How to Bet on Football - An Expert Guide to American Football Betting



How To Bet on American Football

• Betting
• Football
• Sports Betting

How to Bet on Football – An Expert Guide to American Football Betting

American football is one of the biggest spectator sports in the US, and so it is no surprise that it is also one of the most popular sports in the country for betting purposes.

Not to be confused with soccer (which is also referred to as football in many other English-speaking countries) American football action is plentiful, with the NFL alone giving fans 256 games to enjoy in the space of just 17 weeks. Add in the action provided by college football and other leagues and football betting fans have plenty of opportunities to make money.

Having a wide range of football betting opportunities to choose from is obviously no bad thing, but opportunities alone won’t make you a successful bettor. If you want to make money from football betting you need to know which opportunities are worth focusing on, and how to make the most of them.

In this Expert Guide to American Football Betting we will teach you how to bet on football like a pro. After highlighting the leagues and events that are of most interest for betting purposes, we will explore the best types of bets to focus on and the most strategic way to approach them.

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American Football Leagues and Events

When we're talking about how to bet on football, we're mostly talking about professional games.The higher the profile of an American football league or particular event, the more sportsbooks there will be that give you opportunities to bet on it.

For this reason, it makes a lot of sense to concentrate your betting activities on the biggest leagues and events. The ones that we would recommend most highly in this respect are as follows:

National Football League (NFL)

The National Football League is the most popular sports league in the United States. It is also the one that attracts the most serious bettors. The regular season begins in September and runs through to December. During this time each of the 32 teams will play 16 games each. When those 256 games have been played, 14 teams compete in the NFL Playoffs, which run through to the end of January.

Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is the championship game of the NFL, and takes place on the first Sunday in February. It is widely regarded as being one of the biggest sporting events of the year. More bets are made on the Super Bowl each year than on any other sporting event. You can therefore look forward to seeing sportsbooks competing hard for your business.

NFL Pro Bowl

The NFL Pro Bowl is the ‘All-Star Game’ of the NFL that is held once each year in Orlando, Florida. The NFL Pro Bowl is played at the end of January, roughly one week before the annual Super Bowl.

NCAA College Football

Betting on college football is a close second to betting on the NFL in America. College football games are usually played on Saturdays, and conference rivalries can intensify the action considerably.

NCAA Bowl Games

The college bowl season kicks off in mid-December, and wraps up with the National Championship Game in mid-January. More than 40 bowl games are played, making them very popular events for betting purposes.

The Best American Football Betting Types

Focusing your attention on the leagues and events just mentioned is the first step to winning at football betting. The second is focusing on the bets that give you the best chance of converting your knowledge into profit.

The four types of bet that we will outline here are:

  • Spreads
  • Over/Under
  • Moneylines
  • Live Betting

We will use a hypothetical NFL matchup between the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos to explain each of these bet types in turn.

How to Bet on Football Spreads

If you’ve heard someone mention the point spread of a football game, they are almost certainly referring to spread betting.

Here the sportsbook sets a spread that reflects its assessment of how likely each team is to win.

The team that the sportsbook thinks is most likely to win will be quoted with a negative figure. The team that the sportsbook thinks is most likely to lose will be quoted with a positive figure.

Consider this example:

Chicago Bears-6.5
Denver Broncos+6.5
American Football Spreads

Here the sportsbook thinks that the Chicago Bears are the most likely to win the game. We know that because they are quoted at -6.5 points.

Similarly, the Denver Broncos are viewed as the underdogs, and we know that because they are quoted at +6.5 points.

If you bet on the Bears, the sportsbook will deduct 6.5 points from their score before assessing your bet. That means they will have to win by a margin of 7 points or more for your bet to win.

If you bet on the Broncos, the sportsbook will add 6.5 points to their score before assessing your bet. That means that Broncos don’t actually have to win the game for your bet to win. They simply have to avoid losing by more than 6 points. Of course, if they win, even better!

Over/Under Football Betting

An over/under bet (also known as a ‘total bet’) requires you to predict whether the total number of points scored in a particular game will be over or under the number stated by the sportsbook. If you predict correctly, your bet will win.

This is a common bet in American football. It is popular because it gives you the chance to focus on something other than the winner and loser.

Sportsbooks will usually offer odds at -110 for both sides of an over/under bet. This means that you would need to bet $110 on your prediction to get $210 back if you win.

Take a look at the following example:

Chicago Bears vs. Denver Broncos

Over 42.5 PointsUnder 42.5 Points
American Football Over/Under Betting

In this scenario, if you think that the total number of points scored in the game will be 43 or more, you would bet Over 42.5. Conversely, if you think that the total number of points scored will be 42 or less, you would bet Under 42.5.

How to Bet on Football Moneylines

A moneyline bet is not as common as a spread or an over/under bet, but it is still a solid betting option. All that is required with football betting lines is for you to correctly predict which team will win the game outright.

The odds offered by the sportsbook for each team will depend on who they believe has the greatest chance of winning.

  • Odds for the favourite will be quoted as a negative (-) figure. You would need to bet that sum in order to win $100 profit.
  • Odds for the underdog will be quoted as a positive (+) figure. You would need to bet $100 to win the stated figure in profit.

For example:

Chicago Bears-135
Denver Broncos+125
American Football Moneyline Betting

The Bears are the favorites in this game, whilst Denver are the underdogs.

If you think the Bears will win, you would need to bet $135 to get $235 back, giving you a $100 profit.

If you think that the Broncos will win, you would need to bet $100 to get $225 back, giving you a $125 profit.

Live Football Betting

Live or ‘in-play’ betting markets have become extremely popular in the US, especially when it comes to betting on football.

As the term suggests, these markets allow you to bet live, as the game is being played, and they are offered by most of the major sportsbooks.

You won’t have much time to do any research with in-play betting, and you will have to make quick decisions. However, if you can keep a cool head and learn to handle the pressure, live betting markets will give you the chance to cash in on every twist and turn of the game, as it happens.

How to Bet on Football and Win

You now know which leagues, events and betting markets to focus on, so all you need to know now is how to pick football winners.

Many people don’t make any serious effort here, preferring to simply bet on their favourite team no matter what the odds, or to deliberately side with the underdogs in the hope of getting lucky at a big price.

Unfortunately, neither of those approaches will help you to win on anything close to a consistent basis.

What can help you to win at football betting is study and research.

If you’re a true fan of the game then this won’t be at all tedious, because all you need to do is take a look at how each team has performed in previous games in order to make a fully informed prediction about the one you want to bet on.

Football Betting Form Study Example

For example, you could look at how the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos have fared in the past, both generally and when playing each other.

Look at which team seems to be in the best form in recent weeks, look at how many points each team have scored in their last half-dozen matches, and look at the size of their winning and/or losing margins.

Also read or watch interviews with team managers, coaches and players to get an insight into their attitude and confidence levels as they approach the coming game.

This is the kind of information that the sportsbooks use to come up with their own predictions, so spend a little time studying, form your own opinion about what you expect to happen and then look at what the betting markets have to offer.

If your opinion turns out to be accurate then you could be just a bet or two from turning it into cash!

Advice for New Football Bettors

Learning to make sound predictions based on past results isn’t something that happens overnight, so tread carefully to begin with and keep your stakes small. Also, start keeping records of your bets so that you can maintain an accurate picture of how you are doing. This will allow you to see your football betting skills develop before your eyes, and the better you get, the more confidence you can bet with.

And that, in a rather large nutshell, is how to bet on football.

How to Bet American Football FAQ

What are American Football Futures bets?

American football futures bets are ones that are placed on the outcome of an entire season, rather than on the outcome of a single game.

For example, if you think that a particular team will win the NFC, and that team is quoted at +500, you could bet $100 and collect $600 should they succeed.

Similarly, futures bets would allow you to bet on who you think will win the Super Bowl or receive the Associated Press award for the Most Valuable Player in the National Football League (NFL MVP).

How do you bet on football squares?

Football squares are commonly used for informal pool betting purposes in offices and other workplaces, especially in regards to the Super Bowl, in which case they are also known as Super Bowl Squares.

Bettors pay money to purchase a square on the board, and squares are normally selected for participants at random to keep things fair.

The player who has purchased the square containing the correct result at the end of the game wins an agreed prize.

Whilst betting on football squares can be fun, it isn’t an activity that has any merit for serious football bettors.

Is online betting offered with American Football?

Yes! Sportsbooks all over the country will offer online or mobile betting on American football. You do have to live in a state where online sports betting is legal, but that list continues to grow.

Where Can I Bet on American Football?

Betting on American football can be conducted at any traditional casino or sportsbook that is properly licensed for the state in which the betting takes place.

Sportsbooks all over the country also offer online betting on American football, although you do of course need to live in a state where online sports betting is legal to take advantage of those.

What are NFL props?

NFL props are bets on events that are not dependent on which team wins or the final score.

Most often they concern the performance of players during the game, such as whether or not a particular player will score a touchdown.

These are interesting bets to look at now and again, but they shouldn’t take your focus away from the main bet types that were defined earlier.


Image Credits: Mitchell Leff / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

About this author

Ian Bruce author profile

Ian is a keen sports fan with an even keener eye for advantageous betting odds. The only thing he enjoys as much as watching his favourite teams win is being able to land sportsbook winners at the same time. He takes a strategic and mathematical approach to betting and he encourages others to do the same.

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