Most Common NFL Bets

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Bookmakers offer the widest variety of sports betting action on regular season and playoff NFL games, including moneyline odds on both favorite and underdog, plus a standard -110 point spread along with alternate lines for both favorite and underdog. Alternate totals are also available for betting fans with wide-ranging opinions. On this page you can find the most common NFL bets and picks.

NFL Odds Notation

Unlike other games, the odds betting of NFL and American football is quite simple. This diagram summarizes how this process works. This is how NFL betting odds are displayed.

Tip: Most people participate in sports betting as an enjoyable pastime, however a minority of individuals are seen as professional gamblers. The purpose of our introductory article is the layman’s explanation how to bet on football and NFL and what are the most common bets that are offered by bookmakers worldwide.

Derivative NFL Betting and Props

NFL football has a variety of bets on each of the big three (moneyline, point spread, and total) and some more obscure bets. Most sportsbooks allow betting in all quarters up to halftime (1st quarter and 1st half), but some offer predictive-betting for those bettors who simply can’t wait until 3rd quarter.

One of the reasons for this might be the overabundance of NFL prop bets. These bets typically carried out with in-depth analysis on stats that are reliant based upon the performance of a specific athlete on any given play, such as rushing yardage totals, total carries or number of catches during one game.

Tip: NFL games have a wide variety of betting options, which can be initiated before the game starts. One common type is to bet before every play whether that drive will end in a touchdown, field goal, punt or turnover. Some bookmakers even offer betting on what kind of play will happen next: run vs. pass from an app-based perspective.

Most Common NFL Bets: Future 

A lot of sports bettors bet on football day in day out and want to know how they can place bets with confidence? We highlight the off-season betting options for American Football, including a full menu of futures;

  • Team regular season win total (over/under)
  • Team to make the playoffs (yes/no)
  • Division championship (multiway moneyline bet)
  • Conference championship (multiway moneyline bet)
  • Super Bowl champion (multiway moneyline bet)
  • Individual player season stat totals (over/under)

Most major bookmakers will allow you to create a bet on a team that is not playing against your favorite. Bets are typically adjusted as the season progresses which gives you more opportunity to place wagers on the teams that are popular throughout the league.

Betting Key Number for NFL Odds

The public love betting on the favorites in NFL football. You need to be aware of some important key numbers.

In sports betting, we use the term “key number” to describe a final point tally that is more likely to occur. For instance, games typically end in a 7- or 3-point gap because football is scored by three and sevens points. This means 10-point wins are more common than 12-point victories.

Bookmakers take this into account in football point spreads and totals, not just when they set NFL odds, but when they move Football odds. As you learned earlier in our review, if there is an overwhelming demand for one side of the bet then the oddsmaker can respond by altering the odds to make that side more expensive, thus making the other side cheaper.

The range of outcomes that determine the probability of winning a football game can vary widely. These differences mean that sportsbook oddsmakers need to take even longer before they’ll change their betting prices.

Figure 1 shows the frequency of NFL margins that take place; for example, because a NFL football game margin of 12 points is as likely as 13 points, oddsmakers (and smart bettors) do not see much difference between those two spreads. However 14 is a key number and requires a much stronger market signal before they will move from 13-1/2 to 14.

Home Team Final Margin Frequency 2013-2019

Key Spread Numbers

The one-touch nature of the NFL leads to certain point spreads being easier or harder than others. Fully 40% of games, end with a margin of 3, 6, 7, 10 or 14 points. A bookmaker who opens a team at -7 will require significantly more action to move it to -7½ because those are two major stopping points.

By knowing the most common bets on NFL odds, one can better their odds of winning. Nearly 8% of home teams win by exactly 3 points so it’s a significant difference when betting on a favorite at -2-1⁄2 over -3-1⁄2 because both are an extra point away from each other. The point spread in football is often “moved” by the oddsmaker to balance out emerging trends, which is for example not happening as much with volleyball.

Tip: When you’re thinking of betting a side that’s lined in the neighborhood of +3 points, shop around and see if you can find a better line. For example, when looking at +4-1/2 or +5, they both offer favorable options as opposed to the more common bet for 3 points.

You are unlikely to ever be successful if betting a football game at +5 rather than +4-1/2. Five is an incredibly rare margin, and in the last 20 years, there have been 77 games that were lined at 4-1/2 points but only one case (1.2%) where a team lost by exactly 5 points.

When betting between two points, the difference is very small. For instance, say you were betting on team at +5 and had the option to sell a half point, it might be worth doing it.

Selling Points

If you want to make a bet that’s more likely to happen, the bookmaker will allow it through what is called an action point. By adding a half point to your desired outcome (for example, an over could be from +3-1/2 points instead of just 3), the payout schedule becomes more profitable over time. (For example, instead of risking $110 to win $100, or a –110 bet, the bookmaker may offer you a wager where you risk $108.60 to win $101.87 – this is so that they can provide adequate compensation for your half point advantage.)

The same story is true when dealing with the +3 line. It has been 152 games in the last 20 years where a team was a +2.5 underdog. Of those games, 13 (7.8 percent) resulted in exactly 3 points difference when home team lost. For underdog bettors, the half-point that moves you to 3 is worth 7 times as much as the half point that moves you to 5.

Is It Worth It? Let’s Find Out

If you assume that margins in NFL games and the resulting score patterns are indicators of future probabilities, they are excellent examples of how the break-even winning percentage can be used to compare two bets.

In this instance, we’re considering whether or not it would benefit us to sell a half point back to the bookmaker in exchange for more advantageous odds. The bookmaker has offered to move our odds from -110 to -102 if we’re willing to switch from +5 down to +4-1/2.

At the odds of –110, your winning percentage with a bet is 52.38%. At the odds of -102, you will have a winning percentage that is 50.2%. This may not seem like much, but professionals are always on the lookout for ways to give themselves an advantage. When they get a slight advantage like this it means a lot. For this reason, we now look at what happens when a team gives away that half-point. A 5 point lead is very rare, only effecting one out of the 77 games with odds set at +4-1/2 and happening about 1 time every 150 matches for the home team. But since 1.5-percent of the bets would produce a 2.18-percent return for you, and that is greater than your initial investment which has an attractive potential return of only 1.5 percent for you, here’s what we suggest doing: sell off the half point!

What do the different numbers mean? And what is the difference between -110 down to +102 at odds. We already know that at 110 we need to win 52.4% of the time to break even, and 102 gets us 50.2%. But even though the bookmaker is giving us a 2.18-percent advantage, we will still lose 7.5% of bets that would have been winners at +3-1/2 but are now pushed only if we move to +2-1/2. Stick with +3 unless the bookmaker offers better odds for moving.

If you are unaware of the nuances of betting, a traditional rule to follow is that if the odds on your bet do not improve by at least 25 points (as would be moving from –110 to +115), then it is best to stay in rather than increase your position. In order to understand the concept of buying and selling NFL half points, you can visit an online calculator that is designed specifically for this purpose.

Most Common NFL Bets: Moneyline

Oddsmakers also offer ‘moneylines’ which are handicap-free NFL bets that do not allow the bettor to select a margin of victory. You should be aware of moneyline bets because when betting on different sports, odds will be tied into these.

The following table illustrates the rough equivalency between an NFL moneyline and point spread (assuming -110 odds) for some important key numbers.

NFL Moneylines and Point Spreads

Point Spread
Straight Up Win%
Point Spread
Straight Up Win%

These data are for the American Football and NFL (National Football League) from 2013 onward. They include the most recent rules that directly impacted scoring, so not every stat is an accurate reflection of what would happen if we had more data. It’s important to note that these numbers reflect winning percentages as opposed to points; they’re simply inverse counterparts of each other.

Warning: As the name implies, this is a line that people can back in order to win more money. Essentially it works up the odds of a team winning against another, which are usually measured by points. Teams with higher point values will have better chances than those with lower scores and should result in winners receiving less payout for their bets. There is a wide variation in the odds offered by bookmakers for each game. A typical NFL Sunday might have two favorite teams with odds of around –3, but one team’s moneyline is set at –155 and the other at –145. The lesson? If you are betting on moneylines, shop around until you find something you feel confident.

Most Common NFL Bets: Total Bets

Football has a different distribution of scores when compared to other sports. Unlike other games, football features 6-point touchdowns and 3-point field goals, which skews the statistics that bookmakers use in their odds.

Most Common NFL Bets: Total Bets
Total Game Score Frequency

Most Common NFL Bets: Parlays

NFL odds come in three types: money lines, point spreads, and totals. A parlay is when you bet on two or more games and winnings from one game are automatically passed to a second bet. Most NFL enthusiasts struggle with timing games, which means they have to constantly either guess the exact moment that a game will end or use math to calculate how much time is left in a game. Thankfully, bookmakers take care of the timing for you by betting on all games at once and deeming them as happening when they begin. This allows you to parlay NFL games.

A NFL football standard parlay payout is as follows:

2 bets2.6 to 1
3 bets6 to 1
4 bets12 to 1

Warning: One common betting option that is typically offered by the bookmakers worldwide is parlays. One restriction on parlay bets, however, you will not be able to include a spread and total for the same game in your bet.

A parlay is a type of bet where multiple outcomes are simultaneous. In order to win, all bets must be correct. Should any bet push, the odds revert to that of a parlay with one fewer back. For example, if you were to bet a three-legged multilay parlay, three wins pays 6-to-1. If one of the bets was a push, your two-way multilay would be considered as 2.6-to-1.

NFL Teasers

Teasers are an exciting way to play in the NFL. There are so many ways to tweak a teaser that people never know which will be best for them, limiting their risk and potentially increasing their opportunity to win big.

  • For a 6-point teaser to break even, bettors must win each single leg approximately 72 percent of the time.
  • To break even on a 6.5-point teaser, bettors need to win with 7 out of 10 single legs.
  • In order to break even on a 7-point teaser, bettors must win each single leg 75.1% of the time.