Betting on NFL games has long been nearly as popular as watching the games themselves and the explosion on online sports betting sites now lets millions of Americans cast their wagers from the comfort of their own home.
Here we will break down the basics of NFL betting and game odds as well as the different betting markets available to sports bettors in the United States. What is a betting line? Who sets it? How do I bet on the Super Bowl? What is a prop bet? These are questions that will absolutely come up for millions of Americans are entering the world of sports betting for the first time after the Supreme Court lifted a federal ban on sports betting in 2018 and we will explain them all below.
Betting on NFL Games
There are two ways to bet on NFL games.
First, there is a the point spread, which is the margin that the favorite must win by to “cover” or pay out. So if the Patriots are a -3.5 favorite, they must win by at least 4 points to pay out. If the Patriots are a +3.5 underdog, a wager on the Patriots would pay out even if they lose, as long as they don’t lose by more than 3 points.
The other is the moneyline, which is the ratio of the payout to the initial stake. So if the Jets are a -270 favorite, you would need to bet $270 to win $100. If the Jets are a +300 underdog, your $100 bet would net you a cool $300. Point spread bets usually come with a moneyline around -110, so you would have to bet $110 to win $100.
You can also bet on the point total or “over/under.” Various sportsbooks set the projected combined point total in each game and you can bet on whether the actual total will be higher or lower than the projected total.
Different sportsbooks will calculate NFL odds differently based on various factors, but largely based on betting trends. These seemingly small differences can make or break your bet. If the Saints are a -3 favorite on one site but a -3.5 favorite on another, a single point’s difference would decide your entire bet. Not only do odds — the point spread, the moneyline, and the over/under — differ from site to site, they will also change during the week. For example, the Dolphins may open as a -1 favorite but based on a number of factors — betting trends, injuries, weather — the line may move to a -3 favorite or a +1 underdog. That means that a bet placed on Monday may have completely different odds than a bet placed on Saturday.
Super Bowl Odds
NFL betting really explodes during the playoffs, which are played in January, and really pick up in the Super Bowl, which is typically played on the first weekend of February. Because the Super Bowl is two weeks after the final game is played, the odds will continue to change for 14 straight days, resulting in an infinite number of possible changes in the odds. Another popular aspect of the Super Bowl is prop betting, which allow you to wager on every possible event in the game, including the halftime show (how many songs will be played?) to the broadcast (how many times will Al Michaels mention Deflategate?) to the commercials (Which ad will air first during the game?).
NFL Betting Markets
Along with point spread, moneyline, and over/under bets, there are a number of other bet types that can make the action a bit more interesting.
Parlays: A parlay requires two or more bets, all of which must hit in order for the bettor to win. These are riskier bets because the odds of hitting two or more bets are much lower but the payouts are also considerably bigger, especially if you wager on three or more teams.
Teasers: This is a type of parlay that allows you to “buy” additional points when you make a point spread or over/under bet. These allow you to combine two or more bets into one while getting better odds of beating the spread. The most common ones are usually 6-point, 6.5-point, or 7-point teasers. So with a 6-point teaser, you can change a Pats -2.5 line to a +3.5 line.
Halftimes and quarters: Along with betting on the final score, you can also wager on the point spread in quarters and halves.
Future bets: Future bets allow you to put money on season-long outcomes, like who will win the NFC East or who will win the Super Bowl. You can also do this for players, betting on who will win the MVP or who will lead the league in receiving yards.