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How to Bet on Football

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Josh Allen
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CONTENTS

HOW TO BET ON FOOTBALL

If you're looking to learn how to bet on NFL games, 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 clamor to anything and everything related to betting on football.

From point spreads, to over/unders, to moneylines, to everything in between, there is no busier time in the sports betting landscape than 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 since sportsbooks everywhere make the sport their priority. There is never a shortage of betting options on football games and college football betting lines, and with the popularity of fantasy football as well, NFL bets based on the player's production are plentiful as well. Here are some of the best sites to bet on football:

BEST FOOTBALL BETTING SITES

Book
Offer
Legal States
Bonus Code
Claim Offer
1

RISK FREE FIRST BET UP TO $1,000

T&C's Apply, 21+

Available in: LA, AZ, NJ, IN, CO, MS* TN, WV, IA, IL, VA, MI, DC**, WY, LA
2

UP TO $1,500 RISK FREE FIRST BET

T&C's Apply, 21+

Available in: AZ, LA, NJ, NY, WV, IA, IL, CO, IN, MI, VA, TN, WY
3

$1,000 NO SWEAT FIRST BET

T&C's Apply, 21+

Available in: AZ, CO, CT, IL, IA, IN, LA, MI, NJ, NY, PA, TN, VA, WV, WY
No code needed
CLAIM OFFER

*In-person registration and betting only in MS.
**The BetMGM app is available for mobile wagers in Washington DC, but only at Nationals Park.

Updated on : 08/10/2022

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. These are point totals that 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.

JOE OSBORNE BREAKS DOWN NFL BETTING

FOOTBALL FUTURE WAGERS

Future wagers in football are what bettors everywhere spend a good chunk of the summer breaking down, as these bets are all about what football teams will ultimately come out on top in whatever category: MVP, Division Champ, Coach of the Year, and more.

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.

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).

SUPER BOWL BETTING TIPS

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. However, we can give some tips:

Super Bowl Trophy
Getty Images
  • Be timely: get your futures bets in early to lock in solid odds.
  • Be a fan: you're going to have a hard time placing a bet if you don't know the team or player's record: watch the game!
  • Bet wisely: nobody beats the house, but you can be smart and not waste your money on a Hail Mary.

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 once the matchup is set. Super Bowl betting is such a vast landscape that a two-week lead-up to the game itself gives bettors a chance to get their numbers straight (and, in the days before legal online betting, maybe put together your betting squares). Make sure to tune into the best Super Bowl Promotions as well.

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 times brings much larger college football point spreads in general. That tends to not be the case once the college football playoff arrives, as competitors are the consensus four best teams in the country that year.

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 value from their program. CFB playoff betting is 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.

JOE OSBORNE BREAKS DOWN HOW TO BET ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

POINT SPREAD

Most people bet on football with a straight bet on the point spread. When making a bet on the point spread, the team the player bets on must cover. The favorite must win by a certain number of points or the underdog lose by the set number of points (or simply win outright).

OVER-UNDER

The total, or over-under, for a football game places a bet on the cumulative score earned by both teams. It's 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. Yes, the total points scored can be considered a bit more random than the eventual winner of the game, but over-under numbers see more movement on the whole each week leading up to a weekend of football action.

MONEYLINE

Moneyline bets in football are straightforward, as you're just betting on the team to win, but they're not as easy to hit. 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. That's the price some are willing to pay to avoid getting burned by a missed spread bet, however.

HOW DO I BET FOOTBALL PARLAYS

One of the most common ways to bet involves betting a bulk of wagers and "parlaying" them 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 moneylines, 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 moneyline prices only and are not concerned with the point spread or over/under for the games.

New England has a moneyline 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 moneyline (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 FOOTBALL PROP BETS?

Prop bets, short for proposition, are bets that are on anything not specifically related to overall result of who wins or loses. That's a bit of a generalization, but it's the best way to get a basic understanding of this bet type so you can bet it yourself.

In general, proposition bets cover things like: statistical results for players, including 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. For example, you can place an NFL prop bet on a Dallas Cowboys wide receiver 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.

Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants
Getty Images

FOOTBALL TEASERS

Teasers are another popular football bet where bettors can essentially manipulate the point spread and/or over-under line to a more favorable number for their selection. Sportsbooks offer 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.

FOOTBALL 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 moneyline 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'll see that reflected in the price of in-game bets.

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 following a full slate of football, live betting is something that every bettor should be willing to add to their toolbox as a handicapper.

FOOTBALL 1ST HALF AND 2ND HALF BETS

These bets are rather self explanatory as well, as they are just point spreads, totals, and moneyline prices for the respective first and second 30 minutes of play. Generally speaking, 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.

(Of course, there are caveats, but this guide is intended to get you to hit the ground running: you'll learn by doing.)

OTHER FOOTBALL LEAGUES IN UNITED STATES AND NORTH AMERICA

CANADIAN FOOTBALL

Canadian Football (aka the CFL) has a few key rule differences to that of NFL/NCAA football, but it's still the same game out there on the gridiron and can still be bet on accordingly.

Accounting for scoring and rule differences, key betting numbers in terms of the point spread and over-under lines are a little different, but if you are able and willing to put in the time, CFL profits can be just as green for your bankroll's bottom line.

XFL FOOTBALL

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, 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.

UNITED STATES FOOTBALL LEAGUE

Unrelated to the old USFL that ran in the mid '80s, the United States Football League started in April 2022. With the season spanning from April through July, it gives bettors the perfect opportunity to place wagers while the NFL is dormant.

The league only has eight teams, all games are played in Birmingham, Alabama, and there are a number of rule differences compared to the NFL, notably a 35-second play clock and a three-point conversion opportunity after a touchdown.

FAQ - HOW TO BET ON FOOTBALL

Up next, we’ll tackle some of the most common questions from readers about how to bet on football.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO BET ON FOOTBALL?

While there is no "best" way to bet on football, most people place a wager on the point spread. Over-under and moneyline bets are also popular wagers.

HOW DO YOU BET ON FOOTBALL FOR BEGINNERS?

The only way to get better at something is practice, so try different wagers such as point spreads, props, futures, etc., and see what resonates with you.

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.

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