Betting Basics

How to Bet on NFL Games

From the 2023 NFL schedule and league format to odds and types of bets, this primer will show you how to bet on football.

June 22, 2023

Rejoice, football fans and sports gamblers, Sundays on the gridiron are back! On Thursday, September 7th, the NFL’s 104th season begins with the league’s annual primetime kickoff game, as Pat Mahomes’ defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Jared Goff-led Detroit Lions at Arrowhead Stadium.

The season opener will be just the first of 544 heart-pumping, gut-wrenching, regular season games that fans will have a chance to bet on and win big.

New to football betting? In this beginner’s guide on how to bet on football, we’ll explore the fundamentals of betting on NFL games, covering key concepts such as point spreads, moneylines, and totals, in addition to more advanced strategies.

HOW NFL FOOTBALL OPERATES

Long-time fans should already be familiar with the general format and scheduling of the National Football League. But if you’re a new fan of the great game, you should understand how the NFL league and season operate before you risk any money on bets.

Unlike college football’s divisional system, the NFL operates under a unified structure that brings together 32 teams competing for the ultimate prize — the Lombardi Trophy.

NFL TEAMS AND CONFERENCES

The NFL consists of 32 teams, evenly split into two conferences: the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). Each conference is further divided into four divisions, with four teams in each division:

National Football Conference (NFC)

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Commanders

NFC North

Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals
Los Angeles Rams
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks

American Football Conference (AFC)

AFC East

Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South

Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West

Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Las Vegas Raiders
Los Angeles Chargers

REGULAR SEASON FORMAT AND SCHEDULING

The NFL regular season goes for 18 weeks straight — from September to January — during which each team will play a total of 17 games. Games may be played on Sunday, Monday, or Thursday night. According to the NFL, this is how the format is set:

Six games against divisional opponents – Two games per team, one at home and one on the road.

Four games against teams from a division within its conference – Two games at home and two on the road.

Four games against teams from a division in the other conference – Two games at home and two on the road.

Two games against teams from the two remaining divisions in its own conference – One game at home and one on the road. Matchups are based on division ranking from the previous season.

The 17th game – An additional game against a non-conference opponent from a division that the team is not scheduled to play. Matchups are based on division ranking from the previous season.

THE ROAD TO THE PLAYOFFS AND SUPER BOWL

Even after the regular season ends, there will still be plenty of opportunities to gamble on the playoffs and Super Bowl.

In total, 14 teams will qualify for the playoffs. Each conference has seven teams qualify — four of which are the division winners, with the three remaining wild card teams pulled from the teams with the best overall record (with tiebreaking factors often coming into play).

Conference playoffs consist of three rounds of play: 

  1. Wild Card Round
  2. Divisional Round
  3. Conference Championship

From there, the winners of the AFC and NFC Championships will then face off in the Super Bowl.

HOW TO BET ON THE NFL

Before you dive into the more advanced bets and strategies, you should start with the basics. To that end, here are the more common types of bets and how to read odds on a gambling slip.

Moneyline

The moneyline is the simplest of all NFL betting lines. Two teams play, and only one will emerge as the victor. Your job is relatively straightforward: pick the winner.

Naturally, there’s not always parity between teams. Depending on the relative strengths of the matchup, bookies will assign different odds to the favorite and the underdog—indicating the potential payout on a specific wager—to encourage balanced betting.

The goal for bookmakers is to attract wagers on both sides of a bet, ensuring that they have a balanced book and thus minimize their own risk. These odds are set on a combination of factors, including:

  • Statistical analysis
  • Historic performance
  • Team form
  • Trends
  • Player injuries
  • Public perception

So, for instance, let’s consider the opening matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Detroit Lions. It’s no surprise that according to early odds, the Chiefs are the clear favorite with moneyline odds that look like:

Team — Moneyline Odds

Kansas City Chiefs -265

Detroit Lions +240

For any moneyline bet, a negative moneyline (-265) indicates the favorite, while a positive moneyline (+240) represents the underdog. So, in this matchup, if you bet $265 on the Chiefs to win, and they emerge victorious, you would win $100. On the other hand, if you bet $100 on the Lions and they win, you would receive a payout of $240.

The Point Spread

A common refrain in the NFL is “any given Sunday,” meaning that any team can win on any given day, regardless of their perceived skill level. As a result, some fans avoid moneyline betting — especially when there is a clear favorite — because the potential payout isn’t worth the risk.

To address this, bookies will also employ point spreads to even the odds and make the betting proposition more enticing. By assigning point spreads, bookmakers aim to level the playing field and create a scenario where bettors can wager on either team with a similar chance of success.

When betting on the point spread, you’re not just picking the winner of the game, but also accounting for the margin of victory.

Let’s return to the Chiefs vs Lions game as an example:

Team — Point Spread

  • Kansas City Chiefs -7 (-110)
  • Detroit Lions +7 (-110)

The Chiefs open as 7-point favorites. They’re projected to win by a touchdown and an extra point.

So, if you were to bet $110 on the Chiefs, they would need to win the game by more than 7 points for the wager to win $100. Conversely, if you bet $110 on the Lions, they would need to either win the game outright or lose by 7 points or less for your bet to win $100.

Naturally, this line can and will move as the regular season approaches and new information emerges. Bookies will continuously adjust the point spread, all the way up to the point of kickoff, according to factors like team performance, injuries, and public betting trends.

The Over and Under

Don’t want to pick a team, but think the game will be a high or low-scoring affair? You can bet on the over or under instead.

This type of wager allows you to bet on the total number of points scored combined by the two squads. Bookies set the expected point total—plus or minus a point—and you simply pick whether they will go over or under that number.

So, if Chiefs are predicted to win 35-28, the O/U line would be 63. In this instance, if you placed a $110 wager at (-110) on the over, any outcome that resulted in both teams scoring 64 or more points would payout as a winning ticket of $100.

Parlays

Who doesn’t love a moonshot parlay bet? Parlays give you the opportunity to stack your winnings and add an extra bit of excitement to your Sunday. A game parlay allows you to combine multiple individual wagers into a single bet, with the potential for a much larger payout.

Naturally, this is a risk/reward play. Because, in a parlay bet, every single bet within the parlay must be correct for the wager to win. Even if you successfully predict 25 out of 26 legs in a parlay, a single loss would sink the entire bet.

Let’s illustrate how parlays work using the Chiefs vs. Lions game as an example:

If history is any indicator, the Chiefs will likely win in a high-scoring shootout. So, instead of placing separate bets on the Chiefs moneyline and the over, you can combine both bets into a single parlay:

  • Kansas City Chiefs moneyline (-265)
  • Over 63 (-110)

If both bets are correct, you’ll win the parlay. Although, in this instance, it may not be worth the risk, seeing as the odds and payout wouldn’t dramatically improve in your favor.

But, let’s say you decided to add a third leg to your parlay, such as a player prop bet on Patrick Mahomes throwing over 300 passing yards. The odds for this bet might be +150. Now, your parlay ticket would look like this:

Wager — Odds

  • Kansas City Chiefs Moneyline (-265)
  • Over 63 (-110)
  • Patrick Mahomes Over 300 Passing Yards (+150)

The odds for each bet are combined together to calculate the parlay odds. In this case, the above parlay odds would be +557. To determine the potential payout, simply use the same method above. So, if you were to bet $100 on this parlay, your potential payout would be $557.

This specific parlay is relatively conservative with only three legs while including bets on the heavy favorite in the Chiefs’ moneyline.

BET ON THE NFL WITH TIPICO

Now that you’ve gotten a full rundown of how to bet on the NFL, it’s time to place some bets. To do so, be sure to check out our NFL Sportsbook for everything NFL betting related!

Searching for your next NFL bookie? Know your pick for NFL MVP? Look no further than Tipico. We welcome bettors from Ohio, Colorado, New Jersey, and Iowa, offering a wide range of betting options. Whether you prefer spreads, pick ‘ems, live bets, parlays, or a player prop bet, there are countless chances to win big. Bet on teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Buffalo Bills

Ready to get started? Register with Tipico today.

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