As one of the most popular sports in the world, the National Football League (NFL) is a massive draw for betters and gamblers worldwide. The parity on the field means that many people get a great chance to make a few bucks. Add in the rather interesting system built around North American sports when it comes to gambling, and this offers something totally different to what you would normally get from other sports.

However, for anyone who has never bet on the NFL before it can seem rather confusing. If you want to make sure that you can use your money wisely on NFL betting, then we highly recommend that you take a look at our simple guide to NFL betting. It should, in the long run, give you all the help that you need to start placing a better standard of bet on the sport.

We’ll give you a brief rundown of the sport and its betting history, as well as some great tips and hints for making a few bucks from the NFL. So, without any delay, let’s get on the field!

NFL History

The NFL has been a mainstay in the sporting world in America for a long, long time. This is a major sporting event in the USA and has been since it was first founded way back in 1920. The sport came to be thanks to the formation of the American Professional Football Association (APFA). The company came to be in the town of Canton, Ohio, and it changed the entire world of professional sports – not just in America, but worldwide.

In the century since it was formed, the NFL has grown to be a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Under the tutelage of first president Jim Thorpe, the league began to grow rapidly. To start off with, it had five major teams from Ohio, four from Illinois, two from Indiana and New York, and one from Michigan. However, much like many foundational teams in a sport, only a small handful remain today.

The only remaining clubs from the original start-up of the NFL are the Cardinals, and the Chicago Bears. On formation, though, the Cardinals played in Chicago and the Bears moved from Decatur to Chicago. Like many sports, the early years were popular but fraught with chaos and instability due to rival football leagues starting up.

In 1970, though, the league joined up with the competing American Football League (AFL), and they formed a 26-team system. It’s been expanded numerous times since, leading to six new teams being formed. Today, the league is easily one of the biggest in the world – it’s a sporting behemoth and has produced revenues in the billions for years. Indeed, in 2018, the league seen as much as $8.1bn come into its coffers.

This shows you that the NFL is not just a league that got lucky; it was the work of decades of building, cohesion, and development.

NFL Betting History

As you might be aware, sports betting in America has long enjoyed a rather interesting history. Indeed, few parts of American society has been quite as polarising as the US approach to betting as a whole. The NFL is one of the most important sports to bet on worldwide and is arguably the second most commonly bet on sport in the world outside of soccer.

However, sports betting in the USA has gone through some very tumultuous changes. In 1967, the year of the first Super Bowl, America was in the middle of a pretty vicious battle against sports betting. Despite a majority of the population wanting to enjoy sports betting, the US government was more or less banning sports betting throughout the nation. Numerous bills were introduced, not least the 1970 Illegal Gambling and Business Act. It took several years, 1974 to be exact, until a positive change took place. Howard Cannon, the Senator for Nevada, battled in Congress for a legal reduction in sports betting taxes from 10% to 2%. Later that year, the first Race and Sports Book venue opened up in Las Vegas and the rest, they say, is history.

Sadly, in the 1990s another wave of change came – and it was not a good wave. Not at all, in fact. In 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PASPA. It outright banned states from offering any kind of sports betting outside of horse and dog racing. The only place that wasn’t hit with this mass ban was Las Vegas, while sports betting lotteries for the NFL still took place in Montana, Oregon, and Delaware.

This, though, just seen a mass expansion of bookies in the UK and Asia making massive sums of money on NFL. Thanks to the introduction of live games on the TV on a regular basis, UK bookies started to really clean up.

Moving into the new millennium, though, the introduction of online gambling and betting exchanges added further confusion and pressure to the US approach to gambling. In 2006, a new federal law came to be, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which undone a lot of good work. The fact that around $134m worth of bets were placed on the Super Bowl 51 event in Las Vegas alone shows you the desire for more sports betting.

However, some $4.5bn is suggested to have been wagered illegally. This just goes to show the ravenous appetite for sports betting, and the confusing system in place in the USA for most sports fans. The 2019 season was actually the first time that sports betting was allowed for the NFL, marking a wholesale change in the entire industry. Who knows what the future holds?

For now, though, Americans are seen as mature enough to have a flutter on their favourite franchise.

Betting possibilities for NFL bettors

With betting now actually possible for most fans, we want to break down some of the very important things to understand about NFL betting. It’s not like placing a bet on a soccer match, or any other sport really. So, we’ll break down some of the most important things to know about betting on the NFL so that you can make your first bet a more likely success.


One of the first things you’ll hear about when it comes to NFL betting is the handicap system. This is one of three major systems in the NFL for sports betting. The handicap market is where one side is given a large points advantage so that both teams come in close to even money – for most people, this is where you will do most of your betting on the NFL.

Some know this as the point spread system, and it’s commonly used in media and in mainstream bookmakers – especially now that NFL betting is actually legal again. Basically, it offers a decent equivalent to the odds of being able to win. It levels out the playing field by making teams seem much more even than they are – even if that isn’t the case out on the field.

This allows you to make a much fairer bet on what might be an obvious one-sided match. It also allows you to capitalise on oddsmaker mistakes. And mistakes are made on a regular basis. This is the chance for you to swoop in and make a few bucks by simply using points spreading to your advantage.

So, let’s say that you were looking at two teams and one team was listed as -3. This means that the team with the – next to their number has to win by at least that number of points. However, you can also do well if you bet on the + team. If a team was +3, then you would win your bet even if they lost so long as it was by less than the number. So, if they lost by 1, 2 or 3 points, you would still win.

Without doubt, this is the most effective means of betting for most people. Keep an eye out for any .5 numbers, too; this often points to you being able to avoid a push and make sure that one side is going to need to come out on top.

Points total

Points total betting is another popular part of the NFL scene, and it’s all about trying to bet whether a game will go over or under a certain points total. For those who might not know a huge amount about the game, this is a decent starting place for the most part.


However, by far and away the most basic of all bets that you can place on the NFL includes moneyline betting. This is basically as simple as it comes – you choose a winner of the match. So, you would back one team to come out on top – it does not matter how or why or by how much. They just need to win!


Another common form of NFL betting is totals betting. This is all about trying to bet on the total – so you choose a total score for the whole game. If your bet was 51, then you would need to have a total figure of 51 points across both teams. You can choose to make it either under or over the agreed figure.


A good choice for those looking for something more unique is to go for teasers. Teaser betting is useful as you can move down the point spread for a favourite, or move up the point spread when related to an underdog. You choose two games, and you need both of your picks to win to get your winnings.


With parlay betting, you need to include two or more teams – this provides you with a larger payout than a normal bet. The number of teams bet and the sportsbook itself will depend on the outcome that you get. You need all of your parlay entrees to win to get something back.


Futures betting is a bet that is paid out in future if it comes through. So, it could be something like betting on the New England Patriots to go and win the Super Bowl, or betting on a team to miss out on the Play-Offs. Basically, if your call comes off down the line, you’ll win.


Last but by no means least is prop betting, which is all about betting in a potential proposition. So, it could be for someone to make X throws in a game, or to get Y touchdowns. You can normally do it on an over/under basis, too, if you would prefer. You can even bet a prop bet on their entire seasonal performance.

Keep these simple factors in mind, and NFL betting can soon become a far less confusing practice than it might seem to begin with. Happy betting!