NFL Odds and Lines Types

Sports betting has been around for thousands of years, in every corner of the globe. Therefore it’s no surprise that the culture of NFL betting is a little different wherever you go – even if you bet on the NFL online. Some of the terminology is different. Some of the practices are different. No problem. In the end, it’s all about betting on the NFL, and you don’t need a Rosetta Stone to figure it out. We’ll guide you through the various types of NFL odds and NFL betting lines you’ll encounter on the path to football glory. These are fundamental concepts that must be learned if you want to bet on the NFL for any reason other than pure entertainment.
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 best odds while still maintaining a credible sportsbooks known for dependable payouts and trusted service. Our experts say this is best sportsbook to bet on the NFL:

American Odds

No matter where in the world you do your NFL online betting, at some point you're going to be using American odds. You may already be familiar with them if you've used the moneyline to bet on the NFL; in fact, the terms “moneyline” and “American odds” tend to get used interchangeably. However they're not quite the same thing.

It is true that the moneyline is the most direct and obvious use of American odds – make sure to check out our section on the moneyline if you haven't already. However, you will also find American odds in other situations, like betting the NFL point spread. Consider the difference between these two NFL betting lines:

Pittsburgh Steelers +3 Baltimore Ravens -3

Pittsburgh Steelers +3 (-120) Baltimore Ravens -3 (+100)

In the first example, the Ravens are three-point favorites at home, and you have to bet $11 to win $10 no matter which team you pick. The juice has changed in the second example; to bet on Pittsburgh, you are now betting $12 to win $10, while a Baltimore bet is even money. You'll normally see +100 used in American odds instead of -100, but they're technically the same thing.

American odds can also be used when betting NFL totals, or on the prop market, where you take either side of a proposition in much the same way the moneyline is used to bet on NFL games. The trick is to find situations where the amount you wager is a bargain compared to the size and likelihood of your payout. That's the American way.

Decimal Odds

No wonder the NFL wants to expand into Europe. The market for “the other” football just keeps getting bigger with more and more people betting on the NFL online every year. If you’re logging in from continental Europe (or perhaps from Australia or New Zealand), you’ll be working primarily with decimal odds. That’s why they’re also known as “European odds” or even “continental odds.”

Decimal odds are one of the three most common ways (along with fractional odds and the moneyline) to conduct fixed-odds betting on NFL games. This notation is especially useful when you’re putting together a parlay card. For now, let’s start with a game in sunny California between the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots:

  • Patriots 1.18
  • Raiders 5.00
With decimal odds, you take the number on the right and multiply it by your wager to see how much money you get in return for your bet – including the original wager amount. The Patriots are big favorites here; a $100 bet would return $118, or $18 in profit. The underdog Raiders would return $500 with a miracle win, or $400 in profit on a $100 bet. Here’s where the magic comes in. Let’s throw another game into the mix:

  • Cowboys 2.65
  • Saints 1.54
Now let’s put together a simple two-team parlay with the Patriots at 1.18 and the New Orleans Saints at 1.54. All you have to do to calculate your potential payout is multiply those two numbers, which gives you 1.82, or $82 in profit for every $100 you bet. Want to parlay the Raiders with the Dallas Cowboys instead? If both teams pull off the upset, the payout will be 5.00 times 2.65, or 13.25. That’s $1,225 in profit for every $100 – or 100 euros, if you prefer.

Fractional Odds

Dennis Hopper was wrong: you can’t go into space without fractions. You also can’t get much done at the betting window, especially if you’re in the United Kingdom or Ireland. That’s where fractional odds are most commonly used to bet on the NFL. However you’re probably familiar with them no matter where you live. Anytime you hear someone talk about “four to one” or “eight to five,” those are fractional odds.

The futures market is one of the best places to see fractional odds in action. Before the start of every season the sportsbook will put together a list of Super Bowl odds for all 32 teams, and the favorite will usually be available at around 5/1 during the preseason. That means a $100 bet on the favorite would earn you $500 in profit if they won the Super Bowl.

There are other NFL betting situations where a team will be such a strong favorite that the fractional odds will flip around and put the bigger number on the bottom. For example, perhaps you’re looking at the Patriots to win the AFC East division. The other three teams in that division have had their ups and downs; in recent years we’ve seen New England priced at 1/5 to take the AFC East crown. That’s $500 you have to bet for every $100 you want to win.

By the way, heavy favorites aren’t necessarily the best value on the futures market. NFL football betting experts usually prefer teams with longer Super Bowl odds, maybe a legitimate up-and-coming team at around 18/1 instead of 5/1. It’s not easy to win a championship after all. Might as well go for the bigger payday.

Futures

If you’re going to bet on the NFL, why not bet on the most important game of them all? Every year, people from around the world wager millions of dollars on who will win the Super Bowl. And you don’t even have to wait for the Big Game – the futures market is open year-round to serve your NFL football betting needs.

Why do they call it the futures market? It’s because the event you’re betting on takes place in the future. That’s also when you’ll get paid for your bet, after the event is over and the results are in. That makes it more of a speculative bet than picking a single game against the spread.

So who’s your favorite team? You’ll find NFL odds for all 32 of them on the Super Bowl futures market. You’ll also find odds for who will win the AFC and NFC titles, as well as who will win the six divisions that make up the league. You might even find an early NFL line for which conference will win the Super Bowl.

Of course, not every team has an equal chance of winning the Super Bowl. The top championship contenders typically have NFL odds of 10/1 or better, followed by the second-tier contenders between 10/1 and about 22/1. Then you have the fringe candidates, still viable but unlikely, with odds up to 33/1. Everyone else after that is a long shot to win the Super Bowl.

If your favorite team is one of these long shots, your bet may be just for entertainment value. But in the end, nothing beats cheering for your favourite team all year long.

Player Props

A football team is only as good as its players. These are the men who make everything happen, and those who do it the best become household names. So do certain players who act outrageously on and off the field. That’s why we love them. You can even bet on NFL players to achieve certain milestones or perform certain feats during a game or an entire season. These bets are called player proposition bets, AKA player props for short.

NFL player props have skyrocketed in popularity since Super Bowl XX, when William “The Refrigerator” Perry was priced at 2/1 to score a touchdown for the Chicago Bears – which he did. These player props come in two distinct flavors. One involves picking a side in either a YES/NO situation, an OVER/UNDER situation or a head-to-head matchup:

Will Tom Brady throw a touchdown pass?

  • YES -400
  • NO +250
How Many TD passes will Tom Brady throw?

  • OVER 2.5 -175
  • UNDER 2.5 +155
Which quarterback will throw more TD passes?

  • Tom Brady -110
  • Drew Brees -110
The other type of player prop gives you a list of players from which to choose, just like the teams on the Super Bowl futures market. You can bet on outcomes such as which player will score the first points in a given game, or which receiver will collect the most yards passing. You can also bet on future outcomes, like who will win league MVP honors at season’s end. This is one of the most sought-after player props on the NFL betting market; when you find a star player with upside on a team with playoff potential, buy him if the price is right.

Team Props

There is no offseason when you’re betting on the NFL. There’s always a way to bet on NFL games, especially when you’re dealing with NFL team props. You can bet on regular season win totals during the summer; then, all the way from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton to the Super Bowl itself, you have a fresh sheet of team props for every single game.

Betting the NFL Prop Market

The NFL betting public loves to play the prop market – particularly during the Super Bowl, when they’ll load up on just about anything. They’ll even bet on which team will win the coin toss. This is the textbook example of an NFL bet that should be made for entertainment purposes only. There’s no betting advantage for you at all, even if the NFC goes on another 14-flip winning streak like the one that got snapped in 2013.

With a little bit of research, you can figure out which NFL team props have betting value and which ones should be played for fun. Traditionally, it’s been well worth it to bet “no” on whether there will be a safety in any particular game, or whether it will go into overtime. People tend to bet “yes” on interesting events like this occurring, rather than betting on things not happening.

Just remember that unusual things do happen in the NFL every once in a while. The New York Giants were awarded a safety on a penalty at Super Bowl XLVI, then the Baltimore Ravens gave up an intentional safety at the end of Super Bowl XLVII. There had only been six Super Bowl safeties in history before that outburst.

As for overtime, that’s yet to happen at the Super Bowl. But it will, someday, if they keep playing the game long enough. Never bet the house on an NFL team prop, or any other individual bet for that matter. There are no deadbolt locks in NFL betting.

During the offseason, people who bet on the NFL have the opportunity to bet on the win totals for all 32 teams. This proposition bet is specifically for regular season win totals; the sportsbook assigns each team a target number, with odds for going over the posted total and odds for going under. Here are three (hypothetical) examples for this popular team prop:

New England Patriots

  • OVER 11 -140
  • UNDER 11 +110
Dallas Cowboys

  • OVER 7.5 -110
  • UNDER 7.5 -110
Jacksonville Jaguars

  • OVER 4.5 -105
  • UNDER 4.5 +125
In any given year, you’ll find a handful of teams at the top and bottom ends of the win spectrum, with everyone else lumped in together into the NFL’s middle class. Winning isn’t easy, even for the best teams, so you’ll often find good value in taking the under for the top Super Bowl contenders. You can also bet the over for teams with unreasonably low expectations. Teams in between are sometimes a bit more difficult to figure out.

Aside from the win totals, you’ll find plenty of team props available for single-game situations, like which team will win the coin flip or score first. The market for these props is especially busy during the Super Bowl, but you can get good action betting on the NFL during the regular season as well. And remember, there’s no I in team, but there is an m and an e.

Point Spread

If you want people to buy your product, make it simpler. That's what Charles McNeil did back in the 1940s when he decided to open his own sportsbook business in Chicago. Instead of using fixed odds for betting on the NFL, McNeil offered what he called “wholesale odds,” which later became the point spread we all know and love today.

What's a Point Spread?

The point spread is much simpler than fixed odds – at least for the customer. You don't need to do any math to figure out how much you'll get paid if Team A or Team B wins; in either case, you're typically betting $11 to win $10.

  • Chicago Bears +2
  • Detroit Lions -2
In this NFC North rivalry game, you have the option of betting on the Lions -2 or the Bears +2. If you bet on the Lions and they win by more than two points, you get paid. If you bet on the Bears and they don't lose by two or more points, you get paid. A final score where Detroit wins by exactly two points would result in a push – you get your initial wager back without winning or losing any money.

The sportsbook can move the point spread back and forth to encourage people to bet on a particular side. Perhaps Detroit will be moved to -2.5 or even -3 to get more action coming in on Chicago. It's an important move anytime the NFL odds are dancing around the “magic number” 3, since more NFL games end with a winning margin of three points than with any other number. The pros know how to react in these situations. So can you, with a little time and some practice.

Even Bets

When people bet NFL games online, they generally prefer even bets. These are situations where you can bet on one side or the other and get the same odds either way. When you bet on the point spread, that's an even bet. You double your money (minus the vigorish) if you win. Same thing when you're dealing with a total, or a prop bet where both YES and NO are priced at -110.

Even bets are the foundation of your NFL betting bankroll. It's a lot simpler this way to calculate wins and losses and keep track of your handicapping progress. You need to be right at least 52.4% of the time with your even bets in order to make a profit – that's factoring in the juice. Professional NFL handicappers are doing very well for themselves if they can get 60% of their even bets correct. If you bet the NFL point spread 10 times in a given week and you're right six times, you know you've done a good job. However, you could get six out of 10 moneyline bets correct and still lose money.

Playing even bets also helps you decide how much to wager when you bet on the NFL. It's always a good idea to break up your bankroll into a number of betting units, and bet one or more units on each game. Maybe you'll begin with $200 and break that into 100 units of $2. Then you can make even bets of $2 each and start building your bankroll the smart way.

Moneyline

The point spread is by far the most popular way to bet on the NFL, but there are times when a good, old-fashioned moneyline bet makes more sense. Fixed-odds NFL betting was the way things were done in America prior to World War II. The moneyline (known as “American odds” in other parts of the world) still does good business today – especially if you like betting on NFL underdogs.

Here’s a common situation: the home team (the New York Giants) is a small underdog against a visitor with a solid win-loss record (the Atlanta Falcons). The sportsbook makes New York a three-point dog, meaning with standard odds, a $110 bet on the Giants will pay out $100 provided they don’t lose by a field goal or worse.

However let’s say you really like the G-Men. You think they’re good enough on defense to win this game outright against a road-weary Falcons team that hasn’t faced many tough opponents. Conveniently enough, the moneyline allows you to bet on New York without those extra three points tacked on. This is what it would look like at the sportsbook:

  • Falcons -160
  • Giants +140
The Giants are +140 underdogs, meaning if you bet $100 on them and they win, you get $140 back. That’s a much healthier outcome than New York +3 can offer. As for the Falcons, they’re - 160 favorites, meaning you have to bet $160 on them to win $100. The sportsbook collects the difference between the two teams as vigorish.

Professional handicappers will keep a close watch on the NFL betting lines throughout the week, tracking down opportunities just like this one. Do what they do and consider a moneyline bet the next time a small home dog catches your eye at the right price.

Totals

The NFL betting lines have their own version of the Big Three. We're talking about the three most common ways to bet on NFL games: the point spread, the total and the moneyline.

In this game, let’s say the hometown Dolphins are listed as 2.5-point favorites against the spread. The other number you will see is the total.

  • New York Jets 38
  • Miami Dolphins
That's the “over/under” for how many points the two teams will combine to score. You can bet over 38 or under 38. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll make this an even bet, where you wager $11 to win $10. If the final score adds up to 38 points exactly, it's a push, and you get your original wager back just like you would with a push against the spread.

Totals are popular on their own, or in tandem with the point spread as one half of a two-team parlay. If you've done your homework and you're ready to bet on whether the Dolphins or Jets will win, then you might also have some idea of whether or not this will be a high-scoring game. Time is money, so parlaying the total with the pointspread from the same game is more efficient than parlaying two different totals or two different spreads.

Betting NFL Totals

It's also a good rule of thumb to bet the over when the total is low (say, anything below 38 points) and take the under when the total is high – perhaps 53 points or more. But don't do it blindly, and don't forget to take the weather conditions into account when you're looking at the NFL odds. It's been known to rain in Miami now and then.

In Play Wagering

We hear about multitasking a lot these days, but does anyone really uni-task anymore? You're probably doing at least three other things while you read this – maybe there's a game on or you have some music playing, and you're in between checking your tweets.

Interactive NFL Betting

This is a good thing. The Internet gives us the chance to do all these things together in real time. You can even get interactive when you bet on the NFL online, thanks to in-play wagering. In-play wagering is exactly what it says on the box: you can bet on updated point spreads, moneylines and totals as the game progresses during a live NFL broadcast. You can even go one step further and bet on each and every play as it happens – that’s called live betting. This is a great way to involve yourself in the game while also adding to your volume; remember, more NFL betting equals more profits.

Live NFL Betting

That doesn't mean you should bet on every single play. Just like the bets available on the prop market, wagering live can get pretty speculative at times. It's one thing to bet on whether the next play will be a run, a catch or an incomplete pass. You can look at stats like a quarterback's completion percentage and get a decent idea about what to pick. It's another thing to bet that a punt will be returned for a touchdown. That's a very rare event, and betting on it to happen is like buying a lottery ticket.

Not every game is televised, so check your sportsbook to see which matchups are available for in-play wagering and live NFL betting. The more you know about the teams in question and the way they play football, the more money you can win.

Betting Tips

You’ve already learned about NFL betting lines, how a point spread works and what role the sportsbook plays when you bet on the NFL online. Now it’s time to put that knowledge to good use. Here are 10 fundamental things you should be doing as part of your regular NFL betting regimen.

1. Identify Your Opponent

The overall purpose of NFL betting is not to beat the sportsbook. The purpose is to make smarter decisions than your true competition: the betting public. This is everybody who puts a wager on the same NFL game that you’re betting on. Each of those people is making a decision to invest money, which is why professional handicappers talk about concepts like the NFL betting market. The more you learn about this marketplace, the better you’ll be at executing the other fundamentals on this list.

2. Fade Public Teams

Thankfully, there’s no shortage of ways in which the NFL betting public gets it wrong. Many people simply bet on their favorite teams; if a team gets really popular and draws national attention, there could be thousands of people in the NFL betting market who are investing in that team with their hearts and not their heads. These are known as “public” teams. And in general, these teams are overvalued, which means you should consider betting against them.

3. Follow Small-Market Teams

On the other side of the coin, there are teams who toil in relative obscurity and never seem to get the credit they deserve. They might play in a small market. They might play on the West Coast, far removed from the national media centers in and around New York. They might not play the flashiest style of football or have a roster loaded with household names. The NFL betting public can be counted on to undervalue these teams – that goes double once you get into the playoffs, and especially at the Super Bowl. Underdogs covered nine of the 12 Super Bowls between 2002 and 2013.

4. Research Team Stats

If you’re betting on totals, consider teams driven by offense, such as the 2007 No. 1 and No. 3 total offense leaders, the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys, respectively. When they battled in Week 6, they scored a combined total of 75 points. That went way above the posted line of 52 and if you’d bet the over, you’d be in the money. In turn, teams that have a power defense often end in low-scoring affairs. Football is undoubtedly a team game, but the players can make all the difference. Do your homework; if a QB has a heavy aerial style, consider that it may not work on a team with top defense. Running plays may have to be put into effect and that means you can make an extra buck or two when you bet on each play with a sportsbook’s live betting lines.

5. Focus on the Quarterback (in Moderation)

One of the biggest sins the NFL betting public makes is to pay too much attention to the so-called “skill” players at the marquee positions: quarterback, running back and wide receiver. It is true that the quarterback is the most important player on the team, and the first player you should look at when you’re sizing up a team. But there are 52 other guys on the roster, each with a role to play in the team’s success or failure.

6. Study the Offensive Lines Closely

Ever noticed how many offensive linemen get picked early in the NFL Draft? The teams themselves (at least, most of them) are well aware that the quarterback is only as good as the protection in front of him. They also know that offensive linemen are pretty much already trained for NFL-level action once they learn the position in college. These linemen are valuable commodities, but the NFL betting public is hardly aware of their existence. That ignorance creates what the financial experts call “market inefficiency.” You can exploit this by fading teams with poor offensive (and defensive) lines, like the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles, who went 3-12-1 ATS.

7. Read the Injury Reports

The Eagles looked like a pretty good team going into the 2012 campaign, but the wheels fell off when those offensive linemen (and just about everyone else on the offense) started getting hurt. That’s why professional handicappers are always looking at the NFL injury reports. For all intents and purposes, these reports exist to serve the NFL betting industry. They’re not always accurate, but they’ll at least tell you which players are in questionable health. You can research these players on the Web to get a more accurate read on their availability.

8. Give the Special Teams their Due

Thirty yards equals 30 yards, whether it’s a 30-yard pass from Tom Brady or a 30-yard kick-off return by Devin McCourty. Teams without good punters and good punt-coverage units are at a major disadvantage in the NFL. As for place-kickers, they’re ignored when they do well and vilified when they miss. Most people just don’t understand special teams and don’t care to. That’s not a very smart way to bet on the NFL. It will only take a moment of your time to identify which NFL teams are strong or weak in this important facet of the game.

9. Consider the Environment

NFL games don’t happen in a vacuum. If you were to match up, say, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos, you’d get different results depending on which stadium they’re playing in and what time of year it is. Home teams have a definite advantage in the NFL, an advantage that’s worth an estimated three points on the scoreboard. Weather also plays a significant role in the outcome of a football game; it could be the swirling winds at Heinz Field, or the thin air at Mile High.

10. Time Your Bets for Maximum Value

It’s not like it was in the old days before online NFL betting, but it’s still true that most of the NFL betting public is working your standard Monday-to-Friday job. They’re a lot more likely to bet on the NFL during the weekend, which means you can expect the NFL betting lines to move when these casual bettors flood into the marketplace. Let’s say you’re looking at the NFL odds on Tuesday and the Arizona Cardinals are seven-point underdogs at home against the Broncos. If you like Denver, maybe you should place your bet now. If you like the Cardinals, maybe you should wait until Sunday, when they might be available at +8 or +9.

Bonus Tip: Have Fun

Like any other pursuit in life, you’ll get way more out of NFL betting if you enjoy doing it. Making money is great, too, but if that’s all you’re concerned about, there are easier and more profitable ways to do it. They’re just not nearly as fun as betting on the NFL. Profit and entertainment should go hand-in-hand.