NFL betting guide

How to Read NFL Betting Odds & Place Winning Bets

Here is your complete guide to NFL online betting; learn how to read odds and place winning bets.

When it comes to North American sports betting, the NFL is the king of the hill. Ever since a 2018 law change opened up the option of sports betting to any American state, the influence and impact of legal, regulated online sports betting continues to advance across the USA. In over half of the 50 states across the country, NFL fans can bet legally on games now without leaving their homes. The power of the NFL in terms of online wagering is growing exponentially with that opportunity. The American Gaming Association estimates that 45.2 million Americans placed a wager on an NFL game during one season.

Learn how to bet on NFL, read odds on this week’s NFL games, Super Bowl, Monday/Sunday/Thursday Night Football and MVPs specials.

Betting Markets and Types of NFL Online Bets

With 32 teams in action most weeks, that’s 16 opportunities to bet on an NFL game. But really, there’s so much more than that available to football bettors. 

The standard plays on an NFL match are moneylines, point spreads and totals. The monyeline is a straight win/lose wager based on a $100 play. An underdog is assigned a positive number. For instance, if the Detroit Lions are +210, it means a $10 wager will bring winnings of $210. However, if the Green Bay Packers are -150, that means you’ll need to wager $150 on them in order to garner a $100 profit.

Point spreads are also indicated by negative (favorite) or positive (underdog) numbers. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are -3, they are 3-point favorites. They’ll need to win by at least four points for a bettor to cash a winner. But if the Atlanta Falcons are -10, they are getting 10 points. Atlanta can lose the game by as much as nine points and a bet on them will still cash.

Totals, also known as over/under NFL bets, are bet on the total points scored in a game. A number is assigned to each game by oddsmakers. Bettors play the teams to go over or under that total.

Props are bets on outcomes during the game, such as over/unders on a quarterback’s pass completions. Parlays combine a series of bets into one wager. This can offer significant return from small investment but all legs of the paraly must come in for the bet to pay off. Live betting is a more recent development, enabling bettors to wager on the next NFL event in a game, such as what type of score will be counted next in the game. 

Future betting can be on outcomes of league events such as the Super Bowl champion, or individual honors including MVP. There’s also over/unders offered on a team’s season win totals.

Here’s the list of Super Bowl prop bets.

NFL Betting Spreads

The point spread was originally unique to football betting and it is both viewed and utilized to be the great equalizer in NFL wagering. 

The point spread – the system of assigning teams negative or positive point totals prior to kickoff – is designed by oddsmakers to attempt to balance the books. The concept is that by giving or getting points when a bettor makes a play on an NFL game, the spread will encourage the wagering pool to be split as close to 50-50 between the favorite and the underdog. 

For instance, if the 7-1 Kansas City Chiefs are facing the 2-6 New York Giants, only an eternal optimist or a die-in-the-wool Giants fan is likely to bet New York straight up against Patrick Mahomes and the potent KC offense. However, set the Chiefs as 9-point favorites and suddenly, betting on the Giants is worthy of consideration. As the 9-point chalk, Kansas City must beat the Giants by a minimum of 10 points to cover the spread. NFL bet on the Giants would pay off if New York wins the game outright, or loses by less than nine points.

According to Sports Illustrated, it was Connecticut math teacher Charles K. McNeil who is considered to be the creator of the point spread concept in football betting. Giving up teaching in the 1930s to become a securities analyst in Chicago, McNeil looked to supplement his meager wages by betting on football. He was so successful at betting football that McNeil quit his day job. In the 1940s, he started his own bookmaking operation, offering what he termed “wholesaling odds.” This was the birth of the point spread. 

How to Read NFL Bet Lines

To the newcomer to football betting, a NFL betting line might as well be written in hieroglyphics. With its various selections of positive and negative numbers and decimal points, it could even cause a newbie to have horrific flashbacks to algebra class.

Well, relax, because we’re here to help. Once you learn the nomenclature of an NFL bet line, you’ll discover it’s actually quite simple math.

This is what a typical NFL bet line will look like:

NFL Team Moneyline Spread Total Bet

New England Patriots +130 +3 (-110) O 44.5 (-110)

Miami Dolphins -150 -3 (-110) U 44.5 (-110)

There are three separate wagering opportunities available in an NFL betting line – the moneyline, the point spread and the total. Let’s take a look at how each of these options works.

NFL Moneyline Online Bet

The moneyline is based on a $100 wager. The favorite in the game is assigned a negative number and the underdog a positive number. 

In the case of this game, it’s New England that is set as the +130 underdog. That means if you bet $100 on the Patriots and they win, you earn a profit of $130. 

The calculation on the favorite is a bit more complicated. It’s based on how much a player would need to wager in order to garner a $100 profit on a bet. The Dolphins are -150. That means a bettor would need to put $150 on the Dolphins to win $100. 

NFL Spread Bets

Again in the case of the point spread, there are negative numbers attached to the favorite and positive digits assigned to the underdog. New England is a +3 underdog. Were you to bet the Patriots, you’d cash a winning ticket if the Pats won outright or lost by less than three points.

The Dolphins are -3 favorites. To cash a bet on Miami, the Dolphins must win the game by more than three points. 

In both cases, the odds assigned to the spread is -110. A successful $100 wager on either team would bring a return of $190.91.

Total NFL Bets

Also known as the over/under, the total is a number set by oddsmakers assessing the amount of points that they believe the two teams in an NFL game will combine to score. It’s also the simplest bet to both explain and to play.

In this Patriots-Dolphins game, the total is set at 44.5 points. By adding half a point to the total, betting sites are assuring that there won’t be a push – that’s what they call a tie in betting. This way, it ensures all bets will be paid out, because teams can’t score half a point.

As a bettor, the choice isn’t complicated. Do you wager that the two teams will combine to go over that total, or will they finish under that total? In this game, the payout on the bet are odds of -110 either way. On a $10 wager, a winning bet would return $9.09 profit, for a payout of $19.09.

What is The NFL Point Spread?

There are two ways for a bettor to bet online on the outcome of an NFL game. The first is the moneyline, which is a bet on the straight up result of the game. It’s simple. If the team you bet wins the game, you win the bet.

The second method is to wager on the point spread. The spread is designed to balance the books in terms of wagering on an NFL game. By adding or subtracting points from a team’s score, the hope of oddsmakers is that it will encourage bettors to play the underdog as much as the favorite.

Here’s how NFL online betting works: let’s say the New York Giants are playing on the road at the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC East game. In this game, the hometown Eagles are set as 3-point favorites. In the betting line on this game, it would read as Philadelphia -3 and the Giants +3. 

To put this terminology in simple terms, think of it as the Eagles beginning the game trailing by three points. Meanwhile, the Giants are given a virtual 3-0 lead before the game kicks off.

From a betting standpoint, if you wager on the Eagles at -3 in this point spread, Philadelphia is going to need to win the game by at least four points in order for your bet to cash as a winner. On the other hand, if your play is on the Giants at +3, you’ll cash a winner if New York wins the game. As well, your ticket will come in if the Giants lose by less than three points. 

What is The NFL Over/Under?

The unique aspect of the over/under, also known as the total, is that it doesn’t matter at all which team wins the game. It’s all about how many points are scored in the game.

Oddsmakers from a sports betting site will establish a total prior to the game. For example, a game between the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars could see a total of 54.5 points. Odds will be assigned to each number, perhaps +140 on the over and -110 on the under. A half point is generally included in the total to eliminate the possibility of a tie, or what’s known in betting circles as push. In the case of a push, no one wins and all bettors are returned their original stake.

With the total, bettors wager on whether they think the points scored in the game will go over or under the assigned number. So if the game ended Houston 28 Jacksonville 27, the total would add up to 55 and the over would pay off. On the other hand, should the final score be Jacksonville 27 Houston 21, that would add up to a total of 48 and the under would be the winning play.

Variations on the Total

Online betting sites will also offer one team totals for a game. Perhaps the Houston-Jacksonville game would see 27.5 assigned to the Texans and 24.5 assigned to the Jaguars. Betting on one-team totals works identical to a full-game total wager. The only difference is that you’ll be wagering on whether the team you select will be over or under on their final points tally. 

Another popular total NFL bet offered by online sportsbooks in U.S. is the season win totals for NFL teams. Each of the league’s 32 teams are assigned an expected win total prior to the start of the season. Suppose Jacksonville was set at 5.5 wins. You’d be wagering on whether the Jaguars will go over or under that total by the end of the NFL regular season.

What Does Pk Mean in NFL Betting?

The term Pk holds different meanings depending upon the sport. In hockey, it stands for penalty kill. On the soccer pitch, it refers to penalty kicks. However, in the world of NFL betting, when you see Pk in a game’s point spread, it means pick’em.

In other words, it’s a 50-50 chance that either team could be the victor in the outcome of that particular game. Thus, as a bettor, you won’t be getting or giving any points if you were to bet on that game. 

A Pk assignment in an NFL betting line is telling the betting public that this is an evenly-matched game. There’s little to choose from in order to create separation between the two opponents. Neither club has established itself as a clear favorite to win. 

It’s very rare that a pick’em betting line will be assigned to an NFL game. For instance, there have been 51 Super Bowl games played. In a match between the league’s two best teams, it would be logical to anticipate that a Pk betting line would be a more realistic possibility. However, during those 51 Super Bowl games, just one – the 2015 game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks – kicked off with a pick’em betting line. The Pats won that game 28-24.

Occasionally, oddsmakers at online sportsbook apps will employ a Pk line when there is uncertainty about a vital area of an upcoming game. It could be the injury status of a key player, or the threat of inclement weather that could severely impact a team’s gameplan. In general, though, they try to avoid such a line, because point spread betting is the most popular method for wagering on the NFL. 

What is NFL Futures Betting?

One of the plusses that bettors tend to like about the NFL is that teams only play once per week. It offers plenty of time to assess and analyze prior to placing a wager on a team or game. Patterns and tendencies can often be recognized more easily than in other sports in which teams are playing two or three times in the span of a week.

For those bettors with even more patience, NFL futures betting offers the opportunity to make a small wager and potentially turn it into a big win.

There are a number of options when it comes to NFL futures betting.

Team Futures

The simplest form of NFL futures betting is to wager on team accomplishments for an upcoming season. Bettors can place a wager on which team will win the Super Bowl, or the conference or division title. At the other end of the scale, there are also betting lines on which team will end up picking first in the NFL Draft.

Odds on these wagers are generally released shortly following the conclusion of the previous season. Usually, the earlier the wager is placed, the better the odds will be.

Player Futures

These NFL future bets are similar to the team wagers. The difference is that they are online bets placed on individual accomplishments during the course of the season.

Some of the categories available for wagering include MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year.

Betting lines are also offered on statistical categories such as leading passer, leading rusher and leading receiver. 


A variation on these season-long statistical categories are over/unders on players in various seasonal statistical categories. It could be on the total TD passes by Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals, for example. 

As well, there are team-related season over/unders, including win totals and yes/no wagers on whether a team will make the playoffs. 

NFL Live Betting

Live betting is all the rage in sports betting. It is the perfect fit for today’s instant gratification society. 

Live betting is just what it says. You’re able to wager on events as they are unfolding during the course of the game. For instance, NFL bettors are able to wager on elements of the game almost immediately prior to the moment that they are taking place.

That next play – will it be a pass or a run? Which quarterback will throw the next touchdown pass? Which club will force the next turnover? Will it be a fumble or an interception? Is the next scoring play going to be a touchdown, a field goal, or the longshot on the board, a safety?

Naturally, the odds on a live bet will be dictated by where the ball is located on the field. If a team is on the opponent’s 10-yard line, of course the odds will be short that their next score will be a TD. However, if they are backed up to their own 20-yard line, the betting line on the next score being a TD will be much longer.

To be a successful live bettor, players need to be quick off the mark. Circumstances with live betting can change in the blink of an eye, so it’s necessary to be right on top of the action at all times. It’s also vital to maintain access to a live stream of the game you are betting, or at the very least to a match tracker, which displays the game in graphic form.

What is A Two Team Parlay in NFL Betting?

Parlays are a popular way to wager on the NFL. By combining several plays into one bet, a lucrative return can be earned on the wager of a small stipend. 

Where novice bettors get themselves into trouble with parlay wagering is that they make the mistake of going big and that usually means they go home with empty pockets. In parlay wagering, the more is rarely the merrier.

The thing is, it isn’t necessary to combine many plays in order to gain a solid payout. In fact, playing a two-team parlay on NFL betting at an online site such as BetMGM – the fewest number of legs permitted in a parlay bet – can prove to be quite an effective method for turning a profit.

How to Play a Two-Team Parlay 

With a two-team parlay, there are four potential outcomes that can be achieved – win-win, win-draw, lose-draw and lose-lose. Doing the simple math, that gives the bettor a one-in-four chance of success. 

Let’s suppose you decide to play a two-team parlay at Caesars and bet $10 on the wager. You take the favored Green Bay Packers at -125 to defeat the Minnesota Vikings. Then you play an upset, choose the Buffalo Bills at +100 to win over the Los Angeles Rams. 

That simple $10 bet would bring a return of $26.00, so with a win you’d more than double your investment. 

While adding more legs to a parlay wager brings a much greater potential for return, the risk vs reward ratio is also increasing dramatically. The chances of hitting a parlay decrease dramatically with each leg that is added to the play. Increase the legs in that parlay to three and already you’ll be reducing the odds of success to one in nine. 10 NFL Betting Tips and How to Make Profitable Football Bets

What is s Double Result in NFL Betting?

Perhaps you’re old enough to remember those old chewing gum ads that promised double the pleasure and double the fun. Well, when it comes to a double result in NFL betting, the same marketing campaign could be utilized.

A double result is exactly what it is claiming to be – a chance to win twice while betting on the same game. With a double result wager, NFL bettors are wagering on two outcomes. First they are betting on the halftime score. They are combining that wager with the final result of the game in the same bet.

For the bet to be a winner, the player must hit on both the halftime score wager and the final score wager. If the halftime bet isn’t a winner, then the final score wager becomes moot.

While the required outcomes for a successful wager are doubled with a double result bet, the possible outcomes increase threefold.

Straight bets offer three outcomes – win, lose or draw. Double result bets feature nine possible outcomes – win/win, win/lose, win/draw, lose/win, lose/draw, lose/lose, draw/win, draw/lose and draw/draw. A bettor can choose to place a wager on any of these nine possible outcomes.

Similar to a parlay wager, the two legs of the double result bet increase the odds on the play and thus would also up the payout from a successful wager. But it’s also requiring two outcomes to come in for the bet to be a winner, so the risk involved is double what it would be with a straight bet.

NFL Public Betting

It’s often said of coaches and GMs that those who choose to take advice on how to run their team from the public will soon find themselves a member of the public.

The same could be said for following the advice of the betting public. During the NFL season, top online betting sites will broadcast the NFL public betting trends prior to each week’s games. They will break down each game on that week’s schedule, displaying which way the public, or the consensus, as it’s also known, is playing the moneyline, the point spread and the total. 

Studying these public betting numbers can make it easier to decipher why there’s been movement in the betting lines on an NFL game. If there’s 73 percent of all moneyline bets on the Buffalo Bills against the New York Jets, that would explain why Buffalo’s line moved from -7 to -8.

Public betting trends should be viewed by the football bettor as another tool to be accessed within their betting toolbox. However, each should also be taken with a grain of salt.

Fading The Public

The public tends to fall in love with favorites. They become enamored with the trending teams and more significantly, trending stars. This can be a recipe for disaster when betting on NFL games.

There are NFL bettors who choose to fade the public – in other words, bet the opposite of what the consensus is suggesting that they should be doing. It’s always wise to keep in mind that sportsbooks make money because the public is wrong a lot more than it is right. 

NFL Game Schedule

One of the reasons why the NFL is such a popular betting sport is that it operates as a regimented experience in terms of the league’s game schedule. Each team only plays once a week, with every team getting one bye week during the regular season. 

Prior to the 2021 season, the NFL increased its regular-season schedule from 16 to 17 games per team. The odd number means some teams will play nine home games and eight road games, while others are playing eight home games and nine road games. Interestingly, though, only 15 of the league’s 32 teams earned winning records at home last season, so home-field advantage doesn’t appear to be supplying the edge it once did.

The league used to play exclusively on Sunday afternoons. In 1970, Monday Night Football was added to the mix. Later, a Sunday and Thursday night game were also included.

This mixture of dates for games is vital to pay attention to when betting on the NFL online. Several teams tend to fare poorly when operating on a short week of preparation for a game. Only 15 of 32 teams were displaying a winning ledger when playing on less rest than their opponent. On the other hand, just 13 of 32 teams were showing a losing slate when they enjoyed a rest advantage over their opposition.  

Major NFL Events

The Super Bowl is often called sports betting Christmas, because it’s the biggest betting day in North American sports. The NFL playoffs are also popular wagering events because there are fewer games than during the regular season.

Likewise, the featured Thursday, Sunday and Monday night games draw larger handles due to the national presence they carry as the only action available.

What Is A NFL Sharp Bettor and How to Handicap NFL?

Often also referred to as the smart money, in NFL circles, the term sharp bettor is often misconstrued to be a synonym for smart bettor. However, that isn’t the origin of the terminology at all.

Sharp bettors, or sharps, as they are known for short, aren’t called that because they are thought of as the smartest bettors. The term sharp comes from the fact that their betting opinion is so respected by sportsbooks that a significant wager from them can have the effect of altering or sharpening the betting line on a game.

Professional oddsmakers consider sharps to be a more educated and informed bettor than the general public, or squares as they’re also known. The opinion of sharps on a game is taken into consideration and impacts the line. 

When these betting experts pounce quickly on what they consider to be a soft opening line on a game, such as a point spread they think is too long on a team, online betting sites will react instantly in order to sharpen up that line. This so-called soft line is what betting experts refer to as the sharp side, because it will attract wagers from sharp bettors.

The sharp bettor is distinct from the general public in that they aren’t betting on the NFL for recreation, or because they hold a passion for the gridiron game. To them, betting football is business. For some, it is their profession. 

Sharps aren’t fans of any team. They aren’t betting on teams, they are betting on numbers. If they don’t see a number they like on that week’s slate of NFL games, they will protect their bankroll and refrain from betting. 

They also stick to straight bets – moneylines, point spreads and totals. You won’t find a sharp risking their hard-earned money on gimmick bets such as props and parlays. They consider these plays to be sucker bets. They aren’t as worried about getting a massive payout from a wager as much as they are focused on getting a payout on most of their wagers. 

Sharps also know and accept that even the top players will still lose about 45 percent of their bets. But they also know that by being smart with their money and hitting on 55 percent of their plays, they will make a profit at the end of the day. 

Handicapping the NFL is a lot like doing your school work. For those kids who studied, who did their homework, exam day wasn’t a time to test their levels of anxiety. They went into writing that test feeling a level of confidence, because they’d prepared for it. They knew their stuff.

Follow the same approach when betting on the NFL and you will find more success than failure. Opt instead to cram at the last minute, or to just wing it, and you’ll be bidding adieu to your money.

Here are some simple strategies to follow that will enable you to better handicap NFL games.

Know The Injury Lists

Every NFL team is mandated to turn in a daily injury report. Ailments are divulged in significant details. Those hampered by hurts or illness will be assigned a level of likelihood that they’ll be playing in that week’s game, as well as daily updates on whether or not they participated in practice. There literally is no excuse to not know whether a key player is playing in an upcoming game.

Home Field Advantage

Some teams are beasts at home and meek weaklings on the road. Your job is to know who these teams are by digging into their histories, both recent and long term. There are cities where some visiting teams almost never win. For example, Detroit hasn’t won at Pittsburgh since the 1950s. Another factor to consider are West Coast teams playing in East Coast time zones. 

Weather Conditions

Just like in horse racing, the weather is a major factor in NFL betting. A team that likes to play an up tempo game with lots of quick movement is going to be inhibited playing in bad weather. On the other hand, teams that like a ground and pound rushing attack won’t mind playing on a wet track. Dome teams playing outdoors and warm weather squads traveling to cold weather cities later in the season are other instances where the elements can play a role.

How to Make Money Betting The NFL

There’s an old saying in the publishing industry. It’s easy to write a book. It’s easy to publish a book. But it’s hard to sell a book.

This same philosophy can be applied to betting on NFL games. It’s easy to bet on NFL games. In fact, just about everyone does it. But it’s really hard to consistently win money betting on the NFL. 

That’s why it’s essential to approach wagering on pro football with a gameplan, to have a strategy in place prior to playing that first bet and to stick with the plan through thick and thin.

Here’s a few tips to keep in mind that will help you turn a profit on your NFL betting investments.

  • Mind Your Bankroll: Before ever placing a bet, establish personal financial boundaries. Establish a bankroll that fits comfortably into your budget. You should never be betting money that you can’t afford to lose. Once your bankroll is set, you should never bet more than 5 percent of it on any single wager. Thus, if your bankroll is $1000, your bets should never exceed $50. 
  • Set Your Bets And Stick With Them: Assess each week’s slate of games. Long before kickoff, determine which bets you’ll be playing that week. Make those wagers and only those wagers. If you lose, don’t overreact to the situation and try to place more bets to make up for the losses. Take your L and move onto next week.
  • Shop Odds: It’s wise to sign up with a variety of online sportsbooks. This will allow you to shop odds. It might only be a difference of a half point but the bottom line is that means more money in your pocket on a winning wager.
  • Specialize: There’s an awful lot of available wagering opportunities on each NFL game – moneylines, point spreads, totals, player and game props. Specialization, picking one area to focus on, enables you to become more attuned to that section of the game and should increase the chances of winning. Knowledge is king, after all.
  • Accept That You’ll Lose: The sharps, the absolute best bettors in the world, understand that they are probably going to lose 45 percent of their NFL wagers. But if they hit 55 percent, they will turn a handsome return on their investments. Recognizing this to be so, it’s imperative to long-term success that you don’t allow a losing streak to impact your overall gameplan.
NFL online betting explained

Where to bet NFL online in the USA?

In USA, you can place NFL bets online in 20+ states, including NJ, PA, IN, CO, IL, IA, OH, TN, WV, NY and more. One of the best sportsbooks for NFL is BetRivers. Join, deposit and get a free bet bonus.

What are the typical signup offers at NFL betting sites?

New customers can get a first deposit bonus, a free bet offer or a specific NFL week promotion such as odds boost. Check out this NFL betting promos guide.

Where to find free NFL betting picks and predictions?

To win NFL bets you need to preapre. Listen to these podcasts and read these NFL best betting blogs with free expert picks.

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