NFL Betting for Beginners: How to Bet on the NFL
For beginners who are looking to learn how to bet on the NFL, you’ve come to the right place to learn. Sportsgrid will walk you through all the basics required to bet on the NFL. The NFL is the largest sport to bet on in the United States and provides plenty of different options for betting pre-game, at halftime or even during the NFL games themselves.
Moneyline betting is the simplest way to learn how to bet on the NFL, as the bettor simply predicts who will win the game and makes a bet on the outcome. If the team you have bet on simply wins the game they are playing in, you will be paid out on the bet, and if your team loses then you will lose the wager.
A simple way to think about moneyline betting is in $100 increments – if a moneyline is -120 then for every $120 wagered a sports bettor could expect to win $100 on a winning bet. If a moneyline is +120 then for everyone $100 wagered a sports bettor could expect to win $120 on a winning bet. The odds offered by sportsbooks will often include at least an extra 10% in the money line numbers (i.e there will never be a game with +100 and -100 as the odds) as the “vig” or commission which is the percentage that pays the sportsbook.
In the example below, a bettor could bet the Green Bay Packers +160 or the Chicago Bears -180 at a variety of sportsbooks.
You can access real-time NFL odds for moneyline bets using our NFL Odds Tool.
Point spread (or betting on “the spread”) betting is one of the most popular formats of betting in the United States and provides an expected margin of victory for each matchup. A point spread allows individuals to bet on who will “cover” the point spread versus simply winning or losing a matchup. Take the matchup below for example, where the Chicago Bears are expected to win by 3.5 points, a point spread will be set up for that game where the sports bettor can either bet on the Chicago Bears -3.5 or the Green Bay Packers plus 3.5. If you were to bet on the Bears -3.5 and they were to win by 4 points or more, you would win your bet and if they won by less than 3-points or lost the game you would lose your bet.
You can access real-time NFL odds for spreads using our NFL Odds Tool.
Totals (Over and Under Betting)
Betting operators also provide totals for each game which allow a sports bettor to bet “over” (that a team will score more points than the total) or “under” (that a team will score fewer points than the total) a total. These totals are generally offered for total points scored in a game as well as individual team totals for each team playing in a given contest. Betting operators also offer betting markets for totals centered around individual quarters, periods, halves or sets of innings. In this example, you could bet on the total points scored in the Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears to finish over or under 46 points.
You can access real-time NFL odds for totals using our NFL Odds Tool.
1st Half and 2nd Half Betting
1st Half or 2nd Half bets (or even individual bets on quarters) typically offer the same markets such as moneyline, spreads, and totals for the bets, but offer them on a shorter time constraint allowing users to bet against individual quarter or halves. This shortens the length of the bet and thus changes the odds as well. The lines for these markets are typically derived from the full-game markets and thus can open up potential angles for bettors to explore. Because of kickoff rules in the NFL, teams that receive the ball will be likely to get extra possessions and better field position in the quarter where they receive the ball. Bettors could consider exploring whether certain teams are more likely to elect to receive the ball or defer receiving the ball until the second half to see if there is an edge in betting on an underdog who is very likely to start with the ball. Similarly, there can be weird situations related to weather (extreme wind) or injuries that could create an edge in these markets that may not be available in the full game markets, and these markets may also be slower to move on betting volume.
Live In-Game Betting
Live, or In-Game, Betting refers to betting on a game as it actually happens. In order to do this, sportsbooks have data feeds which calculate odds in real-time as the action unfolds before your eyes. Bettors looking to wager in-game should remember that what they actually see with their eyes appears to be live but may actually be a few seconds delayed, allowing sportsbooks to take into account additional information that the bettor may not have. Because of that, it may be wise to wait until pauses in the action (timeouts or otherwise) to place in-game bets. Because the in-game betting lines are programmatically generated they may be unable or slow to take into account things that could impact a game such as a player who is visibly injured but remains in the game.
Factors to Consider when Betting the NFL
Because the NFL is the largest sports betting market in the world there are lots of different factors to consider when betting on the NFL. At Sportsgrid, our statisticians have built our own NFL betting model utilizing statistics over the last two decades.
Quality of Team and Opponent. At Sportsgrid we utilize ELO ratings to come up with our own power rankings of team and opponent. ELO Ratings, initially developed for international soccer, are a measure of a team based on their results and quality of opponent. We also utilize preseason betting market information such as season win totals. Regardless of your methodology for determining the quality of a team and opponent it is the foundational piece for betting on the NFL.
Location. Simply put, teams perform better when they are at home and worse when they are on the road. Understanding the impact a home-field advantage has for a particular team or venue is important. Similarly, with an increasing number of games being played in neutral locations such as London or Mexico, there isn’t always a “home team” for a stadium but certain sports (such as the NHL) may still offer favorable rules to home teams.
Travel. This is intertwined with the above but the distance of travel can have an impact on team performance. This may include simple things such as miles traveled (LA to NYC), or miles traveled in consecutive weeks for tough spots in the schedule.
Weather. Understanding which teams have outdoor venues, domes, or hybrid stadiums is important when the weather is at play. The wind can impact not just the total of games but may impact teams differently if one team is more prone to taking high YPA shots that are challenging in substantial wind gusts. Similarly, extreme rain conditions can impact a game.
Injuries. While the team ratings are most important, a team is a sum of the individual players and each of those players has a unique value. In some cases, like an injury to a backup OL, these will have no impact while in other cases, like an injury to the starting QB, these will move the odds several points.
Betting Market Information. The NFL is one of the largest betting markets in the world and there is a full week for the betting market to absorb and react to hundreds of statistics and information. The NFL betting lines get bet repeatedly by everyone from professional bettors, to wall street traders and average joes, and all of this information helps to shape the final lines or closing lines. Closing lines are incredibly efficient in the NFL and utilizing information such as consensus closing lines can help identify the potential value (or lack thereof) at different sportsbooks.
Interested in learning more about How to Bet on Sports? Check out our educational series.