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Betting point totals

Nov 13, 2007 8:31 AM

There are many factors to examine when studying football totals.

Defensive and offensive statistics need to be examined, of course. Good handicappers ask these questions:

”¡ Is there speed in the defensive secondary?

”¡ Does a club have a one-dimensional offense?

”¡ Do they prefer a powerful running game or wide-open passing attacks?

”¡ What kind of weather conditions will affect this game?

Another area that is correlated to totals is coaching philosophy. Coaches build their teams around a combination of the style they want to play plus the personnel on the field. The Ravens, for example, have had an abundance of defensive talent the last seven years with limited offense talent. That imbalance is not necessarily a bad thing.

Baltimore hoisted the Lombardi Trophy seven years ago, with a conservative, run-oriented offense and a sensational defense. During that Super Bowl season, Baltimore was 13-7 "under" the total. Not much has changed, has it? Baltimore has the No. 3 ranked defense and the 10th-worst offense. So what has that formula produced? A recent 4-2-1 run "under" the total.

Cleveland has stockpiled offensive players the last few years and opened things up this season with WR Braylon Edwards, TE Kellen Winslow and new RB Jamaal Lewis. The offense is No. 4 in the league, but this defense has been neglected by the draft. The Browns can’t stop anybody and are dead last in total defense. That combination had the Browns starting 7-0-1 "over" the total.

Former coaches such as Jimmy Johnson, Dick Vermeil and Bill Walsh had aggressive offensive philosophies. They were more like gunslingers in the Old West, with wide-open attacks that were ready to score on every play. The Chiefs with Vermeil went 10-6 "over" the total in both 2003 and 2004.

Conversely, some coaches prefer a conservative, ball control game plan. No one is more conservative than Chiefs’ coach Herm Edwards, who gave RB Larry Johnson an NFL-record number of carries last season. The Chiefs started 5-2 "under" the total with a run-first offense, making them 12-4-1 "under" the last 17 games.

Other times, coaches have to adapt based on personnel. Some of us remember former Alabama coach Bear Bryant and his run-oriented wishbone offenses of the 1970s and early 80s. However, Bryant did run a pro-style offense at ”˜Bama with QBs like Joe Namath. At one practice in the late 1960s Bryant told his assistants, "We can’t run this offense. We don’t have the right personnel."

To his credit, he revamped the offense into the wishbone, had a great year and stuck with it through his final season in 1982.

Tampa Bay has had a great defense the last couple of years with a lack of skill position talent that forced coach Jon Gruden to scale back the offense. They added QB Jeff Garcia this season, but had a key injury to workhorse RB Cadillac Williams. The Bucs were 11-5 "under" the total in 2004, 10-6 in 2005 and 6-3 this season.

New England has been excellent at adapting to its personnel. A year ago the Patriots lost their top wideouts, but added rookie Laurence Maroney with a healthy Corey Dillon in the backfield. They started 10-3 "under" the total before oddsmakers caught up. This season has been very different, as they upgraded the WR corps with Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth and Randy Moss. They are back to being an aggressive pass-oriented offense and are 7-2 "over" the total.

When teams with similar philosophies or strengths and weaknesses clash, the results with respect to totals can be predictable. The new-look Browns and Patriots met in Week 5 and, with a total of 48, it sailed "over" in a 34-17 Pats’ victory. The Chiefs and Vikings are two run-first teams. Minnesota has no QB but a strong offensive line and star rookie RB Adrian Peterson. The game sailed "under" by 13 points in a 13-10 Kansas City win. Minnesota had almost as many yards rushing (123) as passing (133).

With no running game, Green Bay has to rely on the air game with veteran QB Brett Favre and outstanding WRs in Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones. Throwing the ball a lot increases the likelihood of scoring, with more quick-strike scores and dropped passes stopping the clock. The Packers passing attack is No. 2 in the league and they are on a 5-2 run "over" the total.

Coaches construct their game plans around the talent on the field and try to stamp their philosophy on the team. That’s something to keep in mind when examining football totals.