A lot of football handicappers will tell you that if you want to make money betting on the NFL you should look towards the totals. There is nothing easy about handicapping the NFL, but there is often more value to find in the totals than in the spreads and moneylines. If you do want to make money on totals, though, you need to make sure that you are making the best bets you can. That means avoiding costly mistakes. Here are five things for football bettors to think about when they are wagering on NFL totals:
Don’t forget the defense – This seems simple, but a lot of bettors don’t give the defense a second thought. Casual football fans love offense, so they will only think about the capabilities of those offenses – especially when one or both offenses are particularly strong. The success of those offenses has a whole lot to do with the defenses they are facing, though. In fact, you could make a very good argument that you should be starting by looking at the defense first instead of the offense. A very good defense will overcome a very good offense much of the time, and even a solid defense can make an average offense have a rough day. That can mean a lot when it comes to wagering on NFL totals.
Think about the flow of the game – When people are handicapping totals in basketball they naturally think about time of possession because teams can’t score a lot if they aren’t going to get the ball a lot. Time of possession and pace of the game is just as important in the NFL, but people don’t think about it nearly as much. If one team has a very run heavy offense, for example, then their opponent isn’t going to get the ball as much as they normally might. Even if they are a potent offense, then, they might not be able to score as many points as they normally would. The casual betting public isn’t going to consider that, so they are inclined to give the teams too much offensive credit. By getting a sense of the speed at which the game will be played you can give yourself a big edge.
What’s the motivation? – People often make the mistake of assuming that teams will score up to their potential all of the time. That’s just not the case. Often times a team won’t be particularly interested in scoring more points than they need to win. They could be more interested in getting some rest for their starters, getting some work for their second stringers, working out kinks n aspects of their games that aren’t working very well, or just giving themselves a mental break. If you are making a total bet that requires a football team to try their hardest throughout the game to achieve the total then you probably aren’t making a great bet.
Where is the public? – Thinking about the preferences and interests of the public is crucial when you are betting on NFL totals. When the public likes a particular team they will bet them enthusiastically pretty much regardless of the situation. Typically, public teams are successful teams over the long term with strong offenses and star players at quarterback and other high profile positions. Because the sports betting public will be loyal to these teams in most cases the oddsmakers have the luxury of inflating the totals slightly in these games to capture a bit more value for themselves and improve their profit potential over the long term. That doesn’t mean that you can never bet the over on public teams. It just means that you have to be particularly aware of what preferences the public is likely to have so you can be sure that there is still value on the game even if the line is inflated. It’s most common that the public bets the over and favors offensive teams, but it is also possible that that they would give too much credit to a particularly potent, high profile defense on the under.
Injuries – Injuries can have a huge impact on football totals, but not always in the way that people assume. A high profile injury to a key player on offense can limit the ability of a team to score, and a defensive injury can make it harder for that team to stop the ball. You need to be very careful about the impact of these injuries, though. If a player doesn’t actually have the impact that he is perceived to have, or if the backup is more capable than he is perceived to be, then the public is very likely to overreact to the situation and there can be value to be had if you can be calm and reasonable as a NFL handicapper.