There are many different ways to place a wager on football. Whether it’s the NFL or the NCAA, there is no shortage of bet types if you want to have some skin in the game.
For overall wagering strategy, see our guide on how to bet on American football. Below, though, we’ll focus more specifically on types of bets – including the top five main bet types that are most common, followed by a few others.
Although the important money line market, which we will discuss next, relates to who wins and who loses a football match, point spreads are the biggest market in NFL betting and wagering on American football. Point spreads act as a way of evening out an unbalanced match-up, where one team may be significantly better than another.
To win a point spread bet, you can either bet on the favourite or the underdog. If you wager on the favourite, that team has to win the game by the spread – starting at minus the point spread.
If you wager on the underdog, your bet wins if that team wins the game or loses by an amount smaller than the spread. The underdog starts a game as plus the point spread.
Example: The Houston Texans are @ the Kansas City Chiefs and 888Sport is offering -110 on the Texans to be +10 and -110 on the Chiefs to be -10.
If the Chiefs win by 5 points, a points spread bet on the Chiefs loses, while a points spread bet on the Texans wins. At odds of -110, a $10 would win you $19.09 including your stake back.
Money lines are a straightforward, traditional type of wagering that let you bet on a team to win outright. Taking the spread out of the equation, with a money line you either bet on the home team to win or the away team to win: the winning margin does not matter.
Example: The Cleveland Browns are @ the Baltimore Ravens and BetMGM is offering +280 that the Browns will win on the money line, and -357 on the Ravens to win. If the Ravens win, a $10 bet wins you $12.80 including your stake back. If the Browns win, a $10 wager wins you $38 including your stake.
Over/under betting takesthe spread and the money line out of the equation, instead combining the score of both teams. Here, sportsbooks will set a line and, if you bet over, your wager wins if both teams score a combined total greater than the line. The opposite works if you bet under.
Lines range from around 35.0 in low-scoring games to 50.0 in higher-scoring games; this applies both to the NFL and NCAA, although scores can be higher when two very offensive teams meet in college football.
Example: With the Miami Dolphins @ the New England Patriots, Caesars Sports is offering both over 42.5 points and under 42.5 points at -110. If the total amount of points scored is 42, over bets lose. A $10 stake on the under bet would win you $19.09 including your stake back.
The bets we have talked about so far are known as singles – each wager is on one outcome – and parlays involve multiple selections for one bet. When betting a parlay, you are choosing more than one team, player, spread, over or under bet and every single wager that forms your parlay must win.
Parlays in NFL betting or wagering on other American football give you higher reward for higher risk. This means the odds will be higher for a three-team parlay than betting on just one team to win. But the chances of your bet losing are greater, as you need more than one outcome to go your way.
Example: On Borgata Sports, a three-way parlay gives you +673 odds. The picks are Houstan Texans +10 on the points spread @ Kansas City Chiefs (-110), Chicago Bears to win on the money line @ Detroit Lions (+112) and over 49.5 points between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens (-110).
Staking $10 on this parlay wins you $77.34, including your stake back.
Prop (proposition) bets allow you to wager on team and player statistics, and events that are smaller in nature than the overall result. For instance, you can wager on which team will score first, whether a team’s first possession will be a touchdown, field goal or turnover, a running back’s total yards and many more.
You can commonly wager on both team props and player props.
Example: Over the course of the 2020/2021 season, DraftKings is offering –110 that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will exceed 3850.5 passing yards, with the same odds offered for under. If he ends up with 3900 passing yards, a $10 over bet would win $19.09 including your stake back.
Some other popular bet types include:
Teasers and pleasers – This bet type involves alternative point spreads, where the spread moves in your favour during a teaser (meaning a higher payout), or moves in the favour of the book for a pleaser (meaning a lower payout).
Half-time betting – With half-time betting, you can bet on the second half completely separately from the first half. So, if a team is losing at half-time, you can still wager on them to win the second half, or bet on totals and spreads for the second half.
Futures betting – If you prefer not to focus on one game, you can wager on the competition as a whole. Futures betting involves bets like who will win the Super Bowl and who will become this season’s MVP.
Round robin parlays – These work like some horse racing bet types: all your picks will be parlayed using every possible combination. For example, if you picked 3 teams, a round robin parlay would use every possible 2-team parlay. But a $10 round robin parlay would cost $30 – and for every extra pick, the cost goes up exponentially.