Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
A few years ago, I vowed never to make an NFL Total (sometimes called over/under) bet again.
I made that vow after I received what I considered another “bad beat” when betting the total in an NFL game. In this particular game, I bet the total only to lose by one point after the Bears missed their first extra point try, and then both teams missed five (count ‘em!!) consecutive two point tries! Where was the regression to the mean, where was 50-50?
Well, I can tell you a couple of things about betting totals in the NFL. First, every game in the NFL should go over the point total. It’s only because of penalties, dumb calls, and offensive team messups that they don’t. Second, if you bet only the over, you will be correct half the time, no matter how little or much you know about football. Third, the formula used by sportsbooks to arrive at the total number is not esoteric, in fact, it is quite simple. My boss, I’m sure, knows more about this than I do, but I believe you average Team A’s offense total with Team B’s defense total. Then, you average Team B’s offense with Team A’s defense. Then add those two averages, and I would think that would be the total number, right? Wrong. Knowing that the public (like me) like to bet the over, (who wants to watch a game filled with penalties, dumb calls, and offensive team messups?) sportsbooks then add 1 point, and viola!, you have the total number. (try my formula)
You may not believe that one point makes a big difference, but in addition to the above example, consider the following bad beats, which are all true:
- Total total number is 44 ½. At halftime of a Monday Night football game (they start MUCH later in the East), the score is 24-20, and I go to bed, confident of an over victory. Not so fast, as I find out the next morning that not one point was scored in the 2nd Half, and I lose;
- Giants vs. Cardinals, total number is 42 ½. The game goes into overtime tied at 21. Both teams combine to miss three (!!??) field goals from inside the 20 in the overtime period and the game ends in a 21-21 tie. This bettor is so distraught he attempts to get his bookie to take a soccer bet from the West Coast, which is rejected;
- Total number 47 ½. Team A scores a touchdown, but kicker (ironically nicknamed “Steady Eddie”) misses the extra point after the announcer stupidly points out “Steady Eddie” has made 89 extra point in a row and that’s all the scoring in a game that ends with a score of (you guessed it) 26-21,
- College game total 45 (it WAS a long time ago). Team A is ahead 24-20, and that’s exactly where the score stayed when Team A’s punter TRIPS AND FALLS in the field of play on his attempt to run into his own endzone for a 2 point safety!! Do I even have to say that, of course, Team B does not score, from, like, the 5?;
- Many, many times I bet a “sure” over, even though it’s high, because “there’s no way” this game can’t go over. But, Team A gets the opening kick and slowly drives into field goal range. Holding penalty, Team A backed up. Team A stalls and attempts a field goal, which you just know they’re going to miss, and when they do, you have half the first quarter gone and no points scored. Then, Team B takes over, gets to midfield, and… another holding penalty. Team B punts, pinning Team A deep in their own zone, whereby Team A decides to plow into the line three times for little or no gain, and then Team A punts. The game proceeds this way and you realize YOU HAVE BOTH COACHES COACHING AGAINST YOUR BET!!! Of course, despite a late game scoring surge, you come up just short;
- “Greatest Show on Turf” (remember them?) in a Sunday Night game. High over total number, but, using the logic in #5, I bet the over. At halftime, both teams have totaled 3 points.
I could give more true bad beats, but you get the idea: Over/Unders suck. Incredibly, this week just so happens to have another game that I see as a “can’t miss” over. Kansas City at Tennessee and the total opens at 56 ½, 6 ½ points higher than any other NFL game. Two bad defenses, right? Kansas City’s offense will score 35 themselves, right? And, that will force Tennessee to open it up against a very suspect Chief’s defense, right? All I can say is what I’ve heard on tv hundreds of times: TWEET!…”Holding”, FUMBLE!!, and “I don’t know what Patrick Mahomes was thinking”, leading, of course, to the announcer proclaiming, “Well, with these two offenses we expected a shootout, but these two defenses came to play today”. Yeah, great.
Here are my picks for NFL Week #7. Lines are from William Hill Sportsbook on Tuesday, October 17.
Denver Broncos (+3 ½) at Cleveland Browns. This line, with all the Browns’ injuries, is sure to change, but I’d get it while I could.
New York Giants (+3) vs. Carolina Panthers. The Giants play hard, are at home, and were embarrassed last week. The Panthers don’t have Christian McCaffrey and do have Sam Darnold.
Atlanta Falcons (-2 ½) at Miami Dolphins. Teams that play in England should have a bye the next week. Maybe the Dolphins will be able to overcome this unfair scheduling, but it will be very tough.
New York Jets (+7) at New England Patriots. I think Zach Wilson gets it enough to keep it close coming off a bye.
Las Vegas Raiders (-3) vs Philadelphia Eagles I think the Raiders are a better team.
New Orleans Saints (-5) at Seattle Seahawks Russ won’t be cooking this week and the Saints are coming off a bye.
San Francisco 49ers (-3 ½) vs Indianapolis Colts Do you get the idea I like teams (like the 49ers) coming off a bye?
Last week 2-3
Oklahoma St. (+7) at Iowa St.: I am no fan of Oklahoma St. coach Mike Gundy, other than every now and then I still love to go on YouTube and watch his “I’m a man! I’m 40!” rant from a few years ago. But whether by design or circumstance, his Cowboys are winning this year because they’re following a very un-Gundy formula, running the ball and playing defense. I do love the job Iowa St. coach Matt Campbell has done, but as I’ve mentioned before, he’s done it with unheralded recruits, and sooner or later, to win big games in college football you have better players than the other team. This is a big game, and I don’t believe Iowa St. has the better players.
Air Force (-3) over San Diego St.: The Aztecs are as good on defense as they always are, maybe even better than usual. But the offense is as ugly as it gets. The Aztecs’ offensive identity is a power running team, but Air Force is the best defense they’ve run into yet. At some point they’re going to have to make a play in the passing game to win a game like this, and they haven’t shown they can do it.
Virginia (-6 ½) over Georgia Tech: On the opposite end of the spectrum is Virginia, whose quarterback, Brennan Armstrong, has already thrown for more than 2,000 yards more than the Aztecs have thrown for. He has 19 touchdowns already. Georgia Tech has been turnover prone and inconsistent. Nobody Virginia has played has slowed down Armstrong, and I don’t think Tech can, nor do I think they can score enough to stay within a touchdown.
Dolphins (+2 ½) over Falcons: I’ve been reading all week long about how the Dolphins rebuild has stalled, how they made a mistake drafting Tua Tagovailoa, how Brian Flores is looking like just another failed Bill Belichick assistant. All three of those things might be true. But for this week, I think a beleaguered team playing at home, coming off an embarrassing loss, finds a way to beat a similarly bad team.
49ers (-4) over Colts: I’ve also been reading all week (two weeks actually, since they were on a bye last week) about all that ails the 49ers. But, despite all of those tribulations, how different would those story lines be if they held that lead against Green Bay, or if Trey Lance didn’t get stopped a yard short of the goal line in Arizona? I’m not buying that the Colts blowing out the Texans means they are back on the right track. This week, I’m expecting the 49ers to look the best we’ve seen them this season.