NFL betting explained

Skill Level: Intermediate

NFL, American football, betting, explained

This page is dedicated to explaining NFL betting. American football or NFL as it is often referred is one of the most popular sports in the world, in fact, the NFL final, which is known as the Superbowl is the most watched sporting event in the world. American Football has a huge number of betting markets and below we will take you through as many of them as possible.

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How American Football works

American football is made up of 2 teams who compete on a rectangular field with posts either end. Both teams have 11 players on the field at any one time, with one team defending and the other attacking, the attacking team is determined as the team who controls the football. The offensive team has four attempts (or plays)  to advance a total of 10 yards, and if they do not do this, they have to turn over possession of the ball, and thus they become the defensive team.

 

The aim of both teams is to score a touchdown, this involves a team getting the ball into the N-zone whilst in control of one of their players. If the attacking team succeed in getting a touchdown they receive 6 points, they then have the option to take two bonus points or 1; they can either try and run the ball in for two bonus points or kick the ball between the posts for one. As well as a touchdown teams can score field goals, field goals are when a player kicks the ball between the post. As well as field goals there is the rarely seen drop goal, this is when a player kicks it out of someone's hand, both of these count for 3 points.


The game is played over four quarters of 15 minutes; it takes around 3 hours to complete a game though due to timeouts and resets. The winning team is the team with the most points at the end of the 4th quarter. If at the end of an NFL game the score is tied then a period of 15 minutes sudden death is played, in American Football draws are not allowed one team has to win, and one has to lose.

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Handicap

In American Football and nearly all American sport, this is referred to as the point spread or “Spread”, this is by far the most common way to bet on the NFL. In American Football, there has to be a winner. This means there are only ever two outcomes; the betting has to be adjusted to make it attractive, and bookies do this with the spread. In American Football, the bookies will handicap the team they feel is more likely to win, they do this by starting them on minus points, the other team then has a plus handicap. The idea of this is to even out the chances of the 2 and in theory make betting more even.

A good example of this might be team A - 5.5 and team B + 5.5, so if you bet on team A to win on the handicap, they would have to win by 6 or more points to win your bet. Alternatively, if you bet on team B + 5.5, your bet would win if they won the match, or if they lost by 5 or fewer points.

Most bookmakers will offer alternative handicap markets; this allows you to pick a handicap market which suits you best. As well as this, most bookies will also offer handicaps on each quarter and half meaning you can bet on the handicap winners for each quarter or half.

Match outcome

As with any sport, you can bet on the simple match result market. In American Football that comes as a nice simple two-way market because there has to be a winner. You can bet on either team to win; there is no draw. Here you bet on which ever team will win (this includes overtime).

Outright markets

As with all other sports, you can bet on the outright winners of the tournaments in American Football. As with anything else the team you back ahs to win the tournament (often referred to as lift the trophy, but you can back EW which would pay a number of places.

Points betting

This comes in several different markets.

  • Total points under/over is betting on the total amount of points scored in a game

  • Total team points under/over this is the total amount of points scored by a single team in a game. This is a simple 2-way market.

  • Race to points, this is betting on teams to reach a set amount of points first, then bookies will set points lines, and then you bet on a team reaching those points first. For example, you can bet on team A, team B or neither team to reach 20 team points. This is a 3-way market.

  • Highest scoring half or quarter, this is betting on a quarter or half to have the most points scored. The highest scoring quarter is a 4-way market whereas half is only 2-way.

  • Winning margin is betting on the number of points a team may win by.

  • Team to score first, this is done in several ways as you can bet on the first points scored which could be any points, or you can bet on the first touchdown scored. This is a simple 2-way market as somebody has to score in the match.

  • Odd or even points scored, you can bet on whether the total points scored or team total points scored being either an odd or even number.

  • First scoring play is betting on what or who will score the first points

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Halftime/Fulltime double result

This is betting on the result at half time and full time, for this bet to win you have to correctly predict the result at half time and full time. This bet is effectively a double.

To score a touchdown

As with most sports, you can bet on certain players to score. You can bet on the first, last and anytime touchdown scorers in any games. For these bets to win the event needs to happen exactly as described. You can also bet on these events EW though which means if they score you may see some return. As well as betting on certain players you can bet on the shirt number of the player who scores. 

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Player performance bets

In most big American Football events you will be able to bet on certain players to do certain things. This bet ranges from many things, but some of the most common ones are:

  • To carry the ball so many yards (none as yards made). This is how many yards any player makes whilst carrying the ball

  • Pass yards, this is the number of yards made in total from passed. This is the number of yards a quarterback will make when throwing the ball.

  • A number of sacks or tackles made. Sacks are effectively tackles on the quarterback whilst he has the ball, whereas a tackle is on any player with the ball.

  • The amount of fumbles made, a fumble is when a player drops the ball.

  • The number of completed catches, this is the amount of times a player catches a ball without dropping it.

Miscellaneous bets

There are a few other markets you can bet on in NFL as well, these are not always available or could only be in big games. Some other bets are:

  • First team to call a timeout, this is when a team calls a break so they can have a discussion about what they are going to do next. This is a simple 2 way market as somebody always calls a time out.

  • Number of fouls (often called flags) in a game, fouls are very common in American Football, and this is often a simple over/under two-way market.

  • Will either team score a number of unanswered scores, bookies often offer this line, and you are basically betting on one team to keep scoring. For this bet to win, the team you bet on needs to score the named amount of scores without the other team getting any points.

  • Total offensive yardage, this is betting on the total amount of yards (or ground) made by a team when they are attacking, this is added up through the entire game. This again is often a simple over/under 2 way market.

  • Scorecast, this is the same as a lot of other sports, you bet on a player to score first and a team to win by a certain score. For this bet to win, both these bets have to win to show any return.

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Fantasy Football (NFL)

Companies like Draftkings now offer huge amounts of money for Fantasy Football leagues. This pits multiple fantasy football players against each other each week. Draftkings are one of the biggest fantasy sports groups around. Each week you can put your knowledge against other fantasy sports players. 

Unless otherwise stated all American Football bets include overtime results.

 

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