While betting on NFL totals isn’t as common as betting on spreads or moneylines, it is one of the most popular wagers to make on NFL games. When you look at NFL betting lines on a board or on a computer screen, the total is one of the three most prominent numbers along with the spread and moneyline.
History of NFL Totals
Scoring has increased dramatically in the NFL over the last few decades. At the start of the 1990s, teams were averaging 19.0 PPG or less per game. That number moved over 20 PPG by 1994, and the lowest it has been since that point was in 2001 when teams averaging 20.2 PPG.
The 2010s was the highest scoring decade in league history, surpassing the 1960s that was propped up by the American Football League. The AFL games were much higher scoring than their NFL counterparts in that decade, leading to that somewhat anachronistic result.
During the 2010s, nine of ten seasons saw teams average at least 22.0 PPG. The one anomaly during the decade was 2017 when teams averaged 21.7 PPG. The 2013 and 2018 seasons were the two highest scoring campaigns of the bunch with teams averaging 23.4 PPG and 23.3 PPG in those seasons, but games are about to be even more high scoring if 2020 is any indication about the future.
The 2020 NFL season set a new record as the highest scoring NFL season to date. Teams averaged a whopping 24.8 PPG, as there were 5.75 touchdowns scored per game on average. You might think this was largely due to quarterbacks throwing for big yards, but that’s not the whole story. The biggest factor proved to be signal callers limiting their interceptions.
We could have seen the average tick over 25.0 PPG too if not for the relatively recent rule change regarding extra points. The decision to move extra points back has meant they are no longer automatic. However, that has also led to a substantial increase in two-point conversion attempts.
Tips for Betting NFL Totals
Something to keep in mind when wagering on totals is that most bettors love to wager on the over. Fans like to see points and higher scoring games, and many of them will bet with their heart in the hope of seeing back and forth, exciting games.
That’s particularly the case when an elite quarterback is involved. If someone like Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes is on the field, there is a good chance the game will have a total in the 50s.
However, it’s important to note that quarterbacks aren’t the only determinant when it comes to whether a game goes over or under the total. Defenses are extremely underrated by the general public in this regard, and it’s crucial to see how specific defenses match up with offensive schemes.
For instance, a team that wants to run the ball can carve up a bad front seven and control the clock. That opponent might have an elite quarterback, but they won’t have many chances to move the ball down the field if his team’s defense can’t get off the field.
Overtime certainly helps overs cash, but not as much as in college football. You will only see a maximum of nine points scored in NFL overtimes as teams get to answer a field goal before the game moves to sudden death.
There are currently 10 domed stadiums in the NFL, so weather doesn’t play as much of a factor as it did in the past. However, there are times where Mother Nature can have a huge impact on a game.
Many bettors think that rain means to bet the under, but that’s not the case. Torrential rain certainly does lead to lower scoring games, but light to moderate rain doesn’t really have a big impact on the total of a game.
Wind and snow do have huge impacts on a game’s total though. Brisk winds can wreak absolute havoc on passing games and kicking games, and you don’t see many successful passing attacks if there is a lot of snow on the ground. Those conditions are more common later in the season, but stifling September heat can really bother teams used to more temperate climates too.