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How To Bet On NFL Games

How To Bet On NFL Games Tips and Tricks - April 21 2020

Football is one of the most bet sports in North America and its popularity is at an all-time high, especially the NFL. Every Sunday, Monday, Thursday (and some Saturdays), people across the world are studying statistics, matchups and trends to get an edge on betting lines from various sportsbooks that offer NFL markets.

It could be a single game, a player betting prop or NFL futures odds that bettors wager on in an attempt to cash in. All of them will be detailed below.

Placing bets throughout the NFL football season can be a fun and profitable endeavor, especially if you put in the time and effort. Luckily, Odds Shark does the heavy lifting –– so all you have to do is read this page and you’ll have a greater understanding of how to bet on 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

The three most common football bets someone can make on an NFL game are on the point spread, moneyline or total. Let’s break down each of these betting types and how to understand the associated odds:

Point Spread

A point spread in football is a figure made by odds specialists with sportsbooks to provide an advantage or disadvantage based on the expected margin of victory or defeat for a given NFL team.

The “favorite” team would be at the disadvantage as it 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.

Typically, the point spread for an NFL game would look like this:

New Orleans Saints -7

Atlanta Falcons +7

This means that the Saints are favored to beat the Falcons by 7 points or more. At the sportsbook, each team is typically assigned a “-110” odds designation (or vig) for the spread since this is meant to make the matchup even and level the playing field for bettors while also providing a profit for the sportsbook.

Bettors would need to determine before the game starts if they think the Saints will win by more than seven points or if the Falcons will win or keep the game within seven points. If you bet on the Saints -7 and New Orleans wins the game 31-28, that means the Falcons covered the +7 spread and your bet loses.

Totals

The total in any NFL game is the projected final combined score of both teams. The total is set by oddsmakers based on how they envision a game will unfold from a scoring perspective. As a bettor, you need to determine if the final score will go OVER or UNDER the set total and there are many factors that need to be considered before placing a totals bet.

Before we look at research tips or online betting strategy, here is how a total would look for an NFL game at your online sportsbook:

Dallas Cowboys (Road) vs Washington Redskins (Home) – Total at 48.5

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 Dallas, that would add up to 47 points, meaning the game went UNDER the closing total.

Here are some of the key variables that bettors need to research to feel comfortable placing a totals bet:

Some of the suggestions above are likely more important than others but all should be reviewed at least once before placing your bet.

It’s essential to monitor injury reports. The absence of a player at a key position like quarterback could influence how the game unfolds. Weather is another factor to consider and could impact a team’s game plan. Once you are content with the information you’ve researched, you’re ready to start making totals bets.

Moneyline

An NFL moneyline bet is when you pick which team you think will win the game outright. This type of bet is 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 typically skill and talent discrepancies between the two teams, the odds typically come at a premium for the “favorite” because there’s less risk of them losing the game to the “underdog.”

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

Patriots -160

Giants +140

A winning bet of $100 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 New York and they won, you’d get $240 – your $100 is returned along with your winnings of $140.

Betting on underdogs, in this case the Giants, is considered a riskier bet but you get a bigger reward. Conversely, wagering on the Patriots 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.

What Are Other Popular NFL Betting Types?

NFL Futures

An NFL futures bet is made on events that could happen by the end of the NFL season. One of the most popular NFL futures bets available is “Which team will win the Super Bowl” but these markets are not limited just to which team climbs the mountaintop and wins the championship.

Here are some of the most popular futures bets you can make before and throughout the regular season:

The knock on these bets is they can sometimes take weeks and even months for the winner to be determined but the odds are typically inflated so if you win your futures bet, the payoff is usually worth the wait.

For example, if you made a $100 bet on the Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl before the season starts and their odds were +500, you’d win $600, which is $500 profit and the $100 from the original bet. But since you wagered in August, you would need to wait until the following February before you could potentially cash in, with that $100 tied up until the result is determined.

Game and Player Props

NFL prop bets are like a game within the game that many bettors play because it doesn’t typically determine the final outcome of the matchup.

The most popular NFL props you would find at a sportsbook usually pertain to individual performances and are determined via the OVER/UNDER method. Here’s an example:

Patrick Mahomes O/U 299.5 passing yards

As a bettor, you would need to determine if you think Mahomes would throw for 300 yards or more or be limited to 299 yards or less. If you bet the UNDER 299.5 and he throws for 350 yards, your UNDER bet loses.

Here are some of the most popular game and player props for an average NFL game:

  • Quarterback O/U Passing Yards
  • Running back O/U Rushing Yards
  • Wide Receiver O/U Receiving Yards
  • First Touchdown Scorer
  • Anytime Touchdown Scorer

These are just the tip of the iceberg for NFL props available to bettors and it goes into overdrive for the Super Bowl. When it’s time to bet on the big game, you can wager on props just like the ones above and sometimes ones that would be considered zany.

Props like the coin toss, length of the U.S. national anthem and what color Gatorade will be used to drench the winning coach at the end of the game are just some of the 300-plus props available for the Super Bowl.

Parlays 

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.

Let’s use the three examples above from the common NFL bets to determine the payout and what you could win if all three bets were successful:

  • Saints -7 vs Falcons (-110)
  • Patriots Moneyline vs Steelers (-160)
  • Cowboys-Eagles UNDER 48.5 (-110)

The calculated odds for this parlay based on Odds Shark’s odds calculator are +492. If you bet $100 on this parlay and all three bets win, you would get a payout of $592, which is $492 in profit and your original $100 back.

You can also choose 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 (-110) against the Cincinnati Bengals and add an UNDER 41.5 (-110) bet for that game too. The odds for this parlay are +265 and if both are successful, you would receive a payout of $365, which is $265 in profit and your original $100 back.

Teasers

NFL Teaser bets are a way of adjusting point spreads to be more in the bettor’s favor. Like a parlay, you would need all your bets to hit to win your ticket; however, you get to adjust the preset point spread or totals lines from sportsbooks to lower your risk level.  

Teasers often start at 6 points and can go as high as 15 points depending on the online sports betting site, but the most common varieties are selecting two or three teams and teasing NFL lines by 6, 6.5 or 7 points.

Here is an example of a two-team NFL teaser bet:

Two-Team Parlay - Opening Spreads
GamePick
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Philadelphia EaglesPittsburgh -4
Los Angeles Rams vs Seattle SeahawksLos Angeles +6

Let’s say you like Pittsburgh -4.0 and L.A. +6.0, but are worried that Pittsburgh might only win by a field goal or LA might lose by a touchdown. If you pair these games together in a 7-point teaser, you now have Pittsburgh +3.0 and LA +13.0. Here’s how it looks now:

Two-Team Parlay - New Teaser Spreads
GamePick
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Philadelphia EaglesPittsburgh +3
Los Angeles Rams vs Seattle SeahawksLos Angeles +13

Now, any Pittsburgh win (and even a one- or two-point loss) is a cover, and L.A. is also covered in many more circumstances. However, this comes at a cost because teasers move the line so favorably in the direction of your choice. Unlike two-team parlays that pay +260 at most books, two-team teasers pay -130. You are minimizing risk but also minimizing payout opportunities.

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 and almost every option in the props section above can be bet on in real time. You can also do “result of drive” bets for how a given team will fare on a specific drive, like if the QB will throw an interception or complete his next pass or if the team will score.

The type of odds available will depend on how much time is left in the game and like the stock market, the odds move quickly depending on what’s happening on the field. These types of markets are meant for the more seasoned NFL bettor and would not be recommended for a bettor placing their first wager.


Now that you understand how to read football odds, and know how to bet on football, check out our NFL sportsbook review pages so you can feel comfortable with your online gambling. Best of luck betting on the National Football League!