Popular NFL Bets Explained

The NFL has long been a favourite market for sports bettors in the US, and growing interest in the sport overseas has led to this being an increasing trend internationally as well with NFL bets now widely available courtesy of international bookmakers like Betfair. When it comes to betting on the NFL, there are three basic ways to do it - namely Money Line, Handicap, and Total Points - and these are by far the most popular markets. Here, we shall talk about each of these in turn, how they work, and the best strategies for getting the best out of them. You can delve more deeply into NFL betting strategy here.

Total Points

As the name suggests, the total points betting market in the NFL is based around the combined number of points that are scored by both teams during the game. This usually takes the form of an over/under bet, where you can bet that the points total either exceeds the specified number, or is below it. So, if you bet that the total points would come in above 40, and the score was 29-17, you would win the bet as the total points would be 46. If, however, the score was 20-17, you would lose.

Popular NFL
Jan 19, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Anthony Dixon (24) dives over the top of the pile for a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks on a fourth down play during the first half of the 2013 NFC Championship football game at CenturyLink Field. Photo courtesy by - Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports.


Handicap betting is the most popular method for speculating on NFL games. As with all team sports, some teams are much stronger than others, and therefore much more likely to win - making the odds for an outright win by the stronger team too narrow to be profitable. What handicap bets do is to level the playing field to counteract the difference in abilities between the teams.

To illustrate, let's imagine that both teams in a fixture have odds associated with a positive or negative score - for example the Dallas Cowboys are offered at 1.8 with a +5 handicap and their opponents the Minnesota Vikings are offered at 2.1 with a -5 handicap.

In this case, a bet on the Cowboys would pay out at odds of 1.8 if they won by five or more points, while a bet on the Vikings would pay out if the won the game or lost by less than five points. So, if the result was 29-17 to the Cowboys, those who had taken the +5 1.8 bet on the Cowboys would win, because the points difference is 12, 7 more than the handicap. If, however, they only won 20-17, those who had taken this bet would lose as the points difference is less than the handicap.

Money Line

This is a two-way market based on the outcome of the game, and its simplicity is key to its popularity. Basically, it is a bet on either side winning the game, and the only thing you need to look out for is what happens if you have a draw. It might be, for example, that two-way win bets are refunded when the game is a draw in regular time, and although the game would then go into over-time, a win bet would only apply to regular time.

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