Betting on the NFL has long been one of American’s favorite pastimes, and following the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the federal ban (PASPA) on sports betting outside Nevada, millions of Americans can now enjoy their hobby legally. In addition to Nevada, a growing list of states now offer legal sports betting online for NFL games as well as at physical sportsbooks covered with walls of TVs and odds boards. Hallelujah!
In what states is NFL betting legal?
The following states currently allow betting on NFL games:
|State||Legal and Live?|
|Illinois||Legal, not live|
|Michigan||Legal, not live|
|Montana||Legal, not live|
|Tennessee||Legal, not live|
|Washington, D.C.||Legal, not live|
Advantages of NFL betting at legal sportsbooks
There is nothing more satisfying than knowing your money is safe. And while 13-team parlays might not be the “safest” way to bet on NFL Sundays, if you do, you’ll at least have the knowledge that your money is safe at a licensed, state-regulated sportsbook.
Of course, it’s possible your state hasn’t gotten around yet to legalized sports betting. (Contact your local elected official!) Maybe the neighboring state has gotten it done, in which case betting with a sportsbook that’s “playing by the rules” is obviously the way to go. A few reasons why:
- Safety: With the amount of horror stories we’ve seen come out of offshore books, betting with state-licensed sportsbooks is clearly a safer way to play. In short: The Better Business Bureau doesn’t give two safeties about the goings-on in the Seychelles. Additionally, as a matter of fraud prevention, the U.S.-based sportsbooks will verify your identity (via address, last four digits of Social Security, security questions) and offer numerous ways to deposit and withdrawal.
- Cashiering: As mentioned above, the legal sportsbooks offer countless ways to deposit and withdrawal funds that simply aren’t offered offshore. PayPal, for instance, is not available for offshore books, but is available for the majority of U.S. regulated sportsbooks. Additionally, depositing through your checking account is available in the U.S. — not so offshore. In fact, it can takes weeks or even months to receive you withdrawals from black market books, which are in the habit of delaying cashouts in the hopes that players will lose it all through continued betting.
- Local promos: Many U.S. regulated sportsbooks offer special hometown promos when betting NFL. For instance, PointsBet once offered weekly “touchdown bonus” offers in New Jersey centered around the Giants, Jets, and Eagles. A $50 spread bet on either of those teams – or the teams they were playing – yielded a $6 per touchdown bonus on the team bet. Also FanDuel in Indiana offered a +101.5 point spread on an Indiana-Michigan State basketball game. $50 max bet but still that’s free money.
- Welcome packages: From free bets to matching deposits, U.S. regulated sportsbooks are eager to get your betting dollar. Some books offer upwards of four-figures in potential bonus money. This can be a very lucrative perk that you don’t want to miss out on.
What is the juice on NFL betting lines?
Almost all legal sportsbooks accept, at the very least, the NFL betting staples: points spreads, moneylines, and totals — with the majority offering much more. For all these bets, -110 is the general baseline, or “10 cents” per side, (although PointsBet has been known to offer -105 as the standard odds on point spread bets). What that means is, if you wager $110, you would win $100. Or wager $11 to win $10, and $55 to win $50, and so forth.
At times, a sportsbook may shade things a bit depending on its exposure, making a game +100 on one side but -120 on the other. Still “20 cents.”
NFL Betting Formats
When it comes to point spreads, anytime a spread is sitting in the 2.5 to 3.5 or 6.5 to 7.5 point range at one sportsbook and you’re interested in a side, it is worth it to immediately check the other books to see where the number is sitting. Often enough, there will be a difference from one book to another, and the line may give you a key number (such as 3 or 7). You may have to pay -115 to get that extra half point (or “buy” the point), but it’s good to have options.
Totals are much the same. Depending on which side you’re taking, it’s worth the time to check the other, competing sportsbooks. While a half point difference from 5 to 5.5 obviously isn’t all that much, it’s something, and you always want to make sure you’re getting the best possible number.
Parlays and teasers
Parlays and teasers – while not the most EV+ ways to bet – certainly are fun. All the sportsbooks offer such bets. Some legal sportsbooks are now pricing out lots of alternate spreads and alternate totals, allowing you to craft “homemade” teasers and parlays by choosing your lines a la carte. So it’s not necessarily a traditional 6- or 7-point teaser, rather, you can choose to take more points or fewer points than that, and the potential payout will be a function of the price of the combined segments.
Live betting on football
Many of the books also offer live or “in-game” wagering, where you can bet spreads, moneyline, and totals as the game progresses. One note: The online sportsbooks are always moving faster than the television, radio, or online feed, so keep in mind there is a possibility you’ll be betting without a full spectrum of information. Usually, the markets close between quarters and at halftime.
Player prop bets remain a softer market for expert handicappers, though the betting limits are usually much lower. There is also a big difference in the amount of props each sportsbook offers. FanDuel has generally offered the most NFL props, with DraftKings on its heels, however it varies from game to game so as always, shop around.
Some sites only offer “over” props (one-way markets), while most others hew to the traditional “over/under.” One big takeaway: Unlike point spreads, moneylines, and totals, player prop bets are not – at least not yet – streamlined. In short: You might find one site offering a yardage over/under 10 or more yards away from a competing site. There is definitely a lot of room to try and game a “middle” between sites.
Futures are offered by most books. Both team (win totals, division winner, Super Bowl winner, etc.) and individual player futures (MVP, yardage leaders, etc.) are available.
Making the most out of NFL bets
As referenced earlier, shopping for lines is very important. That half-point can be the difference between a win, a loss, or a push. Generally speaking, it’s wiser to take the better line at slightly worse odds. Although … on a $100 bet, the difference between -105 and -110 is $4.33. That can add up over time.
Timing is also an integral part to successfully navigate NFL betting. Most sportsbooks put out the following week’s lines Sunday night. Getting the lines you like as quickly as possible at the opening number — before they move — can be a major difference-maker.
Nothing feels quite as nice as picking up a team at -2.5 on Sunday night and seeing that number swell to -4.5 as the week goes on. Additionally – especially on spreads, moneyline, and over/under bets – by the time Sunday morning rolls around, the lines are probably 50/50 across the board. So much action comes in on the NFL, the closing lines are highly efficient. It’s almost a coin toss.
Timing also has an effect on player props. While it’s not often a player prop will change as the week goes on, the line on that prop can swing wildly to one side. Obviously, there’s a big difference in getting a prop at -110 as opposed to -167.
Here’s a handful of some more general tips when it comes to NFL betting:
- Some common sense rules apply to weather. Generally speaking, the better the weather, the better chance of the game playing according to patterns and expectations. In fact, the only weather factor that consistently matters is wind. Once wind speeds start creeping over 15MPH, passing gets hard and scoring starts dropping. Of course, Kevin Roth keeps you posted on this all week over at RotoGrinders’ weather HQ.
- NFL injury reports are probably the most helpful and robust as in any sport. There are three tags: Questionable, Doubtful, and Out. Keeping an eye on news throughout the week is the easiest way to deduce who is “actually” questionable. If a player does not practice all week including on a Friday (ahead of a Sunday game), he’s probably go to miss the game.
- Be aware of NFL teams traveling across the country, specifically west coast teams coming east for 1 p.m. EST games. It’s not a rule to bet against them, but some handle travel better than others. Public perception to such travel may also overreact, creating value on the road team.
- Home field advantage is real in the NFL, with home teams generally doing better, though this is normally baked into the line. Generally speaking, expect a three-point bump for the home team.
How to make in-game bets for the NFL
Spreads, moneyline, and totals are updated throughout NFL games to allow bettors the opportunity to bet while a game is being played out. Some sites have now even started offering a few in-game player props. In-game betting is extremely popular as it allows the action to continue even after placing pre-game wagers.
Some things to consider: The lines generally stay in lockstep with the pre-game lines early on for favorites. For example, if Team A is a 7-point favorite and scores an early touchdown, expect to see the in-game line jump to -13.5. But going the opposite way, early on, will not change the line as dramatically. If the underdog scores first, the line might drop to -4.5 or so.
With player props, game flow prediction is where money can be made. Think a team is going to fall behind? Get the unders on their running back and the overs on their quarterback.
Additionally, the time lag – as mentioned earlier – is real. Not only might you not have complete up-to-date data, also know there is a likely probability the acceptance of your bet can be delayed by 10 or so seconds.
Betting highlights of the NFL season
Obviously, the Super Bowl is a huge betting day, and expect all the books to offer promos of one stripe or another. But clearly, the lines for the big game are going to be hyper-efficient. Truly, the best time to bet NFL is early season. No one knows a whole heck of a lot early in the season, and if you can identify an edge, it’s worth taking it.