Football betting tips and guide for beginners

how to bet on football

Football is as popular as sports get in the US. And betting is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game, even for beginners. Today, fans can bet on college football, the NFL, Canadian football, and several other football leagues. 

Still, it helps to learn the ropes before joining an online sportsbook and making your first football wager. We already have a guide on college football betting. Check it out if you’re interested in that aspect of football betting.

This guide will focus on betting on professional football games, like the NFL. It will also include both the top football betting tips and common football betting mistakes to avoid.

NFL odds guide

A good bettor knows how to read the oddsmaker’s numbers.

What do NFL odds look like?

Rotation NumbersTeam Point spreadTotal (over/under)Moneyline
101New England  Patriots-3.545.5-150
102Dallas Cowboys+180

This table contains the basic things you expect to see when making an NFL bet. But depending on the type of bet you want to make, it can have more or fewer items and odds. 

How to Read Football Betting Odds

Most first-time betters struggle to understand and interpret the table above. Fortunately, it isn’t that complicated. 

We have two teams about to face each other in a game; the Patriots and the Cowboys. The team whose odds are prefixed with a minus (-) sign is the favorite, while that with a plus (+) sign is the underdog. 

On the other hand, point spread, total, and money line are all types of bets. Normally, you won’t see the point spread in the underdog’s row because it’s assumed that they are receiving the same number of points. These football bets will be discussed in detail in the next section. 

Sportsbooks usually have three-digit numbers in front of the team names. They are known as rotation/bet numbers and are there to eliminate confusion when betting.    

Types of NFL odds

Traditionally, there were only two betting options; the winner (moneyline) and the total (over/under). But with time, oddsmakers realized that there are many more ways to wager on NFL games. This gave birth to several other betting options.   

The moneyline

The moneyline is a simple winner/loser wager. You place your bet on the team you think will most likely win the game. 

Moneyline odds are displayed on a $100 scale. This makes it easier to determine how much you need to bet on which team to win a certain amount of money. 

In the game above, the Patriots have -150 odds while the Cowboys have +180. This means that to win $100 from betting on the former, you have to wager $150. Consequently, a $100 bet on the latter will bring you $180 if they win. 

The Cowboys have more enticing odds than the Patriots because, going into the match, they are considered underdogs. So, betting on them is a high-risk/high rewards kind of situation. 

Over/Under

This is also known as a totals bet. Unlike the moneyline, it’s not focused on who wins the game. Instead, it’s a wager on the total number of points scored during the game. The sportsbook sets a line, in this case, 45.5. Then, football bettors wager on whether the total score will exceed or fall short of the line. 

If you think the final score will be more than 45.5 points, you pick over. But if you think otherwise, you pick under. 

Points Spread

The points spread makes NFL betting a little more interesting. It’s all about the points difference between the two teams at the end of the game. Here, the underdog is given a headstart to even out the risk.

When you wager on the favorites, they have to win the game by several points. If they win by less or lose the game, you lose the bet. On the other hand, betting on the underdog allows them to lose the contest. However, they must not do so by more than the posted number. And if they pull an upset and win the game, you still win the bet. 

So, in the example above, the point spread is set at 3.5. So, if you bet on; 

  • New England Patriots: They must win the game by more than 3.5 points. 
  • Dallas Cowboys: They must either win the game or lose by fewer than 3.5 points.

Parlays

Once you’re comfortable with football betting, you can get started with parlays. These are known in other parts of the world as multi-bets, i.e., wagers on several different events in the same or different games. 

Parlays allow you to add other games to your bet slip. If the Los Angeles Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs are playing, you can bet on their respective games in the same slip. This increases the risk, making the odds much more attractive; you can win more than ten times your wager. However, for that to happen, every outcome you predicted has to happen.  

Future wagers

Futures are bets on long-term events. They can be made even before the football season begins. For instance, you can bet on which teams will get to the Super Bowl or finish the season with the most losses. You can also wager on individual players, like who will lead the league in interceptions or win an MVP award. 

Future football wagers are quite risky. But they have some of the biggest odds in the game.   

Prop Bets

Prop bets are the most laid-back of bets. They bring some fun to what is typically a tension-packed affair. In this case, you can bet on pretty much anything in a football game. Who will score the first touchdown in the game? How far will the longest successful field goal be? Will the home team score the first points of the game?    

Live/In-Game Betting

You can also bet on a football game while watching the game. Live betting odds are dynamic and require you to be sharp all through, or you’ll lose money. 

Learn the Lingo: How to Bet on Football

There are several football betting terms that all aspiring handicappers should know.  

Juice/Vig

The juice/vig refers to the proportion sportsbook charge for making your bet. It varies between oddsmakers, with some charging more than others, and changes as the odds increase. So, you are advised to shop around for sportsbooks with the lowest juice/vig.

Push

A push is a wager that ends in a draw or tie. For instance, if you bet that a game will go over 40 points, and both teams end with a combined 40 points, this is a push. 

Traditionally, this meant that you get a refund of your initial wager. Today, however, sportsbooks have discovered a way to prevent ties. They do so by adding decimal points to their betting lines. So, in a hypothetical football game, the over/under line becomes 40.5.  No matter how many points each team gets, their combined total will never equal 40.5 since it’s impossible to get half a point. 

This is the same reason why point spreads and props often use a .5 number.  

Teaser

A teaser refers to a special kind of parlay bet where the player can add extra points to the underdogs or subtract from the favorites. Oddsmakers typically offer 6, 6.5, 7, 10, and 14-point teasers in football. 

 In the event of a tie in any game (except in 10 and 14-point teasers), the teaser is reduced by one. So, a 5-team teaser becomes a 4-team teaser, and so on. As for 10 and 14-point teasers, ties result in a loss. 

The hook

A hook occurs when you lose or win your football bet by half a point. So, if you bet over in a 40.5 line, and the game ends up with 41 points, you won the bet by the hook. And if you wagered on the underdog at a +3.5 spread, and they lose by four points, you lost the bet by the hook. 

Top Tips for Betting on Football

If you want to be a successful football handicapper; 

Understand the Different Types of Football Bets

Online sportsbooks offer different types of football bets, most of which have been discussed above. If you want to make some serious money from betting make sure you understand each of these and the right games to use them in. 

Start watching enough football

Once you start betting, it is time to watch more football than before. This is because you can’t bet on what you don’t know. You have to understand how the game is played by different teams. And while there are lots of football betting experts out there willing to lend you their knowledge, it gets better if you watch the games and see for yourself.

You should also keep track of NFL news.  

Follow good bankroll management practices

The bankroll is your betting wallet, and you want to have something in it for as long as the season lasts. This is why it is important to follow good bankroll management practices like;

  • Separating your personal and betting finances.
  • Always playing within your bankroll balance. You’re even advised against placing all your bankroll money in one wager.
  • Avoid desperate moves to compensate for your losses. The ability to take losses as they come and move on is one of the most crucial traits in betting. 
  • Keep track of your results and regularly audit your performance. This will help you determine the right time to take risks or hold back with your bankroll.  

Common Football Betting Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t overreact to or ignore injuries

Injuries are part of the game. Thus, they should be factored in when planning your football bets. Is a key player missing due to injury? Is a certain player just coming off from a long injury and thus, unlikely to be at 100% at the game? But even as you ask yourself these questions, don’t overreact. Take a level-headed approach when gauging the impact a player’s (potential) injury will have on the team’s game. 

Don’t bet on your favorite team every time

We all have a favorite in the NFL that we always want to win. In essence, we are emotionally attached to them. And that attachment often leads us down the wrong path; we want them to win, so we wager on them, even when the signs are pointing in the other direction.  This is why it’s not always a good idea to bet on teams you support. 

Don’t always let the betting public or sports media guide you

Don’t rely too heavily on the word of experts. While their information may be valuable, especially for beginners, it helps to make some decisions of your own. You can still take their advice, but always analyze the games by yourself and try to understand why they recommend one action over the other.  That way, you get to grow as a bettor. 

You should also avoid betting according to popular trends. At the end of the day, each decision should be your own to help reduce the instances and severity of regrets. 

What are the best football leagues & key events to bet on?

You can find the best football betting action in the following leagues and events.

NFL

The NFL is the best football league in the world. There are 32 teams playing  272 games over 18 weeks. The season is action-packed with lots of betting opportunities. You can also bet on the NFL draft. However, things get more exciting as we approach the playoffs and culminate in the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl

The Superbowl is the annual playoff championship game of the NFL. It is probably the biggest event on the US sports calendar. Not only is it entertaining, but it’s also ripe with betting opportunities. You get moneylines, points spreads, over/unders, and parlay bets. And given the prestige of the Super Bowl, every bet feels special. 

Those whose future bets made it thus far are kept at the edge of their seats. Will the team they backed to win it do so? And those whose futures missed are already betting on next season’s Super Bowl Winner. 

Guide: Learn how to bet on the Super Bowl

NCAA football

College football is full of exciting prospects. Handicappers get to bet on the best young talents in the game. Most teams play 12 games in the regular season. However, there are so many teams that you’ll probably be overwhelmed on which game to wager on. If you find yourself in that situation, here are several events you can bet on;

  • The Heisman Trophy. It is awarded annually to the best player in college football. 
  • Bowl Season
  • The College Football Playoff National Championship

Guide: Learn how to how to bet on College Football

Canadian Football League (CFL)

The CFL has been going strong for 64 years. It may not be as popular as the NFL, but you can still bet on it. There are nine teams, each in a city in Canada, so getting started shouldn’t be that hard. The regular season lasts 21 weeks, and each team plays 18 games. 

You can also bet on the playoffs. This three-week affair between six teams culminates in the Grey Cup, Canada’s equivalent to the Super Bowl.  

If you’re in a state with legalized online sports betting, some of the best platforms for football betting include;

Betrivers 

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FanDuel

Does the risk of wagering your money scare you? Fan Duel gives you risk-free football bets for your first wager plus bonuses. You can also use our FanDuel promo code. 

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Caesars

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BetMGM

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DraftKings

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Football Betting FAQs

How are NFL odds determined?

The online sportsbook calculates the odds. First, they look at the overall team strength, form, injury record, rankings, and H2H statistics. This information is used to determine who is the underdog and the favorite coming into the game. The odds are then calculated with 100 as the base.

Favorites are usually listed with a minus (-) sign, while underdogs have a positive (-).  

Why would you bet on positive NFL odds?

Betting on positive NFL odds means that you’re backing the underdog. So, if you enjoy high-risk, high-reward situations, bet on positive football odds. 

Why would you bet on negative NFL odds?

Negative NFL bets are safe bets; you’re wagering on the favorites. This makes them an option when you don’t want to take too much risk. However, they don’t carry as much a reward as positive NFL bets. 

WRITTEN BY

Dan Smullen

Hailing all the way from Dublin, Ireland, Dan Smullen has BSC. in the Sports and Exercise Sciences from the University of Limerick. He is data obsessed. In the past he has worked both as a video performance analyst and provided biometric performance testing and analysis for professional rugby teams. Dan is obsessed about helping the average punter become more successful at sports betting through the assistance of good sports betting data analysis. He has worked with over 200 journalists at multiple editorial teams in his previous role as Head of Search for the largest national news publisher in Ireland.

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