Betting on the NFL Today
While the NFL was founded nearly a century ago, only in recent times has betting on the sport become more widespread. This followed the 2018 repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Act, which had previously outlawed wagering on sports in all states, bar Nevada. Moving forward, betting on NFL games will not seem so forbidden or taboo.
Indeed, the planned move of the Raiders from Oakland to Las Vegas in 2020 signifies how far the league has come, as a team embraces a city best known for its roots in gambling. The Raiders already have a partnership with Caesars Entertainment, and others may soon follow with similar deals.
With the Super Bowl remaining the most heavily-wagered sporting event in the world, there is incredible potential for NFL betting in the US and beyond. Sportsbooks will compete with each other to offer the most creative props and betting options, giving the public a bigger menu to wager than ever before.
The league’s history is well-documented, but not so much from a betting perspective. Our goal is to provide you with as many details as possible surrounding NFL wagering, including current betting options and tips that can help you beat the oddsmakers at their own game.
NFL Betting History
Joe Namath’s famous guarantee that his New York Jets would upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in 1969’s Super Bowl III is the stuff of legend. You didn’t even have to be alive at the time to realize the significance of Broadway Joe’s prediction, and how he successfully backed it up. Despite being listed as 18-point underdogs, the Jets triumphed in their lone Super Bowl victory, beating the Colts 16-7.
The New England Patriots (14-point underdogs in Super Bowl XXXVI) and New York Giants (12-point underdogs in Super Bowl XLII) are two other notable champions who beat the NFL odds with big upsets, thanks to the play of future Hall of Famers in quarterback. The defenses of the Patriots and Giants both slowed the game down and limited prolific offenses that are still known as some of the best of all time. But it is New England’s Tom Brady and New York’s Eli Manning who we remember the most, just like Namath, even though neither of them were bold enough to guarantee a Super Bowl win.
While those three are probably the most memorable Super Bowls, based purely on the point spread, the history of betting on NFL games obviously goes back much further. Before the Super Bowl even existed, the annual NFL Championship Game ran between 1933 and 1966. The Giants and Colts participated in “The Greatest Game Ever Played” in 1958 for the NFL Championship, the latter winning 23-17 in the first sudden-death overtime game in league history. The first Super Bowl took place in 1967, between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. The game saw Packers head coach Vince Lombardi and quarterback Bart Starr becoming legends by helping take home the second of their three straight titles overall.
Of course, there was wagering on those earlier championship games too, but many bettors used illegal bookies instead of going to Vegas, so it is hard to say exactly how much was involved compared to today. Betting on NFL games was not even regularly discussed in the media until Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder had a regular segment previewing games on the TV show NFL Today, with Brent Musburger, Irv Cross and Phyllis George in the 1970s and 80s.
In recent years, NFL betting has exploded. Musburger even quit his job as a play-by-play broadcaster in 2017, moving to Vegas to help found the Vegas Stats & Information Network to provide comprehensive coverage of sports betting. More and more media networks focusing specifically on gambling have emerged since then, putting heavy emphasis on the NFL due to its popularity.
NFL betting is also now being covered more than ever. This also makes it easier to re-trace its history, which is being told to us by those who lived it, and appreciated by a younger audience who can learn from it.
NFL Betting Options
There are several types of betting options already available for NFL games, and the opportunities keep growing. If you don’t know much about any or all of them, you’re definitely in the right place.
The Point Spread
If you look at the NFL odds on any game, you will see three different pregame betting options: the point spread, moneyline and total. The point spread is a number that shows the difference between the favorite and underdog, based on power ratings or other rankings between the teams. To win against the spread (ATS), the favorite must win by more than that amount of points to cover the spread, and the underdog needs to stay within that number, or win the game straight up, to cash.
For example, if the Patriots are listed as 9.5-point favorites against the Raiders, then they would need to win by 10 points or more in order to cover. If Oakland loses to New England by nine points or less, or wins straight up, then the underdog beats the number.
Moneylines are designed for NFL bettors who would rather just wager on which team they think will win the game. But in that same game between the Patriots and Raiders, you would need to pay a hefty price on the favorite to win, although you would get rewarded with a much bigger payout on the underdog. For New England, the price would be -450 (bet $450 to win $100), and Oakland’s payout would be +350 (bet $100 to win $350).
Over Under Betting
Over under betting involves wagering on the combined number of points scored between the two teams. So if the total is set at 45.5 points and you bet the over, you would need 46 points or more scored. Likewise, there would need to be 45 points or fewer scored to cash the under.
With point spreads and totals, you can also wager on them for smaller parts of the game, like quarters and halves. NFL online betting offers many of these additional game options, so it pays to have an account so you don’t miss out.
Futures bets are more of a long-term investment, typically spanning an entire season. They can pay off nicely if you have a long shot wager, like when the St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl in 2000. Cashing out at 200/1, it is still the biggest future odds payout in Super Bowl history. Season win totals — betting on the number of games a team wins over the season — are even more of an investment, as you are simply wagering on how teams will perform during the regular season. This means you’re essentially betting over or under a certain number, without receiving the benefit of astronomical odds.
Props bets involve wagering on different events that happen before, during or after a game, especially in the Super Bowl. Will the coin toss result in heads or tails? Will Brady throw a touchdown pass or interception first? What color will the Gatorade be that is poured on the winning head coach? These are just some examples of Super Bowl props available in past years.
Live wagering continues to evolve, despite being the most difficult NFL lines for oddsmakers to book, as they have to follow every play and react in real-time to set new numbers every few seconds. So, say Team A were favorites before kickoff, but Team B takes the lead within the first few minutes, Team A will still be favorites to win, but their odds will rise to reflect the scoreline.
Picks and Parlays
Picks and parlays bets involve wagering on multiple games rather than one. In order for this bet to come through, every team you select to win must do so. While this offers the potential of a much bigger payout — the more teams you bet on, the higher your prospective earnings are — the chances of winning are reduced.
A teaser bet is a form of parlay that enables you to alter the points spread to your liking, in return for lower odds. So, say you put the Packers, the 49ers and the Giants on a six-point teaser, their respective -7, +1 and -8 point spreads would improve by six to -1, +2 and -2, upping the odds of you winning the wager.
NFL Betting Tips
Now that you know about the various NFL betting options, it literally pays to know how to wager on them successfully. If you think about NFL betting like playing the stock market, then you can probably understand why research is so important. If you want to win money betting the NFL, you have to earn it.
In the internet age, there is so much information out there that you have to go through it with a fine-tooth comb, and consider your sources very carefully. Even the media can be tough to trust sometimes, so having more than one source is always advised before placing a wager. You certainly don’t want to be throwing your money away, especially with so many so-called experts out there claiming to know more than they do.
That said, following newspaper beat writers on Twitter is one of the best first steps you can take to keep track of NFL teams. They are the ones watching practices, talking to players and coaches, and forming opinions on what they see and hear from teams. It also helps to follow others who you believe to be true experts and can back that up with a history of accuracy.
Speaking of history, looking back on the events of prior seasons can actually help you most of all. Studying teams’ past game logs can tell you how they fared ATS along with their over/under total results. You will also see all of their scores versus their opponents, allowing you to use your own judgment to determine if they are worth betting on this time around. From there, you can even choose to narrow down your focus to a particular division.
In fact, having a speciality might be the best NFL tip you can get. Do you prefer to wager on teams ATS or prefer handicapping totals? Have you followed the NFC North more than any other division, to the point that you yourself feel like an expert? Ultimately, being confident and trusting yourself is the best way to win at NFL betting.