Totals don’t get nearly as much attention from casual football bettors as point spreads, but they should. When football bettors approach them properly totals are at least as profitable as points spreads – and probably more so if you are choosy. It can be very easy to lose a pile of cash if you don’t play totals intelligently, though – and it’s easy to make bad decisions if you aren’t careful. Here are five fundamentals to keep in mind whether you are just getting started with betting football totals or you are looking to improve your bottom line:
Think about matchups – The single biggest mistake that football bettors make when looking at totals is that they don’t consider the matchups. If two teams that have strong offenses are playing each other then most people will automatically lean towards the over. That may be the right choice, but you can’t be sure until you look at what the two offenses are going to be lining up against. If one of the offenses is heavy on the run and they are facing a strong run defense then they might not be on their best. That strong run offense could also keep the other team’s pass offense off the field and limit the points that they can score. A team’s offense can really only do what the opposing defense will allow them to do.
What is the public doing? – Just like with the point spread it is very important with totals to spend some time thinking about what the sports betting public is likely to think about a game, and what that means for the total that has been set. As a general rule the public likes the over in most situations. That preference will be even more pronounced when popular teams with strong offenses are playing. When football teams like that play each other then it almost doesn’t matter what the total is because the public will go over it. When you look at a total, then, in your handicapping you have to consider where the public is likely to be and how strongly they are likely to be there. If they are emphatically on one side then there will often be good value on the other side because the oddsmakers have set the line higher than they normally would to compensate for all the action.
Look for outliers – Smart totals bettors are on the lookout for teams that are on one side more consistently than is reasonable. It’s just not reasonable to think that a football team will go over in every game they play no matter how good their offense is. If a team has gone over a lot of games in a row then you really need to look at how they are doing it and if they can keep doing it. More significant is when teams are not only going over or under the total in every game, but when they are doing it by a very wide margin. If, for example, a team is going over the total by an average of 12 points a game after six games you can be all but certain that they aren’t going to be that strong throughout the season. A team has never gone over the total by that much over a whole season. The large majority of teams will either go over the total by an average of less than four points per game on the season, or go under by the same margin. If a football team is well outside of those margins then you can expect an adjustment, and you can profit from them by making the right bet.
Consider the weather – The impact of the weather on point spreads is often overstated, but that’s not the case for totals. The weather can have a very significant ability on the way that football teams play offense. If it is wet or particularly cold then that could limit their ability to pass and make them more dependent on the run. The run extends the length of each possession. That limits the number of possessions each team has, and makes it harder for them to score a lot of points. In that case two teams that would typically go over might provide real value on the under. That’s just one example for sports bettors of how the weather can have a big impact on totals. Wind, snow, or extreme heat can also have an impact. Even perfect weather conditions have to factor in – if the weather is ideal then offenses are free to do what they want.
Injuries – Injuries can have a big impact on totals – a missing key player, or combination of players, can significantly decrease the ability of a football team to score. The thing is, though, that the public almost always overcompensates for an injury to a high profile player in a skill position. A game that would be an over for most bettors can become an under in most eyes if a running back or quarterback is out of action. Because the betting public overreacts savvy football bettors can often find pleasing value if they show patience and resist the urge to panic.