The NFL is the most popular league in America. And while watching the games are fun enough, one way to get more out of games is having a personal investment in the outcome. That is where betting comes in. Wagering on a game adds excitement and intrigue — while increasing the emotional interest because of the money involved. It is similar to fantasy football, except with the rooting interest being in the outcome, not players’ stats.
NFL betting: Ways to bet
Access USA TODAY Sports’ betting odds for a full list of sports betting odds and lines.
- Futures betting: Wagering on an outcome beyond a single game result. The most common futures bets are Super Bowl champion, followed by conference/division champion, making the playoffs and regular-season win totals.
- Single-game betting: Wagering on the outcome of a single game. It can be the straight outcome — which team wins outright. It can be against a point spread — whether a team wins or loses by a set number of points. Or it can be whether the combined point total goes Over or Under a predetermined number.
- Prop bets: Wagering on individual occurrences or individual player acts or performances, such as whether a player will score two touchdowns in a game or who scores the first TD of the game.
- Live betting: Bets made after a game starts. As the game goes on, the point spread and Over/Under total will change, as will odds of each team to win outright. If a team favored before the game falls behind early, they may become the underdog.
NFL betting: Key betting terms to know
- Moneyline: This is betting for the outright winner of a game. The line is posted with a positive or negative number. A positive numbered line will profit more than the initial wager. Example: A line of +160 means that a $100 bet would profit $160. A negative number line profits less than the initial wager. Example: A line of -150 means one would have to bet $150 to profit $100 (getting $250 total — their original bet and the profit).
- Point spread: This is essentially a handicap for one team. A team with a negative spread number must win by more than that amount. If the line is Cardinals -3.5, they must win by 4 points or more to win the bet. A positive spread (ex: Bengals +3.5) means one can win the bet if that team loses by less than that amount. Betting the Bengals +3.5 means the bet wins if they lose by 3 points or less, or if they win outright.
- Over/Under: This is also referred to as the total. It is the line for the combined total points scored by the two teams. Often the lines are weighted. An Over/Under line of 45 (-120, +100) means one must bet 1.2-to-1 on the Over, while it’s an even-money bet (1-to-1) on the Under.
- Push: This is when the point spread or point total is matched exactly. If the line has a half point, this can’t happen. If the line finishes in a push, all money is refunded. If the line was Cardinals -3 and they win by exactly 3 points, the bettor gets his money back.
- Parlay: A combination of two or more bets in which all bets must win in order for the parlay to win; if any one bet loses the entire parlay loses. The benefit is a successful parlay pays more. Moneylines, point spreads and Over/Unders can be parlayed. Sportsbooks differ in payouts, but the average payoffs are:
|2-teamer||2.6 to 1|
|3-teamer||6 to 1|
|4-teamer||11 to 1|
|5-teamer||22 to 1|
|6-teamer||40 to 1|
|7-teamer||80 to 1|
|8-teamer||150 to 1|
While they pay more than a straight bet, many consider these sucker bets. The sportsbooks make a lot of money on bettors’ losing parlay bets. Any bet that results in a push does not end the parlay; it is treated as if the game never happened. So a 4-team parlay with a push becomes a 3-team parlay and assumes 3-team odds.
NFL betting: How do odds work?
Odds are usually given in two styles. One is as a positive or negative number. The other is a ratio.
The positive and negative numbers were explained above, but what about ratios?
One might see 8/1 odds. This is the same as +800. A winning bet profits eight times the original bet. Odds with a smaller number on top (or first) are the same as a negative number. 2/5 odds mean every $5 wagered will profit $2 if the bet wins. The smaller the ratio is the more likely the expected outcome.
Gannett may earn revenue from audience referrals to betting services. Newsrooms are independent of this relationship and there is no influence on news coverage.
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