NFL Win Totals Betting Strategy

NFL Betting Strategy Course 105

Futures wagers are one of the most popular ways of betting the NFL. One specific type of futures bet involves team season win totals. While the premise of a season wins total bet is quite simple, successfully handicapping this category can be quite involved. This article will break down what a season win total bet is, discuss several tips and strategies to incorporate into your season win total handicapping, and look at how the Pythagorean theorem formula can be used to numerically find betting value on season win total lines.

NFL Win Totals Betting Overview

As the name implies, a season wins total bet involves betting on the number of games that an NFL team will win over the course of the regular season. These bets do not include postseason wins, so every team’s season wins total line is based on a 16-game schedule. Just like an over/under line for a game total, the posted number for season win totals is the line around which you will base your pick of whether you think the team’s actual win total will land over or under. The following image shows examples of NFL season win total offerings.

Win Totals 1

Concerning line and price movements, the juice on a team’s win total line will fluctuate based on the money and liability a given sportsbook has. Heavy betting action in one direction can also cause the original win totals line to move up or down a half or even a whole win as the book works to maintain balance and limit its liability in any one direction as much as possible.

When Can You Make an NFL Win Total Bet?

Unlike other types of NFL futures which will see their odds and prices adjusted after games each week, win totals are only available to bet on before the start of the season. Because these bets hinge on a team’s ability to win games over an entire season, even Week 1 results are significant. As a result, sportsbooks close win totals bets as soon as the season kicks off for each team. This makes the window to place a win totals bet the time between when the book releases the initial lines up until the start of the regular season.

NFL Win Totals Betting Strategy

There are many things to consider when conducting research and analysis for NFL win totals betting. Team construction, roster turnover from the previous season, schedules, and trends are just a few of the most important aspects of NFL win totals betting. This section breaks down several components of an effective win total handicapping process.

Review Previous Seasons

Much of a team’s season win total line is predicated on how they fared in the preceding season(s). All the sportsbooks have to go by when creating the lines are performances from the past. As such, you should make reviewing the results of the most recent 3-4 seasons a big part of your handicapping. Oftentimes, you can predict roughly where a team’s win total line will stand just by accounting for past results.

To illustrate how a prior season can impact a team’s win total line for the following season, take a look at the image below which depicts the win totals betting lines and actual results for the Tennessee Titans’ regular seasons from 2015-17. The years run chronologically from left to right, each containing two columns. The win total line for each season is listed in the first column with the actual season result listed in the following column. After a draft that saw the Titans land Marcus Mariota with the number 2 overall pick, optimism was high entering the 2015 season. The result was nowhere near expectations, and it is reflected in a much lower win total the following season. Notice that after an improved result in 2016 which easily surpassed that year’s win total line, the books again adjusted the line accordingly for 2017.

Titans Win Totals 2015 17

Monitor Offseason Moves

The main reason that the previous season’s win total cannot be considered a direct reflection of how a team will perform the following year lies in offseason roster moves. With different players, coaches, and personnel coming and going, each NFL team will find itself with a slightly different construct from year to year. This will be factored into the win total lines posted by a sportsbook and must be accounted for when handicapping. Oftentimes, you can get a pretty good feel about whether or not a team is in win-now or rebuilding mode based on the free agency moves and trades that they make. The overall organizational plan can lend itself to a few extra wins or losses here and there as more in-season trades might be coming to reflect the motive to compete or tank. It is also important to pay attention to who teams select in the draft and factor in how much of an immediate impact those rookies might have.

Study the Schedule

A team’s schedule can go a long way to determining whether they will surpass their season win total line or fall short. If a specific team’s schedule includes several opponents that you project to be strong, a bet on the over could be risky and this would imply a more difficult schedule. On the contrary, a team that projects to be markedly better than several of their opponents could have an easier time reaching and ultimately surpassing their season win total.

Divisional Games

Given that six of a team’s regular season games come against their three division opponents, measuring how teams stack up relative to those within their respective division is crucial to projecting season win totals. This will give you an idea of how nearly 40% (37.5% to be exact) of a teams’ season may play out.

Nonconference Games

Another area where general divisional analysis comes into play is with nonconference games. Each year, every team plays four nonconference games against every team in one division from the other conference. If the crossover matchups will pit a team against a division that is expected to be very strong or weak overall, this could bolster or diminish the chances for a team to pick up wins in those nonconference games.


Accounting for increased travel across the country is another way to use the schedule to your advantage. Teams who will constantly be covering long distances in between games will be at a significant disadvantage compared to those with limited travel between games. As superhuman as NFL players are, traveling takes something out of everyone. Looking for long road trips or homestands and games that pit two teams with significant discrepancies in their recent travel patterns against each other are smart tactics to deploy.

Byes and Short Weeks

Another part of the schedule to look at is when a team’s bye occurs. Most teams tend to perform better coming off of a full extra week of rest. For strategies specific to handicapping NFL bye weeks, CLICK HERE. Games that will be played on a short week of practice, due to either Thursday or Monday night affairs, are another scheduling factor to consider. Any disparity from the traditional Sunday schedule can potentially throw teams out of rhythm.

Shop the Lines

A common strategy across all types of sports betting is to shop around and find the best line relative to the bet you intend to make. If you find value on a team’s season win total at one sportsbook, resist the temptation to just lay down a bet right then and there. Instead, check the odds at other books to ensure that you are getting the best value for your bet. Sometimes, books will have a disparity of a whole half win for a given team, and they will almost always have discrepancies when it comes to the juice.

Finding NFL Win Totals Betting Value Numerically

For bettors looking to take their NFL win totals handicapping to the next level, one way is to use a numerical formula to aid in finding value. There are several different formulas and many choose to invent their own. One such formula with a proven track record is the Pythagorean Theorem. The following section will look at how to use this formula to handicap season win totals, as well as the pros and cons of numerical formula-based handicapping.

Using the Pythagorean Theorem to Calculate Win Totals

The Sports Pythagorean Theorem traces its roots back to baseball and was developed as a way to relate the number of runs (points) a team surrendered in a season to its actual winning percentage. By modifying the exponent, data scientists have been able to apply the original Pythagorean formula to other sports, including the NFL. The exponent for the NFL is 2.37, and the formula reads as follows: 

[(Points Scored)^2.37]/[(Points Scored)^2.37+(Points Allowed)^2.37]

By then multiplying the generated winning percentage by a 16-game season, you get a projected number of wins for each team. The next step in the process is to compare the Pythagorean win total to the team’s actual win total from the season in which the scoring data was extrapolated. This is done by subtracting the team’s actual win total from the Pythagorean win total. This difference will yield either a positive or negative Pythagorean Differential. This number is simply the distance away from the expected win total the team was, either above (positive differential) or below (negative differential).

After determining the differentials, you will add them to the betting market win totals for the upcoming season. The resulting totals are the projected season win totals for the upcoming season based on how the team fared relative to their Pythagorean win total from the previous season. Refer to the spreadsheet image below for a full example of this process.

NFL Pythagorean Theorem Spreadsheet

If the number is above the betting market win total (positive Pythagorean differential), this would suggest an advantage to the over on the team’s season win total. The same is true for numbers lower than the market wins total which would suggest a play on the under.

Advantages of Numerical Formulas

The biggest advantage of handicapping NFL win totals with a numerical formula method is that it takes opinion right out of the equation. No matter how you feel about a team in terms of liking, outlook, or perceived luck, formula systems such as the Pythagorean Theorem throw that all out the window. The win projections generated are based on numbers and statistics alone. Using a numerical formula as part of your handicapping also allows you to visually recognize whether a team is more likely to undergo positive or negative regression in the upcoming season. By including a numerical formula system along with the other win totals betting strategies discussed above, you will be able to generate more well-rounded projections.

The other advantage afforded by numerical formulas is a base by which game spreads can be generated during the season. For those looking to handicap the NFL week to week in addition to season win totals future bets, working with a formula like the Pythagorean Theorem will allow you to generate your own game spreads each week, all predicated on the win total projections.

Disadvantages of Numerical NFL Win Total Handicapping

The biggest disadvantage of utilizing a numerical formula to project season win totals is that it fails to account for roster turnover. If a team went on a major free agency spending spree to position itself for a Super Bowl run the following season, it is quite obvious how this would not be accounted for in a formula. Likewise, if a team sold off several assets in trades and opted for the tanking route, the formula again would be unable to factor this into its projections. On the positive side, as far as the above method with the Pythagorean formula is concerned, factoring the betting market win totals into the process of generating your projections does account for roster changes to a certain degree.

Given that they are based on numbers, formulas like the Pythagorean Theorem are also unable to factor in scheduling, injuries, or public perception. As a result, while they can provide a great baseline for win total projections, relying solely on formula-generated projections when placing bets is not advised. Combining numerical outputs with research and knowledge of the other core win totals strategies is the best way to achieve betting success.

Final Thoughts

NFL season win totals betting provides a unique way for bettors to have action riding on team performance every week throughout an NFL season. To increase the likelihood of a successful win totals betting venture, it is important to research previous team performance, offseason transactions, and the schedule. Implementation of a numerical formula, such as the Pythagorean Theorem, can enhance win total projections. Finally, shopping the lines at various books will ensure that you have the most value possible when placing an NFL win totals wager.

Henry is pursuing a Communication Studies degree and a Psychology minor at SUNY University at Buffalo. He has been a passionate sports fan from a young age and got hisstart writing about Fantasy Football. In an effort to combine an aspect of specialization along with his enjoyment of any and all sports, Henry expanded to cover other Fantasy Sports while also foraying into the Sports Betting sector. He continues to relish every opportunity to learn, grow and network within the industry. He counts the New York Jets, Toronto Raptors, Vegas Golden Knights and San Diego Padres among his team loyalties. In addition to school and sports, Henry is passionate about health and fitness and is currently studying to earn certification as a personal trainer.

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