One question I get asked all the time by people looking to bet NFL season win totals is should they lay heavier juice to get a better number, or reduce the juice and give up the extra game or half-game on the win total.
An example is the season win total for the Los Angeles Chargers year. If you want to bet Over 10 the juice is -150. However, if you are bullish on the Chargers, you can bet Over 10.5 at +100. Over time, the 50 cent difference between the two will add up to a significant difference in your overall bankroll bottom line.
One way to answer this question is to first look at how often season win totals historically fall within a game of the closing line. When looking at a random year, in this case the 2018 closing NFL season win total lines, only 6 out of 32 (18%) teams had final regular season wins that were within a game of their closing line win total. That means that 26 out of 32 teams offered significant value outside of their closing line. A few examples include the Chicago Bears who finished with 12 wins, but had a closing line of 6.5 wins, the Green Bay Packers who had a closing line of 10, but had just 6 wins, and the Jacksonville Jaguars with a closing line of 9 but managed just 5 wins. Looking at any year over the past decade will show very similar results across the board.
So what do we do with that knowledge and how does it help us? My general rule of thumb is if you can take a line that will result in a push as opposed to a loss at a better price, do it. So, in the above example for the Chargers, I would lean with taking the 10 as opposed to 10.5 because you are going from a push to a loss if it lands on 10. That added insurance is worth the additional 50 cents.
However, using the New York Jets as an example---their win total is 5.5 with the Over juiced at -140 or 6 at +110. If you are inclined to like the Jets Over, I would prefer the Over 6 at +110 because you are going from a Win to a Push if they land on 6, so the risk is much smaller than in the Chargers example. On top of that, as I noted above, there is only about a 1 in 5 chance that the team’s final win total will land within a game of their season win line anyways, so the risk is worth the reward--in the case of the Jets 50 cents (-140 to +110).
When you are betting these futures, assuming you are using cash as opposed to a credit shop, you are essentially giving the books a 5-month interest free loan before a decision is reached in January. Therefore, you want to do everything you can to increase your ROI, and approaching win totals this way is a great way to start.