With over/under wagers, you’re betting whether the total amount of points scored by both teams in a particular game will be over or under the number the oddsmakers set. For example, if the Steelers and Ravens are playing a game and the over/under line is 42.5 and the final score is 20-17, then the under would win (20+17=37). Much like with betting the spread the odds on both the over and under tend to be -110 (though on occasion you may see a -105/-115 set of odds).
What can cause the Over/Under line to move?
The over/under line will generally move over the course of the week. Much like the moneyline or the spread, this line movement is generally caused by the public hammering a particular side, new information on a team (like an updated injury report on a player), or if some of the sharp bettors begin hitting a particular side. With the over/under the sportsbook is attempting to keep the total money on each side close to even. Remember, the odds on these bets tend to be $0.91 on the dollar so if the sportsbook can manage to get the money on each side close to even, then they’re guaranteed to make money, regardless of which side actually wins. While it’s not always the case, the public does tend to bet the over (who doesn’t like seeing points scored, especially in a time of fantasy sports). Because of this, the over/under line tends to move up over the course of the week. It’s not always the case, but it tends to be more likely than not.
When to bet the Over/Under line?
Let’s start by saying there is no perfect system for betting on the over or the under. There’s no “always bet that when the line is at this”. You can’t always bet the under to fade the public or always bet the over at the start of the week before the public pushes the line. Here’s the thing, oddsmakers are very good at setting these totals, and historically the over and under tend to be close to 50/50 when all is said and done. Because of this, you should not be making over/under wagers on every game, but instead be looking for the few games where there is indeed value.
What to look for
For starters, let’s start by remembering our break-even win percentage is 52.4% for these wagers. Meaning for any wager you make, you need to feel it’s going to hit more often than that. Keep in mind that if a game goes into overtime, then those points count too (it’s not a regular occurrence, but wagers are definitely won and lost in this extra time). Additionally, there are a plethora of variables that go into these totals: each team’s offensive and defensive philosophies and schemes, individual matchups, potential injuries, weather, etc. This means you’ll have a lot of work to do in figuring out where the value is. With that said there are a few general tips to keep in mind whether you’re betting the over or the under.
Betting the Over
Weather is a big part of betting over/unders and there are a few misconceptions about weather that can lead to some good values. People often misunderstand what “bad” weather actually is for an NFL offense, and tend to treat all types the same. The biggest misconception is that offenses have a more difficult time in the cold or snow. Generally speaking, this isn’t the case unless it’s extremely cold, or if they’re playing in the middle of a blizzard. Keep this in mind when you see lower totals. Additionally, it’s always good to remember that, generally, the total will increase over the course of the week, so it’s often a good idea to get your pick in earlier if you’re feeling a particular over.
Betting the Under
Much like with betting the over, there are weather considerations for the under as well. Rain, wind, and heat are the biggest weather deterrents to an offense. Rain and wind can make things tougher on the passing and kicking games, which lead to those extra missed field goals, and drives that stall out. The biggest one that the general public will forget about is heat. Heat and humidity can drain an offense of its energy, leading games to get slowed down a bit. You can’t have receivers running 9 routes all day without being that much more likely to end up gassed. Because of this, there can be that extra value on the under, leading to more profitable bets. Another general trend to keep in mind is that the total number is likely to increase over the course of the week, so if you’re a particular fan of the under, waiting for the public to push the line up can get you another point or two of value.
Betting on over/unders can definitely be a profitable proposition. To do it though, you’ll need restraint in finding good bets and sticking with only the best of values. Keep an eye on the weather, make your picks at the right moment, shop around for the best totals, do a ton of research, and you can find some good values from week-to-week.
Kyle Kontos is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Kyle, check out his archive.