Bookies Adjust To Rash of Unders in NFL Week One
by Mike Hayes - 09/15/2006
Thanks in part to three opening-week shutouts, total players with a preference for the under enjoyed a profitable start to the NFL season and week two totals indicate that the books have been quick to react.
At 12-4 during the first week, unders were successful at a rate of 75 percent. While it is too early to determine whether low-scoring games will be the trend this season, the books aren't taking any chances. Opening totals for week two games show that the books have adjusted the numbers down significantly.
The average point total set by the books for opening week games was a shade under 40 at 39.7. This week the average total has been set nearly 2 points lower at 37.8.
The average actual point total for week one games was well below the average at 34.4, which explains the 12-4 mark.
Two of the biggest surprises occurred in Kansas City and Detroit. In tallying a combined 33 points in a 23-10 Cincy win, the Bengals and Chiefs were nearly two TDs off the 46.5 point total. The Seahawks and Lions also had a significant impact on the week-one average as the defending NFC champs managed just a 9-6 win over Detroit in a game the books had posted at 45.
The lowest total for this week's games is the 32.5 assigned to the Bears and Lions while the largest number is the 47 predicted for the Seahawks and Cardinals.
The question for bettors and books to ponder as we head into week two was whether the low totals are an aberration caused by early season rust or are whether they are the result of more dominating defenses and anemic offenses?
While a one-week sample of games is far from scientific, it cannot be discounted as insignificant when you consider that it has been 15 years since the last time there were three shutouts in one week. Also, a look at the past few years shows a decline in overall scoring.
A total of 10,556 points were scored in all games last season, an average of about 41 per contest. The average posted totals for opening week games last year was, however, lower at 38, and even lower for week two games at about 35, so it did take a few weeks for offenses to click and scores to rise.
While scoring might increase as the season progresses, it is important to note that the number of points scored per game is down rather significantly from a few years ago. A total of 11,097 points were scored in 2002, an average of better than 43 per game. The total decreased to 10,666 in 2003, and after a minor increase to 11,000 in 2004 was back down to last year's 10,556.
Bodog bookmakers said it's too early to draw any significant conclusions. "Totals are based on many factors including previous match-ups, scoring averages, stadiums, weather conditions and more. As the season progresses, offenses will become more comfortable and scoring will only increase. Bettors want to get a feeling for this before jumping on a total."
Regardless of whether scoring is down or not, Bodog said it is the sharp bettor who favors the under when making a totals play. "Sharp bettors certainly favor the under," said the bookmakers. "But in circumstances of extreme weather or stingy defenses, all bettors favor the under."
While totals betting is by no means as popular as the point spread, Bodog said it does make up a big chunk of NFL action. As the season progresses and significant trends begin to develop, the handle on totals wagering will increase, in some cases to as much as 25 percent of the spread action of a given game.
"In major games with high-powered offenses or steadfast defenses, NFL totals can make up a big chunk of the action," commented the Bodog bookies. "Bettors love laying the over on the Colts and cheering the under on the Bears."
According to Bodog, totals lines, and NFL spreads in general, tend to be among the most solid in all of sports. "NFL lines as a whole are substantially stronger because of their rosters continuity and stability."
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