Over / Under Betting Explained

Everyone wants to win betting on sports, but most don’t. That’s how sportsbooks rake in the dough. However, by effectively betting football totals, you can beat the house. What are football totals and how do you make money betting them? This guide will answer those questions and more.

Most football wagers are placed on the point spread. But many gamblers miss out on an opportunity to make decent money betting on another less common type of wager: the over/under, otherwise referred to as the football totals.

When it comes to the point spread, as most know, you’re betting on Team A to defeat Team B by at least a certain number of points, or lose by fewer than the amount of the spread. Some, however, find better value betting the over/under.

What are Totals? How to Bet the Over/Under?

When betting totals, you aren’t betting on just one team. You are wagering on the combined points scored in the game. For example, if the over/under in the Green Bay-Chicago game is 42.5 and you bet on the over, you need at least 43 points scored in the game to win.

Conversely, if you bet the under, and the score exceeds 42 points, you lose. Understanding the basics of betting totals is simple. But it requires a bit of skill to turn a profit, which is the goal of every sports bettor.

We can’t tell you which specific football games to bet, but we can help you make smart decisions. Here’s some advice so you can become a wise bettor.

Is There an Advantage to Betting Over/Unders?

From an entertainment perspective, betting on the totals instead of the point spread is nice because you don’t have to root for a specific team. That’s great especially in a game that involves two teams you don’t particularly like.

For example, let’s say you’re a Chicago Bears fan and you find the over to be juicy in the Minnesota-Green Bay game. Since it might bother you to cheer for either of your two biggest rivals, betting the over/under is the perfect solutions. Who cares which team wins?

But from a strategical standpoint, you’ll find some profitable spots on almost every NFL or college football weekend.

Betting Against the Public

In many cases, the general public is clueless when it comes to betting the point spread or over/unders. There are a few reasons for that. First off, most people are too biased for sports betting. And others are far too influenced by ESPN and Fox Sports pundits that really don’t know what they’re talking about.

You’ll often notice that the public favors teams the mainstream media adores. In 2018, for example, Wisconsin (4-9), Michigan State (4-9), and USC (4-8) were among the teams with the worst records in college football against the spread. That’s because they were overhyped and, thus, were bet on heavily.

When it comes to betting football totals, you should look to bet against the public, and that means mostly betting unders. Not always, but more often than not. The reason for that is most bettors like betting the over. Why? Because watching teams score a lot of points is more entertaining than a 14-13 defensive slugfest.

When the public is hammering the over, the totals will eventually rise to a point that makes the under profitable.

Shop Around for the Best Lines

Betting football totals is a bit like car shopping. You probably don’t purchase the first car you test drive, so you shouldn’t automatically jump on the first bet you see, even if you think it’s the right line. We recommend using a few different sportsbooks and shop around for the best line.

The reason it’s best to shop around is because you might miss out on some value if you stick with just one sportsbook. Let’s say your go-to sportsbook sets the over/under at 49.5 for the Patriots-Seahawks game. You like the under here, so you put down $110 hoping to profit $100 (-110 is the most common line on over/unders).

New England ends up winning 26-24 for a total of 50 points, meaning you lose. Afterwards, you find out a competing sportsbook set the over a 50. In this hypothetical scenario, you would have pushed and saved yourself $110. Sure, you wouldn’t have won your bet, but that’s $110 you could have saved.

Best Tip for Betting on Totals: Don’t Just Wing It

Winning at betting on sports requires research and a good strategy. You can’t expect to make any money if you’re just throwing darts or betting the over because you’re hoping for a high-scoring game. There are so many factors you should take into consideration before placing a bet. Here are just some of the many factors sports bettors consider.

Variables to consider before making a bet
Factor Reason for Consideration
Weather Rain/snow often causes low-scoring games
Recent Scoring Trends Are these normally high or low-scoring teams?
General Public Betting Habits Is the public over-valuing the offenses?
Match-Ups Good defense facing bad offense = low scoring
Injuries Key injuries can limit an offense or defense.
Motivation How motivated are each team?

Let’s take a look at these factors more in-depth.

Bad Weather Causes Poor Offensive Performances

Horrible weather such as brutal cold, rain, and snow can make even the best offense appear pedestrian. But some teams are accustomed to play in poor weather, so you have to do your research. Teams like New England under Bill Belichick, for example, are built for cold weather. Therefore, you shouldn’t automatically assume a low-scoring game just because the game time forecast calls for freezing temperatures.

But, generally speaking, you should expect scoring to be less than if the game was played under the hot sun. Early September games are often great spots to bet the over simply because scalding hot temps can cause defenders to cramp up and become exhausted.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when two offensive juggernauts face off, it’s going to be a high-scoring affair. But some teams aren’t as explosive (or bad) offensively (or defensively) as their past results indicate.

So, what you should do is dig deeper into their results than just looking at points per game scored and allowed. Have they scored all those points against quality defenses? Or are the numbers inflated because they faced lousy teams?

Even mediocre offensive teams can score some points against horrible defenses. Dig a little deeper than just basic statistics before handicapping a game.

How Offensive and Defensive Units Match Up Against Each Other Matters

A high-scoring team facing another high-scoring team doesn’t always mean the over will hit. In some cases, those offenses can be slowed down by a talented defense. Take Alabama’s performance in the national championship game against Clemson in January 2019.

The Crimson Tide scored 45.3 points per game that season but were limited to just 16 in the championship game. Clemson certainly wasn’t the best defense in the country, but their defensive line was. And that led to stuffing Alabama in the red zone multiple times.

Conversely, a team that struggles to score because its quarterback is inefficient, might find success against a weak rush defense if they have a quality running back. There are certain games that appear a lock to hit the over or under at first glance, but when you look deeper into the match-ups you’ll discover your initial assumption was incorrect.

Key Injuries Can Change a Game

The Minnesota Vikings had one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL when Randy Moss played in the Twin Cities. He was so talented and created such a mis-match against any defense that the Vikings scored at will. But when he was sidelined with an injury, the offense went from unstoppable to pedestrian.

Always check the injury report before handicapping a game. If one or both of the teams is missing key players, and that includes offensive linemen, that’s going to impact the amount of points scored.

For games where one team has a significant amount of injuries, you might find more value betting the point spread instead of the over/under. But injuries could also make betting the point totals easier.

Are Both Teams Motivated?

Professional football players are paid handsomely to go out there and give it their all on Sunday, every Sunday. And, in most cases, they do. But there are certain games, especially in NFL Week 17, where some teams simply just don’t care.

You should always consider the potential motivation for each team before wagering on a game. Some teams appear to be tanking late in a season to get a higher draft pick. Other teams have their playoff berth wrapped up the final week so they play mostly backups.

If the game is meaningless to both teams, you’ll likely get a sloppy, low-scoring game.

How to Bet Football Totals

The top sports bettors handicap a game and see how their projection matches up with the sportsbooks. If you handicap the Colts-Jaguars game, for example, to score about 42 points and the over/under is listed at 39, you should bet the over.

Many sports bettors make costly mistakes and that’s partially how sportsbooks make so much money. One of the most common mistakes is betting too many games. Gamblers often think if they bet enough games, they’ll come out ahead. It doesn’t work that way.

Some games simply aren’t profitable. The line is often just too close to the likely outcome of the game. In situations like this, if you’re going to bet it, you might as well just flip a coin. Better yet, just don’t bet the game at all. Instead, save your money for better spots. It’s best to bet bigger on games you’re confident in than spreading your money around to every game each week.

Another mistake many recreational gamblers make is to bet too early in the week. Unless you found the perfect line and are confident the totals will change for the worse, you don’t have to better early. Wait and see how the public wagers before jumping in. If the over/under opens at 45.5 in the Seahawks-Chiefs game and you bet the over, you’ll feel horrible if that drops to 43.5 by kickoff.

When betting football totals, have a sound strategy. Don’t just bet on every game. Look for the best spots. And always dive deep into the matchups when handicapping a game. Most importantly, invest wisely. If you have money burning a hole in your pockets and need to throw some of it away, we’ll take it off your hands!