Football Totals Bet Strategies
In football, one of the more popular bets that you’ll see available to you is the totals bet. Frequently called the over/under, this refers to a bet where the sportsbook sets a line on how many times something will happen, and you can bet whether the actual number will be over that line or under it.
The most common totals bet you’ll see in football is a bet on the total points scored in the game by both teams. In addition to this, though, you can bet on the over/under of a lot of other things, like season wins, sacks in a game, touchdowns in a game, or even penalties in a game, to name a few. Basically, if something can be counted in a football game, you might see a totals bet available for it.
In this guide, we’re going to mainly focus on betting the total score by both teams, as that is by and far the most popular totals bet. If you like to bet the other totals, no fear. We’re going to have tips to help you with those as well. We just want to point out that our main focus will be the totals bet that is decided by the cumulative score of both teams.
Let’s get into our expert collection of tips, tricks, and strategies to beat football totals bets.
Break the Game Down by Drives and Quarters
We’d like to start by talking about the best course of action for approaching football totals bets. Often, bettors start by looking at the different lines offered on each game and then work backward to see if that line is correct. While this strategy might work for some people, we recommend a much a better and more efficient course of action.
When you look at the totals lines prior to making your game predictions, it has an influence on you. Whether conscious or subconscious, your mind sees the numbers put out by the sportsbook and starts using them to build your prediction. This means that you could be using lines that are off to make your prediction.
What we recommend instead is that when you’re looking to make your football totals bets, you start by making your full game prediction, and only once you are finished do you open up your sportsbook to see what their totals lines are. This will protect you from being influenced by the very lines that you’re looking to validate or invalidate.
So, what is the best course of action to figure out what you think the totals line should be for a game? Well, a lot of bettors like to try and look at the entire football game as one unit. They try and decide how many points will be scored by looking at each team as a whole. While this information is good to look at, you’re going to have a lot more success if you break the game down into smaller, easier to digest bites. It’s much easier to make a prediction on how the first quarter is going to go than how the entire game is going to go.
When you break a football game down into smaller chunks, it forces you to pay attention to smaller details. It forces you to make predictions and see things that you might miss when just looking at the surface of the whole game.
It depends on how much time you have to dedicate to making your picks. At a minimum, you should be breaking the game down into quarters. If you want to be more accurate, though, break the game down into drives. Play the entire game out in your head or on paper. Use details and tell yourself which players will do what and how points will be scored.
When you get done doing this, you will have a storyline of exactly how you think the game is going to go. All you have to do then is total up the points for each team, add them together, and you now see what you think the total points scored for the game will be. Once you have this figured out, then you should go to the books and see where this lines up with their lines. It will be extremely easy to see which side to bet if you are confident in your score prediction.
Additionally, if you map out the game with a lot of detail, you will find opportunities to bet other totals bets. For example, if your game prediction has a certain wide receiver scoring more than one touchdown, you could make a bet on that player to score over 1½ touchdowns. This might not have been easy to see if you looked at the game as a whole, but it becomes easy to see when you break the game down into small chunks.
The Public Historically Loves the Over
Let’s start with our bottom line up front and then break down what the implications are for us. The betting public loves to bet the overs on football games. People love seeing points put up on the board, and it’s historically heavily reflected in their betting. What does this mean for you if you’re going to be betting football totals?
Well, it has a lot to do with when you should place your bet. Remember, the public usually bets late in the week right before games. Their betting volume ramps up as the week goes on, and the bulk of the public’s bets come in on game day. This means that you should expect the totals number to rise as the week goes on. As the sportsbook looks to discourage action on the over, they’ll bump the line up higher and higher until they balance out the action.
While this is not always going to be the case, it happens more often than not. This means that if you’re looking to bet the over in football, you should look to bet it earlier in the week. If you’re looking to bet the under, you might be wise in waiting until closer to game time to get your bet in. You could find an extra half point or point (or possibly more) that could be huge. If you don’t think a half point is huge, you’ve never sports bet much before.
One thing to remember, though, is that you’re probably not the only one out there betting with this information. In fact, a lot of the big bettors who are very sharp are most likely fully aware of this. Be careful that you don’t wait too long to get your bet in or else they might swoop in and shift the line back to where it was or possibly even further depending on the size of their bet.
If this does happen and you wait too long to bet the under, don’t panic. The absolute worst that happens is that you just don’t make a bet on that game. With as much football action as there is every season, you will have plenty of other opportunities to get your totals bets in. Forcing bets is a great way to start destroying your profit.
Check Injury Reports Regularly
Do you think the Patriots offense and their potential to score points would be affected if Tom Brady was injured? Of course it would; that’s easy. But what about if one of their offensive linemen was injured? Would that have an effect on their ability to score points? If it’s a key player that gives Brady time to work and their running backs time to move, you bet it would.
The point we’re trying to make here is that you need to be checking injury reports and not just waiting for injury news on ESPN. ESPN and other sports networks will make a huge stink when someone like Tom Brady is injured, as they should. This will have a profound effect on the outcome of the game, and everyone watching wants to know how the superstars are doing.
But what they might not draw a lot of attention to are other key injuries that will have an effect on the outcome of the game. Missing an offensive lineman might not be enough to make the Patriots lose, but it might be plenty to stop them from scoring as many points as they normally would or using Tom Brady as aggressively as they’d like.
Before you make any totals bet, you need to get as much injury information as possible. See who is hurt, who is out, and who is questionable. Yes, some teams (like the Patriots) keep this information close to the vest, but you can at least get your hands on some rumors or information that can help you make an educated prediction.
Also, this is not just something you check once at the beginning of the week. Football is a rough sport, and that goes for practice, too. Players get injured at practice all the time, and that may or may not make the mainstream news. Don’t be lazy; take the few extra minutes to check the injury reports for both teams and on offense, defense, and special teams.
Weigh the Offense and Defense Together
It can be tempting when your metric for winning is to only look at the offense. It can also be tempting when you see two tough defenses playing to automatically think you should bet the under. Both of these temptations are going to get you in trouble when betting football totals.
When you approach these bets, you need to have a balanced approach. There are exactly zero point zero situations where you shouldn’t be looking at the offense, defense, and special teams. While this probably sounds like common sense right now, you’d be amazed at how many bettors throw common sense to the wind and get tunnel vision when they’re researching their totals bets.
If you’re forecasting the game as we suggested you should, make sure to include the defense in detail in your predictions. Look at individual defensive matchups and decide who is going to get the best of each matchup. Make sure that you look at all positions, too, and don’t neglect the “less glamorous” positions. Everyone knows that a good safety can shut down a great receiver, but what about a great offensive lineman giving the QB more time to work? Or a defensive lineman that’s going to rush the QB or shut down a ground attack like a boss? These are all examples of things that need to be considered.
Also, when you see two defensive powerhouses going at it, don’t automatically jump to the under. It can be tempting to ignore the line and just take the under regardless of what it is. This is bad news bears and should be avoided. Instead, approach the game like we recommend you do. Sure, the defenses are going to play a big role, but points are still going to be scored. 0-0 games really aren’t a thing. Defenses and special teams can score as well.
The takeaway is not to jump on a totals line by just glancing at one side of the ball. A balanced approach will protect you from falling for traps and making silly mistakes.
Shop for More Points
If you’ve read any of our other strategy guides, you’ve probably seen this tip on every single one of them. Why? Because it is that important to successfully turning a profit. When you’re making your football totals bets, you need to try and scrounge for every point or half point you can get your hands on. Once you sports bet enough, you’ll realize just how crucial every half point is.
Getting the over on 40½ versus just 40 is huge. It might not seem like much, but in the long run, these small edges will make a big difference. The line-makers are incredible at how close they are to predicting the totals in football games. This means that you’re going to need to look for as many small edges as possible to try and turn a profit.
Do you need to shop for lines at 100 different sportsbooks? No. As long as you are checking 2-3 different books to see who is offering the best lines on your bets, you’re good to go. You’re not always going to find a better line, but the times that you do will be big. Our experts have endless stories about where getting an extra half point or point was the difference between winning and losing their totals bets.
For those of you that are new to line shopping, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You are “shopping” to try and find the best line on the same bet. Imagine if you were buying new shoes, and there were three shoe stores next to each other. Would you go into each store to see who had the best price on the shoes you wanted? If the stores were right next to each other, you probably would.
This is what line shopping is like. Sportsbooks usually offer the exact same totals bets on football games, but the line they offer might not be the same. If you want to bet the over on the Ravens game, and one sportsbook has it at over 39, and another has it at over 40, you’d be crazy not to take the over 39. This means that if the total points scored in the game end up being 40, then instead of pushing on your bet and making no profit, you win.
Online sportsbooks are a lot like those three shoe stores right next to each other. You can get to different books in a matter of seconds and see what lines they are offering. It costs nothing extra to have multiple sportsbook accounts, and all of the online sites post their lines publicly where it only takes a few seconds to find.
Remember, you don’t have to place all of your bets at one sportsbook, either. Your bets do not have to be shopped as a group. Shop them individually. If one sportsbook is giving you more points on the over in one game, while another is giving you a great line on a different under, you can place those bets separately. Most professional sports bettors will have bets placed at multiple sportsbooks every single day.
Don’t Forget the Outside Influences and Conditions
Let’s say you’ve been a good boy or girl, and you’ve followed all of the tips we’ve given you on this page. You’ve predicted the game first through breaking it down, you checked injury reports, you shopped for lines, and you looked at the offense and the defense. Have you done everything you could to ensure you make the best totals bet possible?
Sorry, you missed one thing, but that’s because we haven’t told it to you yet. We presented it this way because a lot of sports bettors would tell you that once you got through all of that, you had done everything you could to ensure a winning bet. What they are neglecting to pay attention to, though, are the extenuating circumstances and conditions surrounding the game.
We’re referring to all of the other tangibles and intangibles that have an effect on the game flow and outcome of a game. One of the biggest is the weather. You’ll need to take into account whether the weather is ripe for scoring or if it’s going to be tougher for the teams to get the ball in the end zone or kick field goals.
Often, when weather conditions change, football bettors can be slow to respond with the totals bet. You need to be ready to take advantage of these opportunities when they present themselves. Also, be careful of bettors that might overreact to changing weather conditions. Just because it is now scheduled to rain a little bit doesn’t mean that every team is going to forget where the end zone is.
Another factor that you’ll want to consider is the implications of the game. For example, while the BCS in college football says they no longer look at win margins in games, you can bet that the coach’s polls do. It’s also hard to say with a straight face that those people voting can just ignore when a team is stomping every other team by double digits.
This means that teams that are looking to make a case for getting into the playoffs might be more inclined to keep the gas on in a blowout. In situations like this, if it hasn’t already been accounted for in the totals line, you may want to look at firing at the over.
With the NFL, this comes into play as well. Think about teams that have already clinched their spot in the playoffs and don’t have anything to play for. What do they do? Often, they will bench their starters part way through the game to give them some rest. As you can imagine, this will have a profound effect on the over/under points total for the game.
These are just a few examples of some of the outside factors that you need to take into account when you’re betting football totals.
Armed with these tips and tricks, you should be ready to make a solid run at becoming a football totals bet expert. Are you going to walk into the book today and instantly be a master at them? Probably not. You will need to practice your craft, do the adequate research, and grow into the expert you want to be. The good news, though, is that you do now have all the tools you need to be successful. You have the knowledge that the experts use to make their picks and win. It’s up to you now to put in the extra work and turn these tools into a winning finished product.