Total Talk – Week 1

We've touched on a little bit of everything these past few weeks heading into Week 1 of the NFL season, and now that it's arrived I thought it best to put out just a bit more data on what has really played second fiddle in the majority of those pieces – totals.

Personally, totals betting is something I've been gradually shying away from in recent years (in all sports) because in general they are a lot more random than looking at who will win the game (ML) or will cover a point spread (ATS), and finding historical data points and scenarios that show a distinct pattern with total results are harder to uncover.

But that doesn't mean we can't find a few bullet points to touch on – especially for Week 1 games – as we've still got defined roles for specific teams/players in the season opener that can be discussed historically. And with rookies (head coaches and QB's) being the biggest focal point of pieces in recent weeks, it's best to start there.

So let's take a look at five games across the Week 1 slate, starting with the three we know will have rookie QB's making their NFL debut in Week 1.

Since 2008, rookie QB's starting in Week 1 have produced an 8-4 O/U result in 13 Week 1 games

  • Jacksonville/Houston (44.5)
  • N.Y. Jets/Carolina (45)
  • Miami/New England (44)

The 8-4 O/U result in that span is actually over the course of 13 games, but the 2015 Week 1 contest between #1 overall pick QB Jameis Winston and #2 overall pick Marcus Mariota is only counted once. That game finished with 56 points in the blowout Tampa win to easily cash an 'over' ticket.

Conceptually, backing 'overs' in these first starts for rookie QB's does make quite a bit of sense as it can be seen as somewhat correlated with the sub-par SU and ATS results rookie QB's have in their debuts. I say that because with these guys making their first starts it's easy to expect good (big plays, a few solid drives) and bad (costly turnovers, three-and-outs to give up field position) and either of those scenarios generally lead to points for someone.

A costly turnover on their own side of the field is going to lead to quick scores for the opponent, and quick points for these rookie QB's can come if say, the opposing defense crowds the line more often to bring pressure to take the approach of “let's see you beat us kid.”

Furthermore, there is more of a likelihood for lopsided losses for these rookie QB teams which does create extended garbage time for these debutants and giving them all the reps they can in a meaningful game is something every coach wants to give their young signal caller for their overall growth.

In that case, backdoor covers can become more in play on the spread, but any team needs to score points to waltz through that backdoor, and that's where backing the high side of these totals comes into play again.

Statistically, those 12 games saw a total of 623 total points for an average of 51.91 points per game. That's a number that's a full touchdown over all three of the current totals posted for this year's applicable games.

Four times we had these games finish with 60+ points in the end, with Matthew Stafford's 2009 and Robert Griffin III's 2012 debuts topping the list with 72 points respectively. Seven of the eight 'overs' that cashed in that span also saw at least 50 points scored.

I will heed one small warning though before bettors take this information and blindly back the 'over' in the Jacksonville/Houston, Jets/Carolina and Miami/New England games as the four 'under' results all have something in common as well. Not one of them finished with more than 40 total points.

Joe Burrow and the Bengals' 16-13 loss in Week 1 last year was the only applicable game in 2020, with Carson Wentz's 2016 debut (39 points), Ryan Tannehill's 2012 debut (40 points), and Sam Bradford's 2010 debut (30 points) being the other occurrences in the past.

So what that does do for this week's game is bring some alternate totals into play for those that are already like/will be on an 'under' in any of those three games. Obviously the same thought process with alternate totals could apply to any 'over' look as well given the only sub-50 point 'over' to cash in that span was Cam Newton's 2011 debut (49 points).

Something to keep in mind for all three of those contests on Sunday though.

Super Bowl Champion and Week 1 Team Total

Tom Brady gets to open up another season in the familiar position of raising a banner on Thursday Night, and the Bucs are expected to start out 1-0 SU rather comfortably as a TD+ favorite.

Being in the defending Super Bowl champion role is nothing new for Brady, but Tampa's team total of 30.5 (-120 to over) does bring up an interesting betting angle that Brady and other past former champs have had a tough time clearing in the opening week.

The last two defending champs (New England in 2018 and Kansas City in 2019) managed to put up 33 and 34 points respectively in their Week 1 games, but going all the way back to the Saints trying to defend their 2009 title, Super Bowl champs have only put up 31 or more points four times in 11 tries.

Furthermore, the 297 combined Week 1 points by reigning champs averages out to just 27 points per game over that span, a full FG lower than Tampa's number this year.

That's not the only history that suggests taking Tampa 'under' 30.5 points on TNF is a play to make, as Brady himself in Week 1 games has only scored 30 or more points once since the start of the 2013 season.

New England put up 23 points in that 2013 Week 1 game and continued with 20, 28, 23 (Brady was suspended for this one in 2016 for his deflated footballs), 27, 27, 33 points in his Week 1 games with New England up until 2019.

His debut with Tampa last year saw the Bucs only score 23 points as well. Meaning that only once in the past seven tries (omitting his suspension game in 2016) has a Brady-led offense put up 30 or more points in Week 1.

With all NFL teams likely having plenty of kinks to still work out in Week 1 – especially after a shorter preseason that saw starters across the league see less and less action – a Week 1 team total of 30.5 feels a little high for almost any team, and given the history of both Super Bowl champs and Brady in this specific role, going 'under' this 30.5 team total for Tampa Bay has made my card.

Week 1 MNF, the Raiders, and 'Under' bets

This will be the first year in a long time that NFL bettors don't have a MNF double-header to digest, as the first time with fans in the new Las Vegas palace gets the spotlight all to itself, something you know Al Davis would have basked in.

But opening up the season on MNF is nothing new for the Raiders franchise as this will be the 5th time since 2011 that they have done so, including being their third time in four years. The Raiders are 0-3-1 O/U in the previous four instances in this role, as not one of those games hit more than 46 total points. This year's total currently sits at 51.

Combine that with the Week 1 'under' trend of AFC playoff teams going 'under' in Week 1 applying to Baltimore for this game, and the general idea that the overall betting market is very likely to see more 'over' than 'under' support for the Week 1 finale – as most MNF games do – a likely contrarian play on the 'under' for MNF this week has made the card as well.

Best Bets

  • NYJ/Carolina Over 45
  • Miami/New England Over 44.5
  • Tampa Bay team total Under 30.5
  • Baltimore/Las Vegas Under 51

Where to place a bet this NFL Season?

  • Use our exclusive BetMGM Bonus Code VIBONUS1500 to unlock BetMGM’s welcome offer for new sportsbook users!
  • Compare the latest NFL Odds from the best sportsbooks before placing a bet on this week's games.
  • Check out the North Carolina Sportsbooks just before they launch legal online sports betting.