How to Bet on the NFL – Online Football Betting Guide

Your Guide to NFL Betting

By Anthony Cervino

Aug 21, 2021

American football reigns supreme in the United States, garnering a viewership rate of roughly 38.8%. To give you some perspective on the sport’s dominance, basketball is next in terms of viewership at 15.3%. And of course, when it comes to sports betting, NFL is the trendsetter.

According to a survey conducted by the American Gaming Association (AGA) in August 2020, an estimated 33.2 million Americans revealed that they planned on placing bets on the NFL for the upcoming (2020) season, and that was in the midst of a pandemic. As we are about to enter the 2021 campaign, that number will surely be inflated at the time of the next AGA survey.

While there is an abundance of avid bettors who know the ins and outs of betting on the NFL online, there are still many out there who have never legally placed a wager with an online sportsbook, which gives the house an even greater advantage.

To curb the aforementioned advantage and get an edge on the house, beginners must be educated on the same details that the expert bettor uses every time they place a wager on the NFL.

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How to Pick a Football Betting Site

Choosing the online sportsbook that best suits your needs is tough enough. However, what if you’re just an NFL person and only intend to wager on the sport? Then, picking an NFL betting site could be that much more difficult for a beginner.

Researching NFL lines and betting odds is imperative for your success because they can affect your chances at winning money as well as how much you can earn on a given wager. Here, I will give you insight on how to pick the best online sportsbook for NFL betting.

Be sure to decide what you want out of a sportsbook. Here are some things you may want to consider when going through the process:

Look at All Your Options

Now that sports betting has been legalized, online sportsbooks are sprouting like weeds in the spring. You have choices. Lots of them.

When trying to select the best US sports betting sites for you, be sure to check out each book individually, or, you can also check out my and others’ reviews at thegameday.com.

Mobile vs. Desktop

What do you prefer in terms of mobile versus web? While most sportsbooks offer both interfaces, not all do. What’s more, some books are more user-friendly on the site while others are better on your mobile devices.

Bonuses

Most of the top sportsbooks offer a lucrative sign-up bonus for new users that could consist of a deposit match or a risk-free first bet. You can find them at thegameday.com.

Bet Types & Features

When it comes to the types of bets you can make, again, all sportsbooks will vary. Sure, the vast majority will offer the cookie-cutter options — moneyline, spread, total, round robin, basic parlay, etc.

However, not all will feature cash-out options, teasers, same-game parlays, props, etc. If you want to place the cookie-cutter wager, your decision will be cut and dry, but if you want to dive into futures and player props, you may have to shop around.

Best Odds

This is a big one, especially if you intend to focus your wagering on the NFL. Not all betting odds are the same.

It may sound like a lot of work for a newbie, but it will be worth it. This is why I will emphasize joining multiple sportsbooks to find the best odds.

You should want to have multiple options because each book may have different odds or promotional boosts in your favor. For example, if Site A has (-110) odds for an event and Site B has (-115) odds for the same market, you will clearly want to go with Site A.

Once you consider all of these important factors, it’s time to make a decision.

Narrow Your Options

Once you find a few sportsbooks that have what you are looking for, narrow down your options and really dig into their NFL betting options. Be sure they have everything you want in terms of ways you can wager on the NFL. At this point, you really want to do your homework.

If Site A has everything you want but then go to make a bet on who will win the upcoming AP NFL MVP award and it is not an option, this means that at Site A, you can not wager on NFL futures. If your heart is set on futures betting, you should move on to the next one on your list.

Make a Decision

Now that you’ve done your homework, you are prepared enough to make your decision on which betting site is best for you. But how should you go about placing a bet? Continue reading to find out!

How to Place an NFL Bet Online

Placing a bet on the NFL online couldn’t be easier in 2021. Back in the day, if you wanted to place a bet, you were likely using an illegal sportsbook account or betting with a private bookie.

However, now that sports betting has been legalized in various places throughout the states, you can easily place NFL wagers from the convenience of your cell phone, laptop or any other device with access to the internet.

Here is a quick step-by-step guide to placing an NFL bet online:

  • Open up a sports betting account with an online sportsbook.
    • Here at thegameday.com, you will find extensive options of the best online sportsbooks in the market to choose from. Select a betting site to get one of our welcome bonuses.
  • Make your first deposit.
    • Remember, the top sportsbooks will offer a sign-up bonus for new users that could consist of a deposit match or a risk-free first bet.
  • Find the NFL tab on your new sports betting account. Then, click on it.
  • Now, you will search for a game or player prop you want to bet on.
  • Once you find what you want to place your wager on, you select the side you want to bet and it will land in your bet slip.
  • Now that the bet is locked into your bet slip, you will decide how much you want to wager and click the submit button.
  • Boom! You just placed a bet.

How to Find Value When Betting

If you want to make money from sports betting, you must find value. Normally, many sports bettors wager on the side they think will win. However, you won’t always make the most money that way. Although you may win more bets, you will likely leave money on the table.

For example, if you pick all the favorites betting the Moneyline, you will find yourself risking $10 to win $1 in quite a few spots. I am using round numbers here, but you get the idea. Sure, you will win a lot, but are you really doing this to win $1 on a $10 bet? And what if the underdog wins? You just lost $10 on a bet that would’ve only netted you a buck in the first place.

What you need to do is shop around for value bets. A value bet is a wager in which the odds are in your favor in a favorable situation, even if it doesn’t appear favorable on paper.

For example, let’s say the Baltimore Ravens are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. In this scenario, the Steelers are the early favorite, but Ben Roethlisberger is questionable to play with a knee injury. You might want to dig into reports from beat writers about how he is practicing and the probability of him playing.

If reports are suggesting he may sit out, then I would jump on the Ravens early in the week while they are still the underdog. As the week goes on and we get closer to game time, the bookmakers will begin to shift the odds in favor of the Ravens as they will also see that Big Ben is unlikely to play.

It’s very important to read into the matchup and jump on the odds early. Remember that oddsmakers set their odds considering all factors that could affect the outcome.

Here are my top ways to find value when making NFL betting picks each week:

Home-field Advantage

The consensus loves to favor the team with the home-field advantage. Although it is a weighted factor, it is overvalued more times than not. There is a misconception in the public that home-field advantage is worth three points in the spread, but that is not always the case. It could be much less and varies by matchup.

Public (Popular) Betting Habits

Because the NFL is the most popular market to bet on in the United States, the volume of incoming wagers could trigger errors when oddsmakers set and reset the lines and odds. The popularity of a team could attract bettors to place wagers on a side based solely on brand recognition, even if that club has a minimal chance of winning.

Some of the more recognizable NFL teams include the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants and Carolina Panthers.

Injury Reports

The injury report is one of the most important weighted factors to consider when looking for value bets. While studying the injury status of the notable players is important, you want to dig deep. For example, if a team is missing three starters on the offensive line, that could heavily impact the outcome of a game, even if that team’s notable skill position players are good to go.

Recency Bias

If a bad team won two games in a row, the consensus may begin to think that they are turning their season around. While they may truly be trending in the right direction in some cases, there are even more scenarios in which that inferior team just caught some luck on the other side.

Maybe they ran into a few teams riddled by injuries and the ball bounced in their direction. However, for that bad team’s upcoming matchup, they are playing one of the league’s elite. Don’t get sucked in.

Even if the money is going in the direction of the inferior team that is on a two-game winning streak, the superior team will likely be your best bet, even if they are labeled as the underdog. This is a way to find immense value while the public and oddsmakers are sleeping.

Shopping the Odds and Lines

I have emphasized why shopping lines and odds among sportsbooks is important throughout this article. Shopping is the best way to find value bets that will earn you money.

How to Read NFL Betting Odds & Lines

If you are new to betting on the NFL or betting in general, you must know how to read the lines and odds. Knowing how to read lines and odds will give you more confidence when placing a bet as well as the understanding of the risk and reward of each wager.

Moneylines

A moneyline wager is the most basic bet one can make. It is cut and dry. There is no point spread. You just pick who you think will win. Sportsbooks set their moneyline odds by an implied probability of a team winning or losing.

From there, an assessed moneyline value is set. The favorite, the side with a greater probability of winning, has a greater risk for a lesser reward. The underdog, the side with a lower probability of winning, will have a higher reward with a lower risk. Underdogs are often identified with a plus symbol (+100) whereas a favorite will be identified with a minus (-110).

Against the Spread (Points Spread)

A point spread is the estimated margin of victory in a contest between two teams. The spread is set by the oddsmakers.

If the Dallas Cowboys are playing the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cowboys are the favorite, they will get that minus sign I mentioned. For example, Cowboys (-7) at Eagles (+7).

If you bet on the Cowboys, not only do they need to win the game, but they must win by at least seven points for you to cash. If you bet on the Eagles, you can win your bet if the Eagles win outright or if the Cowboys win by less than seven points.

Totals (Over/Under)

A total is an estimate of the combined points scored between two teams in a game. The total is set by the oddsmakers.

If the total in the Cowboys at Eagles game is 50 points, bookmakers will set the over/under at 50. From here, bettors will pick if they think the total score will go over 50 or under 50.

If you see the over is set at over 50 (-115) and the under set at under 50 (+105), the over is dignified as the favorite while the under is the underdog.

Types of NFL Bets Online

There are multiple bet types you can make online when betting on the NFL:

NFL Moneyline Bets

A moneyline wager is as simple as it gets — you just pick who you think will win the event. The favorite has a greater risk for a lesser reward, meaning you have to place a larger wager to make a significant profit. The underdog will have a higher reward with a lower risk, so you don’t have to place as large a wager to earn a nice prize.

Do note, however, that the favorite has a higher chance of cashing. Favorites are typically identified with a minus symbol (-110) whereas an underdog will be identified with a plus (+100).

NFL Spread Bets

A point spread is the estimated margin of victory in a contest between two sides.

As an example, let’s say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing the New Orleans Saints. The Buccaneers would be the likely favorite in this scenario, so they would be picked to win by a set number of points — let’s say seven. If they win by at least seven points, they will have covered the spread.

If you bet on the Buccaneers, not only do they need to win the game, but they must win by at least seven points. If you bet on the Saints, you can win your bet if they win the game or if the Buccaneers win by less than seven points.

NFL Totals

A total is an estimate of the combined points scored between two teams in a game.

Let’s say the total between the Buccaneers and Saints is set at 45.5 points. If you pick the over, then the two teams will have to combine to score at least 46 points. If you pick the under, they’ll have to combine for 45 or less. If the over is set at over 45.5 (-120) and the under set at under 45.5 (+110), then the two teams are favored to score at least 46 total points.

NFL Teasers

A teaser bet will allow you to add or subtract a number of points from the point spread or the total for a given contest. However, similar to a parlay, you must include multiple legs on the wager. Most NFL teasers top out at seven points in either direction.

The more legs added to the teaser, the more you can win. However, the additional legs will also increase the risk of losing

In order to win the teaser, all legs included must win. If one loses, you lose the entire bet.

NFL Parlay Betting

An NFL parlay bet allows you to combine multiple single-game bets to increase your potential winnings. The more legs added to the parlay, the greater the risk of losing.

In order to win the parlay, all legs included must win. If one loses, you lose the entire bet.

NFL Round Robin Betting

A round robin bet allows you to make several parlay bets with one wager. This type of bet allows you to place all combinations of outcomes on your bet slip in a timely manner.

In a three-team round robin, you will win your bet if two out of the three teams win, contrary to a traditional parlay in which you will need all legs of the parlay to win in order to cash.

NFL Prop Betting

NFL prop bets are not like single-game wagers. Instead of being focused on the outcome of the event, prop bets are geared toward the results of individual teams and players involved in an event.

For example, you can bet on how many total touchdowns Aaron Rodgers throws in a given game, or the number of interceptions the Chicago Bears will get as a team. Again, these are single-game bets.

Prop bets include over/under lines, yes/no propositions and game-specific outcomes.

An example of a game-specific outcome could be which team will get the first field goal or if a team will score on their opening drive. Even if that team goes on to lose the game, the bettor will win so long as the prop requirements are met.

NFL Futures Betting

An NFL futures bet is based on a long-range outcome versus a single-game outcome.

For example, bettors could pick a team to win that year’s Super Bowl ahead of time. Even the best teams will have favorable odds if you pick them early enough since there are so many teams in the league.

Other examples of futures bets include division winners, individual award winners (like MVP) or starting quarterback battles.

NFL Live Betting

With NFL live betting, you can place wagers on outcomes during a game as it unfolds. The sportsbook will shift the odds for specific outcomes as the situation of the game changes.

For example, if the Cowboys are driving, the odds for them to score a touchdown will change the closer they get to the end zone. You can also bet who will score the next touchdown speaking in terms of specific players.

How the NFL Playoffs Work

After the end of the regular season, the NFL Playoffs will begin. Here is how the postseason works:

  • 14 teams qualify for the NFL Playoffs, including seven from each conference (AFC and NFC).
  • Of those seven spots in either conference, four of them are reserved for division winners.
  • The remaining three spots are wild card teams.
    • A wild card team is determined by the clubs with the best records that did not win their division.
  • The No. 1 seed in each conference will earn a first-round bye.
  • The first round of the NFL Playoffs is the wild card round. This consists of six total games — three in the AFC and three in the NFC.
  • Next comes the divisional round. The winners from the opening round will advance to the following round, which is made up of four games — two in the AFC and two in the NFC.
  • The next round is the championship round. The winners from the divisional weekend will advance to the conference championship games. There is one AFC championship game and one NFC championship.
  • The winners from this round will advance to the Super Bowl, which will determine the league champion.

Since there are fewer games to bet on in the NFL Playoffs, you may want to have as much action as you can, especially since the NFL season is winding down.

Because there are fewer events to bet on, you could also want to leverage your regular season winnings, if you were successful, and really make a splash in the postseason. You could be wagering on more games or putting down more money per game as a result.

Outside of wagering on individual games, there are NFL Playoffs futures you can bet on as well. For example, at the start of the playoffs, you can bet on which teams will advance in each round.

You can also bet on which teams will advance to the Super Bowl as well as the Super Bowl winner. Betting NFL Playoffs futures will get you a maximum return if you hit as the odds are greater due to the unknowns.

How the Super Bowl Works

Following the regular season and first few rounds of the postseason, the remaining two teams will match up on Super Bowl Sunday.

Although some sports bettors will be conservative and get out while they are ahead — meaning they treat the Super Bowl as they would any other contest, some will go all-in and try to end the NFL betting campaign on a high note, especially since it is the final game of the year.

The Super Bowl is the largest one-day betting spectacular of the year. It is also the one day in which attracts bettors of all sorts — some of whom normally wouldn’t bet or watch the NFL. Because sportsbooks are aware of this, they will make sure they have something for everyone.

You can place wagers on just about anything that pertains to the Super Bowl, including the national anthem, the color of the Gatorade poured on the winning head coach and everything in between. These are called exotic bets or exotic props.

While exotics are more or less catered to attract the casual fan of the NFL, sportsbooks also have many betting options for outcomes that actually happen on the field and in the game, including an extensive amount of live, in-game betting options.

Place NFL Bets You Like

Although the ultimate outcome of placing bets is winning money, you should also be safe and have fun doing it. When I say be safe, I mean to be safe by not spending more than you can afford or are willing to lose.

Betting on the NFL could be both fun and profitable. It could also trigger adrenaline rushes, especially if a game is close. As a life-long NFL savant, I will admit that even if I lose a bet, I still have fun. There is something about that roller coaster ride feeling that comes with the ups and downs of a football game while having a vested interest in it.

Win or lose, that rush is still there. But let’s keep it real — it feels a lot better to come out on the winning side.

For me personally, I place a lot of wagers on the NFL. I also like to exercise my options and utilize almost every betting type at my fingertips. The most common bets I will make are spread and totals wagers. From there, I will turn the single-game outcomes that I favor into teasers and parlays.

I also do my fair share of player and game props. What I love most about player props is the fact that even if I don’t like the potential outcome of a single game, I can still have action in the matchup by placing bets on players.

In the offseason, there is no reason to stop either. If you find the right sportsbook, you can wager on the NFL year-round. Not only are there ample NFL futures to choose from, but you can also place bets on NFL calendar events like the NFL Draft and free agency.

If you are new to sports betting, then you should be educating yourself on getting an edge in betting on the NFL. Given the extensive variety of betting options and the popularity of the sport, you won’t be disappointed.





Author

By Anthony Cervino

Anthony Cervino is an NFL Writer and Betting Analyst for The Game Day. He is also the Senior NFL and Fantasy Football Analyst at Gridiron Experts. Anthony has a perennial spot in the Rotounderworld Draft kit, and in 2019, was the 15th-best In-season and Draft Ranker in the FantasyPros ECR. He is also the co-founder and host of The FF Faceoff Podcast and Live Stream, covering all aspects of the NFL.