Betting on NFL: How to Bet on Football

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The NFL dominates the U.S. sports landscape, leading the pack in both viewership and betting action. Every Sunday, fans across the country tune in and track every touchdown and tackle. The Super Bowl is a spectacle of its own, drawing attention from even those who don't follow the sport regularly.

Sportsbooks are all in on the NFL's massive appeal. They've packed their platforms with a wide range of football props and unique futures bets that aren’t available for other markets. 

Whether it's a preseason game with third-string players, a late regular season matchup, the playoffs, or any other game, there's a bet for every kind of fan. And when Super Bowl season rolls around, the betting options are virtually endless.

But to really get in on the action and make smart NFL bets, you've got to know the ropes. That's where this guide comes in. It will walk you through how to bet on the NFL, highlight top sportsbooks, offer betting tips, and more.

Table of Contents

How to Bet on the NFL

Before you place a bet on the NFL, it's important to get a handle on the fundamentals. In the upcoming sections, we'll outline the key aspects to ensure you kick off on the right foot.

Follow these steps to get started with NFL betting.

1) Learn How to Read Betting Odds

Understanding how to read NFL odds is pivotal in betting (and for any sport you're looking to wager on). It's not just about seeing the potential cash you could rake in. It's about grasping the actual odds and figuring out whether they're working for or against your bet.

Without this foundation, you're just throwing your money out there, hoping for the best, instead of making calculated decisions based on actual probability.

If you've dabbled in college football betting, you'll find the NFL odds format familiar.

NFL odds are laid out pretty clearly, so you should quickly get the hang of it. The only stumbling block for rookies might be the minus and plus signs. Don't sweat it; we'll break down what these symbols mean in a bit.

If you ever feel a bit lost, most sportsbooks have handy tutorials and betting guides to help you out. You can always refer back to those or bookmark this page and swing by anytime you need a refresher.

Before we dive deeper into each betting type, it's essential to understand how the odds chart differentiates underdogs from favorites. The potential cash you could pocket depends on it.

  • Underdogs, the outcomes that sportsbooks see as less probable (but not always a long shot), carry a plus sign. The number next to it denotes how much you stand to make on a $100 bet. So, if you see odds like +250, that means putting down $100 could net you a $250 profit if your underdog comes through.
  • Favorites, on the flip side, are the outcomes that the bookies think have a better shot. They come with a minus (–) sign. The number that follows tells you how much you've got to put on the line to make a $100 profit. For example, with odds at -170, you're looking at betting $170 to score a $100 profit if your favorite wins.

Here's a quick tip: watch the movement of the odds. If they're climbing, the event's chances are getting slimmer. But if they're dropping, the likelihood of that outcome is on the rise.

The wider the gap between the moneyline odds, the more lopsided the matchup is in the eyes of the bookies. So, if you see a huge discrepancy, they're expecting a blowout.

2) Understand the Types of Bets

Here's a breakdown of the different bet types, using hypothetical matchups to make it all click:

  • Moneyline. Think of this as picking the game's victor. Say you back the Philadelphia Eagles with $100 against the Dallas Cowboys at +130 odds. If the Eagles win, you're looking at a $130 profit, regardless of how close or wide the win margin is. If it goes into overtime and the Eagles clinch it, you're still winning the bet.
  • Spreads. These zero in on by how much a team wins or loses by. Picture the Los Angeles Chargers up against the Las Vegas Raiders. If the Chargers are pegged as a -4 favorite, they've got to outscore the Raiders by 5 or more for your bet to cash. But if you've got a hunch about the Raiders, they need to either win outright or lose by 3 or less for you to win the bet.
  • Totals (Over/Under). Commonly dubbed Over/Under, this is all about the game's total score. Sportsbooks might predict a combined score for a Titans-Colts game at 47. If you're feeling the under and the game wraps up at 21-24 (45 total points), you win. Both sides of this bet usually come with -110 odds, so the payout is balanced.
  • Props. These bets dive into game outcomes (game props) or player stats (player props). A player prop, for example, may have Patrick Mahomes’ passing yards line at 262.5 yards. You can choose over or under and win based on his final stats. Examples of game props include if the game will go into overtime or if there will be a safety.
  • Futures. These are longer-term bets. Beyond predicting the Super Bowl winner, top sportsbooks offer bets on team win totals for the season, league leaders in various categories, and even division-specific stats. For instance, you can wager on who'll have the most passing yards in the NFC North or defensive stats like total sacks or interceptions.
  • Parlays. Here, you're linking several bets into one. Imagine backing the New York Giants to win and the Atlanta Falcons to beat the spread. The combined odds can offer a juicy payout, but remember, every part of your parlay needs to come through.
  • Teasers. These let you nudge the spreads or totals a bit. It's like customizing your bet. Say the Carolina Panthers are at +4.5. With a 6-point teaser, you can push them to +10.5, giving them a better shot to cover.
  • Round Robins. Think of these as mini-parlays. If you bet on the Bears, Packers, and Lions, a round-robin creates separate two-team parlays for each possible pairing. It's like having a safety net, giving you some leeway if one of your picks stumbles.
  • Live Betting. This involves placing bets on a game as it unfolds in real time. Most sportsbooks now offer micro-betting for the NFL, allowing you to wager on play-by-play moments, such as predicting the outcome of the next drive.
  • Football Squares. A bingo-like game that's especially popular for the Super Bowl in which you randomly get assigned a digit for each team and win if the score at the end of the quarter matches your square.

3) Choose a Sportsbook

Finding the right sportsbook for NFL bets can be a bit tricky as there’s little separation between NFL betting sites, so let's break down what you might want to keep in mind.

Legal & Licensed

First off, it's always smart to stick with sportsbooks that are licensed in the U.S.. Sure, those offshore sites might flash some big bonuses, but there's peace of mind that comes with state-regulated books where things are above board.

Odds Boosts

Bonuses are great, but they're just part of the story. Many sportsbooks offer daily odds boosts on NFL games. It's a good idea to check the betting cap on these. And if parlays are your thing, see if they've got boosts for both same game parlays and regular NFL parlays.

Depth of Props

The depth of props markets is a big distinguishing factor among sportsbooks. While many platforms might offer similar basic bets, their prop offerings can vary widely. Props are where sportsbooks try to carve out their niche. Even if some props seem driven by pure chance, a deep dive into the game can reveal exploitable opportunities.

Live Betting

Live betting has also become a major differentiator. When sizing up sportsbooks, check how their in-play offerings stack up. Specifically, look for micro-betting options and whether the platform offers live streaming. You can see our picks for the best NFL live betting sites here.

Limits

For those looking to bet big, try to find information about sportsbooks’ limits. If you’re doing well and want to bet more, you want to make sure the sportsbook won’t limit you. One sportsbook may let you back $1,000,000, while another may cap you at $50 for the same bet.

User Experience

Ease of use is key. You want a platform where you can easily find your way around. And if you ever hit a bump in the road, having solid customer support can make all the difference.

And before you settle in, do a quick odds comparison. A little difference here and there can add up over time.

Our Highest-Ranked Sportsbooks

With these points in mind, you'll be in a good position to pick a sportsbook that fits your needs. Here are our top-rated sportsbooks:

  • FanDuel. FanDuel is one of our best sportsbooks overall, and a platform worth checking out for NFL betting Their NFL futures section offers a range of bets, from Super Bowl outcomes to individual team win totals. The “record breakers” category allows bettors to back players they believe might set new benchmarks, such as a quarterback surpassing the season passing yards record or a wide receiver accumulating 1,600+ receiving yards. Additionally, FanDuel provides an option to predict the exact number of regular season wins for teams, often featuring odds at +500 or longer.
  • Caesars. Caesars is one of our best sportsbooks for NFL betting. Their platform keeps things simple with a simplistic design. Caesars offers a welcome bonus that's easy on the wallet but big on value. They really step up with a vast range of daily odds boosts, with a good chunk dedicated to NFL matchups. The Quick Picks feature is worth a look, creating instant parlays that might combine events like the Dallas Cowboys winning the Super Bowl with Patrick Mahomes achieving over 35 passing TDs in a season. And if you're planning to stick around, don't sleep on the Caesars Rewards. It's one of the top loyalty programs in the game.
  • BetMGM. BetMGM consistently ranks among our top sportsbooks, excelling in various categories. What's particularly noteworthy is their localized betting approach. For instance, if you're logging in from Michigan, you'll find futures bets centered around the Detroit Lions or other local favorites. You might come across options like the Lions clinching a playoff spot or specific player achievements throughout the season. BetMGM also offers live NFL streaming, so you can watch games while keeping an eye on your bets.
  • BetRivers. BetRivers is one of the best books overall and a great option for NFL betting. They consistently offer -110 lines on spreads and totals, keeping things clear-cut. If you're into props, BetRivers has you covered with a mix of game props, like which team will score first, and unique bets in their “prop central”. On top of that, they have micro-betting options for the NFL. And it's worth checking out their house specials, which include regular odds boosts for both combo and straight bets.
  • PointsBet. PointsBet is one of our top picks for NFL betting. They're known for offering some of the best NFL odds, coupled with enticing promos. What sets them apart is their unique PointsBetting system, which isn't just limited to college games but extends to the NFL as well. Many of their features, like partial cashouts and same game parlays, are available for NFL markets. They also offer a wide range of teaser lines, providing bettors with a lot of flexibility. For instance, in a recent NFL game, teaser options for spread lines varied from -8.5 to -31.5. And for those looking for quick action, PointsBet's ‘lightning bets' are their spin on micro bets for the NFL.

Spread Your Bets Across Multiple Sportsbooks and Leverage Their Deals

It's smart to spread your bets across several sportsbooks, even if you've got a preferred one. By doing so, you can take full advantage of different sign-up bonuses and promos.

Maybe your primary sportsbook doesn't offer odds boosts for the NFL, but another one does. And since welcome bonuses are usually a one-off, you can get more bang for your buck by signing up with several platforms.

By using two or more sportsbooks at once, you can fully maximize your profit from the sign-up bonuses and, therefore, your bankroll. You can learn more about strategies to maximize welcome offers here.

*Special offers from our partners. May vary by state. Must be 21+. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER. **Bonus Bets Expire in 7 Days. One New Customer Offer Only. Add’l terms.

Our Partners

Sign-Up Bonus

Next Steps

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$1,000 First Bet on Caesars

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Second Chance Bet Up to $500

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But it's not just about the bonuses. If you're serious about your NFL betting, having accounts with a variety of sportsbooks is a game-changer. This approach, known as odds/line shopping, lets you compare odds and lines across platforms to find the best deal. It's a proven strategy to boost your potential earnings in the long run.

You can use our NFL odds comparison tool to see who has the best lines and odds for all upcoming games.

4) Check Out the Sign-Up Bonus

After registering with a sportsbook, it's a good idea to head to their promotions section and see what welcome bonuses they have on offer. Every NFL betting site usually has a special deal for new members. For many, the size and type of these bonuses can be a deciding factor.

You'll typically find three primary welcome bonuses:

  • Bonus Bet Refunds. Often linked to your initial wager on the platform. If your first bet doesn't win, the sportsbook may give you back a certain amount, usually ranging from $100 to $1,000, in bonus bets. These were once labeled as risk-free bets.
  • Deposit Match. These are less common. Essentially, the sportsbook matches a percentage of your initial deposit with bonus credits. For example, a 20% match up to $1,000 means if you deposit $500, you'll receive an additional $100 in bonus credits.
  • Bet & Get. Make a small bet, and in return, receive bonus credits. Many sportsbooks are offering this, with bonus credits often around the $200 mark for placing a nominal bet, say $5. It's an attractive option for those betting recreationally.

Always review the terms and conditions associated with these offers, especially any restrictions on markets or odds and any time constraints. A list of current sportsbook sign-up bonuses and promo codes can be found here.

By joining multiple sportsbooks, you can leverage these welcome bonuses to your advantage, potentially hedging bets and minimizing risk.

For instance, use the bonus bet on a long shot at one book and place a real-money bet on the opposite outcome at another.

5) Make a Deposit

Getting your account ready for action is simple. Just hunt for the “Deposit” option, typically found in the main menu or header. Once you click on it, you'll see a range of payment options, from the usual suspects like debit/credit cards and bank transfers to digital wallets such as PayPal.

Pick the method that suits you best, enter the amount you want to deposit, and if required, type in the bonus code. Once you hit confirm, your funds should pop up in your account instantaneously.

6) Place Your First Bet

If you're gearing up to place your first bet, let's break down the process step by step. We'll use Caesars as our guide, but the general flow is similar across most NFL betting sites:

  1. Kick things off by selecting “NFL” from the left sidebar. It's often nestled in the “popular” section.
  2. Choose the matchup you want to bet on.
  3. Browse the betting options. They're organized into subsections and dropdowns, so you can easily navigate through different bet types.
  4. After you've locked in your picks, they'll pop up on the bet slip, usually found to the right or at the bottom of your screen. Here, you can also toggle between “open bets” and “settled' bets” to keep track of your betting history. Double-check your selections, punch in the amount you're willing to wager, and hit the bet button.

7) Track Your Progress

It's a smart move to maintain a log of all your bets. This practice gives you a clear picture of where you shine and areas that might need a bit more homework. By consistently tracking your hits and misses, you can figure out which bets tend to work in your favor.

This approach not only sharpens your NFL betting game but also encourages you to bet wisely, reinforcing good betting habits and ensuring you always play within your budget.

8) Continue to Gamble Responsibly

It's essential to keep responsible gambling at the forefront. Stick to betting amounts you're okay parting with and avoid the pitfall of trying to recoup losses in haste.

While a string of wins can give you a rush, it's vital to stay grounded. Don't let a hot streak cloud your judgment, leading to hasty bets. Each wager should be thought out, not a knee-jerk response to the highs and lows of the game.

Where Can You Legally Bet on the NFL

State

Online

In-Person

Arizona

Yes

Yes

Arkansas

NoYes

Colorado

YesYes

Connecticut

Yes

Yes

Delaware

NoYes

District of Columbia

YesYes

Florida

Suspended

Suspended

Illinois

YesYes

Indiana

YesYes

Iowa

Yes

Yes

Kansas

Yes

Yes

Louisiana

Yes

Yes

Maryland

Yes

Yes

Massachusetts

Coming soon

Yes

Michigan

YesYes

Mississippi

NoYes

Montana

NoYes

Nebraska

NoComing soon

Nevada

YesYes

New Hampshire

YesYes

New Jersey

YesYes

New Mexico

NoYes

New York

YesYes

North Carolina

NoYes

Ohio

Yes

Yes

Oregon

YesYes

Pennsylvania

YesYes

Rhode Island

YesYes

South Dakota

NoYes

Tennessee

YesNo

Virginia

YesYes

Washington

NoComing soon

West Virginia

Yes

Yes

Wyoming

Yes

No

Best NFL Sign-Up Bonuses

Must be 21+ in most states. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER

Sportsbook

States

Sign Up Bonus*

Promo Code

FanDuel

AZ, CO, CT, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MA MI, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TN, VA, WV, WY

Bet $5, Get $150 in Bonus Bets

Not needed

Caesars

AZ, CO, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, NV, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TN, VA, WV, WY

$1,000 First Bet on Caesars

OA1000

BetMGM

AZ, CO, FL, IN, IA, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, NV, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TN, VA, WV, WY

Bet $5, Get $150 in Bonus Bets**

ODDS100

bet365

CO, IA, KY, LA, NJ, OH, VA

Bet $5, Get $150 in Bonus Bets

Not needed

BetRivers

AZ, CO, IL, IN, IA, LA, MA, MI, NJ, NY, OH, PA, VA, WV​

Second Chance Bet Up to $500

ODDS1

SugarHouse

PA

Second Chance Bet Up to $500

ODDS1

Betway

AZ, CO, IN, IA, LA, NJ, OH, PA, VA

Bonus Bet Up to $250

Not needed

SI Sportsbook

CO, MI, VA

100% Deposit Match Up to $100

Not needed

Unibet

AZ, IN, NJ, PA, VA

$500 Second Chance Bet

Not needed

DraftKings

AZ, CO, CT, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, TN, VA, WV, WY

20% Deposit Match Up to $1,000

Not needed

Barstool

AZ, CO, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, NJ, OH, PA, TN, VA, WV

Up to $1,00 Back in Bonus Bets

Not needed

Hard Rock

NJ

First Bet Match Up to $100

Not needed

*May vary by state.
**Bonus Bets Expire in 7 Days. One New Customer Offer Only. Add’l terms.

Tips for Betting on NFL

Here are five NFL betting tips to consider:

  • Divisional dynamics: NFL teams play their division rivals twice a season. Familiarity breeds tight contests. Historically, even teams with poor records can pull off upsets against their divisional foes. It's always worth considering the history and dynamics of these matchups.
  • Late-season significance: As the season progresses, some teams might be playing for a playoff spot, while others could be looking towards the next draft. Understanding the stakes for each team in late-season games can offer valuable insights.
  • Offensive and defensive line matchups: Games are often won and lost in the trenches. If a team with a strong defensive line is playing against a team with a weak offensive line, it could spell trouble for the latter's quarterback. Always consider the line matchups.
  • Referee tendencies: Believe it or not, certain referees have tendencies, whether it's being lenient on pass interference or strict on holding calls. Being aware of who's officiating and their patterns can give you an edge, especially when considering over/under bets.
  • Travel and rest: Teams traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast for an early game can sometimes struggle with the time difference. Similarly, a team coming off a Monday night game might be at a disadvantage against a team that played the previous Thursday and had extra rest. Always factor in travel schedules and rest periods.

NFL Betting FAQs

How do I place an NFL bet?

Choose a reputable sportsbook, create an account, deposit funds, navigate to the NFL section, select your desired bet, and confirm your wager on the bet slip.

Is NFL betting legal in the U.S.?

NFL betting is legal in over 30 U.S. states.

Why do NFL betting lines change leading up to a game?

Betting lines can shift due to various factors, such as injuries, weather conditions, and significant amounts of money being placed on one side. Oddsmakers adjust the lines to balance the action on both sides of the bet.

What is “vig” or “juice” in NFL betting?

The “vig” or “juice” is the commission that sportsbooks take on bets. It's typically factored into the odds, ensuring the house gets its cut regardless of the game's outcome. For example, you might need to bet $110 to win $100 for a 50/50 bet, with the extra $10 being the “vig.”

How do I understand positive and negative odds in the NFL?

Positive odds (like +150) represent how much profit you'd make on a $100 bet. So, a bet at +150 would return $150 profit. Negative odds (like -150) show how much you need to bet to make a $100 profit. In this case, you'd need to bet $150 to make $100.

Can I cancel or change my bet after placing it?

Typically, once a bet is placed and confirmed, it cannot be changed or canceled. However, some sportsbooks might offer features like “cash out” which allow bettors to settle a bet before the event concludes, but the terms are usually less favorable than the original wager. Always check the specific rules of your sportsbook.

*Special offers from our partners. May vary by state. Must be 21+. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER. **Bonus Bets Expire in 7 Days. One New Customer Offer Only. Add’l terms.

Our Partners

Sign-Up Bonus

Next Steps

Bet $5, Get $150 in Bonus Bets

States: AZ, CO, CT, IL, IN, IA, KY, KS, LA, MA MD, MI, NJ, OH, NY, PA, TN, WV, WY, VA.

$1,000 First Bet on Caesars

States: AZ, CO, IL, IN, IA, KY, KS, MD, MA, MI, NJ, NY, NV, OH, PA, TN, VA, WV, WY

Bet $5, Get $150 in Bonus Bets**

States: AZ, CO, IL, IN, IA, KY, KS, LA, MA, MD, MI, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TN, VA, WV, WY

Second Chance Bet Up to $500

States: AZ, CO, DE, IL, IN, IA, LA, MD, MI, NJ, NY, OH, PA, VA, WV

Dave Rathmanner

Dave Rathmanner is the Founder & CEO of Odds Assist. After struggling to find helpful sports betting resources and honest reviews when he first started betting, he decided to create the site he always wished he had. Dave has been betting on sports since NJ legalized it in 2018 and regularly analyzes sportsbooks to find the best options for bettors. Aside from creating new content for OA readers, Dave is also passionate about researching betting markets, creating models, and developing profitable betting strategies.