Why Teasers Should Not Be Used on Totals in the NFL

Credit:

Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Kirk Cousins

Aug 05, 2019, 10:00 AM EDT
  • NFL teasers are a popular betting strategy that allow bettors to adjust lines and create more winnable bets.
  • In certain cases, they can be profitable on point spreads, but the same can't be said for totals.

If you aren’t familiar with the term already, a teaser is a betting option that allows a bettor to adjust point spreads on multiple games before parlaying them for a reduced payout.

Say the Patriots are -10 against the Jets and the Ravens are a pick’em against the Steelers in the same week. You can create a 6-point teaser that allows you to get New England at -4 (-10 + 6) and Baltimore at +6 (0 + 6).

If both of those bets cover, you’d win at a -110 payout ($110 wins $100), but if one fails to cover, the whole bet is lost.

Because of the importance of key numbers in football betting, the teaser can actually be a profitable strategy on point spreads. If you’re able to move multiple teams through both the key numbers of 3 and 7, for example, you’d have been able to make a profit over the past decade-plus.

But teasers can also be used on totals. If you’re looking to take an over, you can move the total down by a number of points and tease that with another bet.

The appeal is fairly obvious. By boosting the total in your desired direction, you’re creating a set of bets that feels like it almost can’t lose. A low total of 39 can be brought down to 29 on a 10-point teaser … how could two teams not combine for 29 points?

Well, as is the case with the rest of sports betting, sportsbooks aren’t looking to hand out free money. So I’ve dug into Bet Labs to find out if there’s any value in teasing NFL totals.

Since 2003, NFL regular season games have gone over the total 2,010 times, under 2,019 times, and pushed 67 times.

So yes, the market is pretty good at this.

The ~50% win rate for overs and unders makes them both unprofitable in the long term, as they would need to win at a 52.4% clip to account for standard -110 juice.

But how would teasing affect those figures?

Well, to break even on a 2-team, 6-point teaser, a bettor would also need to win 52.4% of the time (because those teasers also pay out at -110). And because they consist of two bets winning, you’d need the individual bets to win 72.4% of the time (take the square root of 0.524).

But even reducing each total in the 16-year sample by six points leaves just a 68% win rate for overs. That means you’d win only 46.2% of your teasers, a significantly worse percentage than simply taking overs, which offer the same payout.

The same exercise for unders also generates a 68% win rate.

Here are the results for all three standard teaser amounts since ’03.

Okay, so teasers in general aren’t profitable on totals, which probably isn’t too surprising. I mean, they aren’t profitable on point spreads either, unless you’re going through two key numbers, which begs the question …

What about key numbers on totals?

Last year, PJ Walsh published a piece on the most common combined totals in NFL scores. The numbers 41, 37 and 44 have led the way since 2003, each coming up just under 4% of the time.

A 6-point teaser could get through two of those, a 7-pointer would get from one end to another, and a 10-pointer would go through all three. So let’s test those various teasers out.

If you didn’t feel like clicking through all those options that I worked very hard to put together, I’ll spare you the trouble. In every case, the final column result was the same: “No.”

In fact, even in the one spot where the individual bet was profitable (unders at the total of 37 have won 52.8% of the time), the associated teaser (seven points) didn’t reach the necessary win percentage to be profitable.

So don’t be fooled. As is the case with just about every alternate betting option (cough, buying points, cough), oddsmakers are well aware of the prices they’re charging you and the chance of the given outcome.

They aren’t looking to hand you money no matter how much of a lock your over/under teaser looks to be.

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