If you are looking for rollercoaster sports action with dramatic endings, there are few better choices than betting legal on the NFL. With feature games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights, plus a full Sunday afternoon slate, the league is a dominant force between September and February.
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This is a fun time to be watching the league too, as legendary quarterbacks Tom Brady (New England Patriots) and Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints) try to fight off the younger wave (the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson, the Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff and so on). We have some all-time great wide receivers, with Antonio Brown and Julio Jones leading that pack, and a string of innovative head coaches.
Plus, the NFL playoffs are just around the corner – and that means the best of the 2018/19 season is still to come, making it an ideal time to join the fun. When it comes to betting online or offline on the NFL action, there are many paths to choose from. Here are some of the different options:
What are NFL Moneyline bets?
Like with most sports, this is the simplest and most easily understood betting option. It boils down to one question: which team is going to win? While a tie is possible in the NFL regular season (and we saw a couple this year), there has to be a winner when the playoffs get underway. The margin of victory is not a factor here.
What is betting on the spread?
This is where the scoreline matters. The oddsmakers will set a line that reflects the difference in quality and form between the two teams. As an example, the explosive Chiefs might be expected to beat the struggling New York Jets at home by 12 points. In that case, the line would be set at 12, giving you the choice of Chiefs -12 or Jets +12. If you take the Jets, they do not have to win – they just have to lose by less than 12 points.
With NFL betting, it is worth remembering that scores can change significantly in a short space of time, and leads can be deceptive. For example, 21-7 seems like an overwhelming advantage but, with touchdowns (and a successful extra point) worth seven points, the gap can close quickly. Untimely turnovers (interceptions or fumbles) can completely flip a game, allowing a team to score 14 quick points.
When betting on an NFL game spread, beware “garbage time”, where one team has a comfortable lead and takes their foot off the gas while the other throws caution to the wind with their offense. Garbage time touchdowns can take a chunk out of a lead and ruin bets.
Total points scored is another popular NFL betting option. A line will be set, balancing the offensive and defensive abilities of both teams, and you have the choice of betting over or under that number. The line typically falls somewhere between 42 points and 50 points, depending on the game.
Keep in mind that there also plenty of in-play options when betting on NFL games. Again, deficits can be erased quickly so watch for inviting odds for teams that fall behind early. Like with the NBA, you can also bet on the outcome of the first half or even the first quarter, or take a double result, where you have to correctly pick who will be winning at half-time and at the end of the game (e.g. Chiefs 1st half – Chiefs final, Jets 1st half – Chiefs final).
How does betting on NFL touchdown scorers work?
This tends to work the same way as goalscorer betting in football. You can bet on the first touchdown scorer, the last touchdown scorer and an “anytime” touchdown scorer. Odds are shorter for the latter category, while first and last scorer odds are typically the same.
Some teams jump out as likelier to run the ball (hand it off to a running back to try to muscle his way forward) near the goal line rather than throw a pass. As a result, certain running backs offer great value in the first touchdown scorer category. Of this year’s playoff teams, Todd Gurley (assuming he is healthy), Ezekiel Elliott and Chris Carson stand out as good options. You can also find good value on mobile quarterbacks finding the end zone – Wilson, Watson and Dak Prescott are among the best at faking a hand-off and running the ball themselves instead. All three will be in action this postseason.
What is NFL player performance betting?
Beyond touchdown scorers, there are numerous other player performance categories to bet on. It starts with the quarterbacks - you can bet on the total number of passing yards, the number of passing touchdowns and the number of interceptions thrown. For running backs, there are typically odds on number of rushing yards, and the same idea with receiving yards for the pass catchers.
You will also often find odds for defensive players too, based on the tackles, interceptions and fumbles.
Often these odds will appear as an “over/under” line – e.g. will Philip Rivers have more than or fewer than 320 passing yards?
Other NFL prop bets
There are other aspects of NFL games worth betting on too. When teams are unsuccessful on third down and are within respectable distance from the end zone, a field goal attempt is usually the way to go. These will sometimes be 20-yard chip shots but can go as deep as 60-yard efforts in the right conditions. You can bet on an “over/under” line for the longest field goal in the game or the number of successful field goals. Remember that the more potent offenses are going to pile up touchdowns, so it is often the middle-of-the-road offenses that are safer bets for multiple field goals.
Other options range from whether the game will go to overtime (usually longer odds), the margin of victory and the nature of the first scoring play (touchdown/field goal and which team will get it).
What is NFL futures betting?
These bets give you something to cheer for throughout the season. Keep tabs on the odds during the offseason and be ready to get in on the action come late August, with odds available for MVP, regular season win totals, division winners, NFC and AFC champions and the Super Bowl winner. These latter two categories are still very much in play as we enter the postseason. The New Orleans Saints are the current favourites to win it all, followed by the Chiefs and Rams, but do not sleep on the Patriots, who have been more workman-like than usual this year yet have an abundance of big game experience.
When it comes to regular season win totals, check out the schedule before making any bets. The NFL sets tougher fixtures for teams that finished first in their division the prior year so that is worth factoring in. The 2018/19 Minnesota Vikings are a great example. As deep as their roster looked heading into the season, it was always going to be a tough task to get to 11 wins with the powerhouses on their schedule.
Other things to keep in mind when betting on NFL games
- Quarterbacks really matter: One of the first things to analyze when weighing up a particular matchup is the quarterback battle. Even if one team is dominant in other areas (defense, kicking etc.), it is tough for an inferior quarterback to beat an elite one. If you are picking the team with the weaker quarterback, it should generally be in a situation where they are the underdog (e.g. the Jets quarterback getting +12 in our earlier example).
- Injuries: The NFL is a brutally physical sport with every team sure to run into injuries during the year. Keep an eye on the injury reports that are issued each week. While replacing an injured quarterback is naturally the most disruptive scenario, do not underestimate how important the absence of a key offensive lineman or a starting linebacker can be. Injuries force backups into action – and opponents are not shy about targeting those backups.
- Playing on the road is tough: For many teams, home field advantage is a real factor. Noisy stadiums can have a significant effect, disrupting the road team’s timing and play-calling. That leads to confusion and penalties. The Chiefs and Seahawks spring to mind as two of the more intimidating atmospheres to deal with. The Patriots, Saints, Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens also enjoy a home field edge.
- East to West travel, vice versa, and short weeks: While NFL teams generally play once a week, it is worth paying attention to travel and time zones. The history books tell us that teams struggle with cross-country trips – and that makes sense when you consider the three-hour time difference from coast to coast. Most teams will also have to deal with short weeks at least once each year – e.g. playing on Sunday afternoon, then in the prime time Thursday night game, or a Monday night game followed by a Sunday afternoon game. With the amount of game-planning that goes into each and every fixture, shortened preparation time has an impact.
Lastly, check out betting.com during the NFL playoffs for a range of previews, predictions and NFL betting tips. The postseason gets underway with Wildcard Weekend (January 5 and 6), followed by the Divisional Round (January 12 and 13) and the NFC and AFC Championship Games (January 20). The Super Bowl will be played in Atlanta on Sunday February 3, and we will have extensive coverage leading up to the biggest night of the season.