The NFL may be a pass-happy league, but betting on unders is clearly the way to go in late-season games. Both recent and long-term trends suggest that bettors haven’t yet caught on to the value of unders when wagering on totals, especially in the final week. This Sunday, four games deserve our special attention.

Las Vegas Sportsbook
It’s time to line up at the betting windows and wager on some unders. We’ve got four games worthy of consideration this week. (Image: Ethan Miller)

In a previous OG article, I uncovered an excellent NFL late-season betting trend that provides an easy and convenient method to handicapping games and identifying optimal “under” wagers.

That angle is based on a contrarian approach, which suggests oddsmakers and bettors fail to adjust for the unique circumstances of late-season games. Now, let’s take this theory and build upon it with some compelling historical data.

Betting Week 17 “Unders” Across-the-Board

What happens in the final game of the season vis-a-vis totals?

The data on this makes a convincing case that betting “unders” across-the-board may be the way to go:

All NFL Games in Week 17 (Since 2010)
Unders: 82
Overs: 62
Winning Percentage Betting all “Unders” in Week 17: 56.9 percent

That’s strong information without any additional handicapping whatsoever. Next, let’s dig deeper into my theory.

Betting Week 17 “Unders” in Games With Big Point Spreads

Within the large pool of games, there’s a powerful subset of optimal “under” situations. This is the pool of games forecasted to be one-sided. For the purposes of running data, I defined (forecasted) one-sided games as matchups with closing point spreads of 10-points or higher.

The data on this makes a convincing case that betting “under” in games with big point spreads may be the way to go:

All NFL Games in Week 17 (Since 2010)
Unders: 19
Overs: 11
Winning Percentage Betting “Unders” in +10 point-spreads in Week 17: 63.3 percent

Unfortunately, the trend above produced only 31 betting situations, which isn’t nearly high enough to be statistically relevant. Accordingly, I’ve run the data on all games played late in the season, which I’ve defined as Weeks 13-17. This data makes the theory far more compelling:

All NFL Games in Weeks 13- 17 (Since 2010)
Unders: 67
Overs: 48
Winning Percentage Betting “Unders” in +10 point-spreads in Weeks 13-17: 58.3 percent

Once again, these are extraordinary win percentages, given there’s almost no actual handicapping involved.

A Special Note About Divisional Games

Is it possible to chisel down the data even further, and improve upon these win percentages? The answer is — possibly.

Let’s look at data relating to divisional games versus non-division games as they apply to totals:

When “unders” are bet across-the-board in divisional games, they win 52.2 percent of the time (based on more than 1,200 games dating back to the start of the 2000 season)

When “unders” are bet across-the-board in non-divisional games, they win only 48.1 percent of the time (based on more than 2,000 games dating back to the start of the 2000 season)

The disparity between 52.2 percent versus 48.1 percent (which amounts to 4.1 percent) might seem small. However, in an endeavor with thousands of situations, it’s undoubtedly statistically relevant. Every little edge counts. This means it’s preferable to bet on “under” in divisional games.

Four, Week 17 Games to Consider

This week is the final slate of regular-season games. Fortunately, there’s a bonanza of attractive games where each of the angles discussed in this article apply. All four are divisional games with big point spreads, played in the final week of the season. The four games are as follows:

  • Washington at Dallas (Total — 47.5)
  • New Orleans at Carolina (Total — 46)
  • Miami at New England (Total — 45)
  • Green Bay at Detroit (Total — 43.5)

When it comes to examining angles and trends, past performance is no guarantee of future results. That clearly stated, this data absolutely must be taken into account by anyone venturing to wager on totals in the final week of the regular season.

Nolan Dalla can be contacted directly at:  [email protected]

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