Betting NFL Season Win Totals
One question I get asked all the time by people looking to bet NFL season win totals is should they lay heavier juice to get a better number, or reduce the juice and give up the extra game or half-game on the win total. An example is the season win total for the Arizona Cardinals this year. If you want to bet Over 5 the juice is -150. However, if you are bullish on Arizona, you can bet Over 5.5 at +105. Over time, the 55 cent difference between the two will add up to a significant difference in your overall bankroll bottom line.
One way to answer this question is to first look at how often season win totals historically fall within a game of the closing line. When looking at 2018 closing NFL season win total lines, only 6 out of 32 (18%) teams had final regular season wins that were within a game of their closing line win total. That means that 26 out of 32 teams offered significant value outside of their closing line. A few examples include the Chicago Bears who finished with 12 wins, but had a closing line of 6.5 wins, the Green Bay Packers who had a closing line of 10, but had just 6 wins, and the Jacksonville Jaguars with a closing line of 9 but managed just 5 wins.
So what do we do with that knowledge and how does it help us in 2019? My general rule of thumb is if you can take a line that will result in a push as opposed to a loss at a better price, do it. So in the above example for Arizona, I would lean with taking the 5 as opposed to 5.5 because you are going from a push to a loss if it lands on 5. However, using the Atlanta Falcons as an example---their Over is 8.5 -140 or 9 +110. If you are inclined to like the Atlanta Over, I would prefer the Over 9 at +110 because you are going from a Win to a Push if they land on 9, so the risk is much smaller than in the Arizona example. On top of that, as I noted above, there is only about a 1 in 5 chance that the team’s final win total will land within a game of their season win line anyways, so the risk is worth the reward--in this case, 50 cents (-140 to +110).
When you are betting these futures, assuming you are using cash as opposed to a credit shop, you are essentially giving the books a 5-month interest free loan before a decision is reached in December. Therefore, you want to do everything you can to increase your ROI, and approaching win totals this way is a great way to start.