Conquering the Gridiron: A Beginner’s Guide to Smart NFL Betting

Published 10:58 am Thursday, March 21, 2024

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Every Sunday, football fans around the world unite around the love of the game. The NFL transforms into a coliseum of cheers, incredible come-from-behind wins and heart-stopping final drives. For some fans, though, the thrill goes beyond the roar of the crowd. Betting, by its very nature, adds a strategic layer, turning every touchdown pass and field goal kick into a potential source of bragging rights among friends, and for lucky bettors, a boost to their bankroll.

Back to Basics: Understanding Common Bet Types

Let’s avoid getting ahead of ourselves and studying strategy too soon without first mastering the foundations. Here are three of the most common bet types you’re likely to encounter:

Moneyline: If you’re new to betting, this is probably the best way to dip your toes in the water. It’s a simple bet: you pick the team you expect (or hope) to win. Deciphering the odds can be tricky, at least at first, for the uninitiated. But here’s the gist: A negative (-) sign denotes the team experts expect to win (the favorite), and a positive (+) sign will accompany the odds for the team expected to lose (the underdog).

A negative sign, in this case, tells you the amount someone needs to wager to win $100, while a positive sign illustrates how much someone would win if their $100 bet is successful. Consider this example with the Chiefs and Broncos. With Patrick Mahomes lining up under center, Kansas City is the clear favorite at -200 odds to defeat Denver as they work toward a rebuild. This means bettors would need to wager $200 to win $100 on Mahomes and Co. On the other hand, a $100 bet on the Broncos to win at +180 underdogs could potentially return $180 in profit.

Point Spread: With some bets, it comes down to how close a game is. In this case, AI-powered NFL betting lines can prove incredibly useful in helping to predict accurate scores. It’s common to hear discussions about teams “covering the spread.” This kind of wager is essentially guided by the margin of victory, with oddsmakers giving the favorite a point value (the spread) that represents the number of points they are anticipated to win by.

If the Los Angeles Rams (-7) have a 7-point advantage over the Arizona Cardinals, then for someone to succeed in their bet, the Rams must achieve victory with more than a 7-point difference. A score of 21-10 would mean that the bet is successful. But, if you think the Cardinals (+7) will win or lose by fewer than 7 points, and, let’s say Rams win 27-24; this means the Cardinals have covered the spread and your bet is a good one.

Over/Under: An NFL betting line where bettors can speculate on whether the total combined score of both teams in a game will be over or under a predetermined figure set by the sportsbook is called an over-under bet, often known as a totals bet.

The over/under for total points scored in last year’s Super Bowl between the 49ers and Chiefs was 47.5. With San Francisco leading 10-3 at halftime, fans who bet on the under must have been ecstatic. But a higher-scoring second half and an extra period of overtime saw the teams closing in on the totals. The final score was Chiefs 25, 49ers 22, for a total of 47 points. Fans on both sides of that bet must have been sweating!

Level Up Your NFL Betting Game: Pro Tips for Beginners

Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s turn you into a betting boss! Here are some killer strategies to make your Sundays even more exciting:

Become a Football Fanatic: It’s not enough to sort of understand the game you’re betting on. Since knowledge is the ultimate asset in making predictions, you should scour past game statistics, stay informed of injuries and suspensions, and look at head-to-head matchups of the teams you plan on wagering on. Put the NFL Network on your favorites list and at the very least, tune into NFL GameDay for exclusive interviews and All-Pro analysis. If you know a quarterback is getting his first NFL start against a tough defense, temper your expectations for his performance. Once you start diving into research, you may be surprised to find just how much fun it is.

Shop Like a Champ: At one sportsbook, a team may have +200 odds and another may have the same team at +300 odds. The tip here is to not settle for the first sportsbook you stumble across. Savvy bettors know the value of shopping around and comparing various lines to maximize their potential winnings. You should do the same.

Be a Smart Spender: Decide on a wagering budget and adhere to it strictly. Think about using a unit system, in which every wager represents a predetermined portion of your bankroll (e.g., 1–5%). This prevents you from going crazy and keeps things under control.

Tame the Betting Beast: All the research and time invested in knowing the ins and outs of odds and various stats mean nothing if you let your emotions rule your betting decisions. It’s easier said than done, but stay disciplined and committed to your strategy and research. If your hometown team is the Cardinals and they’re up against the 49ers, think twice about putting your money on Arizona just because you want them to win.

Start Small, Dream Big: Test the waters first with small bets spread across multiple games before diving in and putting your whole bankroll on a single game. This will help you determine how much risk you’re willing to take. You’re still playing for real money, but if the bets aren’t as big, you won’t be discouraged as you learn more about betting.