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The Basics Of NFL Totals

November 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Business

For the NFL handicapper, understanding the methodology behind NFL totals (also called over/under numbers) is crucial. For those not familiar with NFL totals, its the large number youll see accompanying most pointspread betting propositions. For example, the 2009 Superbowl line opened with Pittsburgh a 6 point favorite over Arizona. The total was set at 47. Simply stated, the total allows the better to decide whether the combined score between the two teams will go OVER or UNDER.

To the uninitiated, betting on NFL totals can seem very arbitrary. In reality, theyre a valued tool of serious sports handicappers. Many are of the opinion that its easier to accurately foretell the *type* of game that will transpire between two teams rather than who will actually win and by how much. A successful handicapper can look for situations where the total itself is off as well as more subjective factors (weather, injury or matchups) that can contribute to the scoring output or lack thereof.

The basics of setting NFL totals are fairly simple: the bookmaker looks at the offensive and defensive data for the two teams and constructs a number based on points allowed and points scored. If one team had scored 275 points and allowed 350 in their previous sixteen games thats a total of 625 and their opponent had scored 285 and allowed 400 (685) over 16 games that translates to just under 43 points per game. Add the two numbers together, divide by two and youve got a base total of 40.5.

At this point other factors are considered such as the significance of key numbers like 3 and 7 on final scores, weather conditions, injuries, playing surface, etc. Another component that is important is the qualitative matchup between the offense and defense of each team”meaning that a team like the Baltimore Ravens with a strong defense will be more likely to impose their will on a team resulting in a lower final score. All of these factors weigh into a final NFL total that is posted for betting.

Of course as in the case of the NFL pointspread, public perception is a crucial component of the linesmaking process. For example, the conventional wisdom is that bad weather like rain, snow, or sleet results in lower scores and for that reason a bookmaker will shade the total accordingly. However, its not quite that simple–some handicappers would maintain that sloppy weather can produce higher scores in certain situations as defensive backs arent able to cut as well and react to the man their covering. Furthermore, turnovers are in theory more likely in inclement weather.

In conclusion, NFL totals are a very good opportunity for a hard working handicapper to leverage his information about a situational matchup to find good wagering value. Like most elements of the sports handicapping discipline, its not easy to stay a step ahead of the bookmakers who have access to the same weather and injury–and have factored it into the number–but is a very entertaining and potentially rewarding challenge for the NFL betting enthusiast.

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