football betting

How to Bet on the NFL - Understanding the Betting Line

football 41 - How to Bet on the NFL - Understanding the Betting LineBetting on American football is one of the most popular forms of online sports betting – especially in the US. Whether it’s the NFL or College football (NCAAF), the popularity of the sport is exploding and this growth has driven the online gambling markets to new heights. It is estimated that $95 billion was expected to be bet on the NFL and NCAAF in the 2015 season, and that number is probably much higher.

Football betting is popular for many reasons. Some like the thrill, some want extra action to enjoy the game, and others believe they have an edge over the sportsbooks in determining who will win or cover a given game. In this article, we will take a closer look at how to bet on the NFL and explain the most popular betting lines available at popular online sportsbooks.

How to bet on the NFL – Get to Know the Betting Line

Let’s use the betting line for Super Bowl 50 as an example:

Super Bowl 50 Betting Line:

  • Carolina: Point Spread -6 (-110) | Money Line -180 | Over/Under 45
  • Denver: Point Spread +6 (-110) | Money Line +160 | Over/Under 45

Betting on the Point Spread

ATS or Against the Spread wagering is by far the most popular bet on NFL or NCAA football games. Sportsbooks will put up a number which a team must win by or “cover” for each game. Let’s take an example of Super Bowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers. The betting line looked like this:

Experienced bettors can read that line in seconds but to some bettors it might look a little like rocket science. Believe me, once you get the hang of it, it’s really simple. The first number is the point spread, or line, and is a type of side bet that equalizes the chance of winning a bet. The line offered for any given team will be accompanied with a – or + symbol to indicate whether a team is a favorite or an underdog. The number next to the spread is usually “-110” and this is what we call the juice or vig. The vig is a fraction of the wager taken from the bettor if the bet wins. In this instance, a winning wager of $110 will yield a profit of $100.

In the betting line above, Carolina is favored by 6 points or is “laying” 6 points. Denver is “getting” 6 points. As we now know, Denver defeated Carolina by a score of 24-10. The bettors who chose Denver getting 6 points won. If Carolina had won the game by less 6 points, those same bettors would have also won because Carolina would not have “covered” the spread.

Betting on the Money Line

The second number is the money line number. There is no spread in these bets and you are solely betting on which team will win. To keep it simple, think of it as a bet being $100 as a unit size. If you liked Carolina to win you would have to wager $180 to win you $100. That is why there is a negative in front of their number or any favorites number when you look at the line. If you liked Denver to win you would wager $100 and get back $160 plus your original $100 wager. In the parity-driven NFL upsets are a regular occurrence, which is why money line bets can be very profitable when betting on the underdog. Again, the bettors who liked the Broncos won the money line bet.

Betting on the Over/Under or Game Total

The final number is the Over/Under which represents the total number of points scored for the game (including overtime). Here you can wager whether or not you think the game will go over 45 points or under. If the game total lands on exactly 45 the wager is a push and all bets are refunded. In Super Bowl 50, the game total turned out to be 34, so the bettors who chose the Under won.

Betting on the 1st Quarter and 1st Half Lines

Most sports bets are placed on the final outcome of the game. However, for NFL and NCAAF games there are also 1st quarter and 1st half lines offered by the sportsbooks. The 1st quarter spread and 1st half spread are used to bet on who is winning at the end of the 1st quarter and the end of 1st half. As a general rule of thumb, the 1st half spread is usually half of the overall point spread on the game. These bets are placed before the game begins.

Betting on the Updated Halftime Lines and In-Play Betting

Online sportsbooks offer new betting lines at halftime that take into account the score and performance of the teams during the first half. For these new bets, the game basically starts again at 0-0 at halftime and the score in the 2nd half determines the outcome of these bets. These in-game bets are often accompanied by a variety of Live in-play action or prop bets like “which team will score next” or “will the team with the ball score, punt, or commit a turnover”.

Parlay bets

A Parlay bet is a multiple event bet that offers larger payouts than single game betting. The bettor selects two to fifteen wagers on one betting ticket and can choose any combination using point spreads, money lines, or over/unders. If the bettor gets all wagers correct, they win a much larger payout. The problem for the bettor is that if they miss just one, they win nothing.

Let’s take for example an NFL Sunday. We’ve done our homework and found eight games where we feel confident with our predictions. We will play each of the eight games and win or lose dependent upon the outcomes of those games. If we wager $100 per game (standard -110 line) and went 6-2 we would win $380 for the weekend ($600 win and $220 loss.) That’s a very good weekend and one we would take every time.

Every once in a while as a gambler you get in that special zone where you are on top of your game. Let’s revisit that weekend we were just discussing. Imagine now that we were spot on with our selections and went 8-0. That would obviously net us a profit of $800. Pretty good, but not amazing.

Take a look at the following odds:


2 Team pays 13/5
3 Team pays 6/1
4 Team pays 10/1
5 Team pays 20/1
6 Team pays 40/1
7 Team pays 75/1
8 Team pays 150/1

Now, if we were to throw just a $10 wager that we would go 8-0 on the weekend we would win and additional $1500 ($10 at 150-1 odds). That would make it an amazing weekend.

Some people say parlay bets are for suckers. Others swear by two-team parlays. It really is an individual choice for bettors. As the number of games added to your ticket increases, the payoff odds increase as well. Unfortunately, your probability of actually winning all of them lessen.

Teaser bets

A teaser is the same as a parlay but allows you to lower a point spread on an individual game. For example, if the point spread on one of the games is -13 and you have a 6 point teaser, your bet uses a spread of -7 and reduces your risk on that game. You still have to win each individual play f the parlay bet and the payout is reduced significantly.

Futures Betting

Futures bets are those placed on an event that will occur in the future – like who will win the League MVP, the AFC/NFC or the next Super Bowl. Another very popular form of futures betting is win totals for teams. You can bet whether or not a team will win more than a certain amount of games.

Futures betting markets are becoming more and more popular in all sports. Every major sport has them and gives the knowledgeable bettor a chance to take positions on teams before they have been seen on the field.

Hot to Bet on the NFL – Takeaway:

American football, at both the professional and collegiate level, is one of the most popular events for sports bettors. This has truly become a sport for the masses. Every game is broadcast on live television all over the world and the vast amounts of information and media coverage are available all over the internet. And the variety of betting lines and in-play betting options offered by online sportsbooks has added to its popularity as well.

If you are looking for the best online sportsbooks, we recommend you check out these 5-star rated sites:

For Bettors in the United States we recommend:

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For Bettors Outside the US we recommend:

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