NFL Playoff games tend to be lower scoring affairs than their regular season counterparts. However, this week’s four divisional-round games each have a higher-than-average total. So, what’s going on?

football scoreboard total points
NFL playoff games can be tricky betting propositions, especially when it comes to wagering on totals. (Image: Carnegie Mellon)

Four playoff games will take place this weekend — two on Saturday (Minnesota at San Francisco, Tennessee at Baltimore) and two on Sunday (Houston at Kansas City, Seattle at Green Bay).

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.

First, a Look at the Numbers

Here’s a shocker. The average number of points scored in all NFL games during the 2019 season was 45. The average total on NFL games this season was 44.5. Yet, all four games being played this weekend have betting totals equal to, or higher than, the average:

Let’s look at the O/U totals for each game (Note: Consensus line accurate as of Saturday morning):

Minnesota at San Francisco — 45

Tennessee at Baltimore — 47

Houston at Kansas City — 51

Seattle at Green Bay — 46.5

What makes the higher-than-average totals shocking is that all four games will be played outdoors. Three games take place in cold-weather cities — including Baltimore, Kansas City, and Green Bay. 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.

Which Playoff Underdog is Most Likely to Pull Off an Upset?

Playoffs Weather Report

One of the most important factors which might influence how many points are scored is the weather.

The National Weather Service is declaring a “triple threat” storm across much of the nation this weekend, with snow, tornadoes, and flooding. But it appears that all four playoff games will miss the effervescent threat of a mid-January blizzard, or any other harsh weather. Conditions for a few of the games might be considered downright balmy.

When betting totals, always consider the weather — you don’t have scoring shootouts when the ball feels like it’s been dipped in liquid nitrogen. So here’s the forecast for this weekend. (Note: Conditions subject to change):

Minnesota at San Francisco (Beautiful Day) — Temperature in the mid-50s. Wind gusts 10-15 mph. Likely, aside from a little wind, these are ideal conditions for football, including both offenses. Edge to the “over.”

Tennessee at Baltimore (Cold and Windy) — Weather was expected to be bad earlier in the week when cold rain and high winds were forecasted. But now it looks like the winter storm might come after the game. Nonetheless, winds will be in the 10-15 mph range, gusting up to 20 mph. There is a chance of drizzle. The conditions should favor the under.

Houston at Kansas City (Snow but Shoveled) — Cold and snow is expected on Saturday but, by Sunday, conditions should be relatively nice for football. Edge to the “over,” dodging a bullet in what could have been much worse playing conditions for this time of year.

Seattle at Green Bay (Dark and Cold) — A later start (5:40 pm CT) means temperatures could be even colder than the low-20s forecasted for the high. But Green Bay, notorious for Ice Bowl weather in January, might be spared from Ninth Circle treachery. Still, this level of cold is unlikely to suit Seattle. Edge to the “under,” though historically, Green Bay scoring totals haven’t been affected much by cold weather.

Best Guesses by Game

Let’s examine all four matchups and try to draw some conclusions as to the totals:

Minnesota at San Francisco

  • San Francisco has gone over in seven of its last 10 games
  • San Francisco has gone over in five of its last six home games
  • In nine of the last 13 games played at San Francisco between these two teams, the total has gone over
  • Minnesota has gone over in six of its last nine games
  • Minnesota has gone over in five of its last six road games
  • Both Minnesota road games on the West coast this season (versus LA Chargers and Seattle) went over the total. The Vikings scored 39 and 30 points in those games, respectively.

Tennessee at Baltimore

  • In nine of the last 12 games between these two teams, the total has gone under
  • In five of the last five games between these two teams played in Baltimore, the total has gone under
  • Off a bye, Harbaugh’s Ravens have gone 8-4-1 to the under
  • Baltimore has gone over in nine of its last 11 home playoff games
  • Tennessee has gone over in nine of its last 11 games

Houston at Kansas City

  • Kansas City has gone under in five of its last six games
  • Kansas City has gone over in four of its last six home games
  • Houston has gone under in seven of its last 10 games
  • Houston has gone under in four of its last five road games

Seattle at Green Bay

  • Green Bay has gone under in seven of its last eight games
  • Green Bay has gone under in four of its last five home games
  • In four of the last six games between these two teams, the total has gone over
  • Let’s also take a brief look at historical numbers: Over the past three seasons, the over in this round has hit 66.6 percent of the time, going 8-4

Optimal Weekend Wagers

Totals bettors may be in for an array of tempting wagers.

Several factors point to an over in the Minnesota-San Francisco game. All major trends indicate an over wager, yet this total is the lowest on the board (now down to 44 as this is being typed!).

Tennessee, meanwhile, has been an offensive juggernaut, but that could end this week against the Ravens in Baltimore. This appears to be a solid under play.

No compelling reasons exist to bet the total in the Houston-Kansas City game, but there could be slight value with the under, based on a very high number (51).

Likewise, there’s a slight lean to the under in the Seattle-Green Bay game.

Nolan Dalla can be reached at:

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