The National Football League (NFL) is comprised of 32 teams that play in two conferences and eight divisions. The American and National Conferences both have East, North, South, and West divisions. Since 1993 every division has been made up of four teams.
Wagering on American football is estimated at close to $100 million annually. That is sure to rise with the growth of legal sports betting in the United States.
Since 2018, states have gradually been legalizing and regulating sportsbook operations within their borders. Currently, there are 22 states where legal sports betting is taking place or has been approved for implementation.
There are a number of ways to bet on the NFL, from daily fantasy all the way to traditional casino sportsbooks. Online and physical locations offer a wide variety of betting options. The season-ending Super Bowl is generally considered the event with the largest wagering totals.
How the NFL season is Constructed
The NFL regular season has 17 weeks, during which each team plays 16 games. At some point during the season, between weeks five and 13, each team gets a bye week. Teams play every other team in their division twice, once at home and once on the road.
Every division is assigned another division within their conference against which they play every team. Two of those games are at home, with the other two in the opponent’s stadium. These assignments rotate each season, so teams play every other team in the conference at least once every three years.
The same process takes place with teams in a division from the opposing conference. Once again, two games are at home, and the other two are on the road. With this scheduling method, all teams see every team in NFL at least one time every four seasons.
Each team plays six division games, four conference games, and four more non-conference contests. There are two additional games on the schedule for each team that is determined by a team’s division standing the previous season.
A team plays one team from each conference with the same division finish. First-place teams play division champions and so on. This is one of the ways that the NFL facilitates parity, along with the draft order in the reverse of a team’s season finish.
Seven teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs, with the four division champions and three wild card teams advancing to the postseason. The top-seeded team receives a bye into the second round of the playoffs. The two conference champions meet in the Super Bowl, with the winner lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Where to Bet on the NFL
In the United States, there are 20 states that have legalized sports betting and are accepting wagers. Seven states, including long-standing Nevada, allow wagers in-person at casinos. Three states have only on-line access, while ten have online and physical sportsbooks accepting bets.
To place wagers with state-regulated sportsbooks, a bettor is required to be physically present in the state. This applies even if they are residents of the jurisdiction but are traveling to other locations.
Some states require in-person registration at a casino before placing online wagers, but most don’t have that restriction. In most cases, visitors to a state can open an account and place bets as long as they remain in or return to the state.
The online sportsbooks employ geolocation technology to ensure that the player is in a locality that permits wagering on the site. Bettors are required to have the functionality on whatever device they are using for placing bets.
Many of the online options are the same in multiple locations. William Hill, which was acquired by Caesars Entertainment in 2020, is the largest global sportsbook. They operate dozens of casino sportsbooks, especially in Las Vegas as well as online sites in three states.
DraftKings and FanDuel, which both got their starts in daily fantasy, now offer online sports betting in a number of states. They’ve partnered with casinos where necessary and also offer physical sportsbook wagering. Another major player in the casino and online sportsbook space is BetMGM, which is also very active in state-regulated gaming.
Different Types of NFL Bets
There are four major types of wagers that dominate the NFL wagering landscape, although there are a number of other types of proposition bets available. Futures, spread, money line, over/under lines, and odds are the types that are bettors are most likely to see.
Futures bets are made on how teams will finish the regular season. Wagers are usually available on which team will win a division, a conference, or the Super Bowl. These bets are offered throughout the season, with the odds adjusted to account for actual results.
It’s also possible to wager on how many games a team will win in a season. The win totals are expressed as over/under lines, with odds set for whichever direction the bettor picks.
The odds can be expressed in either the American or Fractional styles. An example of American odds would be for a team to be at +400 to win the conference. The same odds would be expressed as 4/1 in Fractional style.
A winning $100 bet on a team with those odds would net the bettor $400 with American odds. A fractional odd bet pays off four times the wager, for example netting $80 on a $20 bet.
Spread bets involve an expected point differential between teams playing each other. The point spread is either a negative number for the favorite or a positive number for the underdog. There are also odds associated with a spread bet, generally -110 on each team.
For example, assume the Packers are 6.5 point favorites over the Rams with -110 odds. The bettor wins $100 on a $110 bet if the Packers outscore the Rams by at least seven points.
Money Line bets are wagers that a team will win the game outright. The favorite has odds that are negative, and the underdog has positive odds. In the example above, the Packers have odds of -310 and the Rams +310. A $310 bet on a winning Packers team would net $100. A $100 bet on the Rams wins $310.
The final popular wager is the over/under. The bettor is simply wagering that the total score for the game will be higher or lower than the total line. The odds for both an over and under bet are usually -110.
Parlays, which combine the results from multiple possible bets without having to place individual wagers, are also popular offerings. The operator will offer odds if the bettor correctly picks each bet in the parlay.
How to Live Bet on the NFL
Live betting on the NFL, while the games are in action, is possible through many of the sites that also offer other game betting on the league. As play begins and scoring commences, sportsbooks will change the lines and odds to account for what has taken place in the game.
For games where bettors have a betting interest, live betting is a way for them to either double up or cover their losses. Various bets are available in live wagering, including adjusted game lines, quarter and a half over/under totals, and shifting money line odds.
One big difference between regular game bets and live betting is how quickly odds and lines can change. An early score by an underdog can prompt sportsbooks to significantly alter the point spread and offer new bets.
Not only can live betting be advantageous to those who made pre-game bets, but it can also offer a lot of wagering opportunities while watching a game. It can clearly add enjoyment to both the viewing and betting experience.
Money line bets are not as publicized as point spreads, but these fluctuate widely during the course of a game. It’s possible to grab some long odds and get a big payout in the case of a comeback, especially by the favorites.
Fourth quarter action also presents an opportunity for bettors, especially in a lopsided game. Total points, spreads, and prop bets are a way to take advantage of favorable lines and odds near the end of the contest.
Tips for Betting the NFL
Use Your Head, Not Your Heart: Consistently winning NFL bets is challenging at best, but there are some things bettors can do to help their cause. The best tip is to take emotion out of the process. Wanting someone to win and placing money on them doesn’t make the bet any better.
Do Research: At least understand the statistics of the teams being wagered on. Looking for mismatches is a great way to pick out favorable bets. Offensive prowess against a defensive weakness can point to a spread or over/under line that is vulnerable.
Keep Up With Lines: Opening spreads and odds usually change, sometimes by more than a point either way. A shift in one direction can sometimes indicate a larger move before game day. In many cases, it’s also possible to shop lines to get the best one possible.
Bet to Win: Taking a flyer on a team facing long odds is not a long term strategy for success. Teams are underdogs for a reason, and the bigger the spread, the less likely for them to win.
Where can bets be placed on NFL teams and games?
There are currently 17 states with physical locations where bettors can place wagers on the NFL. Ten of those states, as well as three others, also allow online betting on websites operated by a number of sportsbooks.
How long is the NFL Season?
The NFL season typically begins the weekend after Labor Day and ends with the Super Bowl the first weekend in February. The regular season is 17 weeks long, and the playoffs are contested over three weekends. There is generally an open week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.
Is live betting available on the NFL?
Live betting is widely available for NFL games. Most of the online sportsbooks that offer NFL wagering also have live wagering options. That option is generally under a separate tab or menu item, as only ongoing events are included.
Can bets be placed on a team before the season begins?
Futures bets for a season are generally open shortly after the end of the prior one. Wagers are offered most frequently on a team’s chances to win the conference title and the Super Bowl. There are also futures over/under wagers on a team’s win total for the upcoming season.
Are parlays offered for NFL games?
Combining bets from different games or different types of bets for the same game are popular offerings. It’s a way to get attractive payouts without having to lay out a lot of money. Savvy bettors can make some serious money by picking attractive parlays to wager on.