NFL Preseason Totals Predictions for Week 2
by Robert Ferringo - 8/18/2009
A fellow handicapper at Doc's Sports sent me the following e-mail late Monday night: "They must have gotten burned with some overs last week, they are really bumping up the totals."
The "They" in that sentence refers to our common mortal enemy: the sportsbooks. When I did my initial scan of the football odds for NFL Preseason Week 2 I did notice that the totals seemed high. But I immediately dismissed that as just the natural progression of the preseason totals and didn't think anything of it. After all, the quarterbacks and most of the offensive starters will be playing up until halftime in most instances. And after everyone got their opening game jitters out last weekend it would stand to reason that we're going to see some crisper, sharper offense in Week 2. By that rationale, two or three extra points on a total compared to what we saw last week didn't seem out of the ordinary.
However, when my friend pointed it out as well I decided to go back and check out how this year's NFL Preseason totals progression stacked up with what has occurred over the past few preseasons. After all, one of the things I always noticed about the preseason - particularly with total - was how reactionary the books are. If they get hammered on the 'under' one week the totals sink like stones the next. If they get blitzed with a bunch of 'over' games then they are usually quick to pad the totals the following week. Their overreaction is a direct result from the general overreaction that occurs by gamblers and fans to just about anything that happens in the preseason. ("Caleb Hanie had three touchdown passes! That guy should be starting!")
Anyway, my research yielded some pretty interesting results and confirmed my fellow capper's initial intuition. However, he was off by a year. The books didn't get killed on the 'over' last week they got creamed by the 'over' in Week 2 of the NFL Preseason over the last two years. In 2007 and 2008 the 'over' was 22-10 during the second full weekend of the preseason, good for a 69 percent winning clip.
As a result, the books have significantly over adjusted the totals this year to get out ahead of any sharp 'over' action.
Over the past three preseasons the average posted total in Week 1 of the preseason has been between 33.75 (2008) and 34.94 (2006) with a cumulative three-year Week 1 average of 34.53. Overall teams have gone 26-35-3 against the total in Week 1 (including this year) but that number is skewed a bit from the 3-11-2 mark in 2006. Beyond that the NFL teams are 23-24-1 against the total in their opening preseason weekend with the four-year average of 34.14 points scored per game.
Now, in Week 2 of the NFL preseason the totals are obviously going to be a bit higher because of the natural reasons I mentioned before. However, the books, on average, only bump up the totals about one point higher per game. Between 2006-2008 the average Week 2 preseason total was at 35.3 points. So the average total was around 35.5.
This year the average total for all 16 games is 35.9. That is the highest it's been in four seasons. But if you don't include the three games whose totals were posted today, that is, the games involving teams that played on Monday night (Giants, Jaguars, Dolphins, Panthers) the average total of the other 13 preseason games is a whopping 36.31. That's a full two points higher than the Week 1 totals and a full point more than the average in any of the past three years.
I know, I know - you're eyes are probably starting to bleed from the number bombardment. However, the point is obvious: the books have padded the Week 2 totals this year. They have gotten creamed by the 'over' in this round of the preseason in each of the past two years (teams went 7-8-1 against the total in 2006 for a three-year mark of 29-18-1) and they are trying to prevent that from happening this season by artificially inflating the totals.
So, the next step here should be to pound the 'under' and go against what the books here, right? Well, not necessarily.
Over the past three years the average number of points scored in any given Week 2 preseason game is 39.5. that's more than five points higher than the average in Week 1. So while the books have adjusted their numbers up significantly, there's still an awful lot of cushion between their average lines (35.54 over the last 64 Week 2 games) and the actual production (39.5 points over the last 48 completed Week 2 games).
I understand that I'm dealing with averages and more general overviews and trends here. I'm completely ignoring specific game matchups, weather, injuries and the plethora of factors that a bettor must consider while wagering in the NFL preseason. However, I also think that taking the long view in this instance has given us a great idea of what the books are thinking heading into this weekend. Remember: they're not trying to predict the score. They are trying to balance the action. They have gotten creamed on the 'over' the last couple years, they know a lot of sharps are going to be banging that trend, so they are getting out in front and hoping for a big 'under' weekend.
However, in Week 2 of the 2005 NFL Preseason the average posted total was a whopping 38.4, yet the teams still combined to go 9-7 on the 'over'. A stunning 10 of 16 totals posted that weekend were at 38.0 or higher and even more stunning is that the teams actually went 7-3 against the total in those contests. (By comparison, there have only been five games in Week 2 posted at 38.0 or higher since 2005, and that includes the two games this year.) Over that 2005 weekend teams averaged 41 points per game and proved that the oddsmakers will have to raise the bar if they want to get out ahead of the highest score weekend of the preseason.
We will see if they raised it high enough this year.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and you can purchase a full season's package of his football selections for just $25 per week! Click here for details.
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