How to Bet Football Games: American Football & NFL Betting Guide 2022

With the NFL being the most bet on sport in America, it’s a good idea to understand the basics of how to bet on football games as well as the more advanced aspects of American football betting. 

NFL games can take place up to 4 days a week and the opportunity to wager is frequent during the regular season. Savvy NFL bettors spend time studying the form and analyzing the stats to try and get an edge on legal sportsbooks,

When it comes to betting on American football you have a wide array of options. You might be looking to put on a single game bet, a player prop bet, a futures bet or even looking to combine a number of different bets to form a parlay or bet builder. 

Betting, whether it be on football or any other sport should primarily be a fun endeavor but for those who are willing to put in the time to learn the ins and outs of american football betting and study the form can realistically turn their wagering into a profitable pastime. So let’s take our first step into the world of American football betting by diving straight into explanation on how to read NFL odds and then take a look at some of the most straightforward and popular NFL bets you can find. 


How to Read NFL Odds & Calculate Your Bets 

If you are completely new to NFL betting and sports betting in general then the odds listed in an NFL market, along with the calculation involved can seem pretty confusing at first glance. The good news is you don’t have to be a mathematical genius to read odds and calculate your potential returns, in fact anybody can easily learn this by reading on.

Let’s look at a simple example of an NFL moneyline bet (more on that later!)

The San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears are facing each other in the NFL regular season. Their odds for either team to win the game are as follows:


San Francisco 49ers  -275

Chicago Bears  +225


You will see the 49ers have a (-) negative sign next to their odds. This shows they are the favorite of the game. The negative odds always show you much you would need to bet in order to win $100. 

So using the above example to make $100 profit you would have to stake $275 (as instructed by the -275 odds) and your total bet return would be $375 as your $100 stake will be returned on top of the profit accumulated. 

The Chicago Bears on the other hand are the underdog, you can always see who is the underdog of the game as they are always represented by (+) positive odds. 

Although (+) positive odds still revolve around the sum of $100, with (+) positive odds the number listed is how much you would stand to win in profit with a $100 wager. So for example the +225 odds quotes on the Bears are telling us that a $100 stake would return a total profit of $225 plus my $100 stake returned on top, giving me a total payout of $335. 

It doesn’t have to revolve around a high stake such as $100 though and can be any amount you wish for it to be (within reason); A $27.50 bet on the 49ers at -275 would return $37.50 ($10 profit + your $27.50 stake returned), whilst a $10 bet on the Chicago Bears would return $33.50 ($22.50 profit + $10 stake returned).

A favorite of a contest (-) is the team who is most likely to win according to the sportsbook oddsmakers whilst the underdog (+) is the one they think is the least likely to prevail, they decide this by looking at recent form and strength of the roster.

Now we know how a favorite and an underdog are identified in odds and the calculations involved with American odds, it’s now time to learn and to understand the most popular NFL bet types. 


How to Bet Football: Popular Game Lines Explained

There are already hundreds of different football bet types out there that you will typically find on an NFL game and sportsbooks are becoming more and more creative with their offering so the list of options you have is pretty much endless. Let’s start with the most common single game bets you will see at sportsbooks


Betting The Spread NFL

A point spread is set by the oddsmakers at a sportsbook and effectively aims to level out the playing field between two teams where there is a favorite and an underdog.

The way a game is ‘evened up’ is by subtracting points from the favorite and adding points to the underdog before the game has begun. 

You will quickly be able to identify the favorite of the contest because they will always start with a negative figure (-), whilst the underdog will be the team with added points (+).

So for example you might see a spread on a game between Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans look like this: 


Kansas City Chiefs  -5

Houston Texans  +5


This would mean that the odds setters at the sportsbook think that the Chiefs will win by a margin of 5 points and that Texans will lose by 5 points. 

So if you were to bet on the favorite’s side of the spread (Kansas) you would need the Chiefs to win by a margin of 6 points or greater as they effectively start 5 points down. 

If you backed the underdog side of the spread (Houston) you start the game 5 points up and you would need the Texans to stay within a losing margin or 5 or less points. If they were win or tie the actual game, your bet will also settle as a winner. 

Typically spread bets are set at -110 either side of the spread so bettors get the same value whether they bet on the favorite or underdog but also providing a profit margin for the sportsbook.


NFL Moneyline Betting 

A moneyline bet is arguably the easiest bet you can place on an NFL game. You effectively only have two choices; 


Team A to beat Team B 


Team B to beat Team A. 


Although moneyline bets on other sports will often offer the option of a tie, ties are so rare in American football that it is not commonly offered as a moneyline option. 

Unlike betting against the spread, moneyline bets for favorite backers come at a cost, in that the odds on offer are generally quite low because there is no handicap with a moneyline, it’s simply just predicting the winner of the contest. On the flip side you will get fairly generous odds on underdogs, as there is no positive points advantage like a points spread bet and they simply have to be the true winner of the contest in order for you to win your bet. 

You should still be able to quickly identify who is the sportsbooks favorite for the contest and who is the underdog by the odds.

Using the above example in a game between Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans we already know that the Chiefs are the favorites and the Texans are the underdog but let’s see how that might look on the moneyline:


Kansas City Chiefs  -210

Houston Texans – +180 


The minus odds in a moneyline will always represent the favorite whereas the plus odds shows the underdog of the game. 


NFL Totals Bet (Over/Under) 

When betting totals on an NFL game you don’t mind who wins the game, your sole concern is around the cumulative total of points scored in the game, by both teams. 

Sticking with our Chiefs vs Texans game the over/under totals might look like this:


Over 41.5 Points  -110

Under 41.5 Points  -110


It might be a case that you’re unsure who will win the game as you believe both teams are closely matched but you know they are both strong in attack so have a feeling that it might be a high scoring game. In this instance you would opt for the Over 41.5 points option. If both teams combine to total over 42 points in the game, then your Over bet will settle as a winner. 

On the other hand perhaps you think that the game might be a tight, cagey affair and you rate both teams’ defense, so you opt for the Under 41.5 points option. If there are 41 points or under in the game, your Under bet will pay out. 


Live Football Betting: NFL Live Bets Explained

Many sportsbooks in the United States will offer in-game live betting on football games after they’ve begun. Typical live bets include moneyline, spread, totals, player and team prop bets. Live betting can be a valuable option for bettors because it allows you to make your betting judgements and predictions based on what you have seen so far in the game. For example there may have been a strong favorite before the game but in the first quarter of the game you can see that they are having an off-game, this may prompt you to bet on the underdog. 

Live betting totals can also be handy because you can see how the game is unfolding in terms of attacks and defense. If defensive lines are being broken frequently you may have a feeling that the game will yield a high scoring total final score and may opt to bet on the Over option in the totals market.

Bear in mind that in-game lines and odds will change over the duration of the contest to reflect what is going on in the game and how long is left. 

Another popular NFL live bet market is betting on the next play. These props might be a wager on whether a team will run a passing or rush play or it could be whether they gain or lose yards as well as predicting the next touchdown or first down. 


NFL Futures 

When it comes to NFL futures, the clue is in the name. You are betting on anything happening in the future and by the end of the NFL season. 

Popular NFL Future Bets Include:

  • Team to win the Super Bowl 
  • Team to win the AFC 
  • Team to win the NFC
  • NFL regular season MVP


NFL futures bets can provide fans with an interest in something over a longer period of time, compared with a game bet. Futures generally offer attractive odds as the market can be so open with many potential winners. On the flip side, futures take a while to settle so it’s not a quick money maker if you are looking for a fast profit bet. 


NFL Prop Bets

Prop bets are available across the regular NFL season but they are most prominent and popular when the Super Bowl comes around. 

A prop bet is essentially a bet you place on a player or a team during the game which doesn’t affect the final result. They are usually an over or under bet .


NFL Player Props

NFL player props offer markets on individuals achieving or not achieving certain landmarks within the game. Typical player props include; over/under on passing, a player to score a touchdown, players receiving/rushing yards and plenty of other markets related to stats.

Let’s say you fancy placing a player prop bet on Patrick Mahomes’ passing yards in a game the market might look like this: 


Patrick Mahomes Over 285.5 Yards – (-120)

Patrick Mahomes Under 285.5 Yards – (+120)


In this example we can see that the sportsbook’s odds makers believe it’s most likely that Mahomes will achieve an individual passing yards score of over 285 yards as this is represented by the (-) odds which we know tells you is the favorite side of the bet. 

Those who think he won’t achieve a passing yards score of over 285 would opt for the Under side of the bet. 


Other Popular NFL Player Props
  • Quarterback Completed Passes
  • Quarterback Interceptions Thrown
  • RB Total Yards From Line of Scrimmage 
  • WR Receiving Yards
  • WR Total Receptions
  • Head-to-Head Props Between Two Players


NFL Team Props 

NFL team props are usually game by game bets but you will occasionally see markets offered on longer term team props but they both follow the same principle in that you are betting on a team to achieve or not achieve a certain landmark. 

Below is an example of a team prop bet:


Team To Score The First Touchdown

LA Rams   +110 

Buffalo Bills   -110 


This is one of the most straightforward team props you can bet on as you are simply predicting on who will score the first TD in the game. 

As already mentioned you will more commonly see prop bets offered with an over/under selection and below is an example of one on the same game as offered by DraftKings:

This team prop is a team totals wager and you are effectively predicting whether either team will score or under a certain amount of points. 

LA Rams Team Total Points 
Over 25.5   -110 Under 25.5    -110


Buffalo Bills Team Total Points
Over 26.5   -125 Under 26.5   +105


This market is a popular option because even if you’re unsure on who will win but are sure one of the teams will cover (or won’t cover) their individual predicted points tally you would be more inclined to bet on this market than a moneyline or spread bet on either team. 


NFL Multi Bets

NFL multi bets are where you select two or more picks to combine to make one bet. The most popular multi bet type by far is the parlay bet but you will also see teasers and bet builders offered by sportsbooks as well. 


NFL Parlay Bets

NFL parlays are where you select two or more teams which then combine into one bet . These bet types are most popular across a round of games which might take place over a few days where the bettor fancies two or more teams to win their games. You can combine several wager types into parlays including moneyline, spreads and totals. Some sportsbooks may also offer parlays on futures and prop bets.

However the most common NFL parlay you will see is an NFL moneyline parlay. 

The reason moneyline parlays are so popular is because of the simplicity of just picking a handful of teams you think will win their games and also because single moneyline bets on favorites often have tighter odds so the value isn’t the best, but by combining these single moneyline bets into a parlay you are multiplying the odds with every selection you add and you will get a greater return. 

Looking at NFL round 1 of the 2022/23 season:

The three shortest odds / biggest favorites of round 1 in their games are: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts.

Their moneyline games odds are as follows:


Baltimore Ravens  -300

New York Jets  +240 


Pittsburgh Steelers  +225

Cincinnati Bengals  -275 


Indianapolis Colts  -375

Houston Texans   +290


Odds examples by BetMGM


Now let’s see what a single $10 bet on each of those teams to win their games in the moneyline would return:


Baltimore Rovers to beat New York Jets  -300

$10 bet at -300 returns $13.33 ($3.33 profit and your $10 stake returned) 


Cincinnati Bengals to beat Pittsburgh Steelers at -275

$10 bet at -275 returns $13.64 ($3.64 profit and your $10 stake returned)


Indianapolis Colts to beat Houston Texans  -375

$10 bet at -375 returns $12.67 ($2.67 profit and your $10 stake returned)


As you can see, a single moneyline bet on each of the favorites would yield a fairly small profit return. Let’s now see what a $10 wager on the same three teams in a parlay would return:


Baltimore Rovers to beat New York Jets -300
Cincinnati Bengals to beat Pittsburgh Steelers  -275
Indianapolis Colts to beat Houston Texans -375
Parlay Odds +130
Stake: $10 Total Return: $23.03


We can now see that by combining three heavy favorites into a parlay we get a much more attractive return on our $10 stake. 

If you were to back each team as a single $10 bet you would have to stake a total of $30 (3x $10 bets) and would only stand to make a total profit of $9.64. Whereas if you went with the parlay option you only have to stake $10 and if all three teams were to win (As the sportsbooks expect) you would make a total of $13.03. So you are staking a smaller amount and returning greater profit with the parlay option that backing all three individually. 

Sounds great right?..This comes with caution however because by backing each individually you know if two teams go on to win and one lets you down you will win 2/3 bets and be paid out for two of them. If however 2/3 bets win within your parlay, your whole parlay bet will settle as a loser as if just one team lets you down your parlay is done for. 

That’s why you need to weigh up the risks and decide what wager type is best for you, whether you prefer to back the teams individually with more security or go for the parlay option and get a greater return for a smaller stake but higher risk. 


NFL Same Game Parlay / Bet Builders 

This is a fairly new concept to the world of American football betting and it essentially allows bettors to build a parlay on landmarks reached (or not reached) in a single game. 

The beauty of same game parlays also known as bet builders is that you can combine game bets such as the moneyline, spread and totals with prop bets on teams and individual players. Usually your bet builder will require a minimum of 3 selections. 

Let’s say you fancy the LA Rams to beat the Bills in the moneyline, LA Rams to score more than 26 points in the game, Matthew Stafford over 199 passing yards in the game and Copper Kupps to register at least 1 touchdown. 

Your Bet Builder might look like this:


  • LA Rams WIN  +110
  • LA Rams to score more than 26 points -110
  • Matt Stafford over 199 passing yards  +160
  • Copper Kupps to score a TD in the game +140


Bet Builder Odds: +2402 


The same game parlay will combine all of the above selections into one bet where if all of the above were to happen within the game your bet builder will payout but if just one leg of your same game parlay lets you down your bet will lose regardless of how many of the others occur. 

However, odds are very attractive on bet builders and you could make a small fortune depending on the number of selections in your bet builder, their odds and your stake. Using the above example a $10 wager on those four things occurring within the game would return $250.17 ($240.17 profit + your $10 stake returned to you). 

So although bet builders are generally hard to win as you need all of your predictions to happen, they are a very attractive wager option as you don’t need to stake much to make a generous return. 


NFL Teasers 

An NFL teaser bet, just like parlay, is two or more picks and requires all of your selections to win in order for your teaser bet to pay out. 

Where teasers and traditional parlays differ is that teasers are solely point spread or over/under totals based wager types and the real attraction to teasers come in the fact that you can alter spreads/totals to make them more favorable to you, which can make your bet easier to win compared with an original spread/totals quote. 

Let’s look at how we’d ‘teaser’ three teams in the opening round of the NFL: 

At DraftKings we have selected our three teams below who we would like to place a teaser bet on:

This currently has all three teams listed as a parlay with their original point spread quote. I wish to turn this parlay into a ‘6 point teaser’ which is the most common teaser bet. Effectively what a teaser bet does is adds on points to an original spread quote to make the bet ‘easier’ to win. So with a 6 point teaser we are adding 6 points on to each of those original spread quotes which then looks like:

Whereas the Eagles and the Bills both originally had a negative spread (meaning they start the game behind), by teasering we have turned both of them so they actually now have a positive point handicap and start the game ahead. 

However the odds of the original points spread parlay was +661 meaning a $10 bet would have returned $71.15. By simplifying the bet and teasering 6 points (Adding 6 points to each) we have sacrificed a fair chunk of odds value and a $10 stake now only returns $26 with odds of +160.

NFL teasers are great ways to make favorites have even stronger win claims but also give underdogs even more points than they have been allocated on the spread. NFL teasers go from 6 point, 6.5 point, 7 points to 10 points. 


NFL Betting Strategy 

First and foremost betting on NFL games should be fun and you should try to enjoy it whatever the outcome of your bet. However NFL betting can be a profitable pastime for many and if we can provide you with profit in addition to entertainment then you’re sure to get more out of your NFL wagering.

Whilst there are no certainties in betting, following basic strategies and procedures along the way will ensure you give yourself the best chance of winning bets without leaving yourself short. Here’s some quick tips you can follow before you get started or just to improve your NFL betting:


Bankroll Management 

If you’re looking to seriously take up NFL betting and see this as something you will do over a longer period of time, then it is paramount that you consider a bankroll management. A bankroll is quite simply just a pot of money you have aside that you can afford to lose/gamble. A good rule of thumb is using 1-5% of your bankroll per bet. So let’s say you have a bankroll of $100, you would only want to staking between $1-5 per bet. $1 bets you would likely use on ones you have a feeling may win but also a good chance that they can lose, so you do a minimum bet (also known as a 1pt stake). If there was a bet you were very confident in, perhaps you have the stats to back up your selection or it is a short priced favorite, this is where you would opt for a 3-5% stake of your bankroll ($3-5). Of course this will change depending on the amount in your bankroll if your pot stands at $1000, a 1% wager would equate to $10 and so on. This way providing you are winning a handful of bets you should protect your bankroll whilst also giving yourself a good chance of making profit. 


Look For Value Bets

Whilst short priced favorites are the most likely winners of a game, they provide little profit value compared to the amount you have to wager. Favorites do also regularly lose, so backing favorites consistently is not an advisable strategy and you will lose money over the long run. That’s why you should look for good value bets, eg. where the sportsbook oddsmakers have underestimated a team or a player. Perhaps you might think an underdog is stronger than the sportsbooks have given them credit for and you back them in the spread or moneyline. By using stats to make your picks you will be making informed betting decisions which in the long run should pay off. 


Look at The Stats & Form 

This is one of the best ways to get one over a sportsbook and to ultimately beat them. They invest plenty of money in data tools which then in turn help create their odds but often things will be missed and this is where you can beat a sportsbook by doing thorough research on team and player stats to look where you think there is a good value bet or where the sportsbook may have undervalued a market. There are many resources out there for both player and team form and stats which we would advise checking out before making your betting predictions. 


Check Historical Data & Records

Whilst this isn’t the number priority when going to make an NFL bet, you can still get good insights by checking out historical game records. The most popular is head-to-head records, there may not be much reasoning behind it but just some teams will struggle against others historically, or a team may struggle at a particular stadium. All of these little insights can help you make one overall decision on whether to make a bet or not. 


Stay Up To Date With Team News 

NFL team news can change quickly due to unforeseen things happening like a player being sick, picking up an injury in training or other reasons. If you’re fast, sportsbooks may not have factored in team news into their latest odds and you can quickly make your betting picks based on a key player being out of the game or perhaps one returning from injury quicker than anticipated which could have big impacts on the game’s result. 


NFL Sportsbooks 

You’ve now been given a run through of the basics and fundamentals of how to bet on football games as well as some tips on strategies. It’s now time to choose your sportsbook in which to place your NFL bets with. 

The good news is that American football is the most popular sport in the country and every respectable legal sportsbook will have tons of markets on the NFL. Which is great news for you because you have a huge selection of sportsbooks to choose from (state dependent of course!). 

Many will offer unique betting markets that others don’t, pretty much all of them will offer a bonus for signing up (but some are way better than others) and most will offer some form of on-going promotions and loyalty programs for your continued custom. Check out LearnTheLine’s sportsbook page for a list of sportsbook sign up offers and detailed reviews of each and start your NFL betting journey today. 


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