What Are The Most Common Football Bets?

playia best NFL bets

Whether it’s the pro or college game, football is a huge attraction at online sportsbooks. Now that legal sports betting is available in Iowa, we can all enjoy the fall and winter months a little more.

There are plenty of games to consider each week. All NFL games will attract lots of wagering interest, and the same holds true for the marquee college games. As for bets, there are lots of ways to get in on the action.

In this guide to the most common football bets, we’ll show you how they all work. We’ll explain what the odds board is telling you, and also leave you with some handicapping tips that you can use.

How do betting lines work in football?

The standard football betting line is the same for the NFL wagers and college football bets. You’ll see the team names listed with the road team on top and the home side on the bottom. Keep in mind that there will be the occasional neutral-site matchup to contend with.

Next to the clubs will be the odds and lines for the big three bets: moneylines, point spreads and totals. Here’s what NFL odds might look like using an example of the Chicago Bears versus the New Orleans Saints:

Chicago Bears+6.5 (-110)+220O 52.5 (-110)
New Orleans Saints -6.5 (-110)-300 U 52.5 (-110)

For this matchup, the Saints are 6.5-point favorites and favored on the moneyline in a game with an expected total of 52.5 points. We can tell the favored side by looking at the direction of the numbers: negative for favorites and positive for underdogs.

In this NCAA matchup, Oregon is a slight 2.5-point favorite over Iowa State:

Oregon -2.5 (-110)-140O 59.5 (-110)
Iowa State+2.5 (-110)+120U 59.5 (-110)

The Ducks are also favored on the moneyline in a game with a projected over/under of 59.5 points. For each game on the football docket, you’ll find odds and lines that resemble these examples.

What are the top 3 most popular football bets?

As mentioned, the default listing for football games at sportsbooks features the odds and lines for three specific bet types. There’s a real good reason for that. They’re three of the most popular ways to get in on the action whenever there’s a football game on tap. Let’s take a closer look at this trio of football bet types and what you need to know.

Moneyline

The moneyline bet is simple and easy to understand, making it a great starting point for those new to football betting. You only have to pick which side you think will win the game outright. There will be odds for both teams — negative for favorites and positive for dogs — with the range between the numbers indicating the closeness of the matchup in the eyes of the oddsmaker.

Point spread

The point spread wager is a bit more complicated. A spread is basically an estimated margin of victory that you need to account for when you bet. You can choose the favorite minus the spread or go with the dog plus the points. The side that you pick has to cover the spread for your bet to win. As with the moneyline, the bigger the span between numbers, the bigger the mismatch in the eyes of the sportsbook. Here’s a fictional example:

Totals

This is another popular football bet that is also on the straightforward side. You are wagering on the total combined score of a game. Sportsbooks set the bar with an estimated number. You decide if you think the final total will be over or under that amount. Also known as an over/under, totals for NFL games typically start in the high 30s and go into the upper 50s. NCAA totals can range from the 40s to 60s or more. Here’s a fictional totals bet example:

  • Over 5 (-110)
  • Under 5 (-110)

Other popular football betting markets

In addition to moneylines, point spreads and totals, here are some of the other popular markets for football betting.

Football prop bets

If you click on one of the individual game listings, the doors will open to a whole new range of betting opportunities. Known as prop bets, they’ll give you plenty of options to choose from for each game on the docket. Generally, there are more available on the NFL side than for college football, but you’ll find lots for both.

Prop bets are basically like getting in some side action on the game. They tend to revolve around whether a specific occurrence will or won’t happen during a game. Props can be based on the accomplishments of a player or team, or they could have to do with the game itself. On the player side, you’ll see things like this:

  • Total combined yards for David Montgomery — over/under 94.5?
  • Will Patrick Mahomes throw three or more TDs — yes/no?
  • Who will have more receptions — Justin Jefferson or Davante Adams?

Note that prop bets on individual college athletes are prohibited in Iowa. Team props will be about what happens for both sides, and there will also be some comparisons to choose from. Here’s what the selections might look like:

  • Which side will have more rushing yards — Iowa or Wisconsin?
  • Who will have the lead at halftime — Bills or Titans?
  • Total TDs scored for Iowa State — over/under 4.5?

Last but not least, game-related props will revolve around specific circumstances for the contest as a whole. Examples of these bets include:

  • Will there be a defensive score in the game — yes/no?
  • Will overtime be needed — yes/no?
  • Total combined points at halftime — over/under 30.5?

Player props serve as a great entry point into sports betting for those with fantasy sports experience. The team and game props are great add-ons for those who focus on game results. All in all, props offer even more ways for you to try out football betting.

Football futures bets

All offseason long, football fans look ahead to what the coming season may bring. Now that sports betting is legal in Iowa, you can place your bets on how you think it will all play out. The futures market for football is incredibly active and popular.

There are a number of markets to consider, so there’s a good chance you’ll find something that appeals to you. On the NFL side, the top futures include:

  • Super Bowl winner.
  • Conference and division winners.
  • Teams to make or miss playoffs.
  • Team regular-season win totals.
  • Player award winners — MVP, rookie of the year, etc.

The Super Bowl is the biggest and most active market for football futures, but all of the above will attract a great deal of action. For NCAA football, there’s also lots to be found, such as:

  • National championship winner.
  • Teams to make or miss College Football Playoff.
  • Team to win the conference.
  • Team regular-season win totals.
  • Heisman Trophy

Futures odds come out in the offseason. After the initial release, there’s often a big flurry of activity. That can lead to some movement in the numbers at sportsbooks. That’ll continue throughout the year based on betting action.

The general idea is to find the selections that you’re interested in at the best possible prices. As such, you’ll want to shop around at multiple shops to compare odds. It’s important to remember that futures betting requires a long-range perspective. You can’t cash in winning tickets until the result has been finalized, so budget and wager accordingly.

Football parlay bets

Saturdays are packed with college football games. The same holds true on Sundays with the NFL. The busy slates make for a great time to take some shots with parlay bets. These are wagers in which you include multiple selections on a single betting slip.

The returns can be fantastic, but it’s important to note that multi-leg parlays are tough to hit. Each selection you add to the slip may increase the payout, but the chances of it actually happening will reduce right along with it.

For an example of parlays in action, let’s say it’s an NFL Sunday and you like the following three winners on the moneyline. You’d select all three of your choices and add them to the slip. The sportsbook will then show you the total odds for that parlay. Here are some examples:

  • Buffalo Bills -291 over Indianapolis Colts
  • Los Angeles Rams +145 over Seattle Seahawks
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers -391 over Washington Football Team
  • Total parlay odds: +313

As you can see, the odds for parlays can add up quickly. For your reference, a $25 winning parlay bet at odds of +313 would return a total payout of $103.25. That’s pretty fantastic in comparison to a single-leg bet, hence the appeal of parlays.

Once again, we have to reiterate that big parlays are challenging to hit. There’s nothing wrong with taking a shot with one or two for fun here and there, but be sure to keep your expectations realistic while also making sure you don’t go overboard on the bankroll front.

Football teaser and pleaser bets

The point spread can be a tough nut to crack with football betting. There are plenty of times when a win or loss on a wager was decided by a single point. Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a way for you to get some more control over the actual spread?

There is, and it comes courtesy of teasers and pleasers. These are bets that allow you to move the spread on two or more games by a set number, such as 6, 6.5 or 7 points. On a teaser, you’re making the spread more favorable on your end, and the returns will be adjusted accordingly. For a pleaser, you’re adjusting it in the opposite direction, so you’ll see better potential returns. For example, let’s consider a pair of spreads that you find appealing:

  • Alabama -10.5 over LSU
  • Clemson -14.5 over Virginia Tech

You like the two favorites, but the spread has you feeling skittish. If you make it tighter with a 7-point teaser, you’re looking at lines like this:

  • Alabama -3.5 over LSU
  • Clemson -7.5 over Virginia Tech

At least on paper, the two big favorites will have the easiest time covering these numbers. If you place this wager, your return will be adjusted to match the more favorable conditions. If you went with a 7-point pleaser, the big lines would grow even larger, like this:

  • Alabama -17.5 over LSU
  • Clemson -21.5 over Virginia Tech

Since you’re adding in another touchdown for both favorites to cover, you’re taking more risk. As a result, you could make a great return on this wager if all goes your way. Teasers and pleasers are an intriguing add-on for any football handicapping strategy, but they work like parlays in that you have to be right on all legs to win the bet, so there’s risk involved.

Live betting on football

Live betting, also known as in game betting, is placing wagers in real-time after the game has already started. It’s a fast-moving market in which the odds and offerings will update rapidly throughout the game. Available bets will vary based on what’s happening, but here’s some of what you might see:

  • Updated odds and lines for moneyline, spreads and totals.
  • Various player prop bets.
  • Wagers on snippets of the game, such as on the outcome of a single drive.

The best way to give live betting a try is via a mobile betting app. Platforms from the top sportsbooks are up to the task with odds that update in a flash and payouts that happen in an instant.

Basic strategy for handicapping football games

Getting up to speed with football betting can take a little doing. It’s challenging to get to the point where you can pick consistent winners, but the good news is that the learning curve is far from insurmountable.

If you take the time to learn and absorb while adjusting where needed, there’s a good chance you’ll overcome it. In the interim, here’s a simple five-step handicapping plan that you can use to get started.

  1. Research the odds and lines for the slate of games you’re interested in. The goal is to find a handful of games that you like. Once you have your list, compare the prices at multiple books to get a feel for the market.
  2. Begin analyzing the matchup for each game from top to bottom, but stick to things that really matter. Points for and against over recent games can be a great indicator of how things are going, while yards for and against can point you to strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Get a good feel for the overall sense of the games you are interested in betting on. You can do this by researching where the public money is going and by checking out consensus expert picks, both of which you can find on the internet.
  4. Consider any outside factors that may impact the game itself. Find a good source for news and notes and look for things like player injuries or playing time concerns, coaching issues or potential weather.
  5. Do a final run-through of everything you have researched and make note of where the edges are. When you have a game in which you have lots of checkmarks on one side and a few on the other, you’ve found a good one to look at for betting purposes.

The first few times you go through the above process, it can take some time, but it gets easier the more you do it. Before too long, you’ll have everything streamlined and be ready to go whenever a slate of games is on tap.

After you’ve mastered the basics, you can begin looking at adding more items to the arsenal. For example, you can research how to make your own spread to spot potential advantages and start factoring in betting and situational trends. At the end of the day, the goal is to build a system you can call your own.

Key takeaways on football betting

For the fall and winter months, football rules the day at online sportsbooks. Both the NFL and NCAA attract tons of betting action from the regular season through to the conclusion of the postseason.

There are plenty of games to consider every week, as well as a number of bets that you can place. You can keep it simple at the beginning by focusing on moneyline or props, and then expand down the road as your skills improve.

Additionally, there’s nothing wrong with specializing long-term if you have a specific bet type that you have a knack for. Ultimately, the goal is to turn a profit — and have some fun along the way — so whatever works best for you is the only answer you need.