NFL Over/Under – Predicting Scoring

Why we love playing the NFL Over/Under ?

The excitement factor is merely one reason.

This article will go into detail and look at many factors that make a NFL game in 2021 high or low scoring going over or under.

The National Football League of past generations was geared upon tough defense and a running, ball-controlled offense which meant for generally low scoring games

While fans enjoy great defense, there is no doubt that the more sophisticated passing games, improved athletes, technological advances and rule changes has meant for an increased scoring output.

In fact, scoring in the league has been at it’s highest in nine of the past 11 seasons.

Last year the team average scoring output of 23.3 points per game was second to only 23.4 average in 2013.

Which has indeed effected the NFL Over/Under Line in recent years.

While offense is at the forefront during the regular season, defense has been thought of to win championships.

The Patriots 13-3 win over the Rams is last year’s Super Bowl reinforced that, or did it?

Just two seasons ago, the Eagles won their first Super Bowl in an offensive outburst that produced the second highest point total and most yards in a single Super Bowl game.

The fact is that the average combined total for each Super Bowl game is 43.3 points, right around the league average.

So what are the factors that make for a high or low scoring game?

NFL offensive schemes versus defensive schemes

The NFL began to move away from the traditional run first offense with the “West coast offense” which began nearly 40 years ago with Bill Walsh and the San Francisco 49ers.

With quicker passes, three and four wide receiver sets and more complex pass routes, offenses began to increase scoring production.

Quarterbacks are more mobile and athletic than ever, and in fact, they are spending less time the pocket than ever before. 

Because of the mobility, the quarterbacks are able to elude the pass rush, allowing receivers to get free.

In such situations, the NFL quarterbacks are completing passes at the highest rate in history If receivers don’t get open, quarterbacks are able to gain yardage with their legs.

For years the shotgun formation, which was made popular by the Dallas Cowboys in the late 1970’s, was generally a third-and-long formation. 

It was thought of as a formation used with teams with poor offensive lines or unbalanced offensive attacks.  

Now, offenses use this almost exclusively, particular in the up-tempo offenses which gives defenses little or no time to adapt, thus increasing offensive productivity.

Another way offense produce at a high rate is by passing on early downs, which again goes away from the more traditional run first mentality.

Offenses are averaging more yards than ever on early downs, which eliminates third-and-long situations, where the defense can almost certainly prepare for a passing situation. 

When calling for more early down pass plays, offenses are often more successful at running the ball, keeping the defenses off-balance.

All of this enables the offense to move the chains more efficiently and increase scoring opportunities.

The key still is for the offense to avoid the long yardage on third downs.

Defenses held NFL offenses to the lowest number of yards per play in on third down in recent memory.

This will get the offense off the field and keep scoring in check.

Running backs that are adept at catching the ball out of the backfield adds an additional weapon for defenses to contend with.

Oftentimes, the running backs pose matchup problems in coverage and in fact many teams top pass catchers are the running backs. 

Not only are running backs catching more passes, with the increased athleticism, they are making more yardage after the catch. 

With three and four wide receiver sets, tight ends that can play in the slot and the running back situation cause headaches for many defenses, increasing scoring opportunities.

Finally, none of these great offensive philosophies work without an elite quarterback.

The high completion rate that quarterbacks have in today’s game, mostly over 65 percent, gives defenses little chances to come up with stops.

Touchdown passes and yardage passed are at all-time highs, thereby also increasing scoring.

A very strong defensive effort can keep an opponent’s point production down.

But that is also dependent on the offense being able to maintain ball control, taking time off the clock and keeping the defensive unit fresh. 

A variety of defensive packages are used to try to created mismatches along the line in their favor and coverage matchup advantages as well.

Those teams that can rush the quarterback and stop the rest the best are generally those to keep scoring down.

Great Reading – The Highest Scoring Game in NFL History

Quarterbacks given time to throw will pick apart a defense, no matter what caliber players are in the secondary.

NFL defenses sacked quarterbacks on third down at a rate last season that hasn’t been matched in recent years.

Much of this is getting teams into the long yardage downs, which enables defenses to blitz and send more rushers than there are blockers along the line.

Defenses are designing schemes to attack the two-back offense where there are five rushers, making it very difficult to run the ball.

When the defense forces offenses to be open and force outside passing, the pass rushing lanes are bigger. This allows the defense to be more aggressive.

The problem with today’s NFL is that rules are more geared towards the offense, with strictly rules on defensive pass interference, roughing the passer and other infractions.

Which leads into the next section that influences high and low scoring in the NFL.  Let’s take a look at these intangibles.


With offenses have a difficult time putting points on the board leading into the late 1970’s, a new rule was put into place allowing only contact between defensive backs and receivers in the first five yards off the line of scrimmage.  

The infraction, known as “illegal contact” increased scoring the first year it was implemented but the number of those infractions fell considerably over time. 

Officials and specific crews tend to call more penalties and in 2018 more of these infractions were called than during most of the previous season.

The more strict enforcement of this rule, along with increased defensive holding and pass interference penalties has given a huge advantage to receivers getting open downfield, thus increasing potential scoring opportunities.

Another rule change that benefits scoring is leading with the helmet to tackle, which was the was most defensive backs did when tackling receivers and tight ends over the middle of the field.

Enforcing this rule has significantly increased the amount of completions and big plays in this part of the field.

Again, this extends drives and puts offenses in opportune scoring positions.

The NFL has also gotten more strict on roughing the passer penalties, seemingly to the point where any hit on the quarterback results in such a devastating 15-yard penalty, keeping drives alive.

Without the ability to rush the quarterback, always thinking that an infraction may occur, makes defense all that much more difficult.

Last season NFL quarterback rating, yards per completion and yards per attempt were near record highs.

Certainly not all of this has to due with rule changes, but there is a clear trend between the two.

Another intangible is weather conditions.

During the first half of the NFL season, the cold is not a factor, even in the northernmost climates.

However, rain can make the field slick, slowing down runners and making holding onto the ball a difficult task.

This can greatly reduce the game to a running and defensive battle, creating a lower scoring game. 

In windy conditions, the teams will have equal time with and against the wind.

They must take advantage of throwing and kicking with the wind to optimize scoring.

These types of games are difficult to predict. 

Another weather condition that is generally not seen until late in the season and only in some locations is snow.

Under a very snowy condition, scoring via the kicking game is greatly reduced, if non-existent.  

The passing attack generally includes only short route and running game is between the tackles.

The defense has the advantage in these types of contests and scores are normally on the lower side of average.

One of the most important factors determining the scoring output is injuries, particularly to skilled positions.

In a game where a backup quarterback is forced to start, a team most certainly will score less. 

Similarly, an key injury or injuries on the defensive side of the ball could increase the points given up by that team.

Many of the highest scoring games are those played indoors, due to the fast track, ambient climate and no wind conditions. 

The Saints, Texans, Lions, Colts, Cardinals, Cowboys, Falcons and Vikings play all or most of their home games inside.

Games with those teams in their home stadiums generally are higher scoring than average.

Kicking game

Teams can increase scoring with an excellent placekicker and put the opposition in poor field position with a strong punting game.

In both cases, kickers have come a long way in terms of accuracy and distance over the past few decades.

There was a day when a 40-yard average for a punter was excellent.

In today’s NFL, punters under 45 yard average are rare and a few can average over 50 per punt.

This kind of distance puts opposition deep in their own territory, making traveling the length of the field more difficult, lowering scoring.

Similarly, looking back some eras, kickers converting over 75 percent of their attempts was a rarity.

Also, teams would need to travel to the 30 yard line or preferably the 25 yard line to attempt a kick with reasonable chance of success.

A kick beyond 45 yards was clearly not automatic and 50 yards and out was a monumental kick.

In today’s NFL, a team is almost immediately in field goal position after surpassing midfield.

The 50 yard attempt has become routine, field goal percentages have skyrocketed well into the 80’s and 90 percent range.

Several 60 yard field goals are made every season.

It all adds up to more points across the board.

One thing that plays into a lower scoring game is the return game, of in this case, mostly lack of a return game.

With a large number of kickoffs going into the end zone, there are very few big returns for scores or even setting up teams with excellent starting field positions.

The same can give an experienced return man more room for an opening.

Putting it all together

As you can see in the preceding paragraphs, today’s NFL is clearly an offensive minded game, from rule changes, to faster and stronger athletes, to more complex offensive schemes.

Also playing a role are adverse weather conditions which generally result in a lower scoring contest.

Playing inside domes normally means an up and down field shootout, resulting in a very high scoring game. 

As for the Super Bowl, while defenses are thought to win titles, the average scoring output is nearly the league average in the big game.

  Clearly look at the overall matchups.

Two defensive-minded teams should put out a low scoring game.

Two-high powered attacks will generally result in a game going “over” the average.

That is of course, usually factored in to the bookies line.

Finally, take a look at the trend of the two teams.

Overall season scoring and points allowed averages can give an indication…

but trends over a few games stretch may be more indicative of final score of the current game.

As with any sport, NFL games can be difficult to predict, but these are the general things to look for in determining high or low scoring games.

Lets Now Look at some Key NFL Over/Under Numbers.

It just as important to know when to bet and not to bet based on the numbers that a bookie may have on a particular nfl game.

The over/under number will vary but the bookie will always try to present a number which seems reasonable to joe blow public.

However, most all casual bettors dont really know the most common final scores in NFL and just bet on a gut feeling.

With all that being said, lets jump to the numbers.

The most common final score for an NFL game is 41… followed by 37 and 44.

However, since 2015 we see 47 jumping into second place as the most common NFL final score.

These numbers are important to pay attention to when you choose where to place your wager.

As a common line seen is 47.5 the .5 being the hook that seperates the over/under and stops the wager being a push bet.

For more on push bets check out our article here push bets in over/under betting explained.

NFL Over/Under Betting Guide

The National Football League is among the most popular professional leagues in the world, and as sports betting continues to expand as an industry, more and more handicappers and bettors gravitate to the NFL.

For the sports bettor, one of the most popular aspects of an NFL game that is often wagered on is the Over/Under point line of a game.

The Over/Under line is simply the amount of points that the bookmakers expect to be scored in any given NFL game.

This number is reached by simply adding each individual team’s expected point totals.

With each team’s estimated totals added together, the over/under line is then offered days before the game,

as bettors will then have to choose whether they think that the game in question will end with more or less points than the line given.

For example, the Redskins are hosting the Cowboys with the bookmakers placing the over/under line at 48.

This line represents 26.3 expected points for the Cowboys and 21.7 expected points for the Redskins.

This game ends in a Cowboys win with a 31-21 scoreline, totaling 52 points, hitting the over by four points.

Bettors who placed a bet on the over would have won this example, while bettors who took the under would have lost their bets.

How to bet on the Over/Under in the NFL

While it might seem like the Over/Under is an easy way to beat the bookies, don’t place your bets too fast.

The bookmakers are very sharp when setting the lines.

When trying to break down an Over/Under line to bet, a few essential pieces of data that need to be checked on.

Team matchups

It’s been said that NFL football is “a game of matchups”. While this is very cliche, it’s very true!

It is undeniable that some teams simply matchup better against others.

With the dozens of different offensive and defensive schemes executed around the league, there will always be mismatches that can be taken advantage of.

If discovered, these mismatches can be useful when betting the Over/Under line.

Injury report

There is nothing worse than placing a bet on the Over on the Chiefs/Patriots game just to find out that Tom Brady and Pat Mahomes III are both hurt.

While we hope this never happens, it is just one example of how injuries could have a big impact on the Over/Under line.

It’s important to know just who is in and who is out on both sides of the football.

Advanced bettors will even take the questionable players into consideration, measuring their productivity while playing partially injured, as these aspects can have a real influence on the Over/Under line of a game.


The Over/Under line is the most weather-sensitive betting line due to the way that the playing conditions can affect the score.

The weather can slow any fast pace offense down, therefore it must be considered before making any Over/Under bets.

Your own sources

It is always wise to gain your own knowledge from your own trusted sources.

Nowadays, there are a handful of decent handicappers that give out free plays on social media platforms and other online methods.

This is one of many ways to develop your own source of betting knowledge to help you towards picking that winning Over/Under bet.

Different ways to bet the Over/Under line

The Over/Under concept can be applied to different time periods as well. Sportsbooks offer Over/Under lines for the first quarter or first half of a game.

Usually the first quarter Over/Under line for an NFL game is around 7-10 points, while a first half Over/Under line can be anywhere from 16.5-27.5.

Each Over/Under line will be absolutely dependent on which teams are playing, along with a countless number of other influential details.

When betting on a game including an explosive team who likes to start fast is playing, like the Kansas City Chiefs for example, betting on the Over in the first quarter always seems like a good bet.

When a defensive team who has a slower offense is playing, like the Chicago Bears, a bet on the Under is likely a winner.

Alternate betting on NFL Over/Under lines

The Over/Under bet is such an interesting type of bet because of the different ways this line can be wagered on.

The opening NFL lines are usually set on the Monday following the Sunday action.

These lines will move up and down throughout the week as impactful variables play out throughout the week.

These variables include injury news, weather forecasts, money coming in on the lines, and more.

Another interesting dynamic that comes with the Over/Under bet is the alternate lines offered.

An alternate Over/Under line is an optional offering from sportsbooks that allow the bettor to take a different Over/Under line than the official line.

If the sportsbook Over/Under line was 52 points for any given NFL game, than the alternate lines offered would likely be anywhere from 46.5 to 51.5, and then from 52.5 to 59.

This means the the bettor will have the option of picking one of these points totals to represent the Over/Under line.

The only downside to these alternate lines is the dropoff of profitability, as these improved odds will pay out significantly less.

One popular technique that bettors practice is the stacking of 2-3 alternate odds into a parlay.

When taken advantage of these alternate odds can greatly increase a bettors chance of winning bets, as it allows the bettor to make safer bets with more room for error.

Live betting NFL Over/Under lines

The most entertaining way to bet on the Over/Under line is to take action on the live line.

Each game’s Over/Under line is subject to change during the game, and in response to the action of the game.

If a game starts with a lot of scoring, the live Over/Under line will rise, and vice versa with a slow starting game.

There is a certain art to landing a winning live bet.

It’s a skill that should be practiced before any real investments are made.

NEXT NFL ARTICLE – NFL Football Handicapping systems and strategies

Leave a Comment