How Does NFL Betting Work? A Comprehensive Guide

How Does NFL Betting Work? A Comprehensive Guide

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Sports betting is a $125 billion industry in the United States. Since it became legal in 2018, sports betting has boomed in popularity.

There are many betting options for each user. This can make NFL betting easy and accessible to everyone located in a state where sports betting is legal.

Sports betting is allowed in the following states to everyone aged 18+:

  • New Jersey
  • Illinois
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia
  • Nevada
  • Indiana
  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Arizona
  • Michigan
  • Louisiana
  • Wyoming
  • New Hampshire
  • Connecticut
  • Tennesse

Each year, more states allow for legal sports betting. See the legality of sports betting in your state.

Your Guide for NFL Betting

NFL betting is a way to become more involved in the sport you know and love. As a sports fan, you watch every game and know what is happening around the league. Why not make money off your passion and hobby for watching the NFL?

After reading this article, you have several NFL betting tips, NFL betting strategies, an over guide to NFL betting. You will learn the right terminology and strategies to help you go from a new bettor to a pro.

The First Step to NFL Betting

First things first, you need to keep a firm grasp on your bankroll. If you do not constantly look into how much you are making and how much you are spending, you could be done with betting very quickly.

No matter your experience in sports betting, you need to look at your bankroll and budget. Maintaining a healthy balance is key for anyone looking to get a start in NFL betting.

Make Your Bankroll

First, determine the amount of money you can afford to sports bet with. This will vary from person to person based on individual financial standings. Make a bankroll that best suits yourself.

A large part of determining the bankroll is finding how much you can lose. Find out how much you can lose on a single wager and that can lead you to figure out how often you should bet. Some people bet once a day while others only bet on large events like the Super Bowl.

Betting on the Super Bowl means you are putting all your eggs into one basket. This can either give you an incredible payout or it will take all of your yearly sports betting budget.

Set a number for your bankroll or budget and stick to it.

Create Your Units

Everyone has a different unit amount. A unit refers to the amount of money you place on a single bet. Could be $50, $100, or whatever works best for your budget. Establish your units as a percent of your overall bankroll.

Frequent bettors will want to wager smaller percentages of their bankroll. A good rule of thumb is to stick to 1-3% of your bankroll. If you are only betting on large events, then you can use a little more of your budget.

Try to stay between 1-5% of your overall sports betting bankroll in order to not lose a lot of money very quickly. You can also change the amount of a unit at any time given your amount of wins or losses.


You need to constantly update your numbers. Depending on how often you wager, you can change your unit amounts and how frequently you bet. Take into account how you have been performing lately and that should give you a good idea of what you can and can’t afford.

You may hit a cold streak and lose a lot of bets, that’s okay. Change your unit size to reflect that until you break the curse. If you getting hot, you can add a little more to each unit if you are feeling lucky.

It is not uncommon to see a professional only hit 60% of their bets. New NFL bettors will not have as good luck with their bets. If you stay in the game and stay patient, you can end up making a lot of money.

How Does NFL Betting Work?

There are several moving pieces to betting in the NFL. If you are just starting out, this can be overwhelming. With lots of terminology and bets you can place, the NFL is a perfect place to make lots of money.

Keep reading through the article to find out how to make money betting on the NFL.

Understanding NFL Odds

If you want to start betting, you need to understand odds. Odds will let you see how much money you will make if your bet hits. Odds will also help you determine who is the favorite and who is the underdog.

Odds are implemented for two main purposes. The first is to show the probability of any match or game that the odd is attached to. The second is to give you insight into how much you will make if your wager is correct.

Sportsbooks will change odds frequently. Sportsbooks will create odds to incentivize users to sway sides. No matter the odds, the sportsbook will also take a cut of your winnings, there’s nothing you can do about this.

Odds Explained

When placing a wager you will likely see a three-digit number with a + or – in front of it. This is how you will know if you are betting on the favorite or the underdog. The – refers to the favorite while the + is the underdog.

The favorite (minus sign) indicates how much you need to wager to make $100. If the Chicago Bears are -130 against the Detroit Lions, you would need to wager $130 to make $100.

The underdog (plus sign) indicates how much you will make if you wager $100. If the Detroit Lions are +250 against the Chicago Bears, you would make $250 off your $100 wager.

Every bet you place will consist of these rules for odds. In American sports, the plus and minus signs are used to distinguish every bet you can place.

Calculating Odds

If you don’t bet $100, there is a formula to see how much you will make. If you place a wager of $40 on the Chicago Bears at -130 here is how to figure out your payout.

  • The odds divided 100 = your wager divided by x
    • 130/100 = 40/x
  • Cross multiply to restructure
    • 130x = 4000
  • Solve for x
    • x = 4000/130
    • x = 30.77

Wagering $40 on the Bears will net you $30.77. Your total payout will be $70.77 because you receive your wager amount plus the winnings.

If you bet $40 on the Detroit Lions at +250 this is what your equation looks like.

  • 100 divided by the odds = your bet over x
    • 100/250 = 40/x
  • Cross multiply to restructure
    • 100x = 10,000
  • Solve for x
    • x = 10,000/100
    • x = 100

Placing a $40 wager on the Lions will net you $100 giving you a total payout of $140.

Understanding the Moneyline

You have probably been betting a moneyline without knowing it. If you grew up betting someone $20 on the winner of the Super Bowl, you have made a moneyline bet. Simply put, moneyline bets are picking the outright winner of a contest.

To place a moneyline bet, pick the team you think will win the game. This bet requires you to do a little research into historical data between the two teams.

The moneyline will have the odds mentioned above. The moneyline will have the odds in order to determine the underdog, favorite, and how much money you will win based on the team you select to win the game.

Moneyline bets are calculated using the formulas above. These bets are the same across all sports on any sportsbook. The NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, UFC, and soccer are popular sports that use moneyline bets.

Moneyline Changes

There is a difference between the opening moneyline odds and the closing moneyline odds. The odds will change based on the number of wagers placed on the specific odds. This changes the value of placing a bet on the specific outcome.

Say the Philadelphia Eagles start a game at -100 odds on the moneyline. If a lot of people place a wager on those odds, the sportsbook will move the odds for a less favorable payout. They may move the line to -125 or -140. Betting on a game earlier will give you a better payout if it hits.

What Is NFL Spread Betting?

Betting on the spread adds to moneyline betting simply. With a favorite and an underdog comes the spread. The spread lets you bet on the margin of victory for either team in the competition.

An underdog will have a spread with a plus sign followed by a one or two-digit number. The number following the plus sign is the number of points they need to cover the spread.

If the Dallas Cowboys are +6 against the San Francisco 49ers, then the Cowboys need to not lose by more than 6 points. If the Cowboys lose by more than 6 points, you have lost the bet. If the Cowboys lose by 5 points or win the game, you win the bet.

The favorite will have a minus sign followed by a one or two-digit number. Similar to the underdog, this is the margin of victory.

If the 49ers are -6, they need to beat the Cowboys by 6 points to cover the spread. If the Warriors win by 5 or lose the game, you have lost the bet. If they win by more than 6 points, you won the bet.

The spread makes each selection a 50/50 proposition. If the favorite is -10, the underdog will be +10, if the favorite is -3 then the underdog is +3, etc…

The odds will be different based on which team is more likely to cover the spread.

Can the Spread Change?

Yes, absolutely. The spread can change like how the moneyline can. Nothing is set in stone until the contest begins.

More times than not, a sportsbook will change the spread based on injury reports. If a team opens at -7 but has an injured key player, the line may change to -5.

What do Decimals Mean?

If you see a spread of -2.5 or +2.5, that means to win or lose by three. This is very common in the NFL. Making the spread half points may look confusing, but it can make betting easier.

Betting Over/Under for the NFL

One of the most common bets is the total. Betting the total does not have you pick a side or favor any team. Betting the total doesn’t care about who wins or by how much, it focused on the number of points in the contest.

For each game, a sportsbook will place an initial projected number for users to bet on. The bettor then decides if the total will be over or under the point total the sportsbook has set.

The odds for totals will usually take into historical context and team trends. Based on what the trend may be, the under or over may have better odds to wager on. The over and under are not required to have the same odds.

Parlay Betting

Parlays are often viewed as the most fun bets you can place. These wagers have very high odds with very high payouts. Parlays occur when a better selects several outcomes to the same or different games.

A parlay will allow a bettor to string several different bets into one betslip. This makes it much harder for your bet to hit because it relies on several outcomes. If a single part of your parlay doesn’t hit, the whole betslip loses.

When creating a parlay you can select from several options. These options will typically include moneylines, totals, and the spread of various games. Each part of the parlay is referred to as a leg of the overall bet.

What You Can’t Parlay

You cannot parlay certain bets with each other. For example, you can’t parlay different outcomes into the same game, meaning you can’t parlay the Miami Heat to beat the Charlotte Hornets with the Hornets to beat the Heat.

Most sportsbooks also will not allow you to place the spread and moneyline of the same game into a parlay. However, there is a new Same Game Parlay feature where you can wager several outcomes of the same game.

Massive Payouts

Parlays are known to create incredible payouts. Whether accidental or not, parlays normally payout very well. This is because you keep selecting more outcomes.

The more outcomes you select, the less likely all legs are to hit. On social media, you can see pages posting about parlays all the time. This is how sportsbooks can lure in new bettors. By highlighting that someone made millions off of $10, the sportsbook can attract new users.

Be smart while placing your parlays. The longer the shot is, the more odds you will have but the chances of the legs hitting are incredibly slim.

Live Betting

Growing technology has allowed for the rise of live betting. Live betting is exactly what it sounds like. Betting on the outcomes of a game as it is happening in real-time.

Live betting allows for a quicker paces style of betting. This is due to the ever-changing environment of a game.

You can still bet on totals, moneylines, and the spread with live betting. As the game goes on, a team may start to pull ahead, changing the closing lines at the beginning of a contest.

Here is an example. Say the Houston Texans and the Atlanta Falcons have a closing total of 48 points, Falcons ML -220, Houston ML +225, and a spread of -/+ 8. As the game is happening live, those numbers will change based on the game flow and trends.

If the Texans start to win and by a large margin, the ML and spread will change and vice versa.

In the NFL, live betting will consist of what will happen on the next play. Outside of play-by-play, live betting you can bet on the new spread, total, and moneyline.

Futures Bets

Futures bets are exactly what they sound like. You can place a wager on what you think will happen. You can wager things such as who will win an MVP, championship, conferences, and so on and so forth.

Futures bets can be placed very far in advance. Betting on playoff teams or champions at the beginning of the season can make you lots of money. As the end of the bet gets closer, the odds will decrease as the outcomes become more apparent.

With future bets, the favorite will often have great odds. With so much time between the start and end of the season plus so many variables, feature bets have large payouts.

A popular futures bet is team win totals. These bets are placed at the beginning of the season. As the season unfolds, the teams will often have different win totals.

The Field

“The field” option in futures betting is a great option. If there are a handful of contenders for a certain award, there will often be an option that says “the field.” This means that if there is a player who you think will win the outcome but isn’t listed, you should take the field.

In the NFL this is commonly seen for the MVP trophy.

Prop Betting

Proposition betting or prop betting is an exciting way to bet on games. These bets allow you to place bets inside of a game. Prop bets do not include the spread, totals, or moneyline bets. You can instead place a bet on player performances or more fun bets such as Gatorade colors.

Each sportsbook will have a different selection of prop bets. Standard prop bets are usually point totals, certain players to score, when a player will get drafted, and first point. Unique events often have unique prop bets. A favorite is the color of the Gatorade that will be poured on the winning coach of the Super Bowl.

Prop bets are usually geared in a simple way. They are normally set as “yes” or “no” bets. Prop bets are similar to total point bets. You can place a wager without choosing a team or side to win. You simply select a certain bet within the game to occur.

List of common prop bets:

  • Over/under receiving yards
  • Over/under passing yards
  • Over/under sacks
  • Over/under field goals
  • Over/under quarter points

If you want to make sure your prop bet is solid, do some research. If you want to take the prop bet of Michael Thomas to record over 64.5 yard receiving, look at his history against the team he is playing

Prop bets can be a way of making wagers on games inside of the game. Prop bets allow for bettors to place wagers on their favorite players.

Best Sports Betting Sites

There are several online betting sites available depending on where you live. Each site offers different wagers and odds. There are several sites that claim to be sportsbooks but will rip you off instead. If you are starting out, try to stick to the major sportsbooks.

No matter the sportsbook you choose, you will often receive a reward. These can range from inviting a friend, signing up, placing a basketball wager, placing a golf wager, and so many more.

DraftKings Sportsbook

DraftKings is one of the largest sports betting platforms in the United States. The sportsbook has grown through its easy-to-use interface and several betting options.

Draftkings sportsbook is one of the best sports betting sites. The platform can be used on your phone or on a computer. The sportsbook currently has a projection for $1.92 billion in revenue in 2022.

FanDuel Sportsbook

FanDuel is also a large name in the sports betting space. The sportsbook is regarded as one of the best online betting sites and has been around for several years.

FanDuel was the first sportsbook to create the Same Game Parlay feature which has grown in popularity. FanDuel generated an incredible $1.6 billion in revenue in Q1 of 2022 alone. This makes it the largest sportsbook on the market.


BetMGM is one of the more established sportsbooks, as it went live shortly after the Supreme Court ruled on the landmark case that opened up the door for legalized sports betting across the United States.

It’s also one of the more popular and generated $850 million in revenue in 2021.

Barstool Sportsbook

Barstool Sportsbook is not as widely known as FanDuel or DraftKings but still offers great bets and odds bets and odds—including a number of unconventional wagers dreamed up by the various personalities at the company that lends its name to the platform.

Start Betting on the NFL Today

You know have a comprehensive guide to answer the question, ‘how does NFL betting work?” You know everything about NFL betting.

NFL betting can be a great way to make money and grow your passion for the NFL. Use your new NFL betting strategy and NFL betting tips to make yourself some money. If you or someone you love has a gambling addiction call 1-800-GAMBLER.

For more on sports and sports betting, read more of our articles.

Connor O'Toole avatar
Connor Toole is the Deputy Editor at BroBible. He is a New England native who went to Boston College and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Frequently described as "freakishly tall," he once used his 6'10" frame to sneak in the NBA Draft and convince people he was a member of the Utah Jazz.