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How to Bet on the NFL: A Guide to Betting on Football

Knowing how to wager on football is an important part of … betting on football. Every Sunday, Monday, Thursday and some Saturdays, people across the world are studying betting trends and looking for betting lines at various sportsbooks so they can place their NFL bets and hopefully make some coin.

Placing bets throughout the football season can be a fun and lucrative endeavor, especially if you put a little effort into it. Luckily, we’ll do the heavy lifting –– so all you have to do is read this page and you’ll have a greater understanding of how to bet NFL games from the preseason to the Super Bowl, whether you’re looking at live odds or traditional betting lines.

Understanding NFL Betting Lines and Odds

Before you learn how NFL betting works, you’ll need to understand how to read odds. Typically, odds for a football game would look like this:

New Orleans Saints -7 (-110)

Atlanta Falcons +7 (+110)

This means that the Saints are favored over the Falcons by 7 points. At the sportsbook, favorites are always listed with a minus (-) and underdogs have the plus sign (+)

NFL betting sites need to make their money, which is why they take a cut of your bet. Called the vig or the juice, this is the percentage of money from each bet that the sportsbook gets. This is generally three to 20 percent but can go higher depending on the type of bet and online sportsbook you’re using to bet with. You’ll see this number next to the odds in brackets.

NFL Betting Types

When you want to bet on football, there are different types of bets you can make. Each offers bettors a chance to win some money at the sportsbook if you’re able to make smart picks – and Odds Shark will help with that.


A moneyline bet is when you pick which team you think will win the game outright. It’s often called a straight-up bet at the sportsbook because moneyline betting involves you choosing one squad to win over the other. Since there are skill discrepancies between the two teams, betting the team more likely to win will come at a premium, aka less risk.

For example, if the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the New England Patriots, odds would look something like this:

Pats -160

Steelers +140

A $100 winning bet on New England would give you $162.50 – your original $100 comes back along with your winnings of $62.50. On the other hand, if you laid down that same amount of money on Pittsburgh and they won, you’d get $240 – your $100 is returned along with your winnings of $140.

Betting on underdogs, in this case Big Ben’s squad, is considered a riskier bet, but you get a bigger reward. Conversely, betting the favorite is less risky, which means it comes with less reward.

To find out how much you’d win based on what you bet, check out our Odds Calculator.

Point Spread

A point spread in sports is a figure made by odds specialists to provide an advantage or disadvantage based on the margin of victory or defeat for a given NFL team. The favorite team would be at the disadvantage as they would need to win the game by a certain number of points, while the underdog would be given an advantage to not lose the game by a set number of points or to win outright.

An example of spread betting would be the Philadelphia Eagles as a -3.5 favorite against the Dallas Cowboys, who are listed as +3.5 underdogs. Bettors who take the Eagles – or Iggles, as they say in Philly – would need them to win by four or more points to cover the spread. Bettors who take the Cowboys would need them to win outright or lose by three points or less, otherwise they will not have covered the spread.

A strong team like the Green Bay Packers would see a huge spread when playing a less than stellar team like the Detroit Lions. In cases like that, the Packers would be a heavy fave with spread odds of something like -16.5. That means they’d have to beat the Lions by 17 or more points.


The total in any given football event is a combined final score of both teams. The total is set by oddsmakers based on how they envision a game will unfold from a scoring perspective. This type of bet is also called an OVER/UNDER bet. As a bettor, you would need to select if the final score will be OVER or UNDER the set total.

Typically, you would handicap a totals bet by looking at certain variables like:

Offensive and Defensive stats

• Injuries

• The weather (high winds + kicker = heartbreak)

Team Reports

Game Logs


Power Rankings

Betting Trends


For example, let’s take a Seahawks vs Raiders matchup with the total set at 48.5 points. As a bettor, you would select if the game’s final score will be OVER 48.5 points or UNDER 48.5 points. So, if the game ended 27-20 for Oakland, that would combine to 47 points, meaning the game went UNDER.

Sometimes you’ll see a totals betting line that does not have half a point. Let’s say for the same matchup, the total is set at 49 and the combined score ends up hitting it on the nose. That’s called a PUSH. Should this happen, you get your money back because technically you didn’t win or lose.


We can’t go back to the future, but we can bet on it. A futures bet is made on events that could happen by the end of the NFL season. You can bet on everything from which team will win its division to which team will come first in its conference and which player will be named MVP.


NFL prop bets are like a game within the game that many bettors play solely for the entertainment factor. Props on individual performances like passing yards, rushing yards and receiving yards are some examples of this kind of bet. You will also find props available for the Super Bowl on the length of the national anthem, the result of the coin toss, and the color of Gatorade that will be used to drench the winning coach at the end of the game.


A parlay is when you make multiple picks like a moneyline, spread, and totals bet in separate games but on one single ticket. In order to win your parlay, you would need all bets to hit.

You can also select two events to occur within the same game for a correlated parlay. For instance, you can take the Cleveland Browns to cover the spread at +10 against the Cincinnati Bengals and add an UNDER bet for that game too.


If parlays are the full-flavored regular Coke of sports betting, teasers are the Diet Coke of NFL wagering. Like a parlay, you would need all your bets to hit to win your ticket; however, you get to adjust the point spread or totals line to lower your risk level. Same great taste, with less calories. Teasers often start at 6 points and can go as high as 15 points depending on the betting site.

Live Betting

In-play betting is when you wager on a football game after it has begun. Live odds and lines will be available for each drive. You can bet on whether the QB will throw an interception or complete his next pass. You can bet on new totals and spreads too. The type of odds available will depend on how much time is left in the game.

Now that you know how to read and understand football odds, go ahead and start betting!