The NFL is the most popular sport for betting in North America. Only soccer exceeds it worldwide. The inherent setup of the NFL is also perfect for bettors. Instead of the daily grind with the NBA, NHL, MLB, and college basketball, NFL games are primarily played on Sundays. The one-off games on Thursday and Monday and then the Saturday games late in the season don’t overwhelm bettors.
Bettors have all week to decide what they want to bet on with the NFL. Some bettors make their plays early in the week in an effort to get the best of the line. Others will wait for more concrete injury information or to see how the lines move. Most will simply bet right before the game starts and they sit down with a snack and a beer to enjoy a lazy Sunday.
There are only 16 games per week maximum. In the NBA, you’re likely to have at least two days per week with 10 or more games and games every day. Same thing with the NHL. MLB has anywhere from 10 to 15 just about every day. The relaxed pace of the NFL lends itself well to betting and it is just one many reasons why that sport is king for most bettors.
But, if you want to bet on the NFL, you need to know how to bet on it. You need to know the bet types and how to differentiate between them. You need to know about the vig and the language and the terminology. We’re here to help.
Spread betting is the most popular way of betting on the NFL. In a given year, the best team and the worst team are likely to be about 20 points apart in power ratings. Oddsmakers and some bettors will incorporate power ratings to create the spreads. The spread is a handicap placed on each team so that betting action can be balanced.
Take the Kansas City Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes. Take the New York Jets with, well, anybody. Those two teams are not equal. You know it. I know it. The sportsbooks know it. As a result, the Chiefs will be deemed the favorite and they will have points subtracted from their total when you bet on them to “cover the spread”. The Jets will have points added to their total when you bet on them to cover the spread.
The spread is a handicap designed to make the teams a little more even. To make them more comparable. It is also to force bettors to make a decision. The spread allows the sportsbooks to balance the money as much as they can in order to have as many wagers on each side as possible.
Let’s say that the Chiefs are -14 at home against the Jets. If the game ends 35-17 with a Chiefs win, they would cover the spread. As long as the team would still win if you subtracted 14 points from their total, then they are the winning team with that bet. The Chiefs would win 21-17.
If you were to bet on the underdog Jets at +14, you would add 14 points to their final score. In the above example, the Jets would have 31, but the Chiefs still have 35. You don’t add and subtract from both sides. If you bet the underdog, you add points to their total. If you bet the favorite, you subtract points from their total.
The way to know which team is the favorite and which team is the underdog is to look at the plus sign (+) and the minus sign (-) in front of the number of the spread. The favorite has the minus sign. The underdog has the plus sign.
If the Chiefs won the game 28-17 and were -14, they would not cover the spread. The Jets would.
Another element of spread betting is the vigorish, also known as “vig” or “juice”. This is also designed to help the sportsbooks balance action and manage their risk. The standard vig in spread betting is -110. To use simple math, this means that you have to bet $110 to win $100. Or, $11 to win $10.
There will be vig on both sides, so the Chiefs could be -14 (-110) and the Jets would be +14 (-110). Sometimes, instead of moving the spread to 13.5 or 14.5, the sportsbooks will just add to the vig, so you could see Chiefs -14 (-115). That would mean $115 to win $100 or $15 to win $10. When the vig moves on one side, it will move on the other side, so the Jets would go to +14 (-105), so you would bet $105 to win $100 or $10.50 to win $10.
The money line is much simpler to understand, but a little bit more complex to bet. Money line betting simply means picking the winner. Using the above example, the Chiefs are -14 against the Jets. That means that they are extremely likely to win the game. There is a correlation between the spread and money line in that the larger the favorite on the spread, the more expensive the money line gets.
Instead of betting $110 to win $100 like you would on the spread, with a money line wager, you might have to bet -900 on Kansas City to win the game. That would mean betting $900 to win $100.
On the flip side, the bigger the underdog, the better the price on the money line. The Jets would be something like +600. That would mean betting $100 to win $600.
Money line betting carries a higher-risk, higher-reward element with the underdog. You have to make the decision if you want 14 points with the underdog or want to take the chance that the underdog simply wins the game outright.
With a favorite, you have to invest a lot more to win less when you bet on the money line. With the spread, you are giving up that 14-point handicap, but you don’t have to invest as much to win a similar amount of money.
Totals betting is also very popular in the NFL. This is a measure of the combined number of points scored in a game. NFL totals have gotten higher in recent years, but NFL totals can go as low as 37 and as high as 60 in some instances, depending on the offenses and the defenses of the two teams.
The goal here is to bet how many points will be scored combined, so the above example with a Chiefs 35-17 win means a total of 52 points. If the total was 51, that game went over the total. If the total was 53, that game went under the total.
Vig will apply to both sides of a total as well and carries the standard -110 vig, but sportsbooks often move the vig around or will move up or down a point or a half-point to balance action.
Parlays come in all shapes and sizes, but the one constant about parlays is that you have to win all of your bets on that one ticket in order to be a winner. If any one of the bets on your parlay ticket loses, the entire parlay is a loser.
Parlay betting means putting at least two bets on the same ticket to increase your payout. The problem is that you have no margin for error, so parlay betting requires perfect precision and the more games you bet on, the harder it is to be perfect.
Using the above example, you might have parlayed the Chiefs -14 with the Dallas Cowboys -8 against the New York Giants. If the Chiefs win 35-17 and the Cowboys win 28-10, then you win both bets of your parlay and will be paid out accordingly. If the Chiefs win 35-17, but the Cowboys win 28-24, your parlay is a loser because you did not win all of the bets on that ticket.
One extremely popular bet type with the NFL is to play a teaser. A teaser is an alternate form of a parlay, but these are things that both professional and recreational bettors will try in the NFL.
A teaser allows you to add and subtract points from a spread or total, depending on what you want to do. Most people prefer a 6-point teaser in the NFL. With a 6-point teaser, you would either add 6 points to the underdog line or an over or subtract 6 points from the favorite line or the under.
In the above example with the Dallas Cowboys, if you decided to do a 6-point teaser on Dallas at -8, your new line would be -2. If you bet on the Giants at +8 on a 6-point teaser, that would move that line up to +14.
With the Chiefs/Jets game and a total of 51, you would end up getting under 57 on a 6-point teaser or over 45, depending on which side you bet.
Like parlays, teasers stipulate that you must have at least two bets on one ticket. All bets on the ticket will be adjusted by the number of points for your teaser. With the NFL, the most common are 6-point, 6.5-point, 7-point, and 10-point teasers. The payouts will differ based on how many games you pick and how many points your teaser ticket is.
With the NFL, there are also options that are called “Derivative Betting”. This means that you are betting smaller segments of the game. You can bet 1st half lines and also lines by quarter. Teasers are not available for 1st half and quarter betting, but the other above bet types with the spread, money line, and total are available. They are all adjusted to the fact that you are betting a smaller increment of the game.
The favorite for the game will be the favorite for the first quarter and also the first half. The totals will be adjusted accordingly as well.
One of the most popular things in sports betting these days is live betting. Live betting means that you access your sportsbook while the game is in play and make bets based on the action that you’ve seen so far. Some people do this while watching the games. Others do this from something that they have seen in the box score.
The flow of the game and the things that have happened will dictate live betting. Some people prefer live betting to pregame wagering because you will have a frame of reference and will have seen what is going on. You will have a better idea of what to expect.
With live betting, you can bet spreads, totals, money lines, props, and more. All of those lines will be adjusted based on the game play.
Prop betting is also extremely popular in the NFL. Everybody plays fantasy football these days and there are some similarities between the two. Prop bets consist of things like “How many yards will Patrick Mahomes throw for?” with an over/under amount. If the line is 335.5 yards, you will have the choice on Mahomes to throw for 336 yards or more or 335 yards or less.
Other things like “Will Tyreek Hill score a touchdown?” are available, with the Yes priced at maybe +180 and the No at -200. You can bet over/under rushing or receiving yards for players that are listed.
Like all bet types, these, too, have vig attached to them, so you’ll have to decide how much you like that bet and if you want to risk the vig.
There are tons of NFL betting options each and every week, so you are sure to find something that you want to bet and we’ll continue to help with the process here at ATS.