Welcome to the exciting world of betting on National Football League (NFL) games. The information provided on this page will help you better understand the nuances of betting on NFL games. Hopefully, the tips offered in the last section will help you become a winner.
How to Bet on NFL – Straight Bets
In the US, NFL wagering is by far the most popular wagering option for the nation’s sports bettors. In Europe, most of the wagering focus is placed on European football (soccer). However, NFL betting is gaining in popularity.
Most sports require the bettor to bet on a match or game that has two potential outcomes, either Team A wins or Team B wins. If the two teams tie, all bets are refunded. Bookmakers use a point spread betting format when posting NFL odds. When betting NFL games, there are three potential outcomes: Team A wins, Team B wins, a tie (push) with the point spread applied.
Point spreads are used to theoretically give both teams appeal as a betting option. Without a doubt, there are some teams that are just better than others. When a top NFL team plays a bottom tier NFL team, there would be very little betting appeal if the money line option was the only betting option available. It doesn’t seem to appeal to NFL bettors over the long haul. With that said, money lines are usually made available for bettors who prefer not dealing with point spreads.
Professional lines makers use statistical data and experience to determine a point spread that will likely offer betting appeal on both teams in a given game. Bookmakers are only successful when they can “balance” the action on an NFL game. If the action is coming in too hot on one side, they can always adjust the point spread until the action starts coming in on the other side. For the most part, lines makers and bookmakers do an amazing job of bring the scores together.
Note: Most point spreads come with a money line of -110. The extra $10 represents the commission or “vig” for the bookmaker should they get equal action on both sides of the game. Sometimes, a bookmaker might slightly adjust the money line instead of the point spread when they are reluctant to come off a popular point spread outcome like 3, 7, 10 or 14. Additionally, all NFL games come with an over/under betting option. The over/under betting option requires the bettor to wager either over the total or under the total using the lines makers’ stated total, which represents what they estimate will be the final score for the two teams combined.
For all examples listed below, we will assume the bettor is going to be wagering in $100 USD increments. The favorite in a match will be listed with a minus (-) point spread while the underdog will be listed with a plus (+) point spread. The minus represents the amount the bettor must bet to win $100. The plus represents the amount the bettor will win if they bet $100.
Example: Today’s game is between the Dallas Cowboys and the Oakland Raiders in Oakland. Theoretically, lines makers add three points to a point spread for homefield advantage. On a neutral field, there two teams are considered equal. However, the game is in Oakland and the line looks like this:
Dallas Cowboys +3 –110 over 44 –110
Oakland Raiders –3 –110 under 44 –110
If the bettor bets $100 on either team or either side of the over/under option, they will get back $190.90 for a profit of $90.90 if their respective team wins. The winner is determined by taking the game’s final score and subtracting 3 points from Oakland’s score or adding 3 points to Dallas’ score. Example: If the final score was Oakland 23 – Dallas 21, the adjusted score would be Oakland 20 – Dallas 21 and Dallas would be the winning side for wagering purposes. Also, it’s noteworthy the actual final score landed exactly on the 44 point total. It would be treated as a push and all bets refunded.
Note: the winnings on a minus money line are calculated by taking the bet amount and dividing it by the money line odds with a decimal placed two digits to the left from the end. In this case, it would be $100/1.10 = $90.90. The same calculation method would be used if the bettor wagered on the over or under at the stated odds.
How to Bet on NFL – Money Lines
As indicated above, bettors may wish to forgo the point spread option in favor of betting with the actual money line. For this game, the money line would look something like this:
Dallas Cowboys +120
Oakland Raiders –140
If the bettor bets $100 on Dallas, they would get back $220 for a profit of $120 if Dallas wins the bet. If the same $100 was wagered on Oakland, the bettor would get back $171.43 for a profit of $71.43.
How to Bet on NFL – Proposition Bets
NFL games are loaded with team and individual activity. It makes for a lot of great proposition or prop betting opportunities. In fact, the Super Bowl often features as many as 500 different prop bets. During the regular season, it’s not uncommon to see as many as 50 prop bets on each game. Prop bets are straight bets only, no parlays permitted. They can cover individual performances such as total yards rushing for a running back, individual matchups such as which quarterback will pass for the most yards, team performance such as total penalty yards for a specific team or team matchups such as which team will kick the longest field goal.
How to Bet on NFL – Parlay (Accumulator)
Parlays or accumulators allow bettors to bet on multiple NFL games all within the same bet. The basic requirement is all games must be recorded as winners. That’s a risky proposition. However, it comes with some potentially nice payoffs.
A bet becomes a parlay when the bettor decides to list at least two teams on the same betting slip. Again, it will only be a winning bet if all selections win. If ties a game ties after the point spread is applied, a parlay treats the game as “no-action” and relegates the parlay down one level. For instance, a 3-team parlay becomes a 2-team parlay.
Here’s the parlay bet:
New York Jets +7 –110
Dallas Cowboys +3 –110
Chicago Bears – 5 ½ –110
Parlays pay at stated odds as follows (calculating with money lines would give similar return):
The scale continues up to a 10-teamers that pays 500-1. Anything higher, a money line calculation could be used.
How to Bet on NFL – Teasers
For sports where point spreads are applicable, bookmakers offer a teaser option. A teaser bet is like a parlay in that the bettor has to use at least two games. The difference is the bettor gets to adjust the point spread on each listed game by a selected amount. NFL teasers range from 5 points to seven points. Sounds great except for one caveat, the payoffs are significantly less than that of a parlay.
Using the parlay from above, the 6-point teaser would look like this:
New York Jets +13
Dallas Cowboy +9
Chicago Bears +1/2
NFL Betting Tips
The internet is filled with NFL betting tips from self-proclaimed handicappers. Some tips are free and others are available at a price. Tips can be useful if you don’t have time to do your own handicapping. If you do your own handicapping, betting tips might be a good way to see if you have consensus with your own opinions.
Still, you should make every effort to do your own handicapping. Here’s a list of factors you should include in your handicapping process:
- NFL websites provide mounds of statistics. Use them.
- There’s a lot of betting trends in the NFL. Look for strong betting trends and don’t be afraid to bet them until they reverse. A team’s performance on the road or against the point spread are trends worth watching.
- Read the latest MLB news reports. Sometimes, teamsare having personnelissues, which couldbe interfering with on field performance.
- Review injury reports. Missing key players can affect a team’s performance, more so in football than any other sport.
- NFL teams only play once a week with the betting lines available after each team’s previous game. Do not make your bets early. The injury report comes out on Thursdays. Wait at least until then.
As a rule of thumb, you should never bet more than 5% of your bankroll on a straight bet, 3% on a parlay or teaser and perhaps no more than 2% on a proposition. However, you must realize the bookmaker is going to have a significant advantage when you are making proposition bets. Above all, you never want to gamble with more than you can afford to lose. That means pay your bills, put some savings aside and have fun betting on NFL games with whatever you might have remaining. Responsible gambling is the only way to truly enjoy the experience.