The National Football League is as American as a slice of apple pie. The preeminent sport in the United States is also the most popular sport to wager on, and chances are if you are new to sports wagering, NFL betting is where you will begin.
With the recent legalization of sports betting in several states, interest in NFL betting has never been higher. In 2019 alone, approximately $145.94 million U.S. dollars was wagered on the Super Bowl.
So how does NFL betting work? Well, it’s quite simple! Let’s dive in.
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NFL Spread Betting
This is by far the most popular way to wager on NFL football and is also the
most common way you will hear people discuss betting on the sport. How NFL spread betting works is pretty standard to how wagering on any sport works. Oddsmakers will set the point spread by indicating one team as the favorite and one team as the underdog. The favorite will be required to win by a certain number of points indicated by the point spread for this game. To identify the team that is marked as the favorite, look for the team with a number that has a minus symbol (-) preceding that number.
An example of how such a point spread would look is as follows:
Dolphins vs. Patriots (-10.5)
In this instance, if you believed the Patriots would win by 11 points or more over the Dolphins, you would bet on the Patriots -10.5.
Conversely, betting on underdogs works in pretty much the same way, only with an added wrinkle in that the underdog can still lose the matchup straight up, but “cover” the point spread by losing by 10 points or less. While favorites are indicated by a minus symbol, underdogs are indicated by a plus symbol (+) preceding that number.
An example of how a point spread would look like when including the underdog would look like so:
If you believed the Dolphins would either win the game straight up or lose by 10 or less, you would bet on the Dolphins in this instance.
When a betting number does not include the half point (better known as “the hook” in sports betting terminology), that does leave open the possibility of the game ending in a “push”.
An example of a push would look like so:
Final Score: Patriots 31, Dolphins 21
In this example, no matter what side you bet you would have your money refunded as both teams did not clear the point spread in either direction.
NFL Moneyline Betting
Moneyline betting is a method of wagering on a football game where you are simply picking the team you believe will win the game straight up. Unlike spread betting, moneyline betting does not involve a points handicap to overcome in order to win your wager, and when favoring the underdog – the underdog has to win the game. The payouts as you may be guessing, are adjusted based on how heavy a team is favored by or how big of an underdog they are.
An example of this would be as follows:
Arizona Cardinals (+350)
at San Francisco 49ers (-400)
If you believed the Arizona Cardinals would upset the San Francisco 49ers in this matchup and wanted to bet on them straight up, you would be paid out $350 on a $100 wager. Conversely if you believed the 49ers would win but were not confident in them covering the point spread, you would win $100 on a $400 wager.
Essentially, the bigger the point spread the higher the cost to back a favorite with a moneyline wager and the higher the reward for backing an underdog when they win the game.
NFL Totals Betting/NFL Over/Under Betting
Betting on NFL totals is very similar to betting the point spread, only instead of betting on a team to cover you are betting on whether or not the combined final score of a game will go over or under the game total posted by oddsmakers. This is why the common term in sports wagering circles is referred to as the “over” or “under” of the game.
Totals betting can be affected by numerous factors, included but not limited to:
- Weather (including games played in a dome)
- A great offensive team playing another great offensive team
- A great defensive team playing another great defensive team
An example of what an NFL totals line may look like is as follows:
Kansas City Chiefs (U63.5)
at Los Angeles Rams (O63.5)
In this example if you believed that the two most potent offenses in football would proceed to have an all-out shootout, you would take the OVER 63.5. If you believed that the game would not have a combined total of 64, you would take the UNDER 63.5.
Prior to making any wager, we definitely recommend reviewing any relevant NFL trends and stats to decipher what teams tend to go over the total and what teams tend to go under the total. In the above example, each of these teams had incredibly potent offenses and that is why the total was set as high as it was. When you see a game with more defensive oriented teams facing off, the number will adjust accordingly to the tendencies of how those teams play.
NFL Parlay Betting
A parlay bet is a selection of two or more wagers that are linked together. Instead of betting on a series of single-game outcomes, a parlay bet is where you wager on all of those games together and are subsequently rewarded with a larger payout than betting on the games individually should you win your wager.
However, it should be noted that with parlay betting it only takes one loss on your ticket to lose your entire parlay bet. Because of this, these bets are much more difficult to win than betting on them individually would be. As such, the larger your parlay the greater the potential payout.
An example of what a parlay ticket may look like is as follows:
3 Team Parlay Pays (+600)
In this example, if the Chiefs, Seahawks and Titans all cover their individual point spreads, you would be paid out 6x the amount you risked on the parlay. For the sake of simplicity, a $100 wager in this example would pay you out a total of $700 ($600 for the parlay win + your original $100 bet).
NFL Teaser Betting
A teaser bet is nearly identical to a parlay bet but with one major wrinkle – a teaser bet is a type of parlay where you can adjust a spread or total by a certain number of points, making it easier for each side to cover that number. However, because you are buying points on a sequence of games, the payouts for teasers will be much lower than the payout of hitting a parlay.
Standard NFL teasers include two or more wagers with lines adjusted by anywhere from 6-7 points. The fewer the points you tease, the higher the payout.
Using the above parlay example as a 6.5 point teaser would look like this:
3 Team Teaser Pays (+160)
As you can see, the Chiefs line has now moved from them being 3-point favorites to them being 3.5 point underdogs. The Seahawks adjusted from 6.5 point favorites to just needing to win the game and the Titans now can lose by 9 or less and still cover the spread. If all three individual outcomes occurred, you would net $160 on a $100 wager.
NFL Prop Betting
A proposition bet (fancier way of saying “prop bet”) is a kind of side wager that asks you to bet on something besides the final outcome of a game. In NFL betting, these typically come in the form of player or team prop bets. Prop bets hit the peak of their popularity during the Super Bowl, but there is value in prop betting all throughout the season.
Some examples of some NFL prop bets you may encounter may look like so:
- Patrick Mahomes O/U 299.5 yards passing
- Derrick Henry O/U 105.5 yards rushing
- Julio Jones O/U 99.5 yards receiving
- Total combined made field goals O/U 3.5
- Demi Lovato O/U 2:01 National Anthem length
- Distance of longest penalty in game O/U 15.5 yards
There are countless other examples of prop bets that one can wager on, and many bettors find them to be another means to make a game that much more exciting.
NFL Futures Betting
In addition to betting on single games, you can also bet on outcomes set to happen in the future (hence the term ‘futures’ betting). The most common instance of NFL futures betting is betting on a team to win the Super Bowl before the season begins. However, there are numerous other NFL futures bets that are always available to bet on. Some examples of NFL futures bets are as follows:
- Betting on a team to win a division or conference
- Betting on a team to win the Super Bowl
- Betting on a player to win NFL MVP
- Betting on a player to win NFL Rookie of the Year
As is the case when betting on an underdog to win straight up, betting on a longer shot team to win their division, conference or Super Bowl would net a bigger payout in the event that dark horse team went on to surprise the rest of the field.
Here at OddsUSA, we are ready to help you with your NFL betting needs year-round! Good luck and happy wagering!