Golden Rules For Betting Totals In NFL

Posted by Eric Williams on June 16, 2016 in

You can already find online NFL lines for every game from Week 1-16 at sportsbooks. So why are there only totals for Week 1? Because while books can project spreads, there are too many variables in projecting totals. Here are a few of them.

Here’s a Closer Look at the Golden Rules For Betting Totals In NFL

Injuries (or suspensions)

This is reason No. 1 why you don’t see totals posted way in advance. Let’s take New England’s Week 1 game at the Arizona Cardinals for example. The total is currently set at 49 points. It was a few points higher but was dropped when New England quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate was reinstated by the U.S. Court of Appeals. No one player affects a total in college football or the NFL more than a quarterback. So if a quarterback is listed as questionable or doubtful early in a week for a Sunday game due to injury, you aren’t going to see a total until the sportsbooks are more certain whether he will play or not. As of right now, the other 31 starting quarterbacks in the NFL are healthy or not suspended, but things can certainly change between now and Week 1. A Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback such as Brady playing or not could move a total as much as a touchdown depending on the opponent and other factors. The lesser the quarterback, the lesser he would move the number if injured. You also can see a slight total shift with injuries to other star players. Someone like Dallas receiver Dez Bryant or Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson to name two. Although in this pass-happy NFL, it’s now very rare a running back will affect a total. Peterson and perhaps the Rams’ Todd Gurley might be the only ones right now because their teams are so dependent on them.


Needless to say, a December game in Buffalo in wintry conditions will have a lower total than would a December game in Los Angeles if the same two teams played there. Snow and wind are the two biggest weather conditions to affect a total. Those are usually later in the year for those teams in the Northeastern United States like Buffalo, New England, both New York teams, the Eagles and Steelers, etc. Rain isn’t much of a factor because the NFL will play through that. Always check the weather forecast in a city with an outdoor stadium before placing a bet down on an NFL game. It’s harder to pass and harder to kick on a cold, windy day. The totals will thus be lower at sportsbooks.

Heavy Leans

You the bettor can certainly affect the total just as you can a spread. If a sportsbook is taking heavy, heavy action either over or under a total, the book will adjust accordingly. Remember, the ideal NFL game for a sportsbook is to have about 50 percent lean on both sides of the total. You generally will see a half-point added so there are no ties. No one likes ties, not even the books.

Style of Play

Two offensively-oriented teams playing in a dome are going to see a higher total on their game than two defensive clubs playing outdoors in the elements. For example, look at last year’s New York Giants at New Orleans Saints game in the Superdome in Week 8. The final score was Saints 52, Giants 49, the third-highest scoring game in NFL history. The teams combined for an NFL record 13 touchdown passes. The Saints and Giants both had great quarterbacks and the NFL’s two worst defenses. By the way, the Saints visit the Giants in Week 2. So expect one of the highest totals of the 2016 season as long as the weather is good that day.