Learn How to Bet on Football in 2021

The NFL season is here, and plenty of new fans are wondering how to bet on NFL games.

The NFL offers a unique pace for football bettors, with teams playing just once a week. Odds come out on Sunday nights, and sportsbooks take betting action all week along, with the bulk of wagers arriving in the hours before kickoff.

If you're looking to bet on NFL games for the first time this season, here's a simple guide to kicking off your football betting.

NFL betting lines explained

The first step in betting on NFL football is how to understand NFL betting lines. While there are thousands of ways to wager on NFL odds, there are three standard betting methods: moneyline, point spread, and Over/Under totals.

NFL moneyline odds ask bettors to pick the winner of the game. Based on the strength of the teams and other factors, oddsmakers calculate the implied probability of victory for both sides and set moneyline odds for each team.

NFL point spreads level the competition between two teams, with oddsmakers setting a handicap in points. One team is the point spread favorite – and has to win by more than the spread – while the other will be pegged as the point spread underdog – having to win outright or lose by less than the spread.

NFL Over/Under totals are the estimated total number of points scored by both teams in a game. Bettors wager on whether the final score will go Over or Under that expected tally.

Moneylines: picking the winner of an NFL game

Moneyline bets are the most straightforward method of betting on NFL football. Moneylines are most often displayed in American odds (hundreds) and reflect each team’s implied probability of winning the game.

The stronger of the two teams is the moneyline favorite. Favorites have a negative value (-) next to their odds, such as -130. A -130 moneyline favorite has an implied probability of 56.5 percent to win the game, and because there is less risk in betting the favorite to win, you must risk more. A -130 moneyline will return $0.77 for every $1 wagered or $77 on a $100 bet. Many bettors, however, prefer to bet “to win” amounts. In this situation, a bettor would wager $130 to win $100. 

Nfl Moneyline Oct 2021

The weaker team is listed as the moneyline underdog and will have a positive value (+) with its odds, such as +110. A +110 moneyline underdog has an implied probability of 47.62 percent to win, and because there is more risk in betting the underdog to win, you can win more than you risk. This underdog bet will return $1.10 for every $1 wagered or $110 on a $100 bet. 

Using Covers' moneyline calculator lets you see how much you can win from other moneyline odds values, as well as implied probability. 

Point spreads: Evening the odds

Point spread bets require teams to win by more or lose by less than a set number of points. Oddsmakers calculate the perceived difference on the scoreboard between two teams and put that number as the spread to handicap the competition.

The strong team is the point spread favorite. It is indicated by a negative value (-) next to its spread, such as -3.0. For the favorite to cover the spread, it will have to win the game by four or more points.

The weaker team is the point spread underdog, with a positive value (+) next to its spread, such as +3.0. For the underdog to cover the spread, it must win the game outright or lose by two points or fewer.

In the example below, if Kansas City wins by exactly three points, the bet is graded as a “push” and the original stake of the bet is refunded. 

Nfl Mathchup Spread (1)

The other key aspect when learning how to bet on NFL spreads is understanding vig or juice – the cost of the bet. Both sides of the point spread will have another set of odds attached, known as the vig or juice

Vig will display next to the spreads: 7.5 (-110) / +7.5 (-110). Sportsbooks often use a flat -110 line for point spreads, which means you can win $1 for every $1.10 risked or wager $110 to win $100. 

Over/Unders: Predict the total combined score

Over/Under total betting is a great alternative when you don't have a strong opinion on either team, opting instead to wager on the combined number of points scored. Oddsmakers measure the teams' offenses, defenses, and other factors – such as weather – and calculate an estimated point total.

If a game's combined projected score is 53 points, bettors can either place a bet that the final score will go Over the 53-point number or stay Under that total.

Nfl Mathchup Total (1)

Like point spread betting, there is vig assigned to either side of the total. Most bookmakers use a -110 line on Over/Under betting, meaning for every $1.10 risked, you would win $1 or bet $110 to win $100. It would display as Over 48 (-110) / Under 48 (-110). 

Parlays: Bigger payouts, bigger risks

NFL parlay betting is very popular with recreational bettors looking to wager a small amount for the potential of a larger payout. 

Parlay bets require two or more different bets to be tied together. The more bets added to the parlay, the higher the payout and the higher the risk. For the entire parlay bet to win, all the bets included must win. If one or more bets lose, the whole parlay loses.

Three separate wagers of $100 on three different point spread bets at a -110 flat rate have the potential to win about $273 with a total of $300 wagered. Each of those games carries an implied probability of 52.38 percent. Even if one bet loses and two are correct, the bettor wins almost $182 ($82 in profits, minus the $100 risked on the losing bet). 

A bettor can take those same three spread bets at -110 and tie them together under one $100 wager in a parlay. That three-game parlay has odds of +600 or a potential payout of $600, but because all three bets included must win, the implied probability of winning the parlay is just 14.29 percent. Even if two of the bets are winners and one loses, the entire parlay is a loss.

Betslip 2

Using Covers’ parlay calculator, you can see how much you could win by combining different bets.

Teasers: Adjusting the spread and combining bets

NFL teaser betting allows you to move a spread or total a designated number of points but – much like a parlay – requires two or more bets to be tied together. 

The most common teaser used in NFL betting is a six-point teaser, which allows you to move a spread or total by six points to your advantage. The more bets added to the teaser, the bigger the potential payout and the bigger the risk. 

As an example, a three-game six-point teaser includes a seven-point favorite, a 10-point favorite, and a one-point underdog. Those spreads would be modified to -1, -4, and +7 with odds of +180 or a payout of $180 on a $100 wager. However, all of those modified bets have to win for the overall teaser to win.

Props: Betting on team and player performance and more 

NFL prop betting is booming thanks to the popularity of fantasy football, DFS, and advanced statistics. Props – also known as proposition bets – used to be reserved for just big games. But just like Super Bowl props, bettors can now find prop markets for every regular-season NFL game. 

Prop bets isolate certain aspects of the game, such as team performance, player output, or particular happenings and results throughout a contest. You can wager on the Over/Under passing yards for the star quarterback or the number of total field goals kicked in a game. 

Prop bets come in various formats with their own unique odds sets, from Over/Under offering to Yes/No props and simply picking an option from a list of odds, such as players to score a touchdown during the game.

Derivatives: Bet on parts of the games

NFL derivative betting allows you to isolate segments of the game and wager on modified odds for those parts, such as first-half spreads or first-quarter Over/Under totals. 

Derivative odds can also apply to team props, such as first-half team totals or the number of touchdowns scored in the third quarter.

Teams all have different tendencies and trends – slow starts or strong second halves – so recognizing those patterns is great for finding value in the NFL derivative odds markets.

Futures: Betting on the Super Bowl and more

NFL futures betting is rapidly growing among casual bettors. These are odds based around long-running results, such as odds to win the Super Bowl, rookie of the year odds, or season win totals

Most futures odds open for betting before the season starts and run until a decision is graded as the winner, constantly adjusting to results, injuries, and betting action. You can bet on futures are any point in that span, and the odds you bet are the odds on which the wager will be graded.

For example, you bet $100 on a team’s odds to win the Super Bowl at +1,600 odds in the spring. That team could go on a run in the season, moving their odds to +800 and then make the playoffs, adjusting their odds to +300. They could even get to and win the Super Bowl at +125 odds. Because you bet them at +1,600 in the spring, those are the odds that grade your bet, producing a payout of $1,600.

Here are the current Super Bowl odds for the top-ten teams in the NFL:

In-game live betting

One of the most exciting and rapidly-growing ways to wager is NFL in-game live wagering – betting on the action as it happens. This is also referred to as live betting. 

Odds are constantly adjusting to the score, time, and field position. Bettors can wager on the live spread, live Over/Under, or several other in-game markets, such as the result of the following series, or player to score the next touchdown. 

In-game betting does come with higher vig than pregame odds – somewhat of an in-running tax – but allows bettors to jump into any game at almost anytime. Bettors can capitalize on swings in momentum and any anomalies that may open up value on different markets – like betting the adjusted odds on the pregame favorite if it goes down 7-0 early in the first quarter.

NFL betting tips and strategies

Now that you understand NFL odds, you can start making wagers. Follow these tips to sharpen your football strategy and make smarter NFL bets.

Follow the odds Follow the odds

NFL odds are constantly adjusting from the second the sportsbooks post them. A team could be a 5-point favorite when the odds go up on Monday and close at -7.5 by kickoff on Sunday.

You always want the best odds for your opinion, so determining the best time to bet is extremely valuable based on the line movement. If you like the favorite and see its spread growing, you want to bet them earlier in the week rather than wait until they're -7.5 on Sunday.

The same can be said for NFL line movement around Over/Under odds, as totals will shrink or grow during the week based on betting action and factors such as injuries and weather.

If you like the Under for a game and see a total getting bigger closer to game day, you may want to wait until just before kickoff to place your bet and see how high the total will climb, giving you a better number for your Under opinion.

The best way to follow the odds is by using our NFL odds screen, where you’ll see updated odds from multiple sportsbooks in your area. If you see the odds on a game start to move at multiple sportsbooks, the rest of the sportsbooks will follow suit shortly. See if you can get a bet in at a slower-moving sportsbook to get better odds for your wager. 

Remember NFL key numbers Remember NFL key numbers

If you're wondering about the smartest ways to bet on NFL football, start with recognizing key numbers for point spreads and why betting on and around those numbers is important.

Football has a very rigid scoring system with field goals worth three points and touchdowns (plus the extra point) worth seven. Because of this, we see most NFL games decided by either three, six, or seven points. Point spreads are commonly set at those key numbers.

Line movement around those key numbers is very significant, depending on which side of the point spread you favor. Betting a favorite at -6.5 or an underdog at +7.5 is valuable due to a higher probability of the final score being decided by exactly seven points.

Public betting & consensus Public betting & consensus

While football fans cheer for different teams, there is a standard thought process for betting on an NFL game. 

With the popularity of the NFL betting soaring, sportsbooks are collecting a lot of bets by recreational gamblers – also known as the betting public – who are influenced by common opinions and their favorite teams.

This public betting opinion is reflected in the NFL consensus for each game, showing the percentage of bets placed on either side of a point spread or Over/Under.

Betting trends Betting trends

If you know how NFL betting works, you know betting trends can be good and bad.

NFL betting trends are situational patterns repeating the same betting result, often against the spread (ATS) or Over/Under (the total). For example, one team could be 10-2 against the spread in the last 12 games as an underdog.

Bettors often dispute the validity of betting trends, especially as it pertains to short-term results or limited sample sizes. However, long-term betting trends can hint at possible patterns worth following, especially if those trends have a narrative explaining the results rather than random occurrences.

Home-field advantage Home-field advantage

One of the most hotly debated topics about betting on football games is the worth of home field.

Home-field advantage is commonly perceived to be worth three points to NFL spreads, although this value is more public perception than a calculated impact. We've seen the success of home teams decline in recent years, especially during the pandemic-plagued 2020 season, in which most stadiums had little to no fans in the stands. For 2021, we calculate home-field advantage to be worth 1.9 points.

Weather Weather

The most significant outside factor in NFL football betting is the weather and how it could impact your wagers

Weather can have a major influence on the final results of a game. The autumn months bring plenty of cold, wind, and rain to outdoor venues in northern cities.

Rain and snow can play a big part in how teams perform, especially considering where those teams are from, but the wind is the most disruptive element to play in and can influence passing and kicking.

Keeping an eye on the forecast for the week and games scheduled during poor conditions is a great NFL betting tip to follow.

Injuries Injuries

Due to the physical nature of the sport, injuries have a considerable influence on the odds and the outcome. Keeping track of who's in and out is vital when learning how to bet on NFL spreads and totals.

Regarding the odds, quarterback injuries have the largest impact, while select skill players, like star running backs and receivers, can also move a spread up or down. Outside of those key positions, injuries to individual players don't affect the odds much at all.

However, an intelligent NFL betting strategy is spotting cluster injuries at certain positions or units. Having some starting offensive linemen missing or several members of the secondary out can play a role in the outcome of the game.

How to make an NFL bet

How to Bet on NFL

1

Research available games matchups

Our NFL scores and matchup page lists that week's game in order of kickoff time. You can sort the games by spread and total size, and line movement.

Each game gives a snapshot of the opening odds, current odds, team records SU (straight up) and ATS (against the spread), as well as the percentage of picks being calculated by our Covers Consensus.

From there, you can dive deep into our detailed matchup pages for each game, track line history, view the most popular spread and total picks, as well as analyze unique betting trends for every team.

2

Find the best NFL odds

Making smart bets on NFL football isn't always about betting the best team, but betting the best odds.

With Covers’ NFL odds comparison tool you can find current spreads, totals, and moneylines for every NFL game from the top legal sportsbooks in your area, compare across the industry and shop for the best odds for your NFL bets.

3

Log in/Sign up for a sportsbook in your area 

Signing up for a new sportsbook is simply a few clicks away. Once you have identified a football betting site that provides everything you want, you can sign up for an account and quickly deposit using various banking methods, such as credit cards and e-transfers. Most sportsbooks also offer great bonuses and sign-up promotions to new users.

4

Make your bet

After doing all your research for your best NFL picks on Covers.com, you can place those bets at the sportsbook by selecting NFL football from its menu and searching for the game or market you want to bet.

From there, select the wager to add it to your bet card and enter the amount of money you wish to risk. After that, click submit, and you'll get a receipt or e-ticket for that bet, showing you the odds you bet and the amount you can win.

Today's NFL odds

Here are the latest NFL odds for upcoming matchups. Use our odds comparison tool to shop for the best odds on upcoming NFL games.

Differences between NFL and college football

The difference between betting NFL and college football is that there are only 32 teams in the NFL compared to the 130 schools playing FBS NCAA football. It's much easier for books and bettors to track stats, info, and breaking news on the NFL than keeping up with all those college teams.

The level of parity is also closer in the NFL than college football, which means spreads are much smaller than those sometimes seen when betting on NCAA football. It's rare to see NFL favorites of more than 20 points while prevalent in the college ranks.  

NFL betting contests

Think you're ready to place bets on NFL games? Our King of Covers NFL contest is perfect for that. Make real NFL bets for free without having to deposit at a sportsbook. Bet the spread and Over/Under totals on the 2021-22 NFL season for the chance to win cash and prizes.

If you think you have what it takes to make football picks for a whole season, check out the best NFL betting contests and NFL survivor pools available for the 2021-22 season.

The best NFL betting sites

Football is the most bet-on sport in North America, and bettors love wagering on NFL games every week during the fall and winter. Make sure you place your football bets at a site that's safe, secure, and trustworthy. We've rounded up all the best football betting sites so you can make smarter football bets.

NFL betting forum

Join a large and knowledgeable community of NFL bettors and learn more about football betting. Go to Covers' NFL betting forum to get picks, ask questions, and more.

NFL betting FAQs

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