ExpertPicks.com’s general betting articles discuss the complexities of sports betting as it relates to all every major US sports. 

In this article we focus in on how to bet on the NFL. The NFL is by far the most popular bet of all major American sports, with the most popular game of the year, the Super Bowl taking billions of dollars of wagers.

Spread Betting


Spread bets work on the basis of the score in a game, but here the bet is on the margin of victory, not on whether one team will beat the other.  Spread bets are the most popular form of sports betting in the US.

It can be though of as a form of handicapping so that each team has an equal chance of winning.

If you bet on team A to beat team B, and Team A is a much more successful team, then we add a points spread to equalize the odds. If the spread is set at 10 points, then Team A must beat Team B by 10 points in order to be considered the winner. Spread bets are sometimes known as equalizer bets.
In presenting the odds, the favorite team is always presented as having negative odds and the underdog as having positive odds.

Before the 2019 Super Bowl, the odds on the Rams and the Patriots were extremely close. The New Jersey online sports books typically expected only a one point spread in favour of the Patriots.

The odds are quoted as:

  • Patriots  -1 -112
  • Rams +1 +107

In other words, the Patriots were the favorites and the Rams the underdogs, but only by a point spread of one point. The sportsbook is offering -112 on the Patriots and +107 on the Rams. 

If you bet $100 on the Rams, you would win $107 if the Rams beat the Patriots by one point.

If you bet $112 on the Patriots you would win $100 if the Patriots won by one point.

The difference between the -112 and +107 is the vig. For spread bets, the vig is sometime charged by increasing the number of points and sometimes by varying the odds from the standard +110 and -110.

Moneyline


Moneyline bets are as simple as it gets. When you place a moneyline bet, you are simply betting on which team will win.

The odds are usually quoted in the American odds format, so the process is very simple.

You see on your screen that the moneyline odds on an NFL game have the New York Giants at -600
and the Dallas Cowboys +450.

You think the Giants will win, so you bet $20. Remember, at odds of -600, you have to bet $600 to win $100.

If you win, your winnings will be 20/600  x $100 = $3.33.

If you think the Cowboys will win and bet $20, your winnings would be calculated as 20/$100 x 450 = $90

Clearly, the Giants are favorites to win, so the odds quoted reflect that.

Quarter and 1st Half Lines


Sports bets are usually placed on match, event or tournament winners.. However, for sporting events such as the NFL and NBA, there are 1st quarter and 1st half lines offered as well. 

The quarter spread is used to predict the winner of the first quarter. This is also true of a 1st half line although the wager ends when the first two quarters are completed. The first half spread will usually not be far off from half the overall game spread.

Halftime Lines


Halftime bets enable you to essentially reset the scoreboard at halftime at 0 to 0 and predict what will happen from there. These bets can only be placed during the halftime break of any particular game.

Totals or Over/Under


Moneyline bets work bets in games where the teams don’t usually score many points such as soccer and baseball. But in games like basketball or football, a lot of points can be scored. Total bets are bets where it doesn’t matter who wins the game, the only thing that matters is how many points are scored by both teams added together.

On your sports betting app, you see the odds for a total bet on an NFL game between the Cowboys and the Giants quoted as:

  • 44.5 over -110
  • 44.5 under +105

Often the over/under odds are quoted as the same, usually +/- 110. In this case, the under is slightly more likely, so the odds are different.

If you want to bet that this will be a high scoring game, then take the over at -110. A $20 bet on the two teams scoring more than 44.5 points between them would produce winnings of $18.18.

If you think the scores will be low a $20 bet could win $21.

Parlays


Parlay bets are a series of connected bets, where the winnings are only paid if all legs in the parlay win.

If you bet on five matches taking place in one day as a parlay bet, then you have to pick the winners for all five in order to win. If even one of your team picks loses, you lose the entire bet.

The odds of picking five winners in a row are a lot higher than betting on each match individually. 

Decimal odds make it easy to calculate the possible winnings for the parlay bet, because all you have to do is multiply them together.

For example, you decide to place a parlay bet on the following matches at the decimal odds quoted:

  • Patriots v Rams at 2
  • Clippers v Hornets at 1.5
  • Lakers v Pacers at 3
  • Raptors v 76ers at 1.8
  • Islanders v Devils at 1.1

If you bet $10 on the parlay, then if you win you would receive: $10 x 2 x 1.5 x 3 x 1.8 x 1.1 = $178.20
If you split your $10 into five bets of $2 on each game, you would win a lot less even if you got all the games correct. On the first game you would win $2, plus your $2 stake back = $4. Then for the other four games you would win; $1, $4, $1.60, $0.20 for a total of $8.80 in winnings plus your $10 stake money back.

Teaser Bets


The Teaser bet is similar to the simple parlay, but no moneyline bets are allowed. All the components of a Teaser bet are either totals, or spread bets.

With a Teaser, the bettor gets to adjust the point spread or the total up or down a certain number of points. That makes each part of the bet easier to win, so the odds are lower and the potential pay out is less.

Although Teaser bets can change the totals or spreads, each leg of the bet must use the same number of points. The elements of the teaser parlay can go in either direction — you don’t have to have all bets on the favorites or the underdogs.

As with all parlay bets, the more teams included in the Teaser the longer the odds and the higher the potential winnings.

Futures


Futures bets do exactly what it says on the tin. They are a wager placed on an event that will occur in the future. The most popular futures bet in the NFL is who will win the Super Bowl. 
Obviously, Futures are not limited to simply who will win a big game. Futures bets can be placed on many different outcomes, from who will win what division to who will win the league’s MVP. Futures Odds can be found at nearly most sportsbooks, but some only offer a fairly narrow range of bets.
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