NFL Betting Strategy


Legendary coach Vince Lombardi’s philosophy was “Freedom within discipline.” While others invented complicated playbooks with dozens of formations, Lombardi’s plays were coded in simple math like “54” and “43.” His Green Bay Packers would run the same plays over and over. But athletes were allowed to think on their feet and adjust during the action to whatever the defense was doing.

Successful NFL betting must be built on a similar approach. Gamblers can each develop their own gambling style based on bankroll, budget, preference, and expertise. But to ignore time-honored maxims of NFL betting is to simply throw money away.

Successful bettors must manage their bankrolls carefully. NFL bettors can manage a bankroll by dividing a stake, or total amount of money deposited at the sportsbook, into “units.” Setting daily limits on wagered cash is another smart move.

Bettors must know and understand every type of wager before choosing the right one, and they must acquire in-depth knowledge of sportsbook strategy before deciding which tactical tenet to follow when placing the next bet.

Scroll through’s NFL betting strategy guide for an overview of the types of odds, betting markets, and live wagers offered on the National Football League. We’ll provide background information and a few tips for winning more than you lose with smart bets in every category.

Types of NFL Betting

Bookies have not dreamed up their last fancy new NFL betting market. But many types of NFL betting odds have been around for decades and aren’t going away anytime soon. Enjoy a primer on the basic categories and a few helpful links.

Moneylines in NFL Betting

Moneylines offer a bet on which team will win the game. NFL moneylines are usually expressed in fractions relating to $100. Odds of (+400) promise a payoff of $400 on a winning $100 wager, while a (-300) moneyline means the gambler must wager $300 to potentially win $100.

Moneylines and Mistakes

Studies show that sports bettors have a slight bell-curve tendency to wager on moneyline favorites. It’s not that they don’t understand what moneylines mean; they just prefer betting on a winner. Whichever team is more touted by the press as a favorite is (usually) also the moneyline favorite.

But that just leaves them at the mercy of the sportsbook’s percentage-game. Their stake will be whittled away until they can’t afford to bet on favorites at disadvantageous odds anymore.

Remember, successful betting isn’t about predicting a winner! It’s about comparing the chances of an event occurring (Raiders win, high-scoring game, etc.) with the odds presented by the casino. If the chances are less than the odds indicate, don’t pull that trigger!

NFL Point Spreads

Point spreads have been the daily bread of NFL betting since the early 20th century. Betting against the spread (or “ATS”) means picking a team to prevail given points spotted to the underdog. Favorites must win by more than the spread to cash in the bet slip. A bet on the underdog wins if the team wins outright or loses by less than the spread.

Point Spread Blunders

A common NFL betting mistake is to wager ATS on the biggest games exclusively. Sportsbooks dedicate more employee hours to Cowboys versus Packers in the late afternoon than to Buffalo hosting Indianapolis at 10 AM Las Vegas time. In a big national game, the house is unlikely to overlook factors such as injuries to key backups, long-term weather forecasts, or individual slumps. But by betting the NFL’s “B” games, a savvy bettor can gain a knowledge advantage on the house by focusing on that one pick.

NFL Point Totals

Often referred to as the Over/Under or “O/U,” a point total betting market asks the gambler to pick a cumulative point total after 4 quarters that is over or under the total predicted by the sportsbook. If the final score of the game adds up to a sum equal to the O/U line, the wager is a push, and money is returned with no further action.

Point Total Pitfalls

One of the most prevalent gaffes involves players picking the “over” simply for the fun of cheering for both offenses. Defenses can play too, and there’s no such thing as having fun while losing money foolishly. The urge to bet out of pleasure can be dangerous when it comes to Over/Under lines. Sports bettors tend to select the “over” too often since cheering for both offenses to score points is fun. But O/U lines are set scientifically, and it’s usually just as likely that the “under” will prevail.

Proposition Wagers in NFL Betting

Proposition, or “prop” bets on the NFL involve specific statistical feats or other events that could occur during a game.

Props on regular-season NFL games are usually basic and sports-oriented, such as whether a star running back will gain 100 or more yards in 4 quarters.

Thousands of prop bets are offered by casinos on the Super Bowl, however, and bookies tend to use their imaginations when coming up with prop markets for the Greatest Show on Earth. Super Bowl props can be anything from the number of pass attempts by Aaron Rodgers to the type of outfit worn by a pop singer in the halftime show.

NFL Parlays

A parlay, or “combo” bet, is a single wager that combines 2 or more individual bets. Parlays offer a much higher payoff than typical spread or O/U markets, but all bets in a parlay must have a winning result for the gamble to pay off. If any picks involved in the parlay lose, the bettor loses the entire wager.

Betting Too Many Parlays

Another of the most common NFL betting mistakes is wagering on too many parlays. Parlay bets seem attractive because the bettor can risk a small amount of their stake for a potentially big payout. But the chances of 2+ final scores working out as predicted are slimmer than most people realize. Sports bettors have a better chance to win money on straight bets.

Furthermore, the “vig” or “juice” that sportsbooks collect on parlays is steeper than on straight wagers. Las Vegas books have been known to win as much as 30% on NFL parlay bets. That means bettors are losing at least 30% of their dollars.

NFL Futures Bets

Futures are markets dedicated to the winner of a division, conference, or league championship. Most NFL futures ask for predictions of who will win the NFC, the AFC, or the Super Bowl. The payoff odds are often appealing as all 32 teams will receive at least a small amount of betting action. But it is difficult to consistently win futures bets due to the dozens of potential winning franchises.

One of the biggest NFL betting mistakes in futures markets is picking the favorite (or a favorite team). Fans see the Patriots on top of the board and figure they’re the likeliest to win. Maybe they are, but if their odds to win the Super Bowl are +400 and accurately handicapped, there is still a 3 out of 4 chance that the futures bet will lose in the end.

Further Reading on Topic

Guide to NFL Handicapping

Successful NFL betting depends on good handicapping. But what is handicapping, exactly?

Handicapping is not the same as making a prediction. No one can accurately predict final scores over the long term. Instead, handicapping is a process of assigning value to a team going into a contest.

If the bettor concludes that a team’s chances of prevailing in a given contest are better than what the moneyline or point spread is factoring in, then a bet on that team carries value. It is more likely to win than to lose. If the team’s chances of winning the game (or winning against a point spread) appear worse than the sportsbook’s odds are allowing, then the betting value is with the opposing team.

Studying Game Action

The flipside of statistical analysis is a football sports betting strategy that comes from watching games as much as possible. Just as NFL and college coaches study film to try to find the edge on opponents, you can use game study to get the advantage on oddsmakers. Watch the action from week to week and you’re bound to start having strong opinions on one team’s chances against another’s.

What should you be looking for when you watch the games?

Here are some tips:

  • Look to see if a team has a weakness that can be exploited.For example, if a team has poor play at right offensive tackle, an opponent with a strong pass rush from that side of the field can exploit it. Just one small mismatch like that can give even an inferior team a major edge.
  • Watch out for how players are responding to injuries.If there’s a key player who is coming off being hurt and missing some actions, you should focus on how they look on the field. In some cases, their stats might not be true reflections of their actual status.
  • Watch for intangible signs of strength or weakness.When you’re watching the game, you can spot things like a team’s energy level, effort, and chemistry. All of those factors can be much harder to pin down when all you’re using is stats.

Don’t be surprised if you watch the games and find a lot of your theories about specific teams validated by the stats. But there are times when you can find nuance in the video that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. Since oddsmakers might not have the time to watch games as closely as you do (since they have to deal with so many games), these telltale signs can often be the springboard to successful football betting strategies.

Other Key Aspects of NFL Handicapping

The game itself may come down to blocking and tackling, but NFL betting strategy is anything but simple. Key factors include line movement, trends, distinguishing playoff handicapping from regular-season analysis, and of course Super Bowl handicapping.

Statistical Analysis

While we wouldn’t recommend it, you could conceivably devise a football betting strategy without ever watching a single game. Many bettors that the numbers don’t lie. If you base your bets solely on statistical analysis, one major advantage is that you’ll prevent any unconscious biases to enter your thought process and you should get a pure take on the game.

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The hard part about using statistical analysis when making football wagers is deciding which ones to use. If you look deep enough into it, your head might spin. Your goal should be locating the stats that are real difference-makers when it comes to football matchups.

Here are a few of the stats that we think you should consider checking out:

  • Yards per play:If you focus too much on total yardage, you can get fooled by games when teams ran a lot of plays (or maybe a little.) Stick with yards per play, both on offense and defense, and you’ll get a true sense of how efficient a team has been.
  • Time of possession:This is an underrated stat and can certainly be skewed by circumstance in an individual game. But if you follow a team’s time of possession game after game, you’ll start to see how well they keep the ball out of their opponents’ hands on offense and how quickly their defense gets off the field. Putting those two skills together consistently tends to translate to football success.
  • Penalties:Teams that commit a lot of penalties will put undue pressure on themselves with their careless actions. Do that enough and it’s bound to start to reflect in adverse game conditions. By contrast, teams that don’t commit many penalties can benefit from their composure.
  • Sack percentage:One good measure of a team’s ability to dominate on defense is how many times it sacks the quarterback compared to how many times an opposing team drops back to pass. The flipside of that is how well a team can protect the quarterback. In an era of football, both college and pro, where the passing game is king, these skills are must-haves for teams who want to be successful.


One thing you always want to be careful about when using statistical analysis as a football betting strategy is to make sure it’s a stat that isn’t based too much on luck. For example, turnovers are often a stat that varies wildly from year to year by team, suggesting that it isn’t a reliable measurement. Also, make sure that the sample size you’re basing your bets on is large enough to be trusted.

NFL Betting: Line Movement Analysis

Line movement analysis is the technique of understanding why a moneyline, point spread, or point total has moved from the original lines set by the sportsbook.

A moneyline or a point spread will be adjusted if casinos notice heavy betting action focused on one of the two teams squaring off. Sportsbooks prefer balanced action that assures the house of a profit. However, it is important to determine whether lines are moving due to public bias or actual handicapping factors. An injury to a quarterback should cause a line to move in a logical direction, while a rush of bets on the Dallas Cowboys may cause odds to change for no other reason than the popularity of America’s Team.

Handicapping the NFL Playoffs vs. the Regular Season

Understanding the differences in handicapping the playoffs vs. the regular season is an important step toward having a winning record in your NFL betting hobby.

For instance, players who suffer mild injuries may ride the bench out of caution in Week 7 or Week 10. But a key performer who is nursing a painful but not prohibitive injury will likely be pressed into duty in a postseason contest.

Handicapping the Super Bowl

If handicapped carefully by the NFL betting enthusiast, the Super Bowl can be a profitable gambling opportunity. Millions of people place wagers on the Super Bowl, and the method of “betting against the public” is never more relevant than in February.

Check out the links below for a more detailed look into NFL betting and handicapping.

Further Reading on Topic

Preseason, In-Game, and Halftime Betting

NFL betting on summer preseason games is a vastly different animal than in the autumn and winter. Futures bets may be placed on teams still in training camp, but it’s moneyline and point spread betting in which the difference is stark.

Gambling on an NFL team in the preseason can be infuriating due to star players sitting out, coaches calling “test” plays instead of trying to score, and rookie punters and kickers shanking the football wide of the uprights or out of bounds. However, the preseason can also be a solid betting opportunity for the sports gambler whose knowledge of training camp rosters exceeds his peers.

In-game betting is also known as “live” or “in-play” betting. Many sportsbooks offer NFL betting lines that are adjusted during a Sunday contest. If an underdog scores the first 2 touchdowns of the game, the moneyline which was originally set with their opponent as the strong favorite will likely be “flipped” with the former underdog now the favorite.

Halftime betting gives the bookie and bettor each an opportunity to reconsider the contest for a few minutes before moving forward. A sportsbook may choose to close live betting temporarily while new lines are set with the likely 2nd-half outcome in mind. But the most important halftime adjustments are made in NFL locker rooms.

Take a look at the pages below for more.

Forecasting Lines and Score Prediction

Sportsbooks won’t set odds on an upcoming NFL game until both teams have no in-between contests on their schedule. But the savvy sports bettor doesn’t let a measly Patriots vs. Jets laugher get in the way of handicapping a solid wager. Gamblers can forecast lines by making educated guesses as to what the moneyline and point spread numbers will be when markets open on Monday afternoon.

Long-term weather forecasts can tighten a moneyline and lower the O/U total. When heavy rain or snow is expected to make handling the football, running routes, and even blocking more difficult, expect bookies and professional handicappers to predict a low-scoring game.

Surf to the link below to read more about how forecasting lines and score prediction can help NFL betting enthusiasts beat the sportsbook.

Turnover Chart and Analysis

Turnover charts help handicappers and bettors analyze which NFL franchises, coaching staffs, and rosters are best at protecting the football and forcing opponents to turn it over.

Over time, a plus-turnover ratio will result in excellent season records and playoff wins. The New England Patriots have a sparkling long-term turnover chart – we rest our case!

Click below for a deeper look into using turnover charts to help produce more NFL betting wins.

Football Betting Systems

In addition to picking one team to beat the other (or cover the spread), a big part of wagering strategy is developing a football betting system. Again, there is no right way or wrong way to make this happen. But it’s a good idea to come up with some sort of discipline when making your bets so that you don’t get too carried away.

Some football betting systems examples include:

  • Arbitrage Betting
  • Value Betting
  • Diversification

Let’s investigate each of these systems a bit more closely to find out what they entail and if any of them might be a good fit for you.

Arbitrage Betting

We’re not going to lie to you: Arbitrage betting is not our favorite football betting strategy. Your margin for error is slim, you need big betting limits if you want to make significant profits, and betting sites won’t take too kindly to you doing it. But it does hold the distinction of being a sure thing winner if you can pull it off correctly.

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For Example

Arbitrage works when a moneyline moves in a certain way. As an example, let’s say there is a football game where a favorite is listed at -110 at one site. Meanwhile, the underdog in the same game is listed at +115 on another site.

Conceivably, you could bet both sides and break out even (if the favorite wins) or make a small profit (if the underdog wins.) This kind of nickel-and-dime method of eking out a profit seems to us to be more work than it’s worth, especially because one miscalculation can end up wiping out about a dozen games of profit. But we wanted to mention it to you just in case it was something that interested you.

Value Betting

With value betting, you’re only making wagers when you feel that the risk that you’re taking is compensated by your possible reward. This is a much more selective style of football betting system, but one that can be quite effective if you have the patience. With value betting, knowing when to lay off is just as important as knowing when to pull the trigger and make a bet.

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For Example

Let’s say you feel pretty confident that a favorite is going to win a football game between two teams, but they’re listed at -450. The profit might not be worth it compared to what you would lose if they don’t win the game. But if their odds dropped to, say, -250, you might feel that the value is now where you want it to be.

You can also use value betting in other football wagers, such as futures and props. For example, if you like two guys above all else to win the NFL Most Valuable Player at the start of the season, but your budget will only allow you to make a bet. If one of those players has longer odds than the others, a value betting system would tell you to take the one who could give you more profit.


This is a technique known to those of you who play the stock market. The idea behind diversification when it comes to football betting tips is that placing many different types of bets minimizes risk while strengthening the potential of high returns. You need to spread your betting budget around to make it work.

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For Example

One week you might balance out several bets on favorites to win with a few long-shot props. Or you might decide to bet on a few long shots in the Super Bowl futures betting market while also taking a few of the favorites. If you hit on the surer things at a high percentage, it will help bankroll some of the long-shot chances.

If you think of betting on football as an investment, diversification is a great way to go about it. You still have to be somewhat successful with the picks you make for it to work. But using the math of diversification to your advantage could raise your profits higher than what you would make if you were wagering without a plan in place.


We’ve only scratched the surface of all of the factors weighed into serious NFL handicapping. It’s a complicated study for even the dedicated and knowledgeable pro football fan.

But remember, sportsbooks don’t have the resources or time to investigate 2-deep roster, statistical trends, and matchups as closely as a determined bettor with a laptop.

Focus on one game at a time and beat the casino’s house bookie with in-depth analysis, common sense…and an understanding of handicapping.


Jim Beviglia
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About Jim Beviglia
Jim Beviglia has been a gambling writer at since 2018. During that time, he’s written just about every type of article related to gambling, including reviews of betting sites, guides to popular casino games, betting tips on both casino and sports betting, sports and casino blog posts, and game picks. In addition to online gambling, one of Jim’s other major interests is music. He has been doing freelance work for various music sites and magazines for two decades. Among his outlets past and present are American Songwriter, VinylMePlease, Treble, and The Bluegrass Situation. Jim has also written five books on music that were published by Rowman & Littlefield.