How to Bet On The NFL Online

When it comes to sports betting, the NFL is king. NFL season is the busiest time of year for sportsbooks, whether we’re referring to brick-and-mortar locations or the continuously increasing number of places to bet online.

The NFL season goes by in a flash. Unlike the other major pro sports the NFL’s 32 teams only play 16 regular season games a year. Then come just 3 weeks of playoffs before the mega betting party that is the Super Bowl.

The scarcity of games only ratchets up the importance of each contest. Once you add sports betting to the mix, the interest level goes through the roof.  But one of the added benefits of having the action spread out is the extra time it affords for handicapping each week’s games. As a new bettor, you will soon realize that nothing quite beats the thrill of an NFL game with a little betting involved.

NFL betting sites and Fantasy Football

Unfortunately, online sports betting is not available in your state. An alternative to sports betting is fantasy sports, which is legal in most states. There are multiple DFS sites to choose from. You can read our full DFS guide here or check out our FanDuel vs. DraftKings article.

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2021 NFL Futures

After the rush of Super Bowl 54 – and with the next chapter of the Patrick Mahomes story still lingering in our minds -we’ve begun the long, slow climb back up to the next NFL season.

There’s the re-boot of the XFL to bet on, sure. And the NFL Draft. But NFL die-hards are certainly counting the hours until training camp begins anew in the Fall.

In the interim not all NFL betting is out of the playbook. There’s always a market for NFL futures including:

  • 2021 Super Bowl champ
  • 2020-21 Conference winners and
  • 2020-21 Division winners

There’s also a robust player futures market with lines on:

  • 2020-21 NFL MVP
  • Phil Rivers’ future team
  • Tom Brady’s future team

already up on DraftKings. Here’s a snapshot of some current NFL futures on DraftKings as of March, 2020:

To win the 2021 Super Bowl:

Super Bowl XV Winner
Conference Winner (AFC)
Conference Winner (NFC)

Game
03/16/2020
(Eastern Time)
(EST)
Kansas City
Bet now
+600
Bet now
+650
Baltimore Ravens
Bet now
+750
Bet now
+700
San Francisco
Bet now
+900
Bet now
+900
New Orleans Saints
Bet now
+1400
Bet now
+1300
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bet now
+1600
Bet now
+1700
Philadelphia Eagles
Bet now
+1600
Bet now
+1900
New England Patriots
Bet now
+1800
Bet now
+2200
Dallas Cowboys
Bet now
+2000
Bet now
+1900
Seattle Seahawks
Bet now
+2000
Bet now
+2000
Green Bay
Bet now
+2200
Bet now
+2200
Pittsburgh Steelers
Bet now
+2500
Bet now
+2400
Minnesota Vikings
Bet now
+2800
Bet now
+2200
Los Angeles Rams
Bet now
+2800
Bet now
+2400
Indianapolis Colts
Bet now
+2800
Bet now
+2400
Buffalo Bills
Bet now
+2800
Bet now
+2200
Tennessee
Bet now
+3000
Bet now
+3000
Chicago Bears
Bet now
+3300
Bet now
+3400
Cleveland Browns
Bet now
+3300
Bet now
+3300
Atlanta Falcons
Bet now
+4000
Bet now
+4400
Denver Broncos
Bet now
+4000
Bet now
+5000
LA CHargers
Bet now
+5000
Bet now
+3400
Las Vegas Raiders
Bet now
+5000
Bet now
+6000
Arizona Cardinals
Bet now
+5000
Bet now
+5000
Houston Texans
Bet now
+5000
Bet now
+4200
Detroit Lions
Bet now
+6600
Bet now
+6600
New York Giants
Bet now
+6600
Bet now
+8000
NY Jets
Bet now
+7000
Bet now
+7000
Carolina Panthers
Bet now
+8000
Bet now
+7000
Miami Dolphins
Bet now
+8000
Bet now
+8000
Cincinnati bengals
Bet now
+10000
Bet now
+15000
Washington Redskins
Bet now
+10000
Bet now
+15000
Jacksonville Jaguars
Bet now
+15000
Bet now
+16000

Game
03/16/2020
(Eastern Time)
(EST)
Kansas City
Bet now
+300
Bet now
+300
Baltimore Ravens
Bet now
+375
Bet now
+420
New England Patriots
Bet now
+800
Bet now
+1000
Pittsburgh Steelers
Bet now
+1100
Bet now
+1100
Buffalo Bills
Bet now
+1300
Bet now
+1000
Indianapolis Colts
Bet now
+1300
Bet now
+1100
Tennessee
Bet now
+1400
Bet now
+1600
Cleveland Browns
Bet now
+1500
Bet now
+1600
Denver Broncos
Bet now
+1800
Bet now
+2500
LA Chargers
Bet now
+2200
Bet now
+1700
Houston Texans
Bet now
+2200
Bet now
+2200
Las Vegas Raiders
Bet now
+2200
Bet now
+3000
NY Jets
Bet now
+3000
Bet now
+3700
Miami Dolphins
Bet now
+3300
Bet now
+4000
Cincinnati Bengals
Bet now
+4000
Bet now
+7000
Jacksonville Jaguars
Bet now
+6000
Bet now
+7000

Game
01/19/2020
(Eastern Time)
(EST)
San Francisco
Bet now
+450
Bet now
+480
New Orleans Saints
Bet now
+650
Bet now
+700
Tampa Bay Bucs
Bet now
+800
Bet now
+800
Philadelphia Eagles
Bet now
+800
Bet now
+900
Dallas Cowboys
Bet now
+1000
Bet now
+900
Seattle Seahawks
Bet now
+1000
Bet now
+1000
Green Bay
Bet now
+1100
Bet now
+1100
Minnesota Vikings
Bet now
+1300
Bet now
+1100
LA Rams
Bet now
+1300
Bet now
+1300
Chicago Bears
Bet now
+1600
Bet now
+1800
Atlanta Falcons
Bet now
+2000
Bet now
+2100
Arizona Cardinals
Bet now
+2200
Bet now
+2400
Detroit Lions
Bet now
+2800
Bet now
+3200
NY Giants
Bet now
+2800
Bet now
+4000
Carolina Panthers
Bet now
+3500
Bet now
+3100
Washington Redskins
Bet now
+4000
Bet now
+7000

To win the 2020-21 NFL MVP Award:

NFL MVP 2020-21

Game
03/16/2020
(Eastern Time)
(EST)
Patrick Mahomes
Bet now
+400
Bet now
+380
Lamar Jackson
Bet now
+600
Bet now
+600
Russell Wilson
Bet now
+600
Bet now
+600
Tom Brady
Bet now
+1400
Bet now
+2600
Drew Brees
Bet now
+12000
Bet now
+1600
Aaron Rodgers
Bet now
+2000
Bet now
+2000
Deshaun Watson
Bet now
+2000
Bet now
+1200
Dak Prescott
Bet now
+2200
Bet now
+1400
Carson Wentz
Bet now
+2500
Bet now
+1600
Kyler Murray
Bet now
+2500
Bet now
+2600
Matt Ryan
Bet now
+3300
Bet now
+3800
Philip Rivers
Bet now
+3300
Bet now
+6600

Futures odds change over the course of days and weeks so be sure to check your sportsbook for the latest odds.

2020-21 NFL Fantasy Football Contests

If you prefer to stick to the Daily Fantasy Sports side of things both DraftKings and FanDuel will have another huge slate of NFL contests on the table for 2020-21. They’ve also both become official partners for XFL Daily Fantasy games, which might be a fun diversion over the Spring.

Click the links below to collect your exclusive DFS bonuses and get ready for next season:

On May 14, 2018, the US Supreme Court weighed in on a case brought forth by the state of New Jersey in regards to the legality of sports betting. The High Court sided with NJ and effectively placed the legal question in the hands of states.

The Garden State was up and running quickly. Retail sportsbooks began opening their doors the following month with the online rollout following as the summer moved along. Fast-forward to today, and New Jersey sports betting is a thriving market with several retail and online options for consumers.

While NJ was first to market, it was certainly not alone in moving forward with sports betting. Neighboring Pennsylvania has followed a similar path and went live in the Fall of 2019. Indiana and West Virginia have also since come online as has New Hampshire.

Today over a dozen states have legalized at least some form of sports betting (retail, online or both), while others are deep in the process of legalization as we speak.

To see where things stand on a state-by-state basis, you can check out our US legal gambling guide.

How to read NFL betting lines & odds

NFL betting can seem intimidating at first, but it suddenly doesn’t seem so daunting once you get a handle on the basics. Let’s walk through it all in full detail, starting with where to place a bet.

For NFL games, three types of bets are the most common: moneyline, spread and totals. Here’s what you need to know about each of them.

  • Moneyline: This is a straight bet in which all you do is pick the winner. The overwhelming majority of the time, there will be a clear favorite and underdog. This will be represented by the odds, which will appear as a negative value for the team expected to win, and as a positive value for the underdog. For example, the favorite may have odds of -120, while the underdog may read as +100.
  • Spread: To even the playing field, oddsmakers attach a point spread to each NFL game. In a nutshell, the spread is a projected margin of victory for the favored side. As handicappers, our job is to decide whether or not it’s a good number. For example, Team A may be favored by three points over Team B. If you think the former will win by three points or more, then you would bet the favored side. If you believe the margin will be less than that — or like the underdog to win outright — then you would take the other side. Typically, spread bets are in line for both sides with odds of -110.
  • Totals: Oddsmakers will also attach a projected point total to each NFL contest. Sports bettors can then decide if they expect the total points scored to be over or under that number. For example, consider a contest with a projected total of 49.5 points. If the final score was 30-24, then the over would have been the correct call. If the score came in at 27-21, then under bettors would have winning tickets. Total bets will also typically have odds in the same range, and odds of -110 on both sides are not uncommon.

There’s also live NFL betting, which means you will be placing wagers on specific events or outcomes as the game moves along including specific team and play prop bets. In addition, there is an active futures market for the NFL. You can place bets on an event which has yet to happen, such as the winner of the Super Bowl or the number of regular-season wins a specific team will have.

  • Prop Bets: Each game will have an additional prop or “side” bets for handicappers to consider. These bets can cover things such as the result of a specific quarter, yardage totals for a player, or which side will score first in the game.
  • Live Betting: As the game unfolds, numerous operators will offer live betting opportunities. These can be similar to prop bets, just on a smaller time frame as opposed to covering the full game.
  • Futures: Before the NFL season kicks off, and as it unfolds, there is an active market for betting known as futures. These are bets on events that have yet to take place. For example, the winner of a division, or the player you think will win the Super Bowl MVP award.

NFL Line shopping

As your knowledge of sports betting increases, you may hear references to line shopping. This means shopping around at various sportsbooks to find the most attractive number. Odds and spreads can be different at multiple outlets.

Typically the major books are in the same range, but there are outliers that come up here and there. Also, spreads at some books could vary by a half-point or more. While that may not sound like a big difference, it can sometimes be the difference between a winning and a losing ticket.

Odds can also vary, especially when we are talking about moneylines. For example, the favored team in an NFL game could have odds of -130 at one sportsbook. Another book may be offering odds of -120 for the same outcome.

Again, this may not seem like a significant difference, but the extra return afforded by the book with more favorable odds can add up over the course of the season.

Another area to be cognizant of when it comes to lines is that they will be fluid during the week. After bookmakers release what are known as opening lines, the market responds and places bets accordingly. If a lot of action comes in on one side of the equation, the spread, totals and odds can shift.

When you come across a situation in which the line has moved significantly in one direction, then you can interpret that as a significant amount of action coming in on the other side of the bet.

Online betting vs. retail sportsbook

In fully legalized US states, consumers will have the option of placing their bets online or at a retail sportsbook. For online purposes, the major operators will generally have a web-based and a mobile sportsbook for consumers to use.

Experiences can vary. Some operators spend a lot of money on the technical side, and the result is a smooth product devoid of glitches. Other web and mobile-based options may not necessarily be as user-friendly. In the end, the product to use is entirely up to you.

The same rules apply for betting online versus at a retail sportsbook. Often, the sportsbook will be located in a casino. Typically, there will be betting windows that are operated by employees, as well as some self-serve kiosks.

On the retail side, it’s not uncommon to find that the sportsbook has numerous amenities, such as a bar, food menu and multiple television screens to watch the action.

Once again, placing bets online or in-person comes down to user preference, as well as the convenience factor. Placing bets online can be a snap, but visiting a retail sportsbook can certainly be worth the trip.

Using a mobile app to bet online

The majority of online sportsbooks have a mobile app these days for both iOS and Android devices. Many are smooth and easy to use, while others have some kinks that still need to be worked out.

In the end, it all comes down to user preference. Take a look at our recommended sites in the table above and pay attention to usability, interface and overall appearance. When you find one that catches your eye, look for its mobile offering. Those that nail it online will often hit it out of the park on mobile as well.

Legal NFL betting sites vs. offshore betting

While sports betting is legal in several US states, there are plenty of operators out there that have serviced US consumers for many years. These operators are also known as offshore betting sites.

These sites have accepted US consumers while pointing to the unclear legal situation as the reason for doing so. Just because many remain open for business isn’t a reason for bettors to take their business there.

Here are some reasons why users should only use legal, regulated sites:

  • Safety: For US-regulated sites, they must adhere to the precise laws on the books. We can’t say the same about offshore operators. If problems arise, there are avenues to follow when it comes to a legal site. If the same thing happens with an offshore site, there aren’t many places to turn.
  • Funding: Legal, regulated sites will offer crystal-clear deposit and withdrawal options. It’s not uncommon to see unusual payment processors or unregulated cryptocurrencies as a payment option for offshore operators. Also, numerous payment processors will automatically block and flag transactions that seem suspicious. Dealing with an offshore gambling site falls into that category.
  • Legality: In the regulated US states, the laws are now on the books and in effect. There are no questions as to whether or not sports betting is a legal activity in these locales. Offshore sites are not legal.
  • Reliability: To get up and running in a legal US state, sportsbook operators have to make a substantial investment. Also, they have to follow specific rules and regulations. Offshore operators pop up regularly. Some will stick around for a while, but it’s also not uncommon to see entities that virtually vanish. When this happens, consumers who have balances left on these sites are left with nowhere to turn. In the unlikely event that this happened with a regulated operator, users will have a road map to follow for resolution.

At PlayUSA, we only review and recommend legal, regulated operators. Our advice is to always stick with these sportsbooks as opposed to taking chances with an illegal entity elsewhere.

NFL betting trends

As the NFL season moves along, noticeable NFL betting trends will develop. Some squads will perform well as favorites, while others may thrive as underdogs. Some teams seem to have a knack for covering the spread, as well as ones with a poor record.

The same applies to situations such as home versus away games, as well as total points scored in a contest. Staying mindful of these trends can help to point out exploitable situations, but it’s important to remember that there is nothing foolproof when it comes to handicapping.

Trends can help paint the picture, but they are far from the only ingredient needed.

Trends can also develop over multiple seasons, but the same note of caution applies. After all, each season is entirely different. Teams improve or decline from year-to-year, while others can remain in the middle. Historical trends can be great sidebars or additional weight for a specific argument, but it’s not a great idea to rely on them alone.

NFL preseason, regular season and playoffs

The NFL preseason gets underway in the first week of August with the annual NFL Hall of Fame game. From there, it’s another four weeks of exhibition season with each team playing four contests.

Typically, the third game is the most highly regarded for forecasting purposes, as this is the game in which teams will take an extended look at projected starters.

Some handicappers swear that the preseason offers up numerous opportunities, while another group sits on the sideline and waits for the games that matter.

After Labor Day, the NFL regular season begins. It lasts for 17 weeks with each team playing 16 games. Each squad will have eight home games and eight on the road. Select teams will have international games, which can reduce the equation one way of the other.

During the season, each team will get a week off, which is known as a bye week. The season closes out in Week 17, which is typically the last weekend of December or the first weekend in January.

After the regular season closes, 12 teams will have qualified for the postseason.

Six teams from each conference will make the playoffs. The top two seeds on each side will have the first week of the playoffs off. The first round of the postseason is the wild card, which involves two games from both conferences.

Afterward, it’s on to the divisional round. Four teams are left in both conferences at this point, resulting in four games for one of the most exciting football weekends of the calendar year.

The winners from those games will move on to the NFC and AFC conference championships. The winners of the two games will advance to the Super Bowl, the biggest betting event of the year.

While the same principles apply to handicapping games throughout the year, it’s essential to keep a few things in mind. At the beginning of the season, it’s not uncommon to see games which are higher scoring. There are several reasons for this, ranging from personnel turnover to rule changes which the league’s teams adapt.

As the season moves along, defenses tend to catch up. Overall scoring may drop from this point, but that doesn’t mean every game will be low scoring. Once the playoffs roll around, the 12 best teams in the NFL are involved.

Naturally, the playing field is pretty level at this point. However, there are situations in which there are powerhouse teams and weaker members of the field. Lines will generally be tighter as defenses improve and the playoffs get underway, but there are always exceptions to the rule.

As mentioned up above, each season is unique. That said, there are league-wide trends that may develop over the year. These situations are certainly worth factoring into your handicapping process.

How to watch NFL games

Once the regular season kicks off, fans can look forward to 17 weeks of regular-season action. Here is how the games are spread out:

  • Thursday Night Football: There is one Thursday night game for each of the first 16 weeks of the season. The lone exception is Thanksgiving Day when there are three contests spread out over the day.
  • Sunday afternoon: This is when the majority of the action takes place. There are two windows of games, one for the early part of the afternoon and one for the latter portion. Keep in mind that some of the international games can have a kickoff as early as 9:30 a.m. EST.
  • Sunday Night Football: This is the marquee game of the weekend. Many of the matchups project out as the best of the week, at least on paper. This is a standalone game in which the eyes of the NFL world are watching.
  • Monday Night Football: The action doesn’t wrap up on Sunday night. There is one Monday night game per week, except for the final week of the season. Also, the opening week of the season will usually have two games on Monday, one in the early evening and one later.

Once the playoffs get underway, there are four games spread over Saturday and Sunday for both the wild card and divisional rounds. Conference championship games take place on Sunday, as does the biggest sporting event of the year, the Super Bowl.

Biggest upsets in NFL history

Upsets happen in all sports, but massive ones in the NFL can be particularly earth-shattering due to the amount of attention the league receives. Let’s take a look at two of the more memorable ones in NFL history:

  • Super Bowl III: Generally considered one of the biggest sporting upsets of all-time, the underdog New York Jets stunned the heavily favored Baltimore Colts to win the crown. Jets QB Joe Namath became an instant legend for guaranteeing the victory, while the win also gave even more relevancy to the upstart AFL.
  • Super Bowl XXXVI: This game will be forever remembered as the beginning of the New England Patriots dynasty. They faced off with the high-powered Los Angeles Rams as 14-point underdogs. The Patriots would go on to stun the Rams by a final score of 20-17.

When discussions of huge NFL upsets take place, those are two of the most significant. But there have been plenty of others through the years.

Just because a team is a two-touchdown underdog or so doesn’t mean there’s not a fighting chance. Anything can happen once the games kick-off, after all.

NFL betting tips

One of the great things about sports betting is that your involvement level can vary as you see fit. Some casual bettors prefer to focus on a game or two per week, and there’s the other end of the spectrum for handicappers who like to tackle the whole slate.

In between those two extremes are various other approaches. Naturally, it’s entirely up to you. The same applies to how you approach the actual handicapping of games. You could take a hands-off approach, rely on specific sources to make decisions or even pay for picks.

There are plenty of bettors who also take the time to develop their detailed routine. It’s entirely up to you, and it also depends on the amount of time you have at your disposal.

If you’re looking to develop your own system, it can help to start small and expand from there. A great starting point is to use football power rankings, which attempt to assign a reliable numeric value to each team.

Many power rankings are free to use on the internet, while there are also plenty of subscription services which provide metrics. It’s important to remember that power ranking numbers are not the only piece of the puzzle, but they can be a great tool to have in the belt.

When devising your system, focus on the most important statistics, e.g., average points scored and allowed for each team, as well as for and against yardage.

Turnovers and sacks are also helpful metrics to consider. You can even get as advanced as spotting the differences between disciplined and undisciplined squads by looking at things such as penalty yardage.

There are plenty of ways to develop a system, but it’s often helpful to start with the basics and work your way out. You can become as advanced as you like in your research. However, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple and focusing on the areas you deem to be most important.

It’s great to have a betting system, but it’s also beneficial to know the red flags to avoid when it comes to NFL betting.

Here are some of the common mistakes that inexperienced bettors can make:

  • Chasing your bets.
  • Betting way too much.
  • Betting with your heart as opposed to your head.
  • Always betting on the favorite or the underdog.
  • Wagering while impaired.

The list is far from all-encompassing, but those are some of the most significant potential NFL betting mistakes.

Key NFL numbers

Handicapping games revolves around numbers, whether we’re talking about point spreads or specific stats.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more important numbers to consider when handicapping games:

  • Point Margins: A late field goal or touchdown can decide many NFL games. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see many games decided by three to seven points. These are considered key numbers, and it shouldn’t be surprising that many point spreads are in these ranges. For example, a game may open with one team as a two and a half-point favorite, but public sentiment can push it up to three and a half points at kickoff. Sharp bettors are quite mindful of these situations and will wait for the right opportunity to pounce.
  • Pass Yards Per Attempt: There are plenty of ways to measure the efficiency of passing games, but this stat can be particularly useful. Quite simply, teams who gain more yards per pass attempt are moving the ball more crisply than others.
  • Yards Per Play: This is a similar concept, just on a team-wide basis. When looking at overall team efficiency, the amount of yardage they are gaining or allowing on each play can help to bring it into focus while separating the contenders from the pretenders.
  • Turnovers: Few things can change the momentum of an NFL game like a turnover in a vital spot. When a team gives up the ball, they are handing the opponent another scoring opportunity, and vice-versa. As such, teams who turn the ball over a lot are often not as successful as those who have positive turnover margins.

What does betting against the public mean?

Following along with the wisdom of the crowds can be useful in many situations. However, sports betting is one of those scenarios in which it can be quite fruitful to take a different approach.

Betting against the public means going against the grain of popular sentiment. Also known as the contrarian approach, which means you’re taking a stance that’s the opposite of what the majority may think.

Most oddsmakers are very good. They’ve spent years perfecting their craft and working their way into that position with sportsbooks, which are massive companies that have a wealth of data at their fingertips.

Said another way, the sportsbooks don’t make a habit of being wrong. If they were constantly losing money and/or facing lopsided propositions on numerous bets, there would be changes to come at that sportsbook.

Of course, the public can be right about specific games or instances. It’s certainly worth the time taken to understand the lay of the land in a given week while gaining a sense of where most of the public money has come in.

However, you also shouldn’t follow this blindly. Don’t be afraid of taking a different stance, as well as looking for opportunities that look ripe for exploitation. There is certainly the possibility that you have picked something up in your research which has been missed in the general chatter surrounding a game.

From a bottom-line perspective, the public is not always right. If they were, many of the massive sportsbooks would be a lot less profitable than they currently are.

NFL FAQ

How does a parlay bet work?

parlay bet is when two or more games or outcomes are linked together on a single betting ticket. To win the wager, you must be correct on all selections.

What is the home-field advantage?

The home team, or team that is playing in its stadium, is generally viewed as having the edge over the visitor, or away team.

What is NFL futures betting?

These are bets on an outcome that has yet to be determined, such as the winner of the Super Bowl or league MVP. Futures bets are quite popular in the offseason and throughout the regular season.

When is the NFL draft?

The NFL draft takes place a few months after the Super Bowl. For 2020, the draft will be in Nevada. Dates haven’t been announced, but April 23 is the expected start date.

When does the season start?

Thursday, Sept. 5, with a game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.

How many teams are in the NFL?

There are 32 teams in the NFL.

How many players are in the NFL?

Each team has 53 roster spots. For 32 teams, that means 1,696 players. In addition, each team is allowed to designate up to 10 players for the practice squad.

How much revenue does the NFL make?

For the 2018 season, the league generated nearly $15 billion in revenue. Commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly has aspirations of reaching $25 billion in revenue annually.

When do the playoffs start in 2020?

Week 17 is the final week of the regular season, and the playoffs begin the week after. This year, wild card weekend gets underway on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020.

Which NFL team has the biggest fan base?

The Dallas Cowboys have the moniker of “America’s Team” and are generally considered to be the most popular in the NFL.

What is the lowest-scoring game in NFL history?

On Nov. 7, 1943, the Detroit Lions and New York Giants played to a 0-0 tie.

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