The following article was prepared on August 16, 1999 for publication in an upcoming issue of Sports Form. The Over/Under recommendations in the article were indicative of the author's thoughts at that time. Training camp developments, including significant injuries, may alter the strength of some of the following recommendations. FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS AND CURRENT ODDS AS OF APPROXIMATELY MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 1999 ARE NOW AVAILABLE AND FOLLOW THE TEXT OF THIS ARTICLE.

Playing the NFL Over & Under Total Season Wins

by Andrew Iskoe

Each season the interest in wagering on an NFL team's total projected wins increases tremendously. It has become a very popular wager for both the casual football fans who wants a rooting interest in his favorite team all season as well becoming popular for a number of the so called "Wise Guys" who realize there is much value in projecting how a team will fare over an entire season. Normally most 'Futures' wagers are limited to which team will win the Super Bowl or a conference championship. Unfortunately, there can be only one or two winners in this type of wager. Sure, you can get paid at attractive odds if you are right, but if you are wrong you have nothing to show for your efforts. Being able to bet on whether or not a team will win a specified number of games gives you a chance to cash potentially 31 tickets if you are correct about every team.

Ok. Betting on 31 teams is a bit of a stretch but you can see the possibilities. A team does not have to advance to the Super Bowl for you to cash a wager on how a team will fare for a full season. Also, because you can bet that a team will fall short of a certain number of wins you have the one opportunity to bet AGAINST a team, rather than ON a team as is the requirement for virtually all futures wagers. Of course you can bet ON a team by expecting to exceed their projected wins total but they don't have to win a championship for you to collect.

In the accompanying Table we've presented the Total Wins for each NFL team. You will notice that there is a money line price attached to the Over and the Under. That means that if, for example, you think that Pittsburgh will win 9 or more games this season (i.e. over 8 1/2 wins) you had to risk $150 to win $100 when the betting opened. If you thought the Steelers would win 8 games or less (Under 8 1/2) you would win $120 for every $100 risked. What have the bettors thought about Pittsburgh's chances thus far? By looking at the current prices we can see the bettors have been pessimistic about their chances of breaking .500. Instead of laying $150 for the OVER you now have to risk only $130 since the bets have been coming in on the UNDER. You now will get even money for going UNDER 8 1/2 on Pittsburgh rather than the +120 that was there when betting opened.

Now that you understand the mechanics of how the wager works, let's review some overall parameters on how to attack this unique form of wager. If you add up the total number of projected wins for all 31 teams you'll note that the total is 251 (using Detroit's opening projection of 7). Yet there will be only 248 games played in the regular season. Thus the projected Total Wins is biased towards the OVER. Often this bias is due to psychological factors. The public at large tends to be optimistic and is accustomed to thinking in terms of what a team will do rather than what they won't. During the pre-season everyone has high expectations. Positive words and enthusiasm spew forth from all 31 training camps. But since there can be only 248 wins there is value in looking to the UNDER.

When you factor in the 1/2 games attached to 18 of the teams you will find that the edge in looking for UNDERs is even greater. If you were to bet those 18 teams OVER their number you'd need 159 wins to cash all tickets if each team barely covers the number (i.e. an 8 1/2 team goes 9-7). If the 13 teams with non-half games attached to their totals all hit their projected wins exactly (such as Denver going exactly 11-5 as projected) the total record for all 31 teams would project to 260-236, or 12 wins more than can possibly be achieved. Yet if you bet UNDER on those 18 teams, and the other 13 teams all 'push' the total record for the 31 teams projects to 242-254, or just 6 games below the 248 maximum losses that can occur. Again, this concept is theoretical in nature but illustrates that there is more value in looking to find UNDER teams before seeking out the OVERs.

Oh, and though they don't occur very often, a tie game hurts the OVER chances of BOTH teams involved and helps the UNDER.

The best way to approach this wager is to look at the extremes, especially at the low end. The lowest projected total wins is Cleveland at 4 1/2. Another three teams are projected at 5 wins. Last year SIX teams finished with records of 4-12 or worse and another pair of teams went 5-11. Consulting the history books we learn that there is a strong likelihood that at least four teams will win less than five games. At the other extreme there were five teams that won at least 12 games last year. Historically we can expect at least three teams, on average, to win at least 12 games.

So if we can determine which teams are likely to be the best and worst over the course of the regular season we some nice margins for making a wager. A third strategy is to look for those teams you expect to make the playoffs. Generally, a Wild Card team will have at least 9 wins and very often will be 10-6. Look for teams projected at 8 and 8 1/2 wins for possible playoff teams. Playing OVER 9 means that you need at least 10 wins to cast your ticket, although 9 wins will give you a push. But if you go OVER 9 1/2 you are not protected by the possible push at 9-7.

With these thoughts in mind, let's take a look at possible plays for the 1999 season by previewing each Division.

The NFC East is very weak overall. Dallas appears to still be the class of the Division and they are the choice here to win the Division Title. At a projected total of 8 1/2 we'd look to play the OVER for Dallas. Arizona will be a pre-season choice for many of the experts. The won a Wild Card game last year and QB Jake Plummer is an exciting player. But the thought here is that are not as good as last season's 9-7 record suggests. The Cards were involved in 8 games decided by 3 points or less and won seven of them! That kind of good fortune often reverses itself and with several key personnel losses from last year we'd look for Arizona to drop back a few games and play them UNDER 8 1/2. The Giants and Redskins both figure to be .500 teams with neither team expected to contend for the playoffs. The Giants may be more likely to contend for a Wild Card but they'd have to go 9-7 to cash a ticket on the OVER. This will be a season of growing pains for Philadelphia with their new coaching staff and QBs. They might well match last season's 3-13 record and we'd look to go UNDER 5 for the Eagles.

The NFC Central is perhaps the best Division in the NFC even with the supposed retirement of Detroit's Barry Sanders. Minnesota is the class of the Division but it is unlikely they can match last year's 15-1 record. When looking at the top contenders in the NFC the Vikes figure to be no worse than second best, if that. That means a record of 12-4 or 13-3 is likely and we'd play Minnesota OVER 11 1/2. The numbers for Green Bay and Tampa Bay are reasonable. The Packers should make the Playoffs with 10 or 11 wins and Tampa Bay should contend for a Wild Card. Detroit is an uncertainty at this time but even with Sanders the Lions figure no better than 8-8 with him and likely 6-10 without him. The Bears seem accurately pegged at 5 wins.

Atlanta and San Francisco should battle for honors in the NFC West with San Francisco having the slightly easier schedule. We'd go OVER 10 wins for the 49ers in what may be their final season amongst the NFL's elite as organizational and ownership shakeups and the lack of depth at key positions will accelerate their decline next off season. New Orleans is an improving team and might contend for an 8-8 season but questions about their offense make an OVER play ill advised. Carolina and St Louis should battle to avoid the cellar with the Rams having the better chance for success which is reflected in their slightly higher projected total. Both teams should struggle to have more than 4 wins and we'd play Carolina UNDER 6 and St Louis UNDER 6 1/2.

The AFC East should be a three team race with Buffalo, Miami and the New York Jets all capable of 12 wins and winning the Division. Buffalo may be the best play for an OVER with their total at 9 wins. They went 10-3 after dropping their first three games in 1998 (including a 2 and 1 point loss) as the post-Marv Levy era began. New England should show a precipitous drop from their playoff level of the past three seasons, especially with the lack of a running game and the loss of linebacker Ted Johnson for the season. We'd look to go UNDER 8 1/2 with the Pats. We'll also go UNDER 6 1/2 with Indianapolis as the Colts' organization continues to be amongst the weakest in the NFL. They will sorely miss the running and catching abilities of Marshall Faulk, whom they traded to St Louis for a top draft choice that they used to bypass Ricky Williams to select Edgerrin James who held out several weeks into training camp. They just don't get it, which is a shame for second year QB Peyton Manning who has displayed the potential to be an outstanding quarterback as his career develops.

Jacksonville is the class of the AFC Central and if the 11 1/2 seems a bit pricey keep in mind that the new Cleveland Brown franchise is in this Division meaning that the other five teams get two cracks at an expansion team. The Jags finished 11-5 each of the past two seasons and if QB Mark Brunell stays healthy for the full season the Jags might win 13 or more games. While we won't commit to an OVER on the Jags we certainly will not play the UNDER. Tennessee and Pittsburgh should contend for a Wild Card and with each tam playing the Browns and Bengals twice 10 wins are within reach for both. Pittsburgh is more attractive at OVER 8 1/2 since 9-7 makes them a winner. It would take 10 wins to cash an OVER on the Titans but the franchise hasn't won more than 8 games since their last playoff season of 1993. Baltimore seems appropriately priced at 7 wins though they have a better shot at 8-8 than at 6-10. The most preferable play in this Division is the UNDER 5 for Cincinnati. The Bengals continue to bungle things with unsigned draft choices and disgruntled veterans plus a head coach that has shown no improvement during his tenure. Ironically two of the Bengals' three wins last season were over Pittsburgh but we can see even the new Cleveland Browns gaining at least a split with the Bengals in 1999. Despite the low total of 4 1/2, we'd also have to look UNDER for Cleveland which figures to be one of the four or so teams that should win 4 or fewer games.

Denver is favored to win the AFC West and they've won at least 12 games in each of the past three seasons. Of course that was with John Elway at QB but we've seen Denver develop depth at most positions. Mike Shanahan is one of the top coaches in the NFL and with their strong home field they should at least get you a PUSH on the OVER. Seattle is the up and comer in the Division and should contend for a Wild Card and perhaps the Division title in coach Mike Holmgren's first season. At 9 1/2 they qualify as a marginal play on the OVER but with a solid defense and special teams unit and the major upgrade in coaching the Seahawks should reach double digits. Kansas City is slightly overpriced at 8 1/2 and last year's 7-9 mark might signal a short term decline in the franchise. We prefer the UNDER in what will be season of transition under first year coach Gunther Cunningham. The Chiefs did little to address their need for an improved running game during the offseason and the quarterbacking is average at best. The one enigma in the Division is Oakland, seemingly underpriced at 6 1/2. The Raiders went 8-8 last season in coach Jon Gruden's first year and improvement can generally be expected in year two. But Oakland's schedule is brutal, especially how it unfolds. Only one of their first eight opponents had a below .500 record in 1998 and six of those other seven teams made the playoffs last season. We'd like to play the OVER but that early schedule will prevent us from so doing. San Diego will be an improved team in 1999 with a new coach and a pair of veteran QBs in Eric Kramer and Jim Harbaugh. But it might be tough for them to exceed 5 1/2 wins and they seem fairly priced.

You should pay attention to the 'vig' you must pay to go OVER or UNDER some teams' total wins. In general we look to lay no more than -125 wherever possible. At higher vigs you might consider halving the size of your plays. Hopefully the above material will whet your appetite for this appealing form of wager and give you some teams that you can root for (or against) all season for the price of just one wager. Good luck.

Andrew Iskoe is a writer, handicapper, researcher and lecturer living in Las Vegas and also co-hosts a daily radio show dedicated to sports wagering. He is a frequent guest on many sports handicapping shows across the country and publishes weekly Football Newsletters and other handicapping resources including a highly respected reference work on playing NFL two team Teasers. He can be contacted by telephone at (702) 898-9802, via email at or you may visit him online at

NOTE -- The above article was written in mid-August and was based upon Total Wins at the Imperial Palace Race & Sports Book in Las Vegas. The Table and Recommendations that follow are from the Stratoshpere Race & Sports Book which opened subsequent to the writing of the article and offer a 20 cents line rather than the 30 cents line offered at the Imperial Palace

1999 NFL Total Wins

Odds Courtesy of Stratosphere Race & Sports Book, Las Vegas, Nevada

Odds current As Of September 4, 1999

............................. Opening Odds (July 1999) Current Odds (8/14/99)










Minnesota 12 +110 -130 12 +115 -135
Jacksonville 11 1/2 -120 Even 11 1/2 -120 Even
Denver 11 +110 -130 11 +120 -140
Green Bay 10 1/2 -120 Even 10 1/2 -120 Even
N Y Jets 10 1/2 Even -120 10 1/2 Even -120
San Francisco 10 1/2 -105 -115 10 1/2 +105 -125
Atlanta 10 Even -120 10 +110 -130
Miami 10 -120 Even 10 -130 +110
Seattle 9 1/2 -110 -110 9 1/2 -110 -110
Tennessee 9 -110 -110 9 -130 +110
Buffalo 9 -110 -110 9 -120 Even
Tampa Bay 9 1/2 -105 -115 9 1/2 -105 -115
Pittsburgh 8 1/2 -120 Even 8 1/2 -120 Even
Dallas 8 1/2 -110 -110 8 1/2 Even -120
New England 8 1/2 -125 +105 8 1/2 -115 -105
Arizona 8 1/2 Even -120 8 1/2 Even -120
Kansas City 8 1/2 +105 -125 8 1/2 +120 -140
N Y Giants 8 -110 -110 8 -130 +110
Washington 8 Even -120 8 -105 -115
Baltimore 7 -110 -110 7 -110 -110
Detroit 6 -125 +105 6 -120 Even
New Orleans 6 1/2 -130 +110 6 1/2 -130 +110
Oakland 6 -120 Even 6 -120 Even
St Louis 7 -120 Even 7 +110 -130
Indianapolis 6 1/2 -105 -115 6 1/2 -105 -115
Carolina 6 Even -120 6 Even -120
San Diego 6 Even -120 6 -115 +105
Cincinnati 5 1/2 Even -120 5 1/2 Even -120
Chicago 5 -110 -110 5 -125 +105
Philadelphia 4 1/2 -130 +110 4 1/2 -130 +110
Cleveland 5 -110 -110 5 -110 -110


Arizona UNDER 8 1/2 (-120)
Atlanta OVER 10 (+110)
Buffalo OVER 9 (- 120)
Carolina UNDER 6 (-120)
Cincinnati UNDER 5 1/2 (-120)
Dallas OVER 8 1/2 (Even)
Jacksonville OVER 11 1/2 (-120)
Kansas City UNDER 8 1/2 (-140)
New England UNDER 8 (-105)

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