NFL Betting Explained

For the novice, the placing of bets can be a confusing area unless properly explained, particularly in the NFL. This article will explain the basics of odds and the types of bets that can be made.

Understanding odds

The first thing to understand is how odds are expressed. These show how much you will win when a bet comes off. In NFL betting, these take the form of a number preceded by a + or a -sign and are based around a $100 unit – although it’s important to realise that the bet can be of any size. So, if the New York Giants are playing the Baltimore Ravens and are favorites to win, the odds might be expressed as -110. This means that you will need to put a bet of $110 on that will win you $100 if the Giants come out on top. On the other hand, the odds on the Ravens, who are the underdogs, winning would be expressed as +220. In this case, your successful $100 bet would win you $220.

The most popular types of bet

Although you might imagine that there’s just one kind of bet, win or lose, you’d be wrong. There are a number of different wagers that you can make on an individual game, player or even the team’s overall success in a season.

Point spread

By far the most commonly placed bet is the point spread, also sometimes called line betting or sides. It’s a bet that tries to predict how many points the winner should win by. Here’s an example of how it works.

Ravens   +4.5   -110

Giants      -4.5    -110

As we’ve seen, in this game the Giants are the favorites and for bet to be a winning one they will need to beat the Ravens by at least 5 points. At the odds of -110, a $110 bet will return winnings of $100.

But if you bet on the Ravens and they either lose by less than 5 points, or win outright, the bet will be a successful one.


The second most popular type of bet and the easiest to understand. It’s simply a question of estimating how many points in total will be scored by both sides in a game and betting on whether it will be over or under this amount. As a bet it will be expressed like this.

Giants v Ravens

Over 42.5       -110

Under 42.5      -110

Money Line betting

If you just want to get behind your team and bet on them to win then a money line bet is the one for you. This is typically the sort of bet that many people will be placing on the forthcoming Super Bowl when the teams meet in Tampa on February 7th. So, eyes will be firmly fixed on the Super Bowl odds when the playoffs have produced the finalists. It looks like the favorites will be the Kansas City Chiefs with the Green Bay Packers not far behind. In both cases we could be looking at relatively long odds of -150 or more.


A number of people may already have had their sights on a Super Bowl appearance for their team and backed this up with a futures wager. Usually made at the start of the season, these look at what might have happened by its end. From winning the division to emerging victorious in the Super Bowl, these can cover many eventualities and are a good way to keep interest going through the season.


These are when a number of bets are combined and can add up to some very impressive winnings if they all come off. But here’s the rub – they all have to come off if you’re going to win. This can be frustrating if you get 4 or 5 wins out of a total of 6 bets in a parlay as you end up winning not a cent. But nothing ventured, nothing gained . . .


Props, or propositions to give them their full name, cover a wide range of predictions that you can make. For example, you can bet on whether Patrick Mahomes will become even more of a record-breaker in 2020, even whether the coin toss before a game will come up heads or tails.

So, as you can see, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to NFL betting. And the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Then, very soon, you’ll be wondering why it took until 2018 for it to be allowed at all.