NFL Betting Guide

It’s easy to forget how simple football really is. There’s the ball, there’s the end zone – now go get the ball into the end zone. You can run with the ball or you can throw it. Go have fun. There are some other basic rules, of course, but that’s all you need when you and your buddies get together for some backyard football. It’s only when the stakes get higher that things all of a sudden have to get complicated. Now you have to have specialized rules to keep the game running smoothly, and specialized jargon to discuss the game at a deeper level. That’s how the National Football League works.

How to Bet on the NFL

When it’s just you and a friend making a casual bet on who will win the Super Bowl – loser pays for dinner – that’s not something that requires a Rules Committee. But when you sign up with a sportsbook that things have to be done more formally, in very certain and specific ways.   The good news for anyone interested in NFL online betting? You can become pretty good at it once you’ve learned the basic rules and customs, which won’t take too much of your time or brainpower. After that, the more you figure out how things work, the more you’ll understand NFL betting, and that means more money and more fun. It’s the same path everyone takes on the journey from novice to expert. Before you can even start betting on the NFL, you’ll need to know that there are different kinds of bets, and they work in different ways. Even the basic point spread that everyone has seen online or in the newspaper has some special qualities that most people don’t know about. We’ll tell you about those qualities, and we’ll explain how to place other NFL bets like parlays and teasers.
The NFL Online Betting team has researched the many online sportsbooks that exist today and found that one in particular stands above the rest in terms of offering the most wager types while still maintaining a good reputation as far as customer service and reliable payouts. Our experts say this is best sportsbook to bet on the NFL:

How to Bet on NFL Odds

You’re also going to need to know a little something about the odds. NFL online betting is all about risk and reward; every time you bet on the NFL, you’re making an investment that has a chance of success and a chance of failure. Just like a stock exchange can’t operate without stock prices, a sportsbook can’t operate without the odds. This is where people with poor math skills start to zone out. But you don’t have to be Blaise Pascal to bet on NFL games. If you can handle basic arithmetic, you can understand and work with the odds. Really, it’s not rocket science. We’ll help you out by explaining the three different ways odds can be expressed, and how they’re applied in different NFL betting situations. Once that’s out of the way, you need to learn some of the lingo. The language of NFL betting is rich and colorful; you could spend years studying it if you wanted to – but let’s start with the basics. We’ll discuss the five most important pieces of NFL betting terminology; once you’ve absorbed that information, you’ll be on solid ground and ready to tackle those NFL betting lines.

NFL Wager Types

Imagine how dull Baskin-Robbins would be if they only had one flavor – even if it was the greatest flavor ever invented, like some kind of vanilla-bacon hybrid. Forget that noise: when you bet on the NFL, you have many different types of wagers on the menu. You have everything from the reliable point spread to the more exotic flavors, like if bets and teasers. The NFL betting world has a time and place for all these wagers. We’ll put you on the right path by breaking down each category, showing you how they work and what you need to do to start making that money.  

Learn how to bet on the NFL with these wager types:

Buying Points

Everything has a price these days. If you're so inclined, you can buy things you normally get for free, like air and water and dirt. Or you could buy yourself one of the most valued commodities in NFL betting: half a point. Risk management doesn't get much easier. Have you ever looked at the NFL betting lines and seen something like this:

  • Cleveland Browns +3.5
  • Arizona Cardinals -3.5
It can be a bit frustrating when you're dealing with an NFL point spread that's at or near three points. Maybe you want to bet on the Cardinals, but you're worried that they'll only win by a field goal – and roughly one in six NFL games will end with that margin of victory. Fortunately, you can improve your chances by buying half a point and betting Arizona -3. That way, if the Cards do win by three, it's a push instead of a loss. You could also buy a half point on the Browns and make them +4 if you choose. As long as you're moving the point spread to a round number (i.e. not from -3 to -2.5, or +3 to +3.5), you can do this with any NFL bet that involves a spread, including parlays and Round Robins. Because three and seven are “magic numbers” in NFL betting, you have to pay a little more to move onto those numbers. Looking at our example game, if you want to buy half a point on the Browns, instead of wagering the standard $110 to win $100, you will have to wager $120. However, to buy that extremely valuable half-point on the Cardinals, you will have to wager $135 to win $100. Moving from +6.5 to +7, or -7.5 to -7? That's only $125 to win $100, since seven is not as common a winning margin as three. Magical, yes, but not quite as magical as the almighty three points.

Single and Multi Bets

There's more than one way to skin a cat, and there's more than one way to bet on the NFL. Easily the most preferred method is to place a single bet. That's any wager on the outcome of a single game or event – no parlays, no combinations.

The single bet is the go-to move for betting on the NFL, no matter what level you're at as a handicapper. If you want to bet on the NFL online for the first time, you should keep it simple and focus exclusively on making a single bet. Having said that, experienced handicappers conduct most of their business using single bets. Anything more exotic involves an added level of risk that must be managed.

Of all the single bets you can make, betting the NFL point spread is the simplest and the most popular. You can also bet the total or the moneyline. In each case, you're looking at a single game with a specific set of variables to consider. You can research the two teams in question, the players on their rosters, the stadium in which the game is being played, and so on.

These single bets are the building blocks of your bankroll. The aim is to get more of them right than wrong; unless otherwise stated, you have to wager $11 to win $10 on a single bet, so you need a success rate of at least 52.4% in order to make a profit. Again, keeping it simple and sticking to these single-bet benchmarks will help you navigate the NFL betting waters more safely.

You're going to be making a lot of single straight bets when you bet on the NFL. There are as many as 16 games every week during the regular season; each of those games has a point spread, a total and a moneyline. Things can get a bit confusing when you do your NFL online betting in bulk.

Good thing we have the option of taking all those single bets and rolling them into one enormous multi-single bet. You can take as many as 20 singles and put them together if you choose. This isn't a parlay, by the way – each bet is processed individually. You can even use single bets from other sports along with your NFL betting.

Multi-single bets are useful because they allow you to manage your bet sizing more efficiently. You have the option of entering a different wager amount for each of the straight bets you make. Or you could simply decide you want to bet, say, $200 on an entire batch of 16 games. In this case, all you have to do is place one $200 mutli-single bet. The sportsbook's betting interface will do the math for you and divide that $200 evenly amongst the 16 games.

That's not all. Instead of starting with the size of your wager, you can start with the size of your potential payout. Let's say you want to win $500 at the end of the day with a multi-single bet that includes eight games. Again, just enter that $500 into the computer, and the betting software will work out how big a wager each of your games will require to hit your target. Less work for you means more time to do other things – like researching the games in question and maximizing the money you win betting on the NFL.

Multi Single Bets

You're going to be making a lot of single straight bets when you bet on the NFL. There are as many as 16 games every week during the regular season; each of those games has a point spread, a total and a moneyline. Things can get a bit confusing when you do your NFL online betting in bulk.

Good thing we have the option of taking all those single bets and rolling them into one enormous multi-single bet. You can take as many as 20 singles and put them together if you choose. This isn't a parlay, by the way – each bet is processed individually. You can even use single bets from other sports along with your NFL betting.

Multi-single bets are useful because they allow you to manage your bet sizing more efficiently. You have the option of entering a different wager amount for each of the straight bets you make. Or you could simply decide you want to bet, say, $200 on an entire batch of 16 games. In this case, all you have to do is place one $200 mutli-single bet. The sportsbook's betting interface will do the math for you and divide that $200 evenly amongst the 16 games.

That's not all. Instead of starting with the size of your wager, you can start with the size of your potential payout. Let's say you want to win $500 at the end of the day with a multi-single bet that includes eight games. Again, just enter that $500 into the computer, and the betting software will work out how big a wager each of your games will require to hit your target. Less work for you means more time to do other things – like researching the games in question and maximizing the money you win betting on the NFL.

Parlay

Once you've mastered the single bet, it's time to expand your NFL betting horizons. The parlay is an incredibly popular way to bet on NFL games while increasing your potential payout at the end of the day. Instead of betting on the outcome of a single game or event, you're now betting on two or more outcomes up to a maximum of 12.

Betting Two-Team Parlay

Let's start with a simple, two-team parlay. We use “team” here even though you can also bet on a total instead, which we'll do in this example:

  • Houston Texans -4
  • OVER 48
Here we're combining two bets: we're taking the Texans -4 in their game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and we're taking over 48 in the same game. We could place two single bets of $11 instead, in which case we'd win $20 if both outcomes came true. But if we parlay the two wagers, our payout gets multiplied by a set rate – in this case, by 2.645. That's $58.19 if you combine the two $11 single bets into a $22 parlay, or $36.19 in profit instead of just $20. Your payout gets multiplied by a bigger number for every team you add to your parlay. A three-team parlay pays out at nearly 6/1, while nailing a 12-team parlay would deliver a massive payout at over 2340/1. The risk is that you won't win anything if you only get 11 out of your 12 picks correct. That's why many professional handicappers stick with two-team parlays – often combining the spread and the total from the same game, as in the above example. Understanding risk management is just as important as understanding football when you bet on the NFL.

IF Bet

Is there a more powerful word in the English language than if? It certainly packs quite a punch when you're betting on the NFL. The if bet is a clever way to put two straight bets together without turning them into a two-team parlay. Your potential payout will be lower, but so will your risk of not winning anything. Let's look again at the example game from our section on parlays:

  • Houston Texans -4
  • OVER 48
In this example, we wanted to bet on the Texans to beat the Philadelphia Eagles by more than four points, and we also wanted to bet the “over” on the total of 48 points. We could simply make two separate straight bets of $110 each, we could play a $220 two-team parlay, or we could take the third option and make an if bet, with $110 wagered on each of the two NFL lines in question. Here's how it works: we start with $110 on the Texans -4. If they cover, then the second leg of the bet is processed, and $110 is wagered on the total. If the Texans don't cover the spread, that terminates the bet – the second leg is ignored. If Houston wins by exactly four points, or if the game is ruled “no action” or cancelled altogether, it's treated like a standard push and all monies wagered are returned. That's provided you place a “win only” if bet. There's also the “action” if bet; with this kind of bet, the second leg is processed as long as the first leg doesn't lose. That means wins and pushes both count, as do “no action” rulings and cancellations. You can learn more about if bets and their different variations in the glossary section of your NFL betting sportsbook.

Reverse Bets

It's time to take a look at one of the truly underused concepts in NFL betting: the reverse bet. But before we do, please take a moment to read our section on the if bet . When you're playing a reverse bet, you're essentially playing your if bet twice at the same time, with the order reversed in one of the two halves. Let's say you were thinking about making the following if bet on a game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals:

  • Vikings +4
  • OVER 38
You'll recall that with an if bet, unlike a parlay, the second bet only gets processed if the first outcome wins. Let's say Minnesota loses 27-20 to the Cincinnati Bengals, and you wagered $110 to win $100 on each of the two NFL betting lines. The Vikings didn't cover, so you lose $110, and the second bet on the total is ignored. But what if you had managed your risk by placing the following reverse bet, putting $55 to win $50 on each of the four NFL lines?
First Part

  • Vikings +4
  • OVER 38
Second Part

  • OVER 38
  • Vikings +4
The first part plays out just like our original if bet, but with a loss of $55 instead of $110. In the second part, the “over” pays out $50, but the Vikings failed to cover, so you lose five bucks. That's a total loss of $60, which is a lot better than losing $110. Remember: a penny saved is a penny earned when you're betting on the NFL.

Round Robin

Are you ready for some advanced NFL betting strategy? Don't worry, you don't need an advanced degree in math for this one or even an advanced understanding of football. What you do need is to keep things organized. We're dealing with parlays here, and a special way to play them called the Round Robin. Let's say you have three NFL betting lines from three different games that you'd like to parlay:

  • Oakland Raiders +10
  • Kansas City Chiefs +11
  • Jacksonville Jaguars +15
Everyone loves an underdog. You could combine all three of these puppies in a $300 three-team parlay, in which case you'd be paid out at nearly 6/1 if all three covered the spread – but that's a risky bet to make. What if, instead, you made three different two-team parlays at $100 each? That's what a Round Robin does for you:

  • Raiders +10
  • Chiefs +11

  • Raiders +10
  • Jaguars +15

  • Chiefs +11
  • Jaguars +15
Now, let's say the Raiders and Chiefs both cover, but the Jaguars don't. That means only the first part of this Round Robin comes true – but you still make a profit! Each part of your Round Robin is treated individually, so you earn $264.50 on the first part (that's 2.645/1 for winning a two-team parlay) while losing a combined $200 on the other two parts. Compare that to a big fat zero in earnings for losing the entire three-team parlay when the Jags don't cover. Round Robins can be placed on as many as eight NFL betting lines at the same time, creating parlays of anywhere between two and six teams. The sportsbook's betting interface will do all the heavy lifting for you. This format can be a great way to manage risk – people even use it with lottery numbers, but they're still relying on luck to get paid. Betting on the NFL is a skill and a much smarter investment.

Teaser Bets

In NFL betting, a teaser is when you take all the games you have in a parlay, and you adjust the point spreads (or totals) in order to make the outcomes more likely to occur. You're also reducing your possible payout at the end – that's the bargain you strike in order to lower your risk. Teaser bets come in three different sizes when you bet on the NFL: six points, 6.5 points and seven points. The more points you tease by, the lower your payout will be at the end. Let's take the Houston Texans example we used in our section on parlay betting:

  • Texans -4
  • OVER 48
If we decide to use a six-point teaser on this matchup, we're changing the odds so they looks like this:

  • Texans +2
  • OVER 42
Those odds make it a lot easier for the Texans to cover the spread and for the over to exceed the posted total. However, your payout in this situation is -110, meaning an $11 bet will return $10 instead of $29.10 (using the multiplier of 2.645 for a two-team parlay). If you had bought a 6.5-point teaser instead, the payout would be -120. A seven-point teaser would pay out at -130.

Applying Teaser Bets

Teasers can be applied to any parlay up to 10 teams in size. The best time to use them is when you can move the point spread so that it crosses one of football's “magic numbers” like three or seven, since more NFL games are decided by a field goal or a touchdown than any other margin. In the above example, the Texans wouldn't have covered if they had won by a field goal, but they would have with the teaser in place. Is it worth the smaller payday? That's up to you to decide.