors, a team's schedule is the last thing on their mind when placing an Over/Under bet. However, it might just be the one factor that makes or breaks your wager. Bye Weeks and short weeks can impact a team's overall level of play and on-field success. If the Oakland Raiders are playing on a Sunday night game, then have to travel to Kansas City for a Thursday night game, then this short week between games can affect their on-field product and the total points scored in the game.
Another factor is when a West Coast team like the 49ers has to travel across the country for an early game against the New York Giants. There's a growing trend over the last decade that these West Coast teams traveling to the East Coast lose more often than they win. And let's also not forget how bad some of the football games are between the two teams playing in London. Keep an eye on the schedule and see if there are any potential factors that could contribute to one or both of the teams' scoring output.
Whether it's a big or small movement, betting lines almost always move throughout the week. This is due to sportsbooks making adjustments based on news, injuries, and betting action. For example, a Totals Line could open at 41.5 points, but go up to 43 points by Friday if there was a lot of action on the opening line's Over.
Keep in mind that the majority of bettors like to take the Over in most situations. And when there are high-scoring teams playing against each other, the majority of bettors will take the Over regardless of the Totals Line. This could force the sportsbook to bump the Totals Line up by the end of the week to compensate for the betting action. That's great news for football bettors who are patient because it could force the sports betting site to place a Totals Line higher than they normally would. This would be an example of great value for those who take the Under.
One area where beginners and casual bettors fall short is in having multiple online betting accounts. The purpose of this is to improve your chances of getting the best lines possible. We strongly recommend that you open several accounts with our top rated sports betting sites.
When it comes to betting on football, a 1/2 point can make all the difference between winning and losing your bet. This is why you shop around for the best lines available.
Let's say you believe the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens are going to score below the opening Totals Line of 40.5 points. You go to your favorite betting site, and they have it listed at 40.5 points. You then check a few other top rated sites that you have accounts with, and you find one that has the Over/Under listed at 41.5 points. This one point is a huge difference, and here's why:
- Getting another full point to the total gives you slightly more wiggle room with your bet
- 41 is a popular scoring total in the NFL, and getting that half point is to your advantage
If multiple sites are carrying the same Totals Line, then check to see what the payout odds are. For example, if Site A has the Over at -105 odds and Site B has the Over at -115 odds, it would be best for you to go with Site A. You only have to risk $105 to win $100 with Site A, where Site B requires you to risk $115 to win $100.
Another example could be that Site A has the Under at -105 and Site B has the Under at +105. You would have a chance to win more money with Site B than Site A because you are betting $100 to win $105, where Site A wants you to spend $105 to win $100.
Just like shopping at a store for the best deals on food or clothing, make sure you shop around different sports betting sites to get the best Totals Line and Odds. Don't settle for what your favorite online bookmaker offers. Spend the extra time it takes to scan the lines and odds from different sites to improve your chances of winning, how much you risk, and how much you might win in return.