A Look at Betting Totals in First Round NFL Playoff Games (Part 1)

NFL Jan 06, 2021

Six playoff games will take place this weekend — three on Saturday (Indianapolis at Buffalo, LA Rams at Seattle, Tampa Bay at Washington) and three on Sunday (Baltimore at Tennessee, Chicago at New Orleans, Cleveland at Pittsburgh).

While sides betting is more popular, totals betting may actually be more profitable. In fact, over many years of experience doing both, I, frankly, find totals easier to predict.

The objective of this article is to determine which, if any, totals appear to have value based on history and trends relating to these teams.

Here’s a shocker.  The average number of points scored in all NFL games during the 2020 season was 49.5, the highest in NFL history.  Teams averaged scoring nearly 25 points per game, which broke the previous high, set all the way back in 1948.

Nonetheless, four of the six games this weekend have betting totals less than the league average.  That's somewhat surprising since so many high-scoring teams are playing in the first round of the playoffs (notably Buffalo, Tennessee, New Orleans, Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Tampa Bay – which are well above-average scoring teams).

Let’s look at the O/U totals for each game (Note: LINES ARE CURRENT AT SPREADS.CA):

Indianapolis at Buffalo – O/U 50.5

LA Rams at Seattle –  O/U 42.5

Tampa Bay at Washington – O/U 45

Baltimore at Tennessee – O/U 55

Chicago at New Orleans –  O/U 47.5

Cleveland at Pittsburgh –  O/U 47.5

What's surprising is that five of the six games will be played outdoors – inclinudg 3 or 4 cold weather cities.  Two games take place in cities where conditions could be frigid (Buffalo and Pittsburgh).  Two games take place in cities that could be cold and weather could be a factor (Washington and Tennessee).  Seattle is also not a place known for nice weather conditions in mid-January.  Only New Orleans, indoors, offers ideal playing conditions.  

While cold weather doesn’t automatically inspire a wager on the “under,” outdoor games in frigid conditions aren’t nearly as conducive to scoring as are indoor games in warmer conditions.

Hence, it's tempting to play OVERS in these games across the board.  But, let's first look closer at the teams and match-ups before making any decisions.

In the next NFL report, we'll lose more closely at each team and break down the games to see where value might exist on totals betting.  We also might have a better forecast for weather conditions in these cold weather cities.