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NFL Betting Explained
The NFL is by far the most popular league for sports betting in the United States. There are so many betting markets to target in football, including point spreads, moneylines, totals, parlays, teasers, props, and futures.
Before you decide who to be on in today’s or this week’s NFL games, let’s sum up how to actually place wagers on American football.
Each game is assigned a point spread, which is the projected winning margin. The favorite has minus the points, meaning that they must win by more than that number for the bet to hit. The underdog is plus the points, so they can either win outright or lose by fewer than the spread.
The moneyline refers to the implied probability for each team to win the game. The favorite has a minus moneyline, which means that you risk more than the payout. The underdog has plus odds, so the winnings exceed the stake. You just need your team to win the game for the bet to hit.
When betting on totals, you need to choose Over or Under the projected combined points for a given game. You can either select it for the full game, half, or quarters. You can choose for both teams or just focus on one side. For example, the Over 49.5 in the Packers-Vikings game or the Under 23.5 for the Cardinals.
You can try to shoot for the moon for a higher payout when betting NFL parlays. This is when you combine two or more selections of any bet type for a greater reward. You need to win each of your legs in order for your parlay to hit. The payout depends on the odds of each bet type and the number of selections.
If you want to play it a bit safer, you can opt to bet on teasers. This is similar to a parlay in that you need to hit each leg to win the bet. The difference is that you “tease" up or down on the point spread to make it a more attainable number. For example, if you’re taking a seven-point teaser, you may bring down the Buccaneers from -8 to -1 for the game. You can also bring an underdog up, say the Bears from +3.5 to +10.5. Teasers have lower payouts than parlays.
Each game has a selection of team and player-based outcomes, known as NFL props. These props are similar to totals in the sense that you bet Over or Under the projected number. An example of a team prop is the Vikings Over 3.5 sacks in a given game. A player prop could be Carson Wentz Over 230.5 passing yards.
There are even bets that can be settled at the end of the season, known as futures. These are related to season totals or results, such as season awards, division winners, and more. An example of a futures can be the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl or Patrick Mahomes to finish as NFL MVP.
How to Place an NFL Bet
Placing an NFL Bet is an easy process, just follow the steps below.
- Scan the board to find your preferred wager and bet type
- Use our Odds Comparison Tool to find the best line
- Click the icon on the best line to take you to that betting site
- Sign up for an account there or log in to your own if you have one
- If you’re joining a new site or app, use one of our links or promo codes
- Put in your preferred risk on your bet slip
- Click “Place Bet"
Before placing a bet, look for great welcome offers like a bet $10, win $100 promo you may see from certain sportsbooks.
Football Betting Tips
It’s important to consider a number of factors when deciding on how to attack each bet type. Below you’ll find an explanation of a sound process to guide you in your selections.
The first thing you should do is compare each team when looking to make a point spreads bet. Look at their record and check to see if they’re better at home or on the road. Determine their strengths and weaknesses to see how the two teams match up. For example, if one team is great at pass defense and facing an erratic quarterback, that could be a key advantage.
Next, you should examine the number to decide if you think it’s an accurate projection of the game at hand. You may notice that one team is being overvalued based on recency bias from a big win in the previous week. Likewise, a team could be undervalued due to a poor showing in their last game.
You can examine each team’s record against the spread. This is important information because it shows how the team has performed in relation to how they are valued by the market. You could see that a team usually wins close games, but they’re favored by double-digit points. In this case, it may be a good move to go with the underdog. Always take a look at recent trends in relation to the point spread.
First, determine your projected winner of the game when looking at NFL moneyline odds. If it’s a heavy favorite, it’s not a good idea to play them on the moneyline in a straight bet because they’ll come at -200 odds or lower. This means that you’ll be risking a lot more than your potential winnings, which is a bad strategy in the long run. You can opt to parlay such a heavy favorite with another team as a way of lowering your risk.
This is why it’s a good idea to target underdogs if you’re opting for the moneyline route. There are upsets virtually every week of the NFL season, so this can be a great way to find value. Check to see if the underdog has a key positional advantage or if they’re in better recent form. This could be a great way to find a team that is undervalued by the market.
For example, early in the 2021 season, the Bengals were not properly valued by oddsmakers. This is because most people didn’t realize how good the team was just yet. This gave bettors a terrific opportunity to capitalize on an undervalued team by taking them to win outright earlier in the year. The key is to identify a team that may be better than public perception.
Deciding whether you want to bet Over or Under the number is based on a few factors. You first want to check in to see the pace of each team. Offenses that move quickly can run off more plays, which leads to more scoring opportunities. Those that slow the game down lean well to the Under.
If you notice that the projected total does not align with how each offense plays, this is a great way to find an edge. For example, the Ravens and Browns may have had a 50.5 point total last year, but both teams are among the slowest-paced in the league, so the Under was a good bet.
If you’re riding with the Over, you want that game to be close. This is because if one team jumps out to a double-digit lead in the second half, there’s a good chance that they try to slow the game down and play ball control, resulting in longer drives and fewer points.
It’s also a good decision to avoid taking the Under on really low totals. For example, you may see that a game between the Jets and Texans has a 39.5-point total. While both offenses were atrocious last year, turnovers could lead to good field position and kill your Under.
Parlays can be appealing because of the potential payouts, but be sure to limit your risk with this bet type because of its low probability. You can devote a small percentage of your typical bet size to a longshot parlay if you want to try to hit a home run. I would also suggest going with safer parlays that include a few heavy favorites as a way to cover any potential losses from lower probability wagers.
Teasers can be appealing because you’re able to get a much better number on point spreads, but the key is to optimize your use of this bet type. This means that you should target games where you’re able to jump “key numbers" on the point spread. Remember, touchdowns mostly result in seven points and field goals are three points. This means that we generally have a few common final scores.
A good example of this is if I targeted the Green Bay Packers in a game where they’re favored by eight points. This is great for a seven-point teaser because I bring them down to -1, which means they no longer need to win by two scores.
Conversely, if I teased the Chiefs down from 14.5 to 7.5, this isn’t as good of a choice because they still need to win by more than a touchdown. Ideally, if you’re teasing down a favorite, you want them to only have to win by seven or more points.
You also don’t want to “cross over" a team from a favorite to an underdog because you may land on a meaningless number. For example, let’s say that the Cowboys are favored by five points. If I do a seven-point teaser, that makes them +2 against the spread. Having them as two-point underdogs isn’t that useful because if they lose the game, there’s a great chance that it’s by three or more.
The best way to target props betting is by focusing on player-based outcomes. These are the easiest to project because you can look at volume stats to help you get a sense of each player’s usage.
For example, if I saw that Justin Jefferson had 30% of his team’s target share, he would be a great bet at Over 6.5 receptions because there’s a high probability that he’ll be targeted 10 or more times.
You also want to pay attention to the projected game script. This is especially useful for running backs. For example, if the Titans are 7.5-point home favorites, that means that they’re expected to control the game and play with a lead. In this case, Derrick Henry would be slated for more touches, since you’re running the ball more when leading the game. I’d go Over on his rushing yards in this hypothetical scenario.
Futures are settled at the end of the season, which means that it’ll tie up a percentage of your bankroll for several months. This means that it’s not a good idea to bet on a futures pick with low odds. Instead, you want to focus on a pick with a potentially high payout.
Try to look for undervalued players who have a much better implied probability than what their moneyline suggests. For example, if you took the Bengals to win the Super Bowl last year, you would have gotten terrific value, perhaps as high as 50-to-1.
While they didn’t win in the end, that bet would have given you an opportunity to hedge. You could have bet on the Rams on the moneyline to guarantee a profit regardless of the final result.
In summary, you want to target players or teams whose value doesn’t align with the current market price. This will give you hedging opportunities down the road.
How We Make Our NFL Best Bets
Here’s the process we go through to determine our NFL Best Bets:
- Examine recent trends between the two teams
- Check each facet of the team, including passing and rushing offense and defense
- Shop around multiple betting sites to find the best line
- Monitor line movement to see where the public is leaning
- Focus on player usage stats for props, such as target share
- Use the point spread and implied team totals to determine the projected game script
- Target players on teams with high implied totals for props bets
- Look to see how each team performs against the spread
- Read up on the weather because certain conditions can have an impact, such as severe winds
- Find teams or players who are overvalued or undervalued to target for each bet type
NFL Betting Picks
Each of our betting picks reflect actual lines from the sportsbook shown on the website. They are consistently updated to adjust for any movement in the market.
For example, if the Bengals were originally -3.5 favorites but the spread has moved to -4, you’ll see that change updated immediately.
Our NFL Odds page scans the most popular betting sites to find the best lines for you, whether you prefer the favorite, underdog, Over, or Under in any given game.
This is a one-stop-shop for your betting needs, as we do the heavy lifting for you. You won’t need to worry about searching multiple platforms for the best line because it’s all here at The Game Day.