The NFL season consists of 17 weeks of drama, 3 weeks of the playoffs, and the Superbowl to wrap it all up. During that time, the hopes and dreams of many teams and their fans will rise and fall multiple times, as will the fortunes of those who bet on the NFL games.

If you are considering taking the plunge into the world of football betting for the first time, here is a simple guide to help you get started.

Most of the online sportsbooks will offer you a lot of different betting options. Some are somewhat complicated and even carry over multiple games, while others are just simple heads-up wagers. These are the three most common betting options offered that you will need to understand. Most of the more complicated options, branch off of one of these in some way.

Money Line – In a money line wager, bettors are picking the outright winner of a game. The point spread is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is who wins the contest. A money line wager, might look something like this:

Money line wager example

Line used from NorthBet


The minus sign indicates that the Arizona Cardinals are the favorite in this matchup. In this case, a -172 means that you would have to wager $172 in order to win $100.

The plus sign denotes the Eagles as the underdog. In this matchup, a wager of $100 would win you $152.

Point Spread – This is easily the most common form of NFL wager. The spread takes away points from the favorite in a matchup and adds points to the underdog. A successful bet is then determined by factoring in this adjustment.

Using the same example from above, we see that the Cardinals are favored by 3 ½ points.

NFL point spread betting example

Line used from NorthBet

If you place a bet on the Cardinals, they must win by more than 3 ½ points for you to win your bet. If the Cardinals beat the Eagles by a score of 24-21, you would subtract the 3 ½ points in the spread from the Cardinals total, resulting in 20.5 points. Although the Cardinals won the actual game, your bet on the Cardinals would be a loss.

On the opposite end, if you placed your bet on the Eagles, they receive 3 ½ points added to their total, which in this case would bump it up to 24.5 points. They win the matchup 24 to 24.5. Although the Eagles lost the actual game, your bet would be a winner and you would receive your payout accordingly.

You will also notice a money line number attached to point spread bets. In this case, the Cardinals are -3 ½ at +100. A winning bet of $100 returns $100. The Eagles are +3 ½ at -120. You would need to bet $120 to win $100.

Over/Under – With an over/under bet, often times referred to as the total, the oddsmaker picks a specific total score. The bettor must decide if the total combined score between the two teams will be over that number or under that number.

Tips for Betting on the NFL

Now that you understand how the basics of betting NFL games works, here are a few tips to read over before you dive in.

Avoid Tout Services – These services offer to sell you winning picks, but most of them are simply trying to take as much money out of gamblers pockets as they can. No matter how tempting they might sound, stay away. Far, far away.

Look For An Advantage – Many first time gamblers try to pick a lot of games each week. This is a surefire way to lose your money. Instead look for matchups that you feel you have a deeper knowledge of and can get an edge against the oddsmaker.

Shop For Lines – Nobody says you have to stick to just one sportsbook. Most gamers have a favorite, but they usually belong to a few. Join some of the best sportsbooks and shop around each week for the best lines. Don’t just look for the best spread, but also the best potential payout (lowest juice) for winning picks.

Manage Your Bankroll – When the season starts, set aside a specific amount of money which will be your bankroll for the season. Do not go over this amount during the season. Most long-time gamers will tell you to not wager more than 5-7% of your bankroll on a single play.

Only Bet Sober – Yes, this one sounds like a simple and smart idea, but you might be shocked at how many people start placing bets after a few cocktails.

Betting on the NFL season can make watching games even more enjoyable. To win at it consistently, you need an eye for detail, consistency, and self-control.