NFL Betting Explained (2020)
Learn more about NFL betting and everything else you need to know about USA number one sport.
Table of Content:
Introduction to NFL Betting
Born out of a mix of Football (Soccer) and Rugby in the last century, the first ever game of American Football was played between two US colleges, Princeton and Rutgers, in 1869. Looking not very much like today’s version, the game evolved over time into America’s number one sport with a growing international following to boot.
The game plays with 11 players on each team and the action unfolds over four 15 minute quarters. Teams score 6 points for a touchdown, 3 points for a field goal and can kick, run or pass for extra points after a touchdown.
A touchdown is when the attacking side carries the ball over the designated line or end zone and touches the floor with the ball. Touchdowns happen when attacking players run with the ball until tackled or throw the ball downfield to a team mate who carries the ball over.
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- Buffalo Bills (Colours: Red, White and Blue / Stadium: New Era Field)
- Miami Dolphins (Colours: Turquoise and White / Stadium: Hard Rock Stadium)
- New York Jets (Colours: Green and White / Stadium: MetLife Stadium)
- New England Patriots (Colours: Red, White and Blue / Stadium: Gillette Stadium)
- Baltimore Ravens (Colours: Gold, White and Blue / Stadium: M&T Bank Stadium)
- Cincinnati Bengals (Colours: Orange, White and Black / Stadium: Paul Brown Stadium)
- Cleveland Browns (Colours: Orange, White and Black / Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (Colours: Yellow, White and Black / Stadium: Heinz Field)
- Houston Texans (Colours: Red, White and Blue / Stadium: NRG Stadium)
- Indianapolis Colts (Colours: White and Blue / Stadium: Lucas Oil Stadium)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (Colours: White and Black / Stadium: TIAA Bank Field)
- Tennessee Titans (Colours: White and Blue / Stadium: Nissan Stadium)
- Denver Broncos (Colours: Orange, White and Blue / Stadium: Empower Field at Mile High)
- Kansas City Chiefs (Colours: Red and White / Stadium: Arrowhead Stadium)
- Los Angeles Chargers (Colours: Yellow, White and Blue / Stadium: Dignity Health Sports Park)
- Oakland Raiders (Colours: White and Black / Stadium: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum)
- Dallas Cowboys (Colours: White and Blue / Stadium: AT&T Stadium)
- New York Giants (Colours: Red, White and Blue / Stadium: MetLife Stadium)
- Philadelphia Eagles (Colours: Green, White and Black/ Stadium: Lincoln Financial Field)
- Washington Redskins (Colours: Red, White and Gold / Stadium: FedExField)
- Chicago Bears (Colours: Orange, White and Blue / Stadium: Soldier Field)
- Detroit Lions (Colours: Silver, White and Blue / Stadium: Ford Field)
- Green Bay Packers (Colours: Green, White and Yellow / Stadium: Lambeau Field)
- Minnesota Vikings (Colours: Purple, White and Yellow / Stadium: U.S. Bank Stadium)
- Atlanta Falcons (Colours: Red, White and Black / Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
- Carolina Panthers (Colours: Black, White and Blue / Stadium: Bank of America Stadium)
- New Orleans Saints (Colours: Black and Gold / Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Superdome)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Colours: Red, White and Black / Stadium: Raymond James Stadium)
- Arizona Cardinals (Colours: Red and White / Stadium: University of Phoenix Stadium)
- Los Angeles Rams (Colours: Gold, White and Blue / Stadium: LA Memorial Coliseum)
- San Francisco 49ers (Colours: Red, White and Gold / Stadium: Levi's Stadium)
- Seattle Seahawks (Colours: Gold, White and Blue / Stadium: CenturyLink Field)
The NFL was first established in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association with only ten sides participating and all recruited from just four states. Two years later the league took its current moniker and from those original ten sides, only two remain and even they have different names. The Decatur Staleys and the Chicago Cardinals are now more famously known as The Bears and The Arizona Cardinals respectively, while The Green Bay Acme Packers are the oldest NFL franchise still calling their original location home.
In the past century, The NFL has seen more than its fair share of legendary performers, all-star winning coaches and great nights in historic arenas but which are the greatest of all time?
Most Successful Franchises in NFL History
Despite the fact the Raiders haven't qualified for the postseason since 2002, such was their dominance before the shallow years that they still make the top five successful franchises in NFL history. For an entire decade between 1967 to 1977 the Raiders made the playoffs in all but one season and picked up their first Super Bowl in 1976. Within seven years they had scooped a further two Super Bowls to sit alongside their five Conference titles and 15 Division titles.
New York Giants
With four Super Bowls, the Giants have enjoyed success throughout NFL history, making NFL championship game appearances in each decade from the 20’s through 60’s. And while the 70’s saw some barren years, they still won the Super Bowl in 1986, 1990, 2007 and 2011 which go nicely next to four Pre-Super Bowl championships and 11 Conference titles.
New England Patriots
In the 18 years between 2001 through 2018, The Pats won 16 of their 20 Division titles which is almost unmatched in professional sport let alone American Football. Throw in another six Super Bowl wins and a further 11 Conference titles and you begin to see why the Patriots are one of the greatest franchises in world sport.
Since 1970, the Steelers have the best record in Football, winning the most games and earning the best winning percentage. They have also scooped 23 Divisional titles and six Super Bowl titles while winning 10 out of 16 division titles plus another eight Conference titles. That’s a record that speaks for itself.
Green Bay Packers
Established in 1919, the Green Bay Packers have, over the past century, amassed 17 Division titles, nine Conference titles, nine Pre-Super Bowl championships and four Super Bowl titles. Even the Super Bowl trophy itself is named after the man who coached the Packers to all those titles, the legendary Vince Lombardi.
|New England Patriots||6||20||11|
|San Francisco 49ers||5||19||6|
|New York Giants||4||22||11|
|Green Bay Packers||4||18||9|
During a 13-year career, Payton missed only one game which gives you some idea as to the type of player he was. Nicknamed Sweetness due to his off field persona, on the pitch Payton refused to concede an inch, punishing defenders with his plays for The Bears. He finally hung up his boots in 1987 but has never and will never be forgotten.
49ers star Joe Montana was the most decorated quarterback of his generation in the NFL having retired winning four Super Bowls, eight Pro Bowls and making the NFL’s All-Pro team an astonishing five times. In 1990 he was named MVP of the league for the second year straight, while he was also named MVP of the Super Bowl three times before retirement came calling in 1994.
Tom Brady is another quarter back with a CV to make his rivals sweat with jealousy. This is a man who, over the past 20 plus years, has scooped five Super Bowls, four Super Bowl MVPs, two NFL MVPs and twelve Pro Bowls which makes for a truly blessed career spent almost entirely with the New England Patriots. What’s more, during that time, Brady has made seven Super Bowl appearances in 16 NFL seasons, a stat that speaks for itself.
Widely considered to be the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, record breaker Rice, who turned out for the 49ers, Raiders and The Seahawks over a 19 year career that ended in 2004, is the highest scoring touchdown scorer in the game’s history. But he’s not done there. Rice is also the all-time leading receptions maker while also receiving almost 22,500 yards, way ahead of his closest challengers. Famed for his attitude and never say die work ethic, Rice never shirked a challenge and never shied when it mattered most which is why he will always be one of the greatest players in the history of the NFL.
Jim Brown, of the Cleveland Browns, was a monstrous freak of nature of a player and we mean that in the nicest possible way. Weighing in at 230 lbs and standing over 6 ft 2 high, Brown was unplayable throughout his career which, surprisingly and sadly, only lasted nine seasons. During that time, and using his considerable gifts from god, Brown was bigger, faster, and stronger than the competition, amassing eight rushing titles among his many, many records.
Collecting two Super Bowls and six Conference Championships, Don Shula was a 60’s master of the NFL as he took charge of The Colts and then The Dolphins. He had chances to win more too and could even be forgiving for holding a clenched fist up at the sky and cursing the fates that saw Johnny Unitas struck down by injury in the 1965 divisional round forcing Shula into a reshuffle that ultimately saw his Colts side unable to see out a win against The Packers. By the end of his time coaching, Shula had won more games than any other NFL coach.
49ers legend Bill Walsh masterminded three Super Bowl wins on his way to legendary status back in the 70’s. Quite rightly accepted as a reformer and a pioneer, Walsh’s brilliant take on the game came about by way of necessity originally when, as assistant with The Bengals, he designed an offense of three-step drops, quick reads and short throws by way of overcoming a team injury crisis that would later on carry his teams to many famous wins when he got his big break in San Francisco. Throughout his career thereafter, that short passing philosophy was his stock in trade and redefined the game.
Before founding the Cleveland Browns, Paul Brown devised the playbook while still working as a high school coach. In a career that would later see him coaching Ohio State and developing his football philosophy while serving during World War II, Brown did perhaps more than anyone to develop the game we know today, from naming a franchise after himself to devising the 40-yard dash. He really was an incredible man with an influence over the game like no one else before or since. That he achieved it all so young is even more remarkable. Oh, and you can throw in three NFL Championships and four AAFC Championship wins too!
Lombardi is quite rightly regarded as one of the greatest football coaches of all time as evidenced by his all-conquering Green Bay Packers which swept aside all before them during the 1960s. Scooping two Super Bowl wins and a further three NFL Championships, Vince served for five years as assistant coach for the New York Giants where he played a critical role in the Giants’ success over each of those five years, culminating with the league championship in 1956, after which The Packers came calling and the rest is history.
The most decorated coach in the game, Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots has collected an incredible five Super Bowl and seven AFC Championships. He didn’t get there immediately however, working first as the Bill Parcells' defensive strategist with The Giants, before tanking as the head coach of The Browns. After going back to the drawing board, her redefined his game when he took up his ultra successful job with The Pats that have dominated for a generation.
AT&T Stadium, Dallas Cowboys
The 100,000 seater AT&T Stadium, with a retractable roof and gigantic video board, is located in Arlington, Texas and opened in 2009.
CenturyLink Field, Seattle Seahawks
Hosting soccer games as well as football, CenturyLink is generally accepted to be the loudest stadium in the NFL, especially when this downtown Seattle venue is at full 68,740 capacity.
U.S. Bank Stadium, Minnesota Vikings
Built in 2016, the U.S. Bank Stadium is a modern venue that puts others to shame. This indoor, glass and metallic cultural highlight holds 66,655 people making it a true symbol of Minnesotan pride.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta Falcons
Complete with a floating, circular video board, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium is home to The Falcons, while also serving as home of Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer. When the former play, the pitch gives way to allow up to 71,000 fans inside.
Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers
Opening in 1957, Lambeau Field, named after founder, player and coach, Curly Lambeau, is a classic stadium that harks back to the games’ golden age. Set outdoors on Green Bay’s notoriously cold frosty shores (see below), this historical old ground is located on Lombardi Avenue, named in honour of former head coach Vince Lombardi
Green Bay Packers V Dallas Cowboys: Dec. 31, 1967
Taking place on 1967’s last day, this classic match was christened the Ice Bowl as the game was played between the two of the league's most recognisable teams and took place in arctic conditions as the winter of December’s final day blew in off Lake Michigan. Players suffered while Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry played out their chess match on the side of the pitch before Lombardi ordered a final drive by Bart Starr to win the tie outright rather than tie the game and force a horrid frozen overtime that frankly nobody other than the fans really wanted.
Miami Dolphins V Kansas City Chiefs: Dec. 25, 1971
This Christmas Day classic is still the longest NFL game ever played at 82 minutes and 40 seconds and while The Dolphins came out on top, 27-24, it was The Chiefs who had raced into 10-0 lead and held good for a holiday win. But Miami fought back in the second quarter to draw the game level before almost allow The Chiefs back in for the win in standard time only to see them miss a game-winning field goal. Extra time proved to be just as wasteful, only this time for both teams before The Dolphins clinched the win in the second overtime.
Denver Broncos V Cleveland Browns: Jan. 11, 1987
In one of the most iconic games in NFL history, TV replays showed what in-play video reviews did not and that’s that the winning goal, struck by Broncos’ Rich Karlis, went wide of the posts instead of over them to deny Browns a place in the Superbowl. What’s worse, the miss hit shot was launched as part of a play that started with only 5:32 left on the clock.
San Diego Chargers V Miami Dolphins: Jan. 2, 1982
Every so often you get a sporting contest where all involved play so well that no one involved deserves to lose. Such was the case with this 80’s classic that led to Sports Illustrated labelling it The Game No One Should Have Lost. Although The Chargers stormed into a 21-0 lead, The Dolphins fought back to only lose by 41-38.
Baltimore Colts V New York Giants: Dec. 28, 1958
The first NFL game to be broadcast live on TV, the networks really couldn’t have selected a better match to run with. Featuring the legendary Johnny Unitas starting at quarterback for the Colts, Unitas got the ball with a few minutes left to play before embarking on a two-minute drill that saved the game for his team with seconds left to play and mark the first overtime in NFL championship history. In added time, The Colts repeated the trick to win the game 23-17.
Popular NFL Betting
While traditionally, NFL has struggled to make a mainstream breakthrough in Europe where massively popular sports already exist, NFL betting is becoming increasingly popular outside of the United States which, in turn, means that the game has a growing audience this side of the ocean.
If any further proof was needed, NFL fixtures are taking in place in London each season and there have even been whispers of a London franchise being created in the future, so the outlook for the game looks very bright indeed.
Overseas fixtures only make up a fraction of the regular season games but national television networks across Europe have picked up the broadcasting rights so more and more fans watching are watching NFL at home making now the perfect time to learn about NFL betting.
Betting against the spread, or spread betting, is the most popular type of betting in the NFL. For those unfamiliar with spread betting what this essentially means is that a set number of points has been established pre-match by the bookmakers and it's up to the bettors to decide where to lay their money. Do you think that the favourites will win by more or less than the bookmakers suggest, or will the underdogs lose by more or less than the number of points proposed by the oddsmakers?
The Money Line is essentially betting on who will win, or lose, the game just as we do in when betting on other sports.
This is basically American for accumulator. Pick upwards of two winning selections for a larger payout.
Totals NFL betting works by calculating how many combined points will be scored by both teams during the game. Bookmakers propose an option to bet on whether or not the total points will be either over or under the totals mark and you bet against it, similar to the spread.
Above we have outlined the more common NFL betting markets but there are many, many more offered by bookmakers that bettors can consider. Because of the nature of a match being divided four ways, punters can bet on specific markets within any of the game’s quarters, first and second half, or touchdown scorers.
Also, there are season long outright wagers that you can lay, such as season win totals for individual NFL teams, division champions and, of course, the big one; Super Bowl winner and most valuable player recipient.
Another way to bet on the NFL is live betting, often referred to as in-play betting where bettors can watch a game unfold for one, two, or three quarters and place their bets using real time odds.
Things to consider on NFL betting
There are so many factors that can influence a game that experienced bettors will always take into account when laying money on an outcome. Remember the Ice Bowl match at Lambeau Field we told you about earlier? Well, how would freezing temperatures effect your picks? Also, consider the impact that playing at home versus away will have on the result.
Is there a personal issue, or reported slight injury to a star player that could sway the result? These are all factors you may want to take into account.
For the really studious, you could consider putting together a stats pack of information such as a team’s strengths and weaknesses in order to calculate who will have the advantage on any given Sunday, thus allowing you to develop the perfectly informed NFL betting strategy.
Can I bet on the NFL?
Yes, you can and what’s more there are loads of options for you to choose from.
How does NFL betting work?
Betting on the NFL is simple and works exactly the same way as betting on the Soccer or Rugby for example. Players can place accumulators, simple singles or season long bets that pay when the trophies are handed out.
What is the most popular way to bet on the NFL?
The most popular way to bet on the NFL is spread betting also known as betting against the spread.
How do I bet on the NFL?
You can place your bets on the NFL in the same you would if you were betting on soccer. Pick your selection, add it to your betting slip and place the bet.
Can I bet on my mobile phone?
Of course, these days more and more people bet through their smartphones and bookmakers provide their sites to work on desktop, laptop, tablets and mobiles on either Android or iOS.
Can I watch live NFL matches?
The answer you are looking for is yes, there are loads of ways to watch your favourite NFL matches. Many European broadcasters have bought the rights to broadcast events so you can watch the action take place from the comfort of your own home.
So now you know how to bet and who you are betting on, from the teams involved to the traditions and histories they are playing for. This is great news as now you will be able to join in the conversations, online or in person, that are becoming increasingly common place now that the game is picking up some serious traction this side of the Atlantic making it attractive for bookmakers to offer even more opportunities to bet on this great sport.
This is why regular season games are increasingly taking place in Europe and there have even been mooted suggestions that London may one day be the home of its own NFL franchise. Watch this space.