NFL over/under explained

Getting involved with NFL over/unders online keeps us in the game and is one of the most common betting markets in the sport. If you bet the over, you don’t even have to worry about who wins, just enjoy all the points being scored.

NFL Futures Odds Carson Wentz Commanders Quarterback

Carson Wentz is looking to come back strong in his return to the NFC East © Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

NFL over/under bets key takeaways

  • An NFL over/under bet is a bet on the total number of points scored in a game going either over or under a pre-game total.

  • Overtime is included and if the total points falls exactly on the quoted line the total is declared a push and all stakes are returned to the bettors.

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What is an NFL over/under bet?

To work out the total points scored in an NFL game, simply add the scores of both teams together.

Therefore, if the game is tied 21-21 at the end of regulation, but one side ends the contest by scoring a touchdown in overtime to give a final score of 21-27, the total points scored are 48. Remember, extra points aren’t currently attempted in over time.

Unlike NFL moneyline odds, which can be heavily lopsided, over/under bets are designed to be close to even money wagers.

The 2021-22 regular season game between the home team Dallas Cowboys and the now-Washington Commanders was expected to be relatively high scoring and the over/under lines settled at 46.5, with both the overs and the unders priced at -109 for an implied probability of 52.2%.

Washington Commanders @ Dallas CowboysO/U: 46.5

$100 staked on either of the totals would return $91.74 of profit.

The game was a points laden contest. Dallas led 42-7 at the half and over bettors were already celebrating a win before the start of the third quarter. The match ending in a resounding 56-14 win for Dallas.

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NFL over/under explained

NFL Over/under bets can appeal to a wide range of bettors: those who want to cheer for either the offense or defense, or those who delve deeper into the statistics and data driven analysis of the sport.

The casual bettor is almost always guaranteed a run for their money, although the combined implied probabilities of 104.4% in the Dallas vs Washington game indicates that a single book includes significant ‘juice’ in the prices. If there was no juice included in the price, the implied fair odds for the over and under would total 100%.

Casual bettors tend to want to cheer points scoring and so it’s worthwhile looking towards the under in a possible bet, especially in high profile games with national coverage. As with every bet, lines and odds may vary between different books. Therefore, where possible: do your research and find the best price or a more favorable total.

Matchups and weather conditions can have a strong effect on totals. Strong winds are particularly difficult for offenses to overcome through the air, which leads to more frequent runs rather than passes and the clock often keeps running and totals falling.

Conversely, indoor venues often make for more passing offense and key injuries in either secondary, can turn games into a shootout.

Do your due diligence by checking team news and the predicted weather before choosing where to get involved.

How to place an NFL over/under bet

NFL Washington Commanders Dallas Cowboys
Washington tight end John Bates scores a touchdown as Dallas safety Damontae Kazee defends © Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

With NFL over/under betting markets that aim to be roughly equally matched: a bettor will quickly become familiar with the range of odds that regularly are quoted.

A negative sign before the three-digit number indicates that your profitable returns will be smaller than the initial stake. In common parlance in other betting regions, you are said to be betting 'odds on'.

The size of the number in the American odds tells you how much you will need to stake to return a profit of $100 should the bet be successful.

Therefore -130 requires $130 to be staked to return a profit of $100 dollars. If you place $130 on such a winning bet, you will receive $230, made up from your $130 initial stake and your $100 profit.

The larger the number becomes, the more likely it is you will select a winner, although the size of the stake you risk will also rise to win the same amount at longer odds. Sometimes, rather than allow the odds on over/unders to become too lopsided, the total will be moved to return the odds to more even levels.

If you see this happening it is likely that opinion is moving away from the initial total set by the books. Perhaps strong winds have been forecast in Washington for the Cowboys’ visit and rather than drastically shorten the odds on the under, a new, lower line is quoted.

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1. Choose the game you want to place a bet on

DraftKings NFL overUnder screenshot 1

2. Choose whether to bet on the over, or the under

DraftKings NFL overUnder screenshot 2

3. Click on the bet slip at the bottom and place your bet

DraftKings NFL overUnder screenshot 3

What do minus and plus odds mean?

If the three-digit American odds is preceded by a plus sign (+), you will receive winnings that are greater than your original stake.

$100 placed on a winning bet at +110, will return $110 of profit and your original $100 stake. You’d now be described as betting “odds against” in such areas as the UK.

Such bets will generally lose more frequently than they win. A moneyline total of +110 has an implied winning probability of 47.6%, but it is likely that the books have estimated the true chance at around 46% and include a small amount of ‘vig’ or ‘juice’ to reduce the potential payout compared to fair odds.

A working knowledge of the odds is useful, but for a reliable way to exactly view your risk and potential reward, check out on of the many bet calculators, such as the OnlineBetting bet calculator.

All sportsbooks will have both minimum and maximum betting stake limits, with cater for both the casual or serious bettor.

Why bet the NFL over/under vs the spread?

NFL Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott throws a pass in the first quarter against the Washington Commanders in their last meeting of 2021 © Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Over/under bets, also knowns as totals betting and against the spread outcome betting return very similar profit if successful, but they may appeal to very different types of bettors.

Spread betting often starts out with a clear view as to which is the superior team and if either side has been over or under-estimated by the odds setters.

Many bettors will be happy that the aims of the teams, to win the game outright in the case of the favorite or to stay within touching distance at least for the underdog, coincides with that of the bettor.

But it is a very different case for someone wagering on the total number of points scored. The outcome of the game is only of minor concern to the bettor, although it may influence how the game is played.

Of more importance is how the match will pan out. Will it be a free-flowing shootout, with the quarterbacks trusting their arms and 4th down punts being shunned or will the game be won in the trenches with yards hard to come back and a defensive chess match turning the game into one where field position was key? Both can be appealing and with the correct research, profitable.

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NFL over/under FAQs

Do over/unders include overtime?
Can NFL players bet on games?
Is it better to bet the over or under?
Where can I bet over/under in NFL?
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Mark Taylor

Football data analyst

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