NFL Betting Guide: How to Bet on the NFL

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The NFL is more popular than ever so here is a guide to get the most out of betting on American football.

49ers NFL player is tackled by Seattle Seahawk

Betting on American football has grown hugely over the last ten years, so much so that taking in the NFL action on a Sunday night has become an integral element of the punting week.

It’s easy to get lost in the jargon, but here are a few ways to get the most out of your gridiron wagering.

Outright Betting

Each year, 32 teams head into the NFL season dreaming of winning the Super Bowl.

The teams are divided into two conferences, AFC and NFC, and then four divisions – North, South, East and West. Each team plays 16 matches in the regular season when they play the other three teams in their division home and away, plus ten other matches over a 17-week regular season.

The four division winners in each conference and the two other teams with the best records then battle it out for conference championships and the two winners meet in the Super Bowl.

So if you want an interest in the season, you can back a team to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy or to win the two conferences or the various divisions. It really is that simple.

Match Betting

Of course, there are 256 regular-season matches you can bet on too and that’s before we even get to those all-important playoffs.

Match betting is available and can be a great way to back underdogs, but sometimes the favourites are only available at short prices.

Consequently, much American football betting takes place on handicaps, often referred to as ‘the spread’.

Here, you can back one of the teams either giving up points against their opponents or receiving a head start.

So, for example, if Arizona are playing San Francisco in the NFC West, you could back the Cardinals to win the game at 13/5 or the 49ers to win at 5/16.

However, if you think Arizona might get close to winning and want some insurance should they lose narrowly, you can back them at +7 at 10/11.

Alternatively, if you think San Francisco will win comfortably, you can back them at -7 at 10/11.

There are a couple of things to remember with these bets.

Firstly, teams only have to win by one point, so it can be a frustrating experience watching a team win but not go all out to win by enough points to make your bet a winner.

And secondly, you should be aware of the key numbers with matches often being won by three points (a field goal), seven points (a converted touchdown) or combinations of the two.

Total points is another market that works the same way. Simply select whether you want to go over or under the predicted line.

Player Betting

But you are not just restricted to the outcome of a match. You can also make judgements on the effect individual players are going to have on the proceedings.

Players to score a touchdown, make a sack, catch a certain number of passes, run a certain number of yards – they are all catered for and can produce some decent-priced winners.

And prices are available for the season too. You can bet on who will pass the largest number of yards, or chalk up the largest total of rushing yards or indeed who will be voted the most valuable player of the season.

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Super Bowl Betting

And then there is the big showpiece itself, the biggest sporting event in the American calendar.

The bets available on the Super Bowl are almost endless and even roll into the half-time show and the advertisements shown on television.

You can bet on all sorts of things, starting from how long the national anthem will take to the colour of the energy drink poured over the winning coach’s head. And everything else in between.

The one thing about betting on the NFL is that there is plenty to get your teeth into, so to finish, let’s take a look at the top five NFL betting tips to pay attention to.

Top 5 NFL Betting Tips

The NFL has seen its popularity explode on the other side of the pond in recent years, so much so that rumours of a franchise moving to London have circulated for some time.

With the increased exposure of the sport, there is increased interest from a punting angle. In light of this, we have put together a handy guide for those looking to profit from betting on the NFL.

1. Be Wary of a Big Spread

The NFL is an unpredictable league and the favourites don’t always rack up huge points against the underdog. Most of the time, teams won’t over-exert themselves if they have a comfortable lead, particularly near the end of the season as they look to rest starters with one eye on the playoffs.

Unlike in football, goal difference plays a much smaller role in deciding which teams progress to the playoffs so teams aren’t obligated to rack up as many points as possible.

‘Strength of victory’ is just the fifth most important aspect in the NFL’s tiebreakers procedures so don’t presume the favourites will always cover.

2. There’s Plenty of Middle Ground

Parity is the aim in the NFL, with the draft system set up to level the playing field and balance out the league.

In each season, there are often five or six teams at the top who are clearly the best sides and five or six at the bottom who are clearly the worst.

There’s plenty of teams who fall into the middle ground, winning between six and nine games a season and can be underrated in individual matchups as a result.

3. Underdogs Can Put On a Show

Monday Night Football and to a lesser extent, Sunday Night Football, are the biggest televised sports events in the United States. As a result, teams who play in these games can often be keen to put on a show, with underdogs often over performing in the big TV slots.

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4. Recent Form Can Be Misleading

Recency bias can affect punters in all sports but particularly the NFL.

For example, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season started 6-1 and were heavy favourites against both the New Orleans Saints and Washington, they lost both games.

Similarly with teams that score heavily in two or three games in a row, they are likely to regress to the mean.

5. Pay Close Attention to the Numbers

When many expect a game to be low scoring, they may back the under regardless of where the line is, but this can backfire if attention is not paid to the number specified in the line. Low scoring games can still go over the line and high scoring games can still go under.

Keep in mind the key numbers in handicap quotes as well, teams get three points for a field goal and seven for a converted touchdown so the vital numbers are three, six, seven, nine, ten, 13, 14, 17 and 21.

A sports journalist for over 15 years, Aidan has been part of written and audio coverage on a wide-ranging number of events. Having played and coached at amateur level, he offers in-depth insight and opinion into the world of football in particular.
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