Learn how NFL over/under betting works, including how to read NFL odds, differences between moneyline & spread bets, and tips for the best NFL picks.
In addition to the more popular spread betting on NFL games, there is also a fun alternative when it comes to playing wagers on the National Football League, and that’s over/under betting on the NFL. The premise is simple—oddsmakers will set a number, and you can bet on whether the combined score of both teams will be either over or under that number. The NFL odds in over/under wagers are usually similar to each other, so it’s close to an even-money proposition.
But despite the apparent simplicity of the wager, there’s quite a lot of information that goes into setting the total, and it’s important to approach the wager strategically if you’re going to place a bet on the over/under for an NFL game.
How to Read NFL Over/Under Odds
As we mentioned, over/under bets are either an even-money bet or close to it. If it’s a true even-money bet, the odds on each side of the wager will be -110. This means that you have to bet $110 to win $100. The reason that you don’t win a truly even amount of money on an “even-money” bet is because of the vigorish (AKA the vig or the juice). This is the fee that the house takes for taking and paying out your bet. If an even amount of money is placed on both sides of the over/under, the house profits from the vig after paying out the winning bets that are in essence funded by the losing wagers.
Occasionally, an over/under bet will cheat a few points in either direction, but you will pay for that in odds. If the house is looking for more action on the under, they may set the odds at -100 or so, meaning you only need to put up $100 to win $100. On the other hand, a popular side of the over/under bet may be pushed up to -120 or so, which would force you to put up some extra money in order to win $100 (in this case, you would have to bet $120 to win a hundred bucks).
For a real-world example, the opening game of the 2021 season pits the Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The over/under for this Week 1 matchup is set at 53. The odds for each side are -110, but with the over/under being an even number, that means that there can be a push if the total is exactly 53, meaning all bettors get their money back. Occasionally, you will see the over/under be a number with a half-point in it, so there will be no pushes with that number.
How Can NFL Totals Be Forecasted?
When oddsmakers set over/under totals for NFL games, they start by taking common scores. Scores divisible by three and seven are most common in the NFL, so a 24-20 final would equate to an over/under total of 44. The most-common scores in the NFL are, in order, 37, 44, 41, 42, 51, 40, and 47. It’s rare to see a total set at under 37 or so or higher than 55. Oddsmakers take several factors into account when setting the number, as they’re trying to get an equal amount of betting on both sides. In addition to how the teams perform on offense and defense, other factors include the teams’ histories in prior meetings, field-goal percentages, and even stats like rushing yards vs. average pass attempts per game because if teams run the ball more, the clock is running and can lead to lower scores in the game.
What Are NFL Over/Under Betting Strategies?
There are many different ways you can try to gain an edge if you’re trying to be a serious over/under bettor. Some strategies require research and others are simple math. Let’s take a look at five of them.
Point-Spread FormulaMany times, you can forecast the expected over/under total by factoring in the point spread and the oddsmakers’ set total. Taking the Week 1 example from this season, the Buccaneers are favored by six points and the over/under is 53. The formula is as follows:
Divide the point spread by two. (3)
Divide the over/under by two. (26.5)
Add the two numbers to get the favored team’s projected points. (29.5 for Tampa Bay)
Subtract the numbers to get the underdog’s projected points. (23.5 for Dallas)
When adding the two numbers, you get 53. Now, shop different sportsbooks through Sidelines and look for a total that’s above or below 53, and bet accordingly. If you find one that’s at 51, it’s to your advantage to bet the over.
The Overtime Effect On average, around 1.5 games per week go into overtime. Since the NFL adopted new overtime rules in 2012, a total of nine points can be added to a game’s total in overtime, and that does count toward the over/under number. Obviously, overtime favors the over, since teams have 10 more minutes to add to their score. Watch for a game that has a close point spread, as they mean oddsmakers are expecting a close game that could go into overtime.
Timing in the Week Trends show that the betting public prefers to bet the over, so the over sees more bets earlier in the week, and then if the line is adjusted to try and get more action on the under, the under is the more popular bet later in the week. If you like the under when the line is set on Sunday night or Monday, it can benefit you to wait until Thursday or Friday to see if the number climbs even higher before placing your wager on the under.
Factors That Can Influence Late Line Changes There are two things you need to watch when it comes to line shifts. One is the weather. When rain or snow is in the forecast, it’s more likely that teams will favor the run over the pass, and that will lead to lower scores. The other thing to keep an eye on is the injury report, as late scratches can also change expected point-total outcomes.
Look for Trends, Not One-Week Results The NFL is unpredictable on a week-by-week basis. Just because a team scores over 40 points doesn’t mean that they will do so the following week, as there are nearly limitless factors that can cause a one-game outburst like that. What you do need to look at are trends. Has a team failed to break 20 points for three-straight games or scored 35-40 in four of their last five games? Those are factors that can influence an outcome for the following week’s game, but beware that the oddsmakers are also taking those trends into account. Also familiarize yourself with each team’s offensive strategy. Some are more conservative than others, which will affect scoring.
Time to Put the NFL Over/Under Betting Strategies to the Test
With the NFL season upon us, now is a great time to study the over/under numbers, see if you can determine any advantages, and put our strategies and tips to good use to see if you can make some money this season. Check out the upcoming games here, and use Sidelines to place your next bet!
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