How to Bet on NFL

How to Bet on NFL

NFL football is the most popular sport on which to wager, and rightfully so. The players are larger than life, and the season only lasts a few months, culminating in the biggest single-day sporting event on the planet – the Super Bowl.

The National Football League has evolved over the years, with parity becoming an annual theme regarding which teams make the playoffs and which do not. Of the 32 teams that currently comprise the league, there are a select few that return to the postseason regularly (such as, of course, the New England Patriots) and far more that appear only occasionally in hopes of taking home the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the very first time.

In fact, exactly half the teams in the league (16) have never won the Super Bowl after the Philadelphia Eagles removed themselves from that list following the 2017 NFL season. The Eagles embraced playing the role of underdogs during their recent Super Bowl run, going 3-0 straight up and against the spread in the playoffs en route to winning it all.

On the other side of the spectrum are the Patriots, who have made the postseason nine years in a row between 2009 and 2017, winning the AFC East title each time over that period. New England has been a team fans and bettors alike either love or hate due to their long-term success with head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots have rarely been underdogs but actually began their two-decade dynasty with a huge 20-17 upset win over the St. Louis Rams as 14-point dogs in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Betting NFL Point Spreads

The appeal of wagering on underdogs is widespread among NFL bettors, mostly because it involves going against public perception. The underdog can win you money simply by covering the point spread and earn you even more with a straight-up victory on the moneyline. Favorites are a more risky bet obviously because they have to win by a certain number of points or more. Bettors also pay a steeper price on the moneyline with favorites rather than getting plus-money back, which will be covered more later. 

Key numbers when betting on football point spreads are well-known to be three and seven points. That is because a field goal is worth three points and a touchdown seven (with the single extra point). If you are wagering on a favorite in the NFL, you would much rather have a point spread of -2.5 or -6.5 opposed to -3.5 or -7.5 because landing on those key numbers of three or seven would result in a win instead of a loss. On the other side, if you are betting on an underdog, you would much rather have +3.5 or +7.5 than +2.5 or +6.5 when the favorite winning by a field goal or touchdown beats you.

Oddsmakers would prefer to open lines on those key numbers as well, letting the public dictate on which side they ultimately end up. While sportsbooks are looking for even money on both sides of their posted numbers, they are rooting for the other side of wherever they close. So if a team like New England opens as a seven-point favorite against Philadelphia and moves up to -9, then the sportsbooks hope the underdog Eagles stay within nine points to cover the spread. It is worth noting that many favorites tend to be the most publicly popular teams, and sportsbooks will set their opening numbers accordingly to account for that bias whether it is truly deserved or not.

Betting NFL Moneylines

If you like to wager on NFL games but do not want to worry about teams covering the point spread, there are other betting options. The moneyline is the easiest way to get action on a team that simply needs to win in order for you to cash your ticket. Of course there is a method to the madness here to be successful, and again underdogs can be the most profitable investment over the long term rather than favorites.

The problem with betting favorites on the moneyline is that you need to lay money or pay a price, and sometimes that can be very costly. For example, a huge favorite might be listed at -1000, and that means you would have to bet $1,000 to win $100. While betting favorites on the moneyline might appear to be more stress-free without the worries of covering a point spread, losing games straight up can burn your bankroll. 

Then again, betting on the moneyline with underdogs can be very profitable, and you do not need to cash nearly as many to make money consistently. Wagering on a big underdog that is +1000 pays $1,000 on a $100 bet, and that is like hitting the jackpot. That said, underdog bettors can keep their bankroll going a lot longer with less risk.

Betting NFL Totals

Another fun way to wager on NFL football games that does not involve picking either side is taking the over or the under on the total number of points scored. Betting NFL totals can be a roller-coaster ride though based on the pace of the game, which can change dramatically over the course of four quarters based on a number of different factors, including injuries and weather. A team’s offense can be severely affected by an injury to the starting quarterback that forces him to leave the game, hence hurting the scoring.

When betting the over, injuries can also work for you from a defensive perspective. If a team’s top starting cornerback is hobbled and not playing at 100 percent, the opposing quarterback will likely look to take advantage of that situation and pick on him. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that a defense ravaged by injuries will probably give up a lot of points and have a positive impact on the over when playing against a good offensive team. Good weather also allows players to perform at a high level.

When betting the under, the weather report becomes very important late in the season, especially during the month of December. Cold weather is one thing, but the wind is another equally important part of the forecast because of how it affects both the passing and kicking games. The worse the weather is, the better chance a game has of finishing under the total, even if the oddsmakers account for that in their opening numbers.

Betting NFL Parlays and Teasers

Straight single bets on sides – no matter whether you take the point spread or moneyline – and totals are just one particular means to wager on NFL games. Many bettors who do not have a huge bankroll to wager solely on individual games choose to increase their chances of hitting a big payoff by grouping single wagers together in what is called a parlay or teaser. Both bets are more profitable but also more unlikely to cash.

With parlay and teasers, the odds increase depending on how many different teams, or bets, are grouped together. The difference is that a parlay often keeps the same point spreads, moneylines or totals as a single bet while a teaser offers the bettor additional points to play with. The exception to that is a parlay card, which may have better lines, such as a half-point either way, seemingly helping bettors improve their odds of winning.

Getting extra points with teasers can also be incredibly valuable for bettors, especially since it is possible for both a favorite and an underdog or over/under to win at the same time. What that means is the point spread on a six-point teaser would make a seven-point favorite -1 for those bettors who like the favorite and +13 for those who like the underdog. If the end result falls in between those two numbers, both bettors would win. 

Betting NFL In-Game Live Lines

The latest sensation with sports gambling in general is in-game wagering or live betting. Many sportsbooks today will open revised lines after NFL games kick off, giving bettors the opportunity to get action while they are actually being played. Not all games may be available, but more and more sportsbooks are at least expanding their wagering menu to include the most popular matchups played in prime time and during the playoffs.

The advantage of in-game wagering is obvious and most beneficial to those bettors who believe in comebacks or dramatic turnarounds with regards to scoring. Anyone who had the Patriots to win Super Bowl LI when they were trailing by 25 points or at least double digits probably made a fortune, although many books are smart enough not to post large moneyline numbers when the final result could end up hurting them badly. 

In addition, the ability to lock in a number as soon as possible becomes more critical with live betting. Not only can a number change within a few seconds, but one single play can make a dramatic impact, keeping both bettors and the oddsmakers on their toes.