How to Bet on the NFL – NFL Betting Strategies
The NFL dominates TV ratings, revenue and just about any other metric you can think of, so it’s no surprise they dominate the handle of every United States sportsbook. With the magnitude of NFL popularity and sportsbooks looking to capitalize on it, there is no shortage of wagers to place throughout an NFL game and the season
When you look at an NFL game page on your sportsbook, you might become very overwhelmed. With only 17 regular-season games, books offer way more alternate lines, props and specials than you’ll see on other sports.
Let’s jump into the mainline bets and then break down the popular player and team props you’ll see offered by most books.
How to Read NFL Odds
Betting on the team’s moneyline is to bet on them to win that game outright. No matter how many points your team wins by, or if overtime is needed to clinch the win; your bet will be considered a winner.
Moneyline odds are pretty straightforward. They will always be displayed as the team name and then that team’s odds to win:
- New York Jets +350
- New England Patriots -325
Calculating your risk vs. payout for moneyline bets is quite simple. In the example above, the Jets are a heavy underdog. Underdogs are always represented by the + side of the line. If you place a bet on the Jets to win outright, you will need to wager $100 to net $350. Conversely, if you bet on the favorites, the Patriots, to win the game, you will need to bet $325 to net $100. Favorites are denoted by the – before the line.
NFL Point Spread
Betting on the point spread is not a bet on who will win the game, but rather by how many points that team will win by.
Let’s say you really like an underdog to keep a game close, but still don’t think they’ll win outright. You can bet on that team to cover the spread. To cover the spread, the underdog will have to win outright or lose by fewer points than they are given. In the example below, the Jets are the underdog. If you bet them to cover and they lose by 7 or less, your bet is a winner.
On the flip side, for the favorite to cover the spread, they can no longer simply win outright. If you bet the Patriots to cover, they will have to win by 8 points or more for your bet to win.
New York Jets +7.5 -110
New England Patriots -7.5 -110
In NFL betting, the total, more casually known as the over/under, is the number of total points scored between both teams for the entire game.
Over/under betting has become very popular among bettors with the rise of legal sports betting. With the total, you can have some skin in the game without having to commit to a specific team winning or covering.
In the below example, you can see you’re betting on the entire game result; not specifically on one team. If the total points for this game end at 46 or above, the over is considered the winner. And if the game ends at 45 points or below, the under is the winner
New York Jets vs. New England Patriots
Over 45.5 -110
Under 45.5 -110
The three mainline bets don’t even scratch the surface of all that you can bet before or during an NFL game. NFL prop bets are wildly popular among sharp and casual bettors. Let’s jump into prop bets and how to read prop betting lines.
Types of NFL Prop Bets
U.S. sportsbooks offer a wide variety of player props to bet on. These player props have become more and more popular with the rise of sports betting. Bettors no longer want to just stick with mainline bets. And with the rise in access to data and advanced stats, books have continued to expand their prop offers.
Most player props work in an over/under format. This means that you may bet the over/under in rush yards for a player or over/under TDs thrown by a certain QB and so on. Other player props can be displayed as the probability of something happening. For example, you can bet on who will be the first touchdown scorer in a game.
Scrolling through the player props section of an NFL game can certainly seem intimidating. Most books break down the props into certain categories like TD Scorers, Rushing/Receiving Props, Quarterback Props and sometimes even Defense Props.
Player props allow yet another opportunity to have skin in the game without committing to a certain game result. If you see a favorable matchup, or just like betting your favorite players, you’ll have no shortage of bets to place!
Game props offer bettors options that are similar to mainline bets but go beyond just the final result of the game. For example, you can bet the total points scored in the first half. Or, you can bet the point spread of the second quarter. The offering extends past mainline style bets as well. Most books will offer props on if the game will go to overtime, or which team will score first or last.
You can also bet game props for a specific team. The most common being team totals. A team total bet an over/under wager on that specific team’s points scored in the game; regardless of the game result or the other team’s score.
NFL Futures Betting Explained
The one thing we all know and love about the NFL is there is always something to discuss and analyze all year long. Sports betting is no exception to that rule. With futures bets, you can place a wager on an event or outcome that will happen typically at the end of the season. Futures bets for Super Bowl, conference and division winners will open at the conclusion of the previous year’s Super Bowl.
Do you think a team will repeat as soon as they’ve won the big game? Well, you can bet on it just minutes after the game ends.
As the season draws closer and the draft and free agency happens, more team futures will open up. The most popular of these are Team Win Totals and To Make the Playoffs bets. Remember, odds on futures bets will always be changing through the offseason and then through the regular season.
Free-agent signings, injuries, or even players un-retiring (like Tom Brady), can all cause bookmakers to adjust a team’s futures odds.
Live Betting NFL Games
So, you’ve done your analysis, checked for Positive Expected Value bets, and placed a few pre-game wagers on an NFL game. Let’s say, as the game is progressing, your bets aren’t looking so hot. That’s where live betting comes in!
Live betting in NFL games is very popular due to its many natural breaks throughout the game. With a 40-second clock in between plays, and countless commercial breaks throughout the game, there are plenty of opportunities to place a live wager.
What can you live bet on? Just about anything! All books should offer at least the mainline bets as live bets throughout the game. However, many books will offer much more options, including props. As the game begins, odds on pre-game lines will be constantly adjusted; depending on a number of factors.
In addition to all of the regular bets available, most books will offer odds on the result of the next drive or even the next play.
How Do NFL Playoffs Work?
Since the 2020 season, the NFL playoffs have been expanded from six to seven teams in each conference. There are two conferences, the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC).
Each conference is comprised of four divisions (North, South, East and West); each division winner receives an automatic bid to the playoffs. The four division winners are seeded 1-4 depending on record and potential tiebreakers. The next three playoff spots are awarded to the three teams in the conference with the best record who did not win their division.
One of the biggest changes in playoff expansion is now only the top seed in the conference receives a first-round bye. The remaining three divisions host a wild-card team in the first round. The full playoff format is below:
Round 1: Wild Card Round
- 1-seed in each conference receives a bye
- 2-seed hosts 7-seed
- 3-seed hosts 6-seed
- 4-seed hosts 5-seed
The NFL playoffs do not use a fixed bracket system. At the end of the first round, the teams will “re-seed” and the 1-seed is always guaranteed to play the lowest remaining seed.
Round 2: Divisional Round
- 1-seed hosts the lowest remaining seed
- The next highest seed hosts the second-lowest remaining seed
Round 3: Conference Championships
- AFC Championship Game: Highest remaining AFC seed hosts the lowest remaining seed
- NFC Championship Game: Highest remaining NFC seed hosts the lowest remaining seed
- AFC Champion vs. NFC Champion
The Super Bowl is always played at a neutral site. The location of future Super Bowls is determined years in advance. Until 2020, no team had ever made it to the Super Bowl that was played in their home stadium.
The Bucs were the first team to break that streak by winning Super Bowl 55 in Tampa. The Rams followed that up by winning Super Bowl 56 in their new home, SoFi Stadium.
How to Bet on the Super Bowl
If it seems like everyone you know is betting on the Super Bowl, you would not be too far off. With the rise of legal online sports betting, sportsbooks have shown a continuous rise in their handle on the Super Bowl.
Why is that? For starters, the Super Bowl brings out way more casual fans than a regular fall Sunday. Also, as the culmination of the NFL season, this is the last time die-hard fans can place wagers on the sport.
In addition to the popularity that comes with the Super Bowl, sportsbooks amp up their offerings and promotions big time. The prop bet offerings on a regular-season game pale in comparison to the prop bets offered during the Super Bowl.
Popular props specific to the Big Game include coin toss result, national anthem length, the color of Gatorade poured on the winning coach, and even first song performed by the halftime act. Of course, you can also bet on fun props that happen during the actual game like will a non-QB throw a touchdown pass? Or who will be the game’s MVP?
There is no shortage of out-of-the-box props to bet on while also placing your favorite traditional bets.
NFL Betting Strategies
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into NFL betting. With only 17 games in the regular season, you don’t have a lot of chances to bet on your favorite teams or matchups. Having a strategy for navigating the standard bets in addition to the numerous prop bets is crucial. Let’s jump into those popular strategies.
Common sense may tell you teams with more rest have a strong advantage in their matchup. However, since 2016, only 14 of 32 teams have a better cover percentage than their average in games in which they have more rest days than their opponent.
Conversely, 17 of 32 teams have a better cover percentage than their average in games where they have a rest disadvantage. When reviewing schedule advantages or disadvantages, rest days will impact teams in different ways.
Another advantage to look for is the travel situation for the away team. Will they be traveling across the country? Is the weather significantly different than their home climate? All important questions to review when analyzing a matchup.
Like all sports, injuries can have a huge impact on an NFL game. When reviewing an injury report it’s important to note that not just skill position players can affect a game. What if a team’s starting left tackle is out? That will have a huge strain on the offensive game plan.
Defensive injuries can lead to an offensive player exploiting the weakness and breaking out for a big game. Injuries can have a big effect on odds too, so it’s important to understand who’s healthy and who isn’t going into a matchup. Official injury reports are always released ahead of games.
As we mentioned above, there are a ton of prop bets offered by sportsbooks for NFL games. With so many props offered, there are bound to be discrepancies between books. We always encourage you to sign up for as many books as possible in your state.
Then, use OddsJam’s NFL odds comparison page to find the most up-to-date lines across all books. The better odds you can get on your bets, the more your profits will rise over time
Track Your Bets
This one is obvious, but another important thing a sports bettor can do is just keep track of their bets. OddsJam offers a bet tracker completely free of charge, and it is one of the most useful things you can do.
Tracking your bets can help you stay disciplined with your system if you have a bad night or a couple of days, or it can help identify pitfalls in your strategy that you might need to update. Either way, you need to keep track of your bets so you know whether you are profitable or not and take the next steps from there.
Profitable Betting Systems
Betting systems can help simplify your analysis when looking into matchups for the NFL weekend. Following these systems, along with following the strategies listed above can increase your chances of placing profitable bets.
Fade The Public
As we mentioned above, the NFL has a much higher percentage of public bettors than other sports. This leads to books setting lines that appeal to a more casual betting audience. These lines are more advantageous for the books, yet still can lead to a vast majority of the public bets (aka receipts).
Fading the public refers to betting the side in which the least amount of money was wagered. A lop-sided matchup is a risk to the sportsbooks. So, more times than not, the public is the one who loses out on the bet.
Reverse Line Movement
Reverse line movement takes into account two factors, the percentage of money placed on one side of a matchup and then the line for that bet. Conventional wisdom may tell you if one side of a bet has more than 50% of the receipts, then the line would move in the direction of the side with more receipts.
However, that’s not always the case. Why would the book double down on moving the line against the majority of receipts? Well, maybe they love that side of the bet and want to encourage more public bettors to wager that side. Let’s jump into an example:
New England Patriots -7.5 (75% of receipts)
New York Jets +7.5 (25% of receipts)
Line Moves from 7.5 to 7.
You would think the book would move the line to 8 to achieve a more even split. But by doubling down on the Patriots line, they are baiting public bettors into hammering the Patriots further. The book has realized that more sharp bettors are coming in on the Jets’ side and are trying to discourage further sharp action.
The play may not be straightforward because the new line may not have the same value. But if you can get Jets +7 at good value or even get Jets +7.5 at another book, that would be the play.