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How to Bet on Football
If you're looking to learn how to bet on NFL football, you're reading the right betting guide. There isn't a more popular sport to bet on in North America then football, as bettors each fall clamour to anything and everything related to betting on football. From point spreads, to over/unders, to money lines, to everything in between, there is no busier time in the sports betting landscape then during those fall and winter months when football season is going on.
How to bet on football during the season is about as easy as it comes as sportsbooks everywhere make the sport their priority. There is never a shortage of betting options on football games, and with the popularity of fantasy football as well, player props – NFL bets based on the player's production – are plentiful as well. To learn more about the NFL game and NFL players check out our NFL headlines page which is constantly being updated for the latest NFL news and injuries to help you with your NFL bets.
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Understanding Football Odds
The biggest thing in regards to understanding NFL odds relates to the point spread that's put up on each game. Betting on football isn't as simple as just picking the eventual winner of the game, you've got to consider who will win, but more importantly by how much. The point spread is considered the great equalizer in football betting, and being on the right side of that line is the goal of every football bettor. An example of this would be seeing the Kansas City Chiefs as a -4.5 favorite over their opponent, meaning they would have to win the game by at least five points for a bet on KC to win. Otherwise their opponent covers the point spread and that side would win.
Aside from the point spread, the next biggest betting option in football odds each year is the over/under, or total for the game. All these are are point totals bettors are asked to go over or under on for the total combined points in a game. For example a total may be posted at 48.5, and the bettor's job is to predict whether or not the total number of points in the game will exceed or stay below that number. A final score of 30-20 would cash an 'over' bet (50 total points), while a final score of 24-21 (45 total points) would connect on an 'under' selection.
NFL Future Wagers
Future wagers in football are what bettors everywhere spend a good chunk of the summer breaking down, as it's all about what football teams will ultimately come out on top in whatever category the future wager concerns itself with.
The biggest future wager deals with who will ultimately win the Super Bowl that year, and that's one where all the teams will have varying odds on their championship potential. The more likely the team is to be in the championship/playoff fold, the lower their odds will be, but that shouldn't discourage you from looking at teams further down the odds list. Anything and everything can happen during a football season and often does.
Aside from trying to correctly predict the outright champion, other future wagers in football deal with eventual winners in different categories. For team-based futures, these include things like winning their respective division or conference (in college football), winning the AFC or NFC conference in the NFL, and probably the most popular, whether or not a team will go over or under their season win total projection. That's as simple as it sounds. Numbers are put up on how many outright wins a team will have in a given year – say 8.5 for the Buffalo Bills – and the bettor's job is to decipher whether or not the Bills will finish with at least 9 wins (over) or less (under).
How to Bet the Super Bowl
The Super Bowl is the single biggest betting event on the sports calendar each year, and finding a place to bet on the game is never hard. How to bet on the Super Bowl is a tough thing to explain because you can literally bet on everything about the game and all the surrounding festivities that go on within it, so it's really up to the individual bettor on their wagering preference.
Super Bowl odds for the game itself are the first numbers to hit the market, as the Super Bowl line for the game is the number that quickly gets quoted and discussed about once the matchup is set. But Super Bowl betting is such a vast landscape as a whole, that it's a good thing for some that there is a two-week lead up to the game itself. Below are various tables of the best NFL betting sites with signup bonuses to get you started on your NFL betting journey.
How to Bet the College Football Playoff
NCAA Football odds bring a bit of a different dynamic to football betting overall, as the disparity in talent a lot of the time between college programs brings much larger college football point spreads in general. That tends to not be the case once the college football playoff arrives, as these are the consensus four best teams in the country that year, and with a full season of data behind them, sportsbooks are able to put out some of the toughest (aka sharpest) college football lines out for those playoff games.
College football betting lines during the CFB playoff are dissected for weeks, as bettors look to get what they believe to be the best of the number depending on which program(s) they are looking to back. It's a format where you get three total games to break down from a side and total perspective, and hopefully when it is time for that National Championship game, you keep the big picture in mind of what said teams did over the course of the entire year, and not just how good/bad they looked in advancing through the semi-final matchup.
Popular Football Wagers
Popular football wagers can generally be described as any and all wagers on the point spread or total for football games because of the overwhelming popularity of the sport for betting on the whole. Part of the reason for such popularity is the format of the game itself, as bettors get essentially a full week to do all the research they deem necessary to be successful and then go from there. There are fewer snap decisions or feelings of unpreparedness as there can be with the other major North American sports that operate on a daily schedule because there is only so much one can do in a single day.
NFL Point Spread
If you had to rank or make a list of the most popular football wagers, the point spread would have to come in at the top. All football fans/bettors believe they have more of a grasp on the general question(s) of what team will win and by how many, as opposed to the total points scored, which effectively can be a bit more random. Point spread wagers are where everyone likes to concentrate their attention first.
The total, or over-under, for a football game would have to be classified as next on the popularity list, as it is a wager where you can find a bit more of an edge over the oddsmaker if you are confident in what your handicapping process entails for totals. Yes, the total points scored can be considered a bit more random then the eventual winner of the game, but it's over-under numbers that see more movement on the whole each week leading up to a weekend of football action because bettors everywhere believe their data models etc give them a significant edge at certain numbers and don't hesitate to exploit them when available.
NFL Money Line
Money line bets in football are those where bettors can eliminate the second half of the questions regarding what football team will win and by how much. The “how much” doesn't matter at all in money line plays and oddsmakers price them accordingly. A bettor will have to put up much more money to win say $100 on the ML for a team that's got a -10 number beside their name on the point spread as opposed to a -3 favorite. But that's the price some are willing to pay to avoid getting burned by the 'winning by how much' question.
How Do I Bet Football Parlays
Speaking of money line wagers in football, one of the most common forms of getting a bulk of money line wagers is to have a few of them parlayed together. Betting football parlays is relatively simple in that you need at least two games to make a parlay, and whether or not you chose to use the money lines, point spreads, totals, or any combination of those three is completely up to the bettor.
An example of a football parlay would go like this: Say you believe the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos are both going to win their respective matchups on Sunday. This would be where you are using money line prices only and not concerned with the point spread or over/under for the games.
New England has a money line price of -200 while Denver has a money line price of -150. Bet separately, a bettor would have to put up $200 to win $100 on New England and $150 to win $100 on Denver, but combining the two teams in a money line (aka ML) parlay would have those odds multiplied together. In turn that creates a +150 price overall, and now a single $100 bet would end up potentially paying out $150 in profit for the bettor. However, both teams have to win their games, otherwise the parlay wager is a loser. That's the risk you take with parlays.
What are NFL Prop Bets
Prop bets, short for proposition, are bets that are essentially on anything and everything not specifically related to overall result of who wins and loses. That's not entirely true on specifics, but that's also part of a discussion for another day.
In general proposition bets cover things like statistical results for players – how many completions will a QB have, how many catches or receiving yards will a player have, or even how many points a field goal kicker will account for in a game. The list for what's offered in prop wagers for a specific football game is extremely long at sportsbooks, far too long to fully get into here, but if football bettors come to them with a fantasy football background they are much more easily digested. Prop betting is a market that's picked up exponential interest in recent years on online betting sites because the numbers oddsmakers typically put out are believed to be more beatable, but again, it takes plenty of time and research to feel completely comfortable in what you're doing with them. For example, you can place an NFL prop bet on Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper to have over 8.5 catches on Sunday Night Football against the New York Giants. NFL Prop bets allow the game to remain entertaining even when the score is lopsided.
Teasers are another popular football bet where NFL bettors can essentially manipulate the point spread and/or over-under line to a more favorable number for their selection. Sportsbooks offer NFL teasers in a variety of point ranges – as even buying a half-point on a spread is a form of a teaser, but in general, 6, 6.5, 7 and 10-point teasers are offered.
Depending on the range a bettor selects – say a 6-point teaser – lines are then manipulated plus or minus 6 points for the bettor depending on what team/side they like. If the New England Patriots were a -7 favorite against Buffalo and you wanted to use a 6-point teaser on them, the new point spread would be New England -1 (moving 6 points lower), whereas if you liked the underdog Buffalo Bills instead in that game, the teased line would then be Buffalo +13 (moving 6 points higher. Teasers do also function like parlays in the sense that you've got to have at least two teased options to make a single teaser.
NFL Live Betting and In-Game Wagering
Many bettors and oddsmakers alike believe that live betting and in-game wagering is the future of sports betting on the whole, and with football betting being the biggest piece of the sports betting pie, live betting football games can be quite thrilling and profitable all at once.
How it works is exactly as the name suggests, as point spreads, totals, and money line prices (among numerous other things including prop bets) are offered throughout each game and before each play. Prices reflect the current score at the time and who has the football and where on the field, so if a pre-game favorite finds themselves in an early hole on the scoreboard, you can rightfully assume that that team is getting at least some support on the ML or new point spreads in live betting offerings.
Super Bowl 54 that saw the Kansas City Chiefs come back in the 2nd half to the beat San Francisco 49ers saw plenty of in-game wagering overall, as bettors who believed the Chiefs would ultimately come back did not hesitate to get as good as underdog price on the ML as they could with Kansas City when they were trailing.
With the way that data is consumed instantly these days, in-game wagering is offered on all NFL games each week and the majority of college football games as well. So whether it's Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, or just a typical Sunday afternoon of following a full slate of football, live betting is something that every bettor should be willing to add to their toolbox as a handicapper.
NFL 1st half and 2nd half bets
These NFL bets are rather self explanatory as well, as they are just point spreads, totals, and money line prices for the respect 30 minutes of play they are titled as. Generally speaking (although it's by no means exactly how they work) 1st half bets are the full game numbers cut in half, give or take a point or so. So a full game line of New England Patriots -7 with a total of 48.5 would see 1st half lines of New England -3.5 or -4, with a 1st half total likely somewhere around 23.5 to 24.5.
2nd half bets are a bit of a different beast as they have to account for what's happened in the first 30 minutes so far and adjust accordingly to what was listed pre-game as well.
Other Football Leagues in United States and North America
XFL Football returned in 2020 before being shutdown like every other sporting event in the spring because of world events, but in the short time XFL action was on the football field, it had plenty of sports from football bettors everywhere. The success in that market proves just how much bettors love to bet on the game of football regardless of the league, and with the XFL coming back for 2021, and the league's initiative to welcome sports betting talk and referencing with open arms, there is likely tremendous growth in store for XFL betting markets in the future.
Canadian Football (aka the CFL) has a few key rule differences to that of the NFL/NCAA football, but it's still the same game out there on the gridiron and can still be bet on accordingly. Given scoring and rule differences – like the XFL – key betting numbers in terms of the point spread and over-under lines are a little different, but CFL betting lines aren't nearly as obsessed over NFL/NCAAF lines are for oddsmakers and if you are able and willing to put in the time, CFL profits can be just as green for your bankroll's bottom line.
How To Bet On Football
Up next, we’ll tackle some of the most common questions from readers about how to bet on football.
Is betting on the NFL legal in the United States?
Yes, though with some caveats. Sports betting in the United States was illegal at the federal level until 2018. That year, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional & Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Since then, several US states have legalized betting on professional sports. If you reside in one of them, you can legally wager on NFL matches and betting markets.
Can I bet on college football in the United States?
That depends on your state. Dozens of US states have legalized sports betting (or are in the process of doing so). However, the NCAA still advocates for a ban on collegiate sports betting. The state of New Jersey restricts some collegiate sports betting. So did Nevada, though that ban has since been lifted.
Do I need to visit a retail sportsbook to bet on football?
Not necessarily. While there are many betting shops in states with legal sports betting, they’re far from the only option. Most US states with regulated gambling markets have sports betting apps. You can bet on football from your desktop computer or mobile device at any time.
A few exceptions exist, though. For example, the state of Delaware only allows sports betting in person at one of the state’s licensed, land-based sportsbooks. These facilities are directly regulated by the Delaware State Lottery. All online betting is banned statewide.
Can I bet on football with a local bookie?
It’d probably be against the law. Even though sports betting is now legal in several states, only licensed operators are allowed to take bets. In Nevada, you can find hundreds of licensed bookmakers, including many renowned local bookies.
However, in most other states, licenses are few and far between. They’re held by large operators, not individual bookies. Therefore, most local bookies are unlicensed and operating an illegal gambling business.
What’s the largest payout ever in NFL betting?
It’s hard to know, as many wagers and payouts aren’t publicly disclosed. However, back in 2015, a woman named Tayla Polia managed to turn a $5 bet into a $105,000 payout. Polia landed a 15-leg NFL parlay that paid out 20,000 to 1.
However, such payouts are exceedingly rare. For most people, betting on the NFL is about fun more so than profit.