There is nothing quite like a crisp fall Sunday morning. You wake up, put on the coffee, make breakfast, and turn on the pregame shows before setting your fantasy lineups and checking out the point spreads and betting options for the day’s games. It’s the best, and the added intrigue and excitement that comes with it is also part of what makes the NFL America’s most popular sport. Indeed, there is no coincidence the game’s popularity is closely interconnected with the indisputable truth that the NFL is America’s most bet on sports league. While total wager and revenue estimates vary, betting on the NFL is widely considered a multi-billion dollar industry and one that will assuredly continue to grow h as many individual states progressively offer legal sports wagering options.
With New Jersey and Delaware already permitting legal sports betting and Pennsylvania soon to follow, we have designed this informative guide to help prospective football bettors understand the various wagering options and strategies that will available this fall.
Point spread bets
Point spread bets are widely considered to be the most standard football wager. A point spread is a number assigned by bookmakers designed to make each side an equally attractive betting option. This is necessary because teams are rarely viewed as equals, so most bettors will pick the team they perceive as better to win. Therefore, a point point spread establishes how many points the favorite (the team considered more likely to win) must win by over the underdog (the team considered more likely to lose) in order to win the wager. This number will fluctuate depending upon the perceived disparity between the two teams.
As an example, let’s look at the NFL Week 1 matchup between the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons:
The Eagles, currently perceived by both experts and the public as the superior team and, in turn, the more likely to win the contest, are favored by 5.5-points. This means that a bettor who selects the Eagles will need them to win the game by six or more points to win the bet. Conversely, a bettor who selects the Falcons simply needs them to lose the game by less than six points, or win the game outright to win the bet.
If you want to bet with a point spread, but don’t want to wait for the entire game to play out, single quarter, first and second half point spread bets are commonly available through most sportsbooks. These bets are particularly interesting if you feel that one team is going to get off to a strong start.
One additional note on point spread bets: Bookmakers charge what is commonly to referred to as “vig” or “juice” on losing bets. That fee is outlined prior to your bet and is typically 10% to 20% of your total wager. Take a look at the line illustration above. See the (-125) next to the Eagles? That number indicates the amount a bettor needs to risk in order to win $100 dollars. In this case, a bettor must risk $125 to win $100, $ 62.50 to win $50, or $31.25 to win $25. So this bookmaker’s vig is extraordinarily high on the Eagles for this particular bet. Why do bookmakers do this? Because they can, and also because it ensures they will make money if they take even action on bets. Let’s say that the house takes $100 dollars of action on both sides of a game. This means it is guaranteed to profit on the losers’ fees alone. It doesn’t always work out this way, as sometimes books kill it or get crushed on certain games when the majority of money is wagered on one side.
“Who is going to win?” This probably is the most fundamental question one asks when considering or watching any sporting event. Moneyline bets allow you to wager on this very question. The score doesn’t matter, nor does the margin of victory, thus eliminating the point-spread from the proposition. If you select the winner, you win the bet.
Here’s the catch—if you are betting on the favorite to win the game, then you will have to risk more money than what you want to win. Meanwhile, betting on the underdog to outright win the game can provide great value. Let’s again use the Eagles and Falcons Week 1 matchup as an example:
In this game, a bettor who selects the Eagles and wants to win $100 dollars will have to risk $220 to do so. A bettor who selects the Falcons can risk $100 to win $180. Moneyline bets can decrease the risk of betting on a favorite by eliminating the point spread because any margin of victory ensures a profitable bet, but losses can be quite expensive.
Let’s say you have no idea which side will win a game or cover, but you have a feeling points will be at a premium. You can bet on what is referred to as the “total,” or “over/under.” Bookmakers will assign a number of points they believe the two teams will combine to score. For example, in the Eagles-Falcons game the total is currently set at 47 points. If you have a hunch that it is going to be a low scoring game, then taking the under makes sense. If you think it is going to be a shootout, then take the over.
Additionally, many sportsbooks will also allow bettors to wager on the total amount of combined points scored in a quarter and half, as well as how many total points will be scored by individual teams. So lots of options on totals are available. In fact, you can usually back into team totals by taking the over-under and comparing it with the spread— the numbers should add up.
One bit of advice on totals betting: Taking the over is fun for most football fans because lighting up the scoreboard means there’s plenty of excitement and action, while taking the under can make an unpleasant viewing experience, so it’s easy to want to take the “over.” Still, and this shouldn’t be a surprise, both the “over” and “under” hit with about the same frequency. So be careful.
The teaser is one of the most popular alternative wagering options available to football bettors. A teaser bet is a multi-leg wager that allows bettors to buy points in their favor. Generally, teasers involve anywhere between two to ten different wagers rolled into a single bet. The size of the teaser (the number of wagers rolled into the bet) will dictate the terms of the payout. In other words, a five-team teaser will pay out more than a two, three, or four-team teaser. In order to win a teaser, all individual bets must be successful. Hitting on two out of three games is impressive, but it won’t get it done with this type of bet.
A significantly modified point spread slanted in a bettor’s favor is an enticing proposition, hence the term “teaser.” In football teasers, the standard teaser is six points, but many sportsbooks offer 6.5, 7, 10, and 14-point teaser modifications. In theory, this diminishes the risk of wagering against the standard point-spread. Bettors have the ability to add points to the spread if they want to bet an underdog, or subtract points from the spread if they wish to bet a favorite. Let’s take a look at Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season as a basic example:
Here, the Eagles are a 5.5-point favorite over the Falcons, and the Steelers are a 6.5-point favorite of the Browns. Let’s say you like the Eagles and Steelers to win, but aren’t sure about either team’s ability to cover the point spread. In this case, a six-point teaser on both favorites eliminates the dangers of the point-spread. Here are the modified lines:
Now, when Steelers dick around for 57 minutes before marching 80 yards to bang a 54-yard field goal as time expires, thus delivering Cleveland an inevitable soul-crushing 24-22 loss, you can celebrate the cover of your two-leg, six-point teaser instead of lamenting the fact that the Steelers failed to cash on the original point spread. It’s a beautiful thing.
Using this same example, a bettor can also buy the Browns up to a 12.5-point underdog and the Falcons to an 11.5-point underdog. Or they can mix a favorite and an underdog.
Check out our complete guide to teasers.
A parlay is a series of multiple wagers that are linked together that offers bettors favorable payouts. In other words, a parlay provides unfavorable odds of winning, but excellent payout value. Parlay bets are all or nothing propositions. Like teasers, if every bet in the parlay wins, the bet cashes. If even one of the bets lose, it’s a loser. For instance, let’s say a bettor does a four-bet parlay with a $20 risk. Three games of the parlay win and then the fourth game loses—you’re still beat. The parlay payout depends upon how many games are involved and the odds on each individual game. Generally, these are the standard smaller parlay payouts:
Two-team parlay: 13 to 5
Three-team parlay: 6.5 to 1
Four-team parlay: 13 to 1
Five-team parlay: 25 to 1
Of course, the more plays added, the higher the payout terms will rise. Parlays are a good betting option if you are looking for action on multiple games and don’t wish to wager much, but still want a chance at hitting for a quality payout.
Prop betting is a wagering option that extends beyond picking winners straight-up or against the spread or betting on game totals. Props allow bettors to wager on alternative outcomes such which team will score the first, if the first score of the game will be a touchdown or a field goal/safety, which player will score the first touchdown, the distance of the longest touchdown/field goal, which of two players competing at the same position will gain the most yards, etc. While these are typically standard props, but some sportsbooks will offer exotic props that are not only fun, but provide good value for bettors. Some gambling experts believe that football prop betting can be the most lucrative because, as the theory goes, sportsbooks use them as an ancillary form of wagering used to drum up interest and get people coming back.
Why limit your wagers to a pre-game evaluation and a three-hour roll of the dice when you can place multiple wagers throughout the course of a contest? Don’t want to wait the full length of a contest to get the outcome of your play? Now you can make several plays on short-term outcomes (play, drive, quarter, half) and submit bets as the action unfolds. This is an entertaining alternative to traditional pre-game betting because it continuously allows the bettor to react, evaluate, and predict what will happen next as the game unfolds, thus creating the potential for a steady stream of action and an enhanced viewing experience.
Currently, most sports betting sites will allow players to make in-play wagers on updated point spreads, totals, and moneylines. These odds fluctuate after every single play. For instance, as I mentioned earlier, the Eagles are a 5.5-point favorite prior to kickoff in the season opener against the Falcons. On the first play from scrimmage, let’s say that Matt Ryan finds Julio Jones for a 30 yard hookup out to midfield. Even though Atlanta hasn’t scored, the live point-spread is going to adjust, probably making the Eagles a 4 or 4.5-point favorite. If on the next play Ryan takes a 12-yard loss on a sack, the line will almost certainly go back up in the Eagles’ favor. The same principle applies in other major sports as well. In hockey, a score, or a power play opportunity, will shift live lines. In baseball, the outcome of an at-bat, or even a ball or strike can move live odds. In basketball, score changes and changes of possession generate continuous line movement.
While more traditional in-game platforms might limit betting options to point spreads, adjusted point spreads, and totals with the aforementioned more immediate outcomes, some applications are offering more unique and diversified wagers with an almost immediate outcome. Here are some of the most common football live betting options:
Full-game point spreads
First and second half point spreads
Point spreads by quarter
Game totals by half
Totals by quarter
Team totals for quarter, half, game
Full-game moneyline bets
Moneyline by half
Moneyline by quarter
Which team will score next?
What type of score will happen next?
Will this play be a run or pass?
Will there be a first down on this drive?
Will this play result in X amount of yards?
Will there be overtime?
Check out our guide to live betting.
Which sites offer betting on the NFL?
DraftKings Sportsbook NFL betting
For more experienced gamblers, betting on sports via a mobile app may not be a new experience. In recent years, some local bookmakers have offered clients traditional mobile betting lines and live wagering options, but with the increase of legal sports gambling avenues, the 2018 NFL season will mark the first time that many prospective bettors will utilize such technology. Even those aforementioned experienced gamblers are likely to encounter new and entertaining wagering options. That being said, with the NFL season quickly approaching and DraftKings recently launching its mobile sports betting app, now seems like the right time to take a deeper look at what’s in store for those gearing up to make some legal wagers this fall.
Let’s start with the basics. DraftKings will offer its users all of the traditional betting options such as game lines, money lines, and totals.
For those wondering, the standard point spreads offered by DraftKings are pretty much in line with the offerings of Vegas sportsbooks. How DraftKings’ odds stack up to the traditional books is a commonly asked question, and at current glance, most Week 1 lines mirror or are within a half-point of books like Westgame, MGM, and William Hill.
Read our full DraftKings Sportsbook review.
Additionally, bettors will be able to bet using alternative point spreads and game totals. Currently, these alternative lines are limited to slight variation of the spread, but I would assume several more options will be offered in the coming weeks given DraftKings’ extensive baseball alternative line and alternative totals offerings.
One feature that I particularly enjoy is the Game Parlays options. Bettors will be given the option to make traditional parlay wagers, but DraftKings Sportsbook is offering its users to the ability to pair single-game bets for better payouts.
Bettors can pair the full game point spread and game totals, first half point spread, full game winner, and first half winner with the total points in a single-game parlay bet.
Currently, DraftKings Sportsbook offers a limited game props menu with the NFL season still weeks away and specific individual game elements still unknown. At the moment, the only prop offering is “Game to go to overtime.”
Again, given the company’s extensive baseball prop betting options, I would expect extensive and unique options to be made available soon enough.
Where the DraftKings app truly excels, in my opinion, is with its futures betting options. Users can currently wager on outcomes like Super Bowl, conference, and division winners, Super Bowl matchups, regular season win totals, MVP, offensive and defensive rookie of the year winners, among other options. They also offer interesting team and player specials. This brief video will familiarize you with DraftKings’ robust futures betting options:
Not only will bettors have this rather extensive choice of pre-game wagering options, they will also have several live betting outcomes available to choose from. We’ll be sure to review those features along with any additional enhancements or changes made by DraftKings once regular season action kicks off in September.
To get started on your betting journey, check out our list of sports betting sites. Or choose from one of the following sites:
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