- “Football is a game played with arms, legs, and shoulders but mostly from the neck up.” – Knute Rockne
SportsInsights.com’s general betting articles discuss the intricacies of sports betting as it pertains to each major U.S. sport. This “How To” article will concentrate on the several ways you can place a wager on the NFL. We will try to utilize that “neck up” part of our bodies to gain an edge on the linesmakers, but first we must know the basics. The NFL is by far the most popular bet of all major American sports, culminating with the most popular game of the year, the Superbowl. This article will shed light on each football wager type including spread, moneyline, totals, parlays/teasers, halftimes, and futures.
Like many high scoring sports, NFL wagering is dictated by the point spread. The spread, or line, is a type of side bet that equalizes the chance of winning a wager. The line offered for any given team will be accompanied with a – or + symbol to indicate whether a team is a favorite or an underdog. The example below displays the spread from the SI Archive at the time of kickoff:
|Team||Spread at Kickoff||Final Score|
|Indianapolis Colts||-9 (-110)||23|
|Tennessee Titans||+9 (-110)||20|
Generally, the number next to the spread is “-110”. This is what’s known as the juice, vig or odds. The juice is a fraction of the wager taken from the bettor if the bet wins. In this instance, a winning wager of $110 will yield a profit of $100.The example above demonstrates that, although Indianapolis won the contest, Tennessee covered the spread by losing by less than nine points. An important aspect of sports betting is capturing the best line possible. A great way to achieve this is by shopping for the best line.
In the parity driven NFL, the phrase “any given Sunday” is more prevalent than ever, which is why Moneyline (ML) bets can be very profitable when betting on the underdog. A moneyline wager is one that is placed on either the favorite or the underdog to win straight up. The example below is from Week 10 of the 2010-11 NFL season:
|New York Giants||-600|
To win $100 dollars wagering on the New York Giants one must lay $600. Whereas, a $100 bet on the Dallas Cowboys earns a profit of $450. Due to the high risk and low reward presented by betting on the NY Giants, bettors may choose to fade, or go against them, and place a smaller wager on the Cowboys. The Cowboys did indeed win this Week 10 shocker at the New Meadowlands by a score of 33-20.
Quarter and 1st Half Lines
The majority of bets on any sport are usually on the final outcome of the particular contest. However, for sports like the NFL and NBA, there are 1st quarter and 1st half lines offered as well. The quarter spread is used to determine who will be the winner at the end of the 1st quarter. The same is true for a 1st half line, only the wager ends when the first two quarters are completed. Generally, the 1st half spread will be close to half of the overall spread on the game.
There are also in-game bets being placed DURING halftime, to determine the outcome of the second half, known as the halftime, or 2nd half, line. The 2nd half line accounts for what happened in the first half to help determine how the rest of the game will play out.
|Team||Halftime Score||Halftime Spread||Final|
|Arizona Cardinals||13||+3 (-110)||27|
|St. Louis Rams||17||-3 (-110)||24|
For the purposes of a halftime bet, the game essentially restarts at 0 to 0. According to the halftime spread, the Arizona Cardinals are expected to be outscored by the St. Louis Rams by 3 points throughout the entire 2nd half. A halftime bet of $110 dollars on the Arizona Cardinals would lead to a profit of $100, because, not only did the Cardinals beat the spread, they won the game outright. These bets are taken during halftime, leaving a small window for the bets to be placed. A bettor can track halftime odds using SI’s Live Odds page.
Totals or Over/Under
The concept of betting on totals, or Over/Under (O/U), is quite simplistic. The bettor wagers on whether the TOTAL points scored in a game will fall over or under a pre-determined number set by the sportsbook. Much like the point spread, game totals can be swayed by public opinion. The example below, from the SI Archive, shows the opening totals line for Superbowl XLV:
|Team||Total or O/U||Final Score|
|Green Bay Packers||44.5o (-105)||31|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||44.5u (-115)||25|
As you can see above, the combined score for Superbowl XLV was 56, and since this line was offered at reduced juice, a wager on the over at 44.5 of only $105 would yield a profit of $100. This line closed at a high of 46 points at some books, demonstrating how the public, who tend to show a proclivity for high scoring games, can increase an O/U line.
Parlays are wagers placed in combination with the spread, moneyline, and totals to increase the payout. A parlay is only a winner when ALL individual plays hit. A teaser is the same as parlay, except you put points down in your favor to help the bet come to fruition. For example, if the proposed line is -13 and you have a 6-point teaser, your new line is -7. A teaser may have reduced some of the risks of the parlay, but you still have to hit each individual play and the payout is reduced significantly. Many sportsbooks let you bet up to 15 times for one parlay, and if all wagers are at -110, that’s a payout of 16306.94/1!
|# of Teams||Payoff|
Futures bets are exactly what they sound like, a wager placed on an event that will occur in the future. As you can imagine, the most popular futures bet in the NFL is who will win the Superbowl. In fact, the Team Odds to win it all are released within a week after the previous year’s championship. It is not uncommon to see last year’s worse team to be 100/1 dogs or worse. Naturally, Futures are not limited to simply who will win the big game. Much like proposition (prop) bets for any particular contest, you can place several futures bets on potential outcomes, from who will win what division to who will win the league’s MVP. Futures Odds can be found at nearly any reputable sportsbook, but some have a limited selection of wagers they will actually take.