How To Bet On NFL?
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No sport is more popular in betting markets than American football, and no league inspires more wagering than the NFL. If you are reading this, you are probably interested in throwing your hat into the ringing and joining the fun. Well, you have come to the right place. We are here to help you bet better on the NFL, not only by explaining how it works but also with a plethora of tips to win.
Enjoy this betting guide and best of luck with your bets!
Where Is NFL Betting Legal?
For many years, almost all states were prohibited from legalizing sports betting by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, known as PASPA. However, PASPA was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2018, paving the way for legal sports betting in the United States.
As of August 2022, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia have all legalized online sports betting.
Numerous other states have legal sports betting, but only in person. Several states – most recently Massachusetts and Maryland – have just legalized sports betting and will have online sports betting available in the coming months. Most other states have at the very least introduced bills to get the process started, so it’s likely only a matter of a couple of years before the rest of the states have legalized betting on the NFL
As of March 2023, The following states all have a legal and regulated sports betting industry, where you can wager on NFL:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- Washington DC
- West Virginia
Best Online NFL Betting Sites And Mobile Apps
Picking a sportsbook at which to bet is extremely important. They aren’t all the same, and each sportsbook will have different odds and promotions. Each site will have its own unique quirks and offerings, so it can’t hurt to look around as much as possible before settling on a new betting home. It’s a good idea to have accounts at different sportsbooks, which will allow you to shop around and compare odds. One site may have more favorable juice or better parlay payouts, but another may offer better live-betting software. There are already a lot of great operators out there, and with legalization spreading across the country, the number of options for bettors will only continue to increase.
How To Bet On The NFL
In the NFL you’ve got plenty of options for betting. You can bet on the money line, the point spread, the total in the game, or a whole slew of props. Just find the best odds by shopping around at different sportsbooks for whatever wager you want to make, then add it to your bet slip and lock it in. The key to betting on NFL games is finding teams that are undervalued in the market, and that’s where Pickwise can help. Here at Pickswise, we’re a one-stop shop for everything NFL, as we put in the time and crunch the numbers to come up with the best free picks around. Check out our NFL predictions all season long, since we’ll be providing free picks on the side and total of every game. We’ll also have tons of free prop bets, same-game parlays, and regular parlays, so don’t miss out!
Ways To Bet On The NFL
The NFL is the most popular sport to bet on, and there are so many markets to wager on within it. During the NFL season betting volume can get off the charts, and oddsmakers will sometimes change lines just based on the avalanches of public money coming in. You can bet on an individual game or on futures markets like the Super Bowl or a division winner. In this section, we will take a look at some of those markets. Each one has different strategies and angles to exploit, and the money line and point spread can be treated as entirely different handicaps.
Let’s break them down, starting with money line NFL betting.
Money Line Betting
Money line betting in the NFL is as basic as it gets. You are simply betting on which team will win the game; the margin of victory doesn’t matter. With money line betting one team will be the underdog and one team will be the favorite. The favorite will be identified by a ‘-‘ minus sign, while the underdog will be identified by a ‘+’ plus sign next to their odds. For example, the Titans might be an underdog in a game against the Colts. You’d see something like ‘Titans +175’ and ‘Colts -200.’ There will always be a gap between the two odds, so you’ll never see ‘Titans +200’ and ‘Colts -200.’ That gap is the ‘vig’, and it’s how oddsmakers make their money. The bigger favorite a team is on the money line, the bigger favorite they’ll be on the point spread, as well. If you bet an NFL team on the money line and the two teams were to tie, that would be a ‘push’ and you get your money back. That’s not true for every sport. In some sports like soccer, there will be a third option you can bet for ‘draw’, but that’s not something you’ll see with NFL betting. Money line betting comes with different strategies than point spread betting. On a money line, you might be more inclined to back a conservative defensive-minded team that will grind out games but not necessarily wins them by large margins.
Learn more about money line betting: What Is A Money Line Bet In Sports Betting?
Point Spread Betting
If you have placed a bet on one market and one market only, it has probably been on the point spread. That is the most common wager when it comes to football. Bookmakers effectively let one team – the underdog – begin with a head start of a certain number of points. If the underdog wins outright or loses by fewer points than the spread, your bet on that side wins. If you back the favorites, they need to win by more than the spread for a ticket on that side to cash. Handicaps are often framed with half-point lines to avoid the possibility of a push (for example, Cowboys +3.5 is successful if they either win outright or lose by three or fewer points). When full-point lines are offered, wagers can be pushed and stakes are returned (for example, if the Cowboys lose by exactly seven points as +7 underdogs).
Point spreads in the NFL shift throughout the week and can be quite volatile. NFL betting is like any other financial market; price point is everything. Getting the best number on a point spread is the key to long-term success.
Learn more about points spread bet: What Is A Point Spread Bet In Sports Betting?
Sometimes when handicapping a matchup you might have a good idea about whether it will be a high-scoring or low-scoring contest, but no such strong opinion about which team will win. In those cases, a bet on the total points would probably be your best option. Oddsmakers will give their assessment of how many total points the teams will score between them and you bet higher (over) or lower (under). The figure can vary by a fair amount – the early points lines posted for Week One of the 2019-20 season varied from 38.5 points to 53.5 points, with a typical line set in the mid-40s. Factors include the weather (bad weather tends towards fewer points, clear skies and indoor stadiums produce more shootouts), the strength of the offenses and defenses in the game, and the playing styles of the teams. A run-heavy team that relies on its defense will see its totals set quite a bit lower than a pass-happy team that loves to run and gun.
Player prop markets are offered by an increasing number of sportsbooks and present a chance to support a player to have a good or bad game. Oddsmakers offer over/under prices on individual players’ total receiving yards, rushing yards, and passing yards. Pretty much everything you can imagine. There are also longest reception, longest run, longest successful field goal for the kickers and so on. There are even opportunities to support the forgotten folk of NFL betting – defensive players, with lines on the number of interceptions, sacks and tackles a particular player makes. If you think one team will spend all game running the ball, then taking one of the other team’s linebackers to make a high number of tackles could pay off. Similarly, if you think a team will do well with its passing game, then look for the cornerbacks and safeties to be charged with bringing the ball carriers down more frequently. It’s another area where knowledge of the individual matchups can pay off. For offensive players, it’s all about the opportunity. If the Chargers suffer injuries to their top two receivers, the over on their third receiver might be worth a look since his volume will increase dramatically.
Learn more about prop bets: What Are Prop Bets In Sports Betting?
Futures bets can be some of the most fun for the NFL. Rather than finding out if you win or lose on any given Sunday, a futures bet allows you to ride with a wager for all 17 games. You can of course bet on the Super Bowl winner at any point, but there are a ton of other markets. You can bet on a team to win a division or a conference. Futures bets can often offer huge payouts if you pick the right long-shots. In the 2020 season, for example, Washington was a 30/1 underdog at many shops to win the NFC East and it ended up taking home the division title. One of the most popular futures bets in NFL betting is a team’s season win total. Oddsmakers will set over/under lines for how many regular season games all 32 teams will win. You can take the over on teams you’re high on coming out of training camp, and the under on teams you expect to flop. Then you have some skin in their game with each of their weekly matchups. There are also player prop futures markets. You can take the over on Aaron Rodgers’ passing yards for an entire season and then sit back and root for the Packers to play in shootouts every week.
Parlays are high-risk and high-reward. They provide the allure of a big payday, but as a result are much harder to cash. A parlay involves stringing multiple bets together on one ticket. You need each ‘leg’ of the ticket to hit in order for your parlay to be a winner. For example, if you bet a Colts, Chargers and Bengals money-line parlay all three of those teams would need to win for it to cash. If two of them win and one of them loses, you’d win nothing. If it does hit, you would get a much bigger payout. In the NFL, it’s often popular to parlay big favorites together. Since most recreational bettors don’t want to lay -250 juice to back a 7-point favorite on the money line, they might instead combine two or three -250 favorites together in a parlay. Others will sprinkle a few bucks on a 10-team parlay every Sunday, hoping to one day hit a jackpot. They certainly can be fun, and can sometimes be wise in the right situation, but it’s important not to get carried away. Generally speaking, oddsmakers want you to bet parlays and long-term it probably isn’t the best way to make money. But they sure are exciting.
Teasers are an interesting concept that more or less blend point spread and parlay betting. You still have multiple legs that all need to cash like in a parlay, but in return for that added difficulty you get extra points against the spread. Say you bet a two-team, six-point teaser. That means you take whatever the point spread is for those two teams, and get six extra points. Suppose the Jaguars are +4 and the Browns are -8. If you put them together in a six-point teaser, your bet ticket would have the Jaguars as +10 and the Browns -2, instead of the normal spreads. In exchange for getting that six-point cushion, both the Jaguars +10 and Browns -2 would need to hit for your teaser to cash. In the NFL, it’s extremely important for teaser betting to remember that not all points are equal. There are certain ‘key’ numbers, like 3 and 7. An NFL game is much likelier to land on 3 or 7 than it is 5 or 9, for example. As such, the best way to bet a teaser is by going through those ‘key’ numbers in either direction. Betting a team that is -8 on a six-point teaser will get you down through the key numbers of 7 and 3 to -2. You can bet all sorts of teasers, like a four-team 14-point teaser. Many sportsbooks differ in the odds they offer on teasers, so it’s important to shop around. The best shops will give you -110 on a two-team, six-point NFL teaser.
Learn more about teaser bet: What Is A Teaser Bet In Sports Betting?
However much you think you know about a game, you will know a little more once it has started. In comes live betting. Exact knowledge of the weather, rather than a forecast, a proper idea of the crowd noise rather than an estimate, precise injury news rather than an estimate that may have involved some massaging of the truth by the teams. In every way, live betting will provide you with better information than you had before the game. So if there’s a match where you consider one player’s injury status to be crucial to your betting plans, or where you were thinking of a total points play but were concerned about a possible snow storm in the area, remember you have the option to bet even after kick-off rather than the hours or days before the game as has traditionally been the case. Right off the bat, you’ll often be able to tell how a coach is planning on managing the game. How well the opponent is prepared for what’s being thrown at them. Some coaching staffs are much better at making in-game adjustments to their game-plans than others, who either never learn or don’t have the flexibility in personnel to be able to change what they’re trying to do. You can also identify spots where regression is likely when live betting. Say the Ravens get very unlucky to start a game, they lose two fumbles and muff a punt. You can get value by live betting them when your eyes tell you they weren’t actually playing poorly, they just made a few miscues that are easy to correct. Many sportsbooks also allow bettors to cash out existing bets in the middle of the game, so if your team is up big you can take your money and run rather than worrying about a late comeback.
Learn more about live betting: What Is Live Betting & How Does It Work In Sports Betting
NFL Betting Trends
Perhaps more than in any other sport, many NFL bettors like to rely on trends to help shape their opinions. Trends rely on historical data that might help predict the outcome of a future game. For example, maybe the Broncos have a strong home-field advantage, and always seem to play better as a home underdog when they have a chip on their shoulder in front of their home crowd. If there’s a strong trend that says they’re 9-2 against the spread in their last 11 games as home underdogs, it might be time to pounce. Other common trends include how a team usually fares in bad weather spots, or in primetime games. For a while it was popular to bet against Kirk Cousins in primetime games, because of his reputation for faltering under the bright lights. Trends can be important to monitor, and they can tell you who to fade just as often as they’ll tell you who to back. Many bettors like to ‘fade the public’ by betting against the teams that are heavy public sides. It’s also important to not rely on trends that might not mean much. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, after all. If someone is trying to sell you on a bet because a team is 5-2 ATS the last seven times they’ve played three days after it last rained, you might want to pass.
Five Ways To Bet Smarter On The NFL
REMEMBER THE PLAYERS ARE ONLY TRYING TO WIN BY ONE
The most crucial concept for NFL bettors to remember is that the players are not trying to help you win your point spread bets (disappointing as that may be). The players are only interested in winning the match outright, and one point will be enough. That is not tremendously comforting news if you have backed a team as a favorite of 1.5 or 2.5 points, and it can regularly lead to nightmare scenarios. For example, imagine your initial excitement if you have backed a team to win by seven points and, leading by five with just over a minute left, they intercept a pass or regain possession on downs inside the 20-yard line. Under normal circumstances they would be in great shape to have a shot at scoring another touchdown to lead by 12 or kicking a field goal to go eight points ahead. Then imagine your sinking spirits when you realize that the trailing team has no timeouts left and all your team has to do to seal the victory is have the quarterback kneel down three times and jog off the field. The ‘backdoor cover’ is a situation where underdogs who have never been in the game steal the point spread with a pointless late score that does not affect the result of the match, but can do great damage to the pockets of bettors. An NFL team that’s up by 12 with a minute left might start playing soft ‘prevent’ defense that lets the opposing team march right down the field and eventually score with seconds left.
EVERY DOG HAS ITS DAY
More favorites win NFL games than underdogs – that’s not a surprise as oddsmakers and bettors alike have tons of information available to help them identify the stronger side of each pair. In the 2018-19 season, favorites won almost two-thirds of the 267 NFL games (256 regular-season contests and 11 playoff games) – 66.04 percent to be precise. That’s 175 favorites coming in with only 90 underdogs winning and two ties (after overtime). However, the results when it comes to covering the point spread were quite different. In 2018-19, favorites covered the spread in only 45.95 percent of games. Underdogs came through for bettors – covering the spread in 140 matches compared to 119 for favorites and eight handicap ties (eg a team is a three-point favorite and won by exactly three). Regular examples of why it can be smart to give plenty of thought to backing the underdog can be seen in the various US websites that chart the weekly fancies of the general public versus the bigger-staking professional bettors (often known as Pros vs Joes) based on reports from Las Vegas sportsbooks. Very often the most popular picks of the smaller-stakes bettors will be the big teams who are on winning runs, while the ‘sharp’ money is more often on an underdog who might not be quite as bad as the prices suggest. Remember, that strategy is open to everyone — however big your betting bank.
Not all teams are created equal. Their approach to trying to win games will differ depending on the football philosophy of the coach (some are more defensively or offensively minded than others, some coordinators will lean much more heavily on a running game or an aerial attack etc.) and the players available to them. For that reason, it’s wise not to have too firm an opinion in your head about which teams are better than others when it comes to analyzing a game. Every team will play better against teams that match up well for them and not so well against others. For example, say a team that has had a strong start to the season thanks to an effective running game is playing against a team that has a worse record, but one that happens to have a strong pair of defensive tackles and some talented linebackers. It could make sense to fade the ‘better’ team in that scenario. Maybe the lesser team had been struggling because their defense had been shredded by previous opposing quarterbacks due to their weak secondary. But that won’t come into play against this run-first team.
Individual matchups matter just as much. If a team has begun to show a weakness, such as defending tight ends near the goal-line, or being susceptible to long pass plays, that sort of thing is likely to happen again unless they make a personnel move or get a better player back from injury in that position. These kinds of factors can be particularly helpful when assessing the total points market – good pass defenses can be effective at slowing down even the best wide receivers and even elite running backs can do little damage if their offensive linemen are being pushed back by a strong defensive front. Learn as much as you can about each unit’s strength for every team and you will begin to see a bigger and clearer picture.
FANTASY CAN BECOME REALITY
The tide finally looks set to turn in regards to legal sports betting in the United States. But even before sports betting is fully legalized, there is still a booming fantasy and daily fantasy industry, which can provide valuable information for bettors. Most Americans are still unable to bet online, or in person outside of a casino, but they have found other ways to have a legal interest in NFL matches and that’s where there is a mine of useful information to be found. Fantasy football games are huge and the supporting resources are fantastic for bettors who don’t even play fantasy. Every pulled hamstring, tweaked groin and off-field indiscretion is pored over in great detail on countless fantasy football sites, ostensibly to enable people to decide who to release from their teams, add to their rosters or bench for that week’s games. But knowing all the ins and outs is a huge help for regular bettors too. If you see that a rookie receiver has been gaining more reps in practice and is set to gain a bigger role in the offense with one of the regular starters struggling with an injury, maybe you should pick him up for your fantasy team – but you can also check his odds to score at any time in the next game and see if his individual receiving yards might be worth taking the over on. Player props and fantasy are highly correlated.
We will have NFL picks for every game this season!
When To Bet On The NFL Throughout The Season?
There might only be 17 games in an NFL regular season, but fortunately NFL betting is almost year-round. Over the summer is when futures betting dominates. You can get in all your wagers for season-long bets, including Super Bowl winner, division winner, and regular season win totals. The preseason runs all throughout August where you can sit back and bet a few bucks while waiting for the real action to start. Regular season weekly games will dominate the betting picture all the way from September through early January. That’s when you’ll need to be your sharpest. Regular season Sundays are great for finding spots, since oddsmakers have to hang lines on 16 games which you can selectively choose from. You can also bet futures throughout the season on Monday-Saturday when there are no games. That’s often the best time to find value, when oddsmakers might overreact to the current standings. Postseason betting is perhaps the most fun, and goes through the Super Bowl in February. The Super Bowl is the holy grail of betting, with an endless amount of props and wagering opportunities available. The fun doesn’t stop there though, right after the Super Bowl you’ll be able to bet on combine and draft props during the offseason. As soon as the draft gets underway in late April, it’s pretty much time to start getting your futures bets ready again.
NFL Betting Strategies
Basic NFL betting stragety
NFL betting is the most fun, but it’s also the most complex. Oddsmakers are at their sharpest when making NFL lines, because that’s the sport being bet most. As such, you have to work hard in order to find an edge. There are a number of strategies you’ll need to implement to become a successful NFL bettor. Bankroll management is one of the most important ones. Remember, the best bettors in the world are just trying to hit at a 55%+ clip against the spread. There are going to be ups and downs, even the sharpest bettor in the world is going to endure a losing streak. It’s crucial that you don’t get sloppy with your money and bet too much on any one game. If you don’t have smart bankroll management, one cold stretch could leave you with nothing left to bet when you start to heat up again.
Injuries are also more important in the NFL than any other sport. The big names will get a lot of attention, but smart bettors pay attention to the under the radar guys as well. One good strategy is to look for ‘cluster’ injuries. Maybe a team has not just one but a few injuries in their secondary, which will force multiple back-end roster players into action. If you see a team with a banged up cornerback depth chart is playing a team with an explosive passing offense, it might be time to pounce. You’ll need to pay attention to injuries, as well as learn about all the teams and familiarize yourself with all the NFL betting terms.
Intermediate NFL betting strategy
Once you have the basics down, you can start going deeper with your NFL betting strategies. In order to beat oddsmakers, you have to find an edge you can exploit. You can’t simply bet against the team that has a star player hurt, that’s probably already being factored into the line. To find your edge, you need to identify factors that *aren’t* already baked into the line. It can be wise to stake out a niche, finding something that you do well and stick with it. Maybe you develop a system for first quarter totals betting, identifying which coaches like to play it conservative or open things up on their first drive or two. Another crucial element of NFL betting is getting the best odds. Have multiple accounts with different sportsbooks, so you can compare odds and make sure you’re getting the best value. Just like how you’d check the price of an item from multiple retailers when doing online shopping. It’s the same principle. The difference between -114 and -110 might not seem huge on the surface, but it will make a big impact on your bankroll long-term.
Advanced NFL betting strategy
Once you become a seasoned NFL bettor, you can take your game to the next level. That involves a lot of data. To be a true pro you’ll need to start logging all of your bets. This allows you to manage your bankroll most effectively, and to identify what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. Don’t leave anything up to your gut or hunch; you can see exactly how you’ve done on every type of bet. Keeping a log will tell you what your strengths are, you might notice you’ve been picking poorly against the spread, but are hitting 60 percent of your first half totals. Once you’ve got everything down to a science, you can come up with your own power rankings and numbers to rival oddsmakers’. You’ll be able to start setting your own lines based on your rankings (which you’ll make by closely observing all 32 teams), and then seeing how they differ from the lines that oddsmakers actually set. If you make a game Chiefs -5.5 but oddsmakers open them at -3, your power numbers will show you that’s 2.5 points of free value. Another concept experienced bettors need to understand is that in the NFL, it’s all about the number. NFL point spreads fluctuate for an entire week up until kickoff, and numbers will move back and forth just like in the stock market. Treat your betting just like you would any financial market, because timing is everything. If you can consistently beat the closing line, you will be profitable long-term.
Things To Avoid When Betting On The NFL
Basically, as the title says, there are pitfalls to avoid/things to always consider. Some examples are below.
- For starters, bet with your head and not your heart. Don’t let emotions get the best of you. Never bet a team just because you *want* them to win; bet them because you *think* they will win.
- Treat your betting like you would any other business, and take it seriously. Don’t chase your losses. If you go 0-5 in the early slate on an NFL Sunday, don’t bet 10 units on the Sunday Night Football game just because you feel like you have to make it all back in one game.
- An easy trap to fall into is betting teams based on records. If a 6-9 team is a favorite against a 9-6 team, don’t just assume oddsmakers have made a grave mistake; there is probably a pretty good reason why.
- It’s also important to know when to not bet on a game, even if you really like one side if you don’t get the best number. If you identify the Raiders -3 as a spot you really like early in the week, but by Friday the line has shifted to -4, it’s likely going to be wise to pass. When a key number is involved, even a single point can be worth so much that it can shift a great bet to a poor one.