How to Bet on Football



Football is the most popular sport to bet on, most sportsbooks offer a huge variety of betting options on the NFL, NCAA football and the CFL (Canadian Football League). Let’s take a look at the bet types available.

Point Spread Betting

The point spread is the most common way to bet on football. A typical point spread for football might look like this:

  • Green Bay Packers -3.5 -110
  • Chicago Bears +3.5 -110

In this case the Packers are the favorites and those who bet on them win their bets if the Packers win the game by 4 or more points. For example, a 30-27 Packers win with a 3.5 point spread would adjust the score to a 26.5 – 27 Packers loss, which means that they didn’t cover the spread.

The Bears could lose the game by 3 or fewer points and all bets on them would still win because 3.5 points have to be added to their score and a 30-27 Packers win would become a 30-30.5 Packers loss.

Keep in mind that the odds are posted for a long time. Football teams tend to play only one game per week so you need to watch how the odds change during the week, especially when it gets close to game time. The key is to get your bets timed correctly to get the best odds possible.

Money Line Bets

Money line bets do not use a point spread, this bet type offers differing odds on each team based on how they match up. For example, it requires a larger bet on the favorite than the underdog to take home the same profit. Negative and positive money lines are calculated differently.

Negative money lines indicate the favorite to win a game. Negative money lines are represented with a minus sign (-) and the number that follows the minus sign represents the amount of money that you need to risk in order to take a $100 profit.

Positive money lines indicate the underdog in a game. Positive money lines are represented with a plus sign (+) and the number following the plus sign indicates that amount of money that you can win for a $100 wager. This is opposite from a negative money line. Here’s an example:

  • New Orleans Saints -170
  • Carolina Panthers +150

In this scenario the Saints are the favorites to win the game and it would require a $170 bet to win $100 and for the underdog Panthers a $100 bet would result in a profit of $150 if they win the game.

Over/Under Bets

Also called totals or points betting, Over/Under bets are based on the combined score of both teams in a game. If the final score is 17-10, the total is 27. If the final score is 27-10, the total is 37.

The sportsbooks set a number that they think will draw even betting on each side. If you think that the number is too high you can bet the Under and if you think it’s too low you can bet the Over.

Futures Bet

These bets are placed on seasonal results. In the NFL you can bet on which teams will win their divisions, conferences and the Super Bowl. In NCAA football you can bet on conference winners and find out are you legal?, bowl game winners and the national champion. In the CFL you can bet on the East or West divisional champions and the Grey Cup winner. These bets can turn a small bet into a nice win but keep in mind that your money will get tied up in these bets for a long time.

Football Specials

Also called prop bets or exotics, special bets are generally designed for the casual player looking to have some fun but sometimes offer value to more serious players as well. Specials are more difficult to predict and have a larger juice than other bet types.

You can bet on individual player achievements or team achievements. Here are some examples of football specials:

  • Which team will score first?
  • Will the first score be a touchdown or a field goal?
  • Which team will win more games in the regular season?
  • Who will win the regular season MVP in the NFL?


Accumulators (also called parlays) are a great way to turn a small bet into a huge payday. In an accumulator bet you can pick 2 or more teams that you expect to win and combine them in a single bet. The more teams you add to your accumulator, the more money you stand to win. The downside is that every team on your bet must win or the entire bet is a loss.

Football Live Betting

Live bets are placed during the game while it’s being played. Live betting is quickly becoming more popular. Live betting is fun because most live bets offer instant gratification. Some sportsbooks offer bets for the result of the next down or the result of the current possession. This means that you can place a bet now and have a win or a loss within minutes. This can make a game more interesting. The downside to live bets is that they are essentially specials. This means that the juice is often higher than point spread bets or money line bets, offering you less value.