NFL Betting Strategy: Money Line, Spread and Totals
The NFL season is underway again, and fans of North American sports can again get their teeth into some juicy football betting. But whether you're a newbie just beginning to dabble in the world of the NFL, or a seasoned pro watching the new season for signs of early trends, there's a basic decision to be made in how to approach you betting.
Top bookmakers generally provide 'game lines' markets for every week of the NFL season. These lump together the odds for the moneyline, point spreads and totals; which represent your basic odds for a win, a handicap, and the total points scored in the game. Each of these markets offers different value to bettors, depending on your tactics.
The 'moneyline' market is the bedrock of NFL betting. This is the market to choose if you just have a hunch about who will win, or if you choose to play the numbers and bet regularly on the favourite or underdog. Odds here, however, rarely extend beyond evens. For example, in the first week of the 2021 season, the Denver Broncos had odds of -145 to beat the New York Giants who were listed at +125. In this case, a $100 wager on the Giants would pay out $125, and a $145 wager on the Broncos would have paid out $100.
If you prefer to play it safe when seeking a win, the 'spread' market is the way to go. This market works like a handicap in that it gives your call a margin of error by awarding extra points, or boosts your odds and applies a handicap of minus points, to your chosen team. If you're looking at the Packers (-3.5) vs Saints (+3.5), a -3.5 point handicap means that the Packers will need to win by more than four points for your bet to cash. If you bet on the Saints at +3.5 they can either win the game entirely or lose by less than three points. For example if a high scoring team is facing a frail defensive line, or when you spot a tactical advantage that could be a game changer. And when you're betting on a sport as statistically well catalogued as football, there's every chance of spotting a good wager this way.
If you're really confident of picking a score this way, you might want to consider the 'totals' market. The odds are rarely great, for example, if we look at the 49ers vs Lions total of 47, you will have to decide whether you believe the total combined points for both teams will be over or under 47 points. If the score is 41-33, that means the total went way over and over bettors would profit.
Expert gamblers might want to consider viewing the lines by half, or even by quarter, to get extra value from statistical knowledge. Some sportsbooks even provide a selection of stats to help you make a decision. And if you can work out which teams are fast starters, and which are slow out of the gates, you can maximize returns by betting on specific periods of the game.
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