Football Wagering

As far as wagering is concerned, football is king! Over 40% of all wagers a sports book takes are from people who bet on NFL Football. Few sports give their adoring fans as many long weekends as football, with college and professional games running from Thursday through Monday night during most weeks of the season.

Running the Lines

As you learned before, the most popular football wagers are based on the point spread, in which the favorite team gives up points to the opposing team. When you bet a side, you're not actually wagering that your team will win, but on whether it will cover the point spread. You can also wager on the total, which is whether the total number of points scored by both teams during the game will be over or under a given number, or on the money line, which is the outcome of the game with no points involved. We'll explain each type of football wager as we show you how the posted line is read from an average sports book. A typical line reads like this:

New York Giants +3.5 (-120) +140 O/U 46 (-110)
Washington Redskins -3.5 (Even) -160

The top team is always the road team. The bottom team is always the home team. The +3.5 means that the Giants are a 3.5 point underdog, or more than a field goal. The (-120) next to that indicates that you will need to wager $120 to win $100. The +140 is the money line (which team will win without a point spread) which means you can win $140 by betting $100. The O/U is the over/under or total points scored in the game. If 47 points are scored by the two teams combined, the total is OVER; 45 points or less and the total is UNDER. You will need to bet $110 on the total in order to win $100. The -3.5 means the Redskins are a 3.5 point favorite. The (Even) means that you will win the same amount that you wager. The -160 means that you have to wager $160 in order to win $100 for Washington to win the game.

Parlays and Teasers

A Parlay is a wager on a group of two or more selections combined into one bet. For the parlay to be a winner, all individual selections within the parlay must win. A teaser is a popular form of parlay where additional points are either added to the underdog or subtracted from the favorite to make the wager more attractive. Except for selected special teasers, ties don't lose, they push or reduce down within the wager.

Here's an example of how a parlay works: suppose you want to bet on three games. The odds on a three-team parlay are 6 to 1 which means for every $10 you wager, you win $60 and return $70 if all three teams cover the spread. Parlays are extremely popular wagers among sports bettors because not only don't they have to lay a price, but they are in fact, getting odds. The more teams you select in your parlay, the higher the payoff odds. One very important thing to keep in mind; those big payoff odds come with an additional measure of jeopardy. The higher the return, the greater the risk. Parlays can be an excellent way to turn small money into big money, but always keep in mind the odds you have to overcome.

As we stated above, with a teaser you select two or more different teams, and each team has to beat a lesser spread for you to win your bet. Teaser bets are popular because sport books give you additional points over the regular point spread, usually 6, 61/2, or 7 points. For example, if Michigan is favored by 10 points over Iowa, a 6-point teaser would make Michigan -4 or Iowa +16. These adjusted point spreads obviously make it easier to pick winners, but the payoff odds are far less than you would receive with a parlay involving the same number of teams.

Handicapping Football Totals

Linemakers use the points-for (PF) and points-against (PA) for each team (along with other information) to set the totals. Here's how you can use the PF and PA to decide whether you think it's worth betting over or under a posted total. Most of the football statistics you need are listed in your local paper under NFL standings. Here's an example of what a match up between the Giants and the Redskins might look like:

Giants (1-2) PF 58 PA 77
Redskins (1-2) PF 81 PA 64

From this information, you can calculate the average PF to date by dividing each team's PF by the total number of games played. Then do the same for the PA. Add the PF and PA averages to get the average total points per game.

Giants Avg PF 19.33 Avg PA 25.66 - Total PPG 44.99
Redskins Avg PF 27.00 Avg PA 21.33 - Total PPG 48.33

When you add the two averages up and divide by 2 (two teams playing), you get 46.66. The line for the over/under is set at 46 at some sportsbooks and 46.5 at others. This is why some people stay away from total betting. There doesn't seem to be any advantage to taking either side. However, you can find match ups that are favorable to one side or the other of that total. This is why you should look at the stats including: defense against the run vs. offensive running game, passing offense vs. pass defense, definsive line vs. offensive line, etc.

Of course, you need to take into consideration a lot more information to win on a consistent basis, but this is a good start (besides, doing the research is half the fun, right?). When you're analyzing all of the latest information you have available, remember that the linemakers have already factored in most of what you have discovered.

For example, they'll usually add two to three points for the home team advantage. Although it's not obvious in the point spread for this game, without Detroit's home-team advantage, Dallas might have been favored by six points. Injuries are another critical factor that linemakers and professional handicappers figure in, and you can, too. Key player injuries can swing the point spread one to five points, depending on the position they play, their value to the team, and the quality of their replacements.

Some teams are very deep in personnel in some positions and very weak in others (meaning that one team might rely on a particular running back or defensive lineman, but could replace anyone else who gets injured). It helps to know the strengths and weaknesses of the teams you bet on, so you can anticipate how they will be exploited during the game.