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Betting on the NFL can be as simple as picking one team to win one game but for the dedicated sports gambler, few other major sports offer as much depth and complexity of betting as pro football.
With so many teams, so many players and so many fans, the NFL is an absolute giant in the world of sports gambling. The upside of its popularity is a wealth of betting options and resources to research the teams and players. The downside is that oddsmakers are extremely good at setting NFL betting odds and lines.
That’s why it’s so important to learn how to bet on NFL football.
This article will help you become a savvy NFL football bettor who can consistently find an edge and become a long term winner. We’ll cover the details of how NFL betting works including NFL point spreads, money lines, totals, prop betting, parlays, futures, and lots more.
We’ll explain step-by-step what the specific rules are for each type of NFL wager, how the lines and the odds are set, and how to read them at online sportsbook sites.
We’ll also cover if betting on the NFL is legal where you live and help you dig a little deeper into the tips and NFL betting strategies that can give you consistent success betting on pro football.
If you’re looking for somewhere to hone your skills with betting on the NFL then check out our free-to-play NFL sweepstakes where you can get a chance every week to win $600.
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Many people are unsure of whether they can legally bet on sports outside of Nevada. The answer to this question depends on which state you live in. Right now sports betting is only fully regulated and licensed in a few states but more and more states are making it legal. Keep reading to find out why.
In 1992 the US government passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) which prohibited gambling on sports in individual states (with limited exceptions such as Nevada where it has been legal to wager on the outcome of a single game).
In May of 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of striking down that ban on sports gambling and accepted New Jersey’s appeal to reverse the PASPA ruling and govern its own sports betting laws. Illinois, Tennessee, Indiana, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and West Virginia have already followed New Jersey’s lead by preparing legislature to legalize sports gambling. The list will grow, and quickly.
To make a long answer short, sports gambling is becoming increasingly legal across more states thanks to this ruling by the Supreme Court. In the coming months and years, we will see a big shift in how America opens its doors to sports betting and in how they choose to present it to the general public.
There are many different ways to bet on the NFL and we’ll run through all of them to help you get a comprehensive understanding of each.
At its most basic, betting on the NFL involves placing real-money wagers on lots of different outcomes including which team will win specific games and which players will perform the best.
Looking at odds for all the different kinds of bets can seem confusing at first but don’t worry. This guide will break down all the different NFL betting options and explain how the odds work and how to read them.
We’ll also explain the basics of how to make bets at live and online sportsbooks. If you’re looking to sign up and bet on the NFL with a sportsbook then you’ll want to sign up with the one with the best bonuses, which means you’ll need access to promo codes. WSN has compiled all the best promo codes so that you don’t have to. All you have to do is pick one that is right for you and sign up!
If you live in a state that allows online sports betting, signing up for an account and making bets is really easy. First, check out our list of available sites to see which one is offering the best bonuses and deals.
In addition to comparing bonuses, our reviews will show you what the site’s software looks like, what betting options they offer and lots of other valuable information you can use to choose the best site for you.
Some states make you sign up for online accounts in person in order to protect minors from online gambling and to verify your identity. If that’s the case where you live, just follow the sportsbook’s instructions on what’s required in order to sign up.
When you open a new account you’ll have to provide some basic personal information and make a deposit using one of the site’s accepted banking options. Most sites accept all the most popular payment methods like credit cards and e-wallets.
Now that you know how to sign up and make bets, let’s look at the most popular kinds of NFL bets and how they work.
It’s a common scene. All you want to do is make a simple bet on which team will win but when you look at the options you see tons of different numbers with plus and minus signs. It looks confusing but don’t sweat it. Just keep these important points in mind:
Let’s go through each of these betting options and its associated odds one by one to make it really clear.
NFL money line bets are one of the simplest form of NFL bets which makes it a great option for beginners. All you have to do is pick which team you think will win a specific game. That’s it. If they win, you get paid. If they lose, so do you. A tie game is called a “push” and you get your money back.
Just remember that in most games, one team is considered a favorite to win while the other is considered to be an underdog. The casino offers different odds on your bet based on which team is expected to win the game and by how much.
Betting the money line on a big favorite isn’t likely to return much profit. On the flip side, a successful money line bet on a big underdog can lead to a big payday.
Moneyline bets are shown using American odds. This can be a bit confusing at first but don’t worry, it’s actually really simple. Here’s an example of how a sportsbook advertises a typical money line bet.
Here are the most important things to remember when reading American odds on an NFL money line bet:
Remember, you can bet as much as you want and the casino will apply the odds ratio to your bet. It’s just represented using $100 to make it easy to understand. Most online sportsbooks let you type in how much you want to bet and then show you how much those odds will payout.
Betting on NFL point spreads is where you bet on a team to either win by a certain margin (the favorite) or to lose by less than a certain margin (the underdog).
For example, a -4.5 point spread means the favorite must win by 5 or more to win the bet and the underdog (+4.5) could lose by 4 or less and they still cover the spread for a winning ticket.
The opposite holds for the underdog. In the example above, where the favorite was -3.5, we know that the underdog will be +3.5. This means that in order for the underdog to cover the point spread they need to lose by less than 4 or win outright.
In the event that both teams are given equal odds at the start of a game, it will be listed as EVEN or PICK.
Remember, whenever one team is favored over another, the sportsbook wants to get equal action on both sides of the wager from the general public. Sportsbooks charge a commission on all bets and if they can get equal action on both sides of the bet, they make a profit no matter who wins the game.
Point spreads are one of the ways casinos and sportsbooks can make both sides of a bet equally appealing to gamblers. Check out our weekly NFL picks against the spread where we give you the best bets for every matchup.
It isn’t always necessary to choose a team to win the game or cover a point spread. Instead, you can place a wager on the total points scored in a game and whether or not you think it will be more or less than the line offered by the sportsbook.
This version of betting in football is called totals betting and is also commonly referred to as Over/Under betting.
To help illustrate how totals bets work, let’s look at an example:
Point totals bets are also offered for the first quarter or the first half of the game. For example, the same game above could have a first-quarter Over/Under line of 10.5 and halftime Over/Under line of 23.5.
As well, you can bet on either team’s full game point total individually. You might see something like 27.5 for the favorite and 20.5 for the underdog. Usually, these lines are an indication of what the bookmakers perceive the final score to be and are in line with the game’s point spread and combine for the full game’s Over/Under line.
A prop bet is a shorthand way of saying Proposition bet. Different sportsbooks will propose unique side bets to wager on that can be for a given game, player, or for a longer-term like a futures bet where you decide on something to happen for a team or player at a future date.
Prop bets are a lot of fun and are growing in popularity, especially as more and more casinos offer online sports gambling.
By far the best place to experience NFL prop bets is the Super Bowl. You can bet on literally hundreds of outcomes that often don’t have anything to do with sports or the game itself. Super Bowl props let you bet on things like the color of a team’s Gatorade or how long the National anthem singer performs for.
During the regular season, you will see prop bets that generally focus on star players’ in-game performances or wagers that have to do with how and when scoring will occur in a game. For example, most games will offer bets on whether or not you think either team will score in the final 2 minutes of the first half or how you predict the first points will be scored (touchdown vs field goal or safety).
Before betting on props it is a good idea to read through all of the options and compare how the odds are presented. Longer shot wagers can indicate things about the game which might be there to entice you into taking action on a juicy bet which you might be better off avoiding.
An NFL parlay bet is a wager that combines two or more outcomes into one ticket (generally with a maximum of 12).
With NFL parlay betting you must get every part of the bet correct in order to win. A benefit of a parlay bet is that the payouts are greater. The more bets you have in a parlay, the greater your potential payout. On the flip side, since you must get every part of the parlay correct, it’s more of a longshot.
Let’s use what we learned already to come up with a simple NFL parlay example that combines a point spread bet and a totals bet.
As you become more experienced with parlays you’ll quickly see that some wagers are correlated and are not be available to parlay. This is because the sportsbook doesn’t let you bet on two outcomes that are connected where if one outcome is correct it lends itself to the other one being more likely to occur as well. An example of a correlate bet that is not allowed are halftime and fulltime point-spread for the same team (favorite or underdog).
Statistically, in the NFL, if a favorite covers the spread at halftime they will cover the full game spread 73.3% of the time. Similarly, if an underdog covers at halftime they will also cover the full game spread 76.7% of the time. This is a massive edge to the player who normally would be looking at two separate outcomes that are roughly 50/50.
NFL futures betting is a version of prop betting where your wager is considering an outcome at a later date. These wagers can be on teams’ performances or on individual players.
While a futures bet will require quite a bit of patience, it tends to offer a bigger payout in the end if you accurately predict an outcome but the downside is that the odds of predicting it correctly are much lower.
A crucial element when considering long term futures bets is how healthy a player or team can remain over the course of a season.
A lot of people love making a futures bet at the beginning of the season on their favorite team winning the Super Bowl. It’s not usually a likely outcome but it gives you more incentive to cheer for your team plus an absolutely massive payday if it comes true.
There is a way to reduce your risk in NFL parlay betting called teaser bets. Teasers let you shift a line in your parlay bet to give yourself a bigger cushion and more margin for error by 6, 6.5, or 7 points.
Teasers are only available on parlays and generally only for this amount of movement (although some sites allow you to move the line even further).
Say for example you were considering betting on the Ravens as a -3.5 favorite on Monday night and you wanted to parlay that game with the +2.5 underdog Bills on Sunday. One way to give yourself a better chance of winning is to tease these games by 6.5 points.
How this works is that the line moves by 6.5 points for each team respectively. So the new teaser parlay would be the Ravens +3.0 with the Bills +9.0.
While this obviously makes the chances of winning your parlay much easier, you will see a significant decrease in the payout offered by the casino. Also, if either side of your teaser is a push, your full ticket will be refunded (at most sportsbooks).
Generally speaking, for NFL teaser bets, the majority of sportsbooks will offer payouts close to the values listed below.
Buying points on NFL bets is similar to teaser bets in the sense that you are moving the point spread in your favor. The difference is that in the case of buying points you are paying to move the spread by 0.5 point increments instead of the 6, 6.5, or 7 points which is standard for teasers.
Another important difference is that when you buy 0.5 points on NFL bets you do so for single games only – unlike teasers which are for parlays.
It is crucial to understand that buying points can only be done on fractional point spreads and not full number point spreads.
This means that the value you get from buying NFL points can only save you from a loss and move you into a push situation. It cannot take your bet from a push to a win.
If you buy points to move a line for the favorite from -3.5 to -3 and the team wins by exactly 3 points, your ticket is refunded. The same example can be shown from an underdog’s perspective. Say you bought points to move the spread on the underdog in the same game from +3.5 to +4, and that underdog team lost by exactly 4 points, your purchase of the extra half point would save you from losing the bet and you get a refund on the push.
An NFL round robin bet is a parlay bet with three or more teams where you are breaking down the overall parlay into smaller parlays with the same teams. So instead of having a group of teams in one parlay bet, the round-robin allows you to break down the combinations of teams into unique, separate tickets.
Essentially you are reducing the risk as you can now win without having to get every outcome correct. The downside is that you are also reducing the maximum potential payout.
You can use round-robin parlays for any format of parlay that the sportsbook would normally otherwise offer on its own. This includes money line odds, point spreads, Over/Unders, futures bets, and some prop bets. As long as they are not correlated outcome, you can combine them in a round-robin.
The more teams you wish to parlay, the more permutations (combinations) of parlays you’ll have to bet on. Since you have to pay for each combination on its own, this can get rather expensive. The trade-off for this higher cost is that you have protected your large parlay from losing completely if one outcome is incorrect and you still have an opportunity for a big (multiple fold) win if you get everything correct.
To give an example, let’s look at both a 3-bet and 4-bet parlay wagers broken down into round-robin tickets.
A normal parlay for all three outcomes requires A, B, and C to be correct on one ticket for one price. With a round-robin ticket, it separates the bets into smaller parlays such that you don’t need all the outcomes to be correct to win. Your ticket has three possibilities and you must pay for all them. Your three ways to win are:
If all three outcomes are winners then you will win on all three possible combinations. If you get one wrong you will still have one winning portion of your ticket.
In this scenario, things get slightly more complicated. The parlays are now offered in either groups of 3 (four total parlays of 3) or in groups of 2 (six total parlays of 2).
That is a total of ten bets. The sportsbook will offer you a choice to wager on all (ten) bets or you can choose either section on their own: The groups of three (4 total bets) or the groups in pairs (6 total bets).
In the NFL, basic bets such as money line, point spread, and Over/Under all include any scoring that occurs in overtime. If you are doing specific point total bets for half-time (second half) scoring it also includes scoring that might occur in overtime. However, if you make a bet specific to Fourth Quarter scoring then this will not include any points that might occur in overtime.
One other wager where overtime does not count is on what is called a Double Result bet. These are bets where that requires picking the precise outcome of the game at halftime and also full-time. Essentially it is splitting the game into two parts and you are parlaying two results into one ticket.
Not all bets have to be made before a game begins. With NFL live betting you can make in-game wagers while the game is playing out. It’s a really exciting way to get into the game and make more dynamic bets as the game unfolds.
As the game develops an identity, the betting lines will adjust in accordance with what is happening on the field. For this reason (and others) it is vital to pay close attention to the game if you want to be successful in making live bets.
Different sportsbooks offer varying forms of live in-play bets and some sites are quicker than others. Be sure to explore and research how different sportsbooks run their live betting. The easiest way is to check out different sites during gameplay and compare how much they offer and how quickly they update their lines.
When diving into live betting, there are a few important factors to take into consideration, especially as you see odds shifting compared to the lines before kickoff. Make a habit of asking yourself the following questions when in-game betting:
Click here for a more in-depth explanation of live betting.
There are many things to consider when delving into the world of NFL betting. If you want to be a winner in the short and long term you will need to be disciplined, studious, and most importantly, willing to put in the time to learn and research all the factors affecting your bets.
It’s been said that if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail and it’s doubly true for betting on football. That’s where the best NFL betting strategies come in. It’s a big topic but we’ll lay out some of the basics to help get you started.
The most pivotal part of successful NFL betting is to study the upcoming match up from as many angles as possible. You’re going to want to look at several key factors:
While you want to find the best bang for your buck, you also don’t want to get lured into lines where the payout is so juicy you feel compelled to take the action. Often times the reason for these inflated odds are due to the house needing to balance their sheets. Try not to be the sucker who takes them up on this.
And remember, when we say study, it’s best to follow the classic adage ‘study smarter, not harder’. Know what to look for.Example: research has shown that teams who are more successful and efficient in their passing game will have a statistically significant advantage over their opponent. While it seems intuitive, let’s look at it a bit more closely.
A valuable metric to look for is ‘pass yards per attempt’. Teams who stretch this out successfully and consistently over the course of a season generate more offense and stay on the field longer as their success on first or second down lends itself to easier third-down conversations. In turn, those passing yards sustain drives, increase possession time, and lead to more scoring.
You may think that these plays are purely a measure of quarterback and wide receiver prowess but that’s surface-level thinking. What matters more is how good the team’s offensive linemen are performing. They are the ones who create the time and space for their teammates to move the ball. Study this element of each match up and be sure to see whether any of those big men have been injured or returning from injury. This is crucial.
In addition to studying what’s happening on the field, you can also spend time researching which sportsbooks are offering the best odds and lines, plus who has the best promotions and bonuses.
Be sure to shop your lines. Different sportsbooks offer slightly different lines. This can make the difference between a payday or a deficit, especially in the long run.
Also, stay disciplined and don’t get emotional. Gamblers who get angry tend to make bad choices like chasing loses or becoming vindictive towards certain teams and players. Err on the side of logic and objectivity. Don’t rush things and manage your bankroll accordingly.
The different bets you can place on a game of football are referred to as the different betting markets. The three main markets are money line, handicap (also commonly called point spread), and totals.
There are also alternative markets which are essentially more specific forms of the three aforementioned. For example, there are ‘time-specific’ markets where you bet on an outcome to occur in a specific quarter or half of a game.
We also see alternative handicap (adjusted handicap) wagers where the bettor can adjust the lines. In a parlay, this is called teasing. In straight single-game bets, it is called buying points.
An example of an alternative market within the Totals market would be best placed on specific teams point totals. These can be full-time totals or for first quarter or first half.
Futures bets and proposition bets can also be considered standalone NFL betting markets.
While the 17-week regular season of NFL action is compelling and exciting on its own, it is no match for the intensity and drama of the playoffs. That added tension carries over into the gambling world in a big way.
Since the playoffs are a structured format based on divisional seedings, conference winners and wildcard clinchers, the NFL playoffs have a bracketed path for two teams to find themselves in the Super Bowl. As such, a door for a unique once-a-year betting opportunity arises the NFL playoff betting bracket.
How it works is simple. Each entrant selects a winner for each of the four first-round Wild Card games. Once a winner is chosen for each game, the team selected to win, depending on their playoff seeding, is matched up against a new team in the Divisional round. It continues in the same way through each remaining round.
The winners from those Divisional games are then slotted into their Conference Championship games and the remaining two predicted teams are the ones you predict will meet in the Super Bowl. The final Super Bowl pick is often accompanied by a final score prediction which would work as a tie-breaker in the case of a tie.
Each bracket is graded with points awarded for each correctly predicted outcome in each round. While it may seem like a safe approach to pick the favorite, by seed, in each round, this hardly ever pans out. As well, it is good to have some upsets in your bracket because if you are correct it’s a great way to gain a lead over your opponents.
NFL draft betting is essentially one big prop bet after another. Most of the wagers are straight forward like who will be selected first overall or which wide receiver will be taken highest.
There are also many totals (Over/Under) bets that ask questions like how many players will be selected from a certain school or collegiate conference? Or will a specific player go higher or lower than a predicted draft position?
The list can get quite long, really. In some cases, you even have “higher than” wagers where two players are listed and the proposition is which one you believe will be selected first.
In terms of strategy, the primary question to ask in your analysis and predictions is whether or not you expect each team to draft according to franchise need or according to the “best player available” strategy.
Often times a team will know that they have specific holes in their roster and will use their draft selection on a young player who can fill that void. By selecting in this manner it’s quite possible that they are overlooking the best talent available and focusing on what best suits their specific team needs.
The opposite happens as well when a team has the opportunity to draft a player who could fix a hole yet they are tempted by a superior athlete who is available but plays a different position. For your betting preparation, it is best to study what each team’s management’s history is, which players might soon be leaving the current roster, and compare it to where they are likely to select in the draft.
One of the best experiences you can have betting in football, other than actually having seats in the stadium, is watching at a Las Vegas sportsbook amongst a great atmosphere of fellow gamblers. You’ll find many people from all walks of life there to support their teams and loudly express wildly differing opinions.
There are literally hundreds of sportsbooks in Las Vegas to choose from, each with their own amenities. You may want to research each place’s line setting tendencies as savvy punters shop the different lines around town.
Where ever you find yourself, the next step is knowing how to read the board and place your wagers. When looking at the board you’ll see the NFL section and a list of games underneath. Almost all sportsbooks will list the home team on the bottom unless otherwise stated.
The table will list the point spread, money line and point totals odds for each game. Make note of the number listed beside each team as this can help the person at the desk when making your wager. As mentioned before, the odds payouts are posted based on $100 measures.
So for a money line wager, if a team is a -220 favorite it means you need to bet $220 in order to make a $100 profit on your ticket. Conversely, if a team is a +350 underdog it means a successful $100 bet will earn you $350 profit.
When you approach the desk they will ask you what game you want to bet on and what sort of wager you want. They will help you with it and make sure you bet on what you want whether it’s money line, point spread, or totals bet.
It is important to note that the odds you get at the time of the bet will be on your ticket and official as soon as it is printed. Those odds may change on the board but your payout will be based on what’s printed on your ticket.
If you wish to combine wagers into a parlay bet simply prepare each one separately (either mentally or written down on paper) and tell the desk you want to combine these bets into a parlay ticket. You can then list them off the same way you did for the single-game purchase.
If you are planning to tease the games on your parlay be sure to mention this before you announce your full ticketing list. The same rule holds true for betting on single games where you wish to buy points. It is important to be clear and keep things communicated to your full intention.
Key numbers in the NFL are based on the fact that scoring is most commonly done in increments of 3 (field goal) and 7 (touchdown).
Looking back at many years of statistics shows that most games are decided by exactly 3 points (18.69%). The second most common margin of victory is 7 points which happens roughly 11.5% of the time.
By finding betting lines that reward outcomes with 3 and 7 point margins of victory you can increase your chances of winning.
The primary range of key numbers to pay attention to in NFL odds are:
In terms of point totals, the two most common final game point totals (since 2000) were 41 in first place and 37. In the last 5 years, however, with increased league scoring, those numbers have been bumped down with 44, 43 and 47 being the most common end game totals. These stats can be really valuable when you’re deciding whether to tease a line up or down, for example.
Click here for more information on key numbers in sportsbetting.
As mentioned several times in this article, to win your bets and to become a consistent long term winner, you need to do your homework. Make sure to not only research everything you can find about the game itself but also the different odds and promotions offered by different casinos and sportsbooks.
These days the internet provides an amazing opportunity to look at stats, read articles and really dig into the research side of sports betting. If you put in the time and study smart, it will absolutely pay off with more winning bets.
Developing a concise list of people and places to go to on a weekly basis is a great starting point. There are bloggers, vloggers, writers, YouTubers, TV, and radio analysts. The reach is broad. It is up to you to determine who you trust and why.
Being a successful NFL bettor is not rocket science but it’s not roulette either. If you want to flip coins and bet on instinct, that’s your call, but successful sports gamblers put in the work that’s necessary to consistently make smart bets.
Brush up on all the main kinds of NFL bets we’ve covered in this article. The majority of people only bet on the money line, point spreads, totals or some parlay combination of the three.
Betting on props, especially at the Super Bowl, and futures, as the season gets underway, are awesome ways to spice things up.
If sports betting is available in your state, check out our recommended options for places to play online. It’s an amazing way to enhance the time you spend watching sports and it can pay off.
If sports gambling isn’t available where you live, you might as well start learning these strategies now. Following the huge Supreme Court decision in regards to New Jersey’s sports gambling laws, more and more states are offering fully legal sports betting and it’s only a matter of time until yours does as well.
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After graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a BA in Journalism, Richard Janvrin has been covering iGaming and sports betting since December 2018. Richard has covered betting at Bleacher Report, Gambling.com, The Game Day, Forbes, and more.More info on Richard Janvrin
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