Wagering on American football is estimated at close to $100 million annually. That is sure to rise with the growth of legal sports betting in the United States. Since 2018, states have gradually been legalizing and regulating sportsbook operations within their borders. Currently, more than 30 states have legal sports betting. Many of these states also permit wagering on NCAA Division I college sports like football and basketball.
The National Football League (NFL) is comprised of 32 teams that play in two conferences and eight divisions. The American and National Conferences both have East, North, South, and West divisions. Since 1993, each division has four teams.
There are a number of ways to bet on the NFL, from daily fantasy all the way to traditional casino sportsbooks. Online and physical locations offer a wide variety of betting options. The season-ending Super Bowl is the event with the largest wagering totals.
How the Season is Constructed
The NFL regular season has 18 weeks, during which each team plays 17 games. Between weeks five and 13, each team gets a bye week. Teams play every other team in their division twice, once at home and once on the road.
Additionally, each division is assigned another division within their conference against which they play every team. Two of those games are at home, with the other two in the opponent’s stadium. These assignments rotate each season, so teams play every other team in the conference at least once every three years.
The same process takes place with teams in a division from the opposing conference. Once again, two games are at home, and the other two are on the road. With this scheduling method, all teams see every team in the NFL at least once every four seasons.
Each team plays six division games, four conference games, and four more non-conference contests. A team’s division standing the previous season determines the three additional games on the schedule. First-place teams play division champions and so on. This is one of the ways that the NFL facilitates parity, along with the draft order in the reverse of a team’s season finish.
Seven teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs, with the four division champions and three wild card teams advancing to the postseason. The top-seeded team receives a bye into the second round of the playoffs. The two conference champions meet in the Super Bowl, with the winner lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Where to Bet on the NFL
In the United States, there are more than 30 states with legalized sports betting and are accepting wagers. To place wagers with state-regulated sportsbooks, a bettor is required to be physically present in the state. Some states require in-person registration at a casino before placing online wagers. However, most don’t have that restriction. Online sportsbooks employ geolocation technology to ensure players are in a locality that permits wagering on the site.
Many of the online options are the same in multiple locations.
This is true of Caesars Sportsbook which has a large sports betting presence. It also offers casino games in a few states. DraftKings and FanDuel, which both got their starts in daily fantasy, now offer online sports betting in many states. They’ve partnered with casinos where necessary and also offer physical sportsbook wagering. Another major player in the casino and online sportsbook space is BetMGM, which is also very active in state-regulated gaming.
Different Types of NFL Bets
Four major types of wagers dominate the NFL wagering landscape, although there are several other types of proposition bets available. Bettors are most likely to see futures, spread, moneylines, and over/under lines.
Futures bets are made on how teams will finish the regular season. Wagers are usually available on which team will win a division, a conference, or the Super Bowl. These bets are offered throughout the season, with the odds adjusted to account for actual results. It’s also possible to wager on how many games a team will win in a season. The win totals are expressed as over/under lines, with odds set for whichever direction the bettor picks.
Spread bets involve an expected point differential between teams playing each other. The point spread is either a negative number for the favorite or a positive number for the underdog. There are also odds associated with a spread bet, generally -110 on each team.
For example, assume the Packers are 6.5-point favorites over the Rams with -110 odds. The bettor wins $100 on a $110 bet if the Packers outscore the Rams by at least seven points.
Moneyline bets are wagers that a team will win the game outright. The favorite has negative odds, and the underdog has positive odds. In the example above, the Packers have odds of -310 and the Rams +310. A $310 bet on a winning Packers team would net $100. A $100 bet on the Rams wins $310.
Moneyline odds can be expressed in either the American or Fractional styles. An example of American odds would be for a team to be at +400 to win the conference. The same odds would be expressed as 4/1 in Fractional style. A winning $100 bet on a team with those odds would net the bettor $400 with American odds. A fractional odd bet pays off four times the wager, for example netting $80 on a $20 bet.
The final popular wager is the over/under. The bettor is simply wagering that the total score for the game will be higher or lower than the total line. The odds for both an over and under bet are usually -110.
Parlays, which combine the results from multiple possible bets without having to place individual wagers, are also popular offerings. The operator will offer odds if the bettor correctly picks each bet in the parlay.
How to Live Bet on the NFL
Live betting on the NFL, while the games are in action, is possible through many of the sites that also offer other game betting on the league. As play begins and scoring commences, sportsbooks will change the lines and odds to account for what has taken place in the game. Various bets are available in live wagering, including adjusted game lines, quarter and half over/under totals, and shifting moneyline odds.
One big difference between regular game bets and live betting is how quickly odds and lines can change. An early score by an underdog can prompt sportsbooks to significantly alter the point spread and offer new bets.
Live betting offers multiple wagering opportunities while watching a game. When done responsibly, it can add enjoyment to both the viewing and betting experience. Fourth-quarter action also presents an opportunity for bettors, especially in a lopsided game.
Tips for Betting the NFL
Use Your Head, Not Your Heart. Consistently winning NFL bets is challenging at best, but there are some things bettors can do to help their cause. The best tip is to take emotion out of the process. Wanting someone to win and placing money on them doesn’t make the bet any better.
Do Research. At least understand the statistics of the teams being wagered on. Looking for mismatches is a great way to pick out favorable bets. Offensive prowess against a defensive weakness can point to a spread or over/under line that is vulnerable.
Keep Up With Lines. Opening spreads and odds usually change, sometimes by more than a point either way. A shift in one direction can sometimes indicate a larger move before game day. In many cases, it’s also possible to shop lines to get the best one possible.
National Football League (NFL) Betting FAQs
Where can bets be placed on NFL teams and games?
More than 30 states have some form of legal sportsbook.
How long is the NFL Season?
The NFL season typically begins the weekend after Labor Day and ends with the Super Bowl on the first weekend in February. The regular season is 18 weeks long. Then playoffs are over three weekends. There is generally an open week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.
Is live betting available on the NFL?
Live betting is widely available for NFL games. Most of the online sportsbooks that offer NFL wagering also have live wagering options. That option is generally under a separate tab or menu item.
Can bets be placed on a team before the season begins?
Futures bets for a season are generally open shortly after the end of the prior one. Wagers include a team’s chances to win the conference title or the Super Bowl. There are also futures over/under wagers on a team’s win total for the upcoming season.
Are parlays offered for NFL games?
Combining bets from different games or different types of bets for the same game are popular offerings. It’s a way to get attractive payouts without having to lay out a lot of money. Savvy bettors can make some serious money by picking attractive parlays to wager on.