Not to be confused with “totals,” which are wagers on the total number of points that will be scored in a game, “team totals” are wagers on the number of points that will be scored by just one of the teams.
So let’s say the Colts are a 10 point favorite over the Bears in a game with a total of 44. The “team total” lines would probably be about 27 for the Colts and 17 for the Bears (since 27 minus 17 is 10, and 27 plus 17 is 44).
Team totals are not particularly common or uncommon. I would estimate 25%-50% of sportsbooks offer team totals on the NFL, with a substantially smaller number offering this bet type on a few other sports like college football, NBA, or college basketball.
One disadvantage of team totals is that they are pretty much always offered at full juice (vigorish). That is, the standard for straight bets on sides and totals at sportsbooks is -110, with reduced juice of -107 or -105 becoming more common in recent years. For team totals (as for just about anything other than sides and totals on major sports), -110 is the best you’ll see, with a fair number of places charging -115 or worse.
So is there any point in bothering with team totals? Can one ever find an edge on them?
Well, one situation in which they can come in handy is if the way you’re handicapping a game gives you much more confidence about one team than the other.
Using our above example, let’s say you really like the match-up of the Colts offense and the Bears defense. You don’t think the Bears can stop the Colts, and expect the Colts to pretty much score at will. On the other hand, you just don’t have much of a sense for whether the Bears erratic offense will do much against the Colts.
So the way you’re thinking of it, you could easily see the Colts scoring about 28 points in the first half, shutting down the Bears, and pretty much coasting the rest of the way, mostly just calling conservative plays and eating up clock in the second half, en route to winning something like 38-3 or 35-7. But you also could see this game being a shootout, where, yes, the Colts are piling up the points, but so are the Bears. So it’s more like a 42-35 or 37-34 game one way or the other.
OK, the problem with betting the side or total in this game is that under the first scenario, Colts -10 and Under 44 would win, and under the second scenario, Bears +10 and Over 44 would win. So do you bet the Colts, the Bears, the Over, or the Under?
One option would be to skip the straight bets and play two of the four possible parlay combinations (Colts and Under, and Bears and Over, leaving out Colts and Over, and Bears and Under).
But another option would be to bet a team total instead. Since under both scenarios you see the Colts scoring at least in the 30s, why not bet the Over 27 Colts team total?
Team totals are probably not near the top of the list of the bet types you’ll want to master and use extensively to be the most successful at sportsbetting, but they can be a worthwhile modest addition to your repertoire.