Now that you know the basics of betting football games against the spread, it’s time to look at how you can make sharp NFL and NCAAF picks by betting on the total.
Believe it or not, there was a time when you only had one football betting option. That was the point spread, which remains the most popular way to bet on NFL and NCAAF games. We’ve dug deep, peeled back the layers, and shown you how the spread works; now we’re going to look at the total, also known as the over/under. This is a special type of proposition bet where you wager on something going OVER or UNDER a certain amount. That something could be anything countable, but when used generically, the total refers to how many points the two teams will score in a game.
When you look up the totals on the NFL odds board at Sportsbook Review, they’ll be presented in a similar fashion as the point spreads. Let’s take another gander at Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game in Canton between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals; here’s how the total looked at the open:
Dallas 37 (–110)
Arizona 37 (–110)
Once again, the Cards are the designated home team for Thursday’s game, so they’re listed below the Cowboys. The first number after each team is the posted total; this number will always be the same for both teams. You can bet on the game going OVER or UNDER 37 points. If Dallas and Arizona combine for more than 37 points, the OVER wins. If they score fewer than 37 points, the UNDER wins. And if they score exactly 37 points, it’s a push – all monies returned. Just like the point spread presentation, the second number you see here is the vigorish, which represents the commission the books make on their bets. In this case, and in most cases, you’ll see a –110, which means you’re betting $110 to win $100. You don’t have to bet exactly that amount, by the way. You could bet $11 to win $10, or $1100 to win $1000. Any multiple will do, provided it fits between the minimum and maximum bets allowed at your sportsbook. The top number is the vig for the OVER, and the bottom number is the vig for the UNDER.
As you may recall from our look at the spread, the books will move their betting lines when necessary to balance the action out on both sides. This happens with totals as well; at press time, the total for Thursday’s game is down to a low of 34.5 points. We can assume that most of the money bet on the total thus far has been on the UNDER. Our consensus reports show 52-54 percent of bettors picking the UNDER, but keep in mind, it’s the volume of money that moves the lines, not the number of bettors. The two don’t always match.
In the world of football betting, totals have become increasingly popular over the years. Again, this bet wasn’t even offered when the first Super Bowl (or to be precise the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game) was played in 1967. Fifty years later, you’ll find the total listed along with the point spread just about everywhere you look. Al Michaels will even joke about it near the end of Sunday Night Football games when an otherwise meaningless late score turns an UNDER into an OVER.
Later on in this series, we’ll give you some tips on how to make sharp NFL picks against the total, but for now, here’s something to think about: People tend to bet on the outcomes they want to see, and football fans want to see more scoring, not less, so they’re more likely to bet the OVER. Exhibition games notwithstanding, of course.
We will be here all season long, teaching you the ins and outs of how to make money betting on football as well as giving you picks and predictions on game days. So check out our posts right here on FanSided every day and we’ll guide you through the 2017 season!