NFL Live Betting Guide: Strategy, Tips, and Rules

Profile Picture: Ashley Anderson

December 3rd, 2021

NFL live betting, or in-play football betting, has become an increasingly popular, and profitable, way to wager on America’s most watched sport. 

With NFL live betting, you can wager on a matchup once it has started and throughout the duration of the game. Odds update instantly, based on the action on the field, which provides you the opportunity to shop the best lines and strike while the iron is hot.

Below, we’ll walk you through some basic live betting rules and offer you a number of NFL in-game betting tips and strategies so you can turn a profit while cheering on your team or watching other pro football games on television.

How to live bet the NFL

Many sportsbooks, like TwinSpires Sports, now offer an in-play wagering feature, in which you can uncover up-to-the-minute betting lines based on the current score of a matchup and the time remaining in the contest.

Similar to what you would find available at a sportsbook prior to kickoff, with in-game betting, you can wager on the moneyline, point spread, totals, prop bets, and more once the game is in full swing. 

Tips for live betting the moneyline

Let’s say the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints are scheduled to play on Sunday Night Football, and the Cowboys are a -375 favorite on the moneyline ahead of kickoff.

Late in the second quarter, the Saints and Cowboys are tied at 7-7, which lowers the Saints' in-game moneyline odds from +275 to +175.

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Cowboys vs. Saints live moneyline odds.

The Cowboys’ moneyline odds, meanwhile, decrease from -375 to -225.

If you still think the Cowboys will win outright at the end of regulation, you can jump on their new odds and risk less money to turn a profit.

Likewise, if the New England Patriots enter their matchup as a +130 underdog to the Buffalo Bills and fall behind by two scores early in the first half, you might find their odds increase to +450 or higher on the moneyline.

If you expect head coach Bill Belichick will engineer a second-half comeback against his AFC East foe, you would have a prime opportunity to get the Patriots at significantly better odds than before kickoff and could net much more money if they pull off the upset.

Tips for live betting NFL point spreads

The same rules apply for live NFL spread betting.

In the aforementioned example, let’s say Dallas was favored to win by 6.5 points ahead of the game, but the Saints scored an early touchdown in the first quarter, which moved the line from 6.5 to 2.5 points.

If you were unsure the Cowboys could win by a touchdown before the game started, but you think they will win by at least a field goal, you can live bet the line you were searching for.

Tips for live betting the points totals

For bettors who prefer to focus on how much scoring will occur during the first or second half, or throughout the entire game, you can live-bet NFL points totals, as well.

For instance, in the Patriots-Bills game, the Over/Under was set at 43.5 before kickoff, but by halftime, the score is 21-7. Because the first half saw quite a bit of scoring, the live points total will increase.

You can hit the new Over or Under based on the action you observed in the first half and predict whether you think the scoring will continue at a high rate or both defenses will make second-half adjustments.

Live-betting NFL player props

By paying close attention to the in-game action, you can also spot favorable odds with certain player props.

Let’s say that in the above example, the Over/Under on Mac Jones’ passing yards is 230.5.

He has 88 yards in the first half, so his live Over/Under has dipped to 205.5. But because the Patriots trail by two scores, you expect he will air it out often in the second half.

Here you would jump on the Over, if you anticipate Jones will make the big passing plays necessary to stage a comeback against the Bills.

Or, if you think the Bills defense has Jones figured out and will continue to wreak havoc, hit the Under on his passing yards.  

Another popular in-game prop bet option is to wager on the next touchdown scorer.

If a team is near the goal line and has a full set of downs, it’s likely the team will hand the ball off to a running back in an effort to reach the end zone.

During the 2021 season, Leonard Fournette has served as the Bucs’ lead back, so if the Bucs are near the goal line, he would make for an enticing "next touchdown scorer" bet.

Beware, though, that Fournette sometimes rotates with Ronald Jones II and Giovani Bernard in goal-line situations, so keep an eye on which players are on the field and have been used the most during the current drive, then back the appropriate running back when such a situation arises.

You can also live bet "anytime touchdown scorer" and look for better odds on certain players as the game progresses.

Through 12 games in the 2021 NFL season, Colts running back Jonathan Taylor scored 16 total touchdowns, which equates to an average of 1.3 touchdowns per contest.

Let’s say that ahead of his Week 17 contest, his odds to score an anytime touchdown are -235, but through three quarters, he has yet to reach paydirt.

Because he has one quarter remaining to record a touchdown, his live odds will likely jump to plus odds.

If you think he will celebrate a touchdown, especially if the Colts hold a lead and have turned to the run game, now could be a profitable time to back him as an anytime touchdown scorer. 

Live-betting NFL game props

Other wagers available for NFL in-play betting include first team to score, whether a team will get a first down on its next drive, total number of field goals, and more.

You can already find a huge assortment of betting markets available with pregame NFL odds, and the options only increase when you wager on NFL live odds!

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First team to score live odds

Best NFL live betting strategies

In-game betting can be especially lucrative if you follow a few key strategies to optimize your chances of making winning NFL wagers.

While keeping a close eye on the game you’re betting on, remember these simple, savvy tips:

1) Know your key numbers

In the NFL, nearly 15% of all games are decided by either three points (the equivalent of one field goal) or seven points (the equivalent of one touchdown and one extra-point kick). These numbers are important to keep track of, whether you’re placing a pregame wager or in-play bet.

In addition to three and seven points, 10, 4, 6, and 14 are the four other most common margins of victory in the NFL.

When live-betting on the NFL, keep these numbers in the back of your mind and try not to lose sight of them as you watch the point spread fluctuate with the constant flow of action.

For instance, let’s say the Green Bay Packers own a small lead entering the last quarter and are favored by 3.5 points, but you predict NFC North rival Minnesota will give them a close battle to the finish.

You could wait a few plays to see if the line moves to 2.5, which is a more favorable number. Your wager would still hit at 2.5 points if the Vikings march down the field and tie up the game, but ultimately lose on a last-second field goal.

Likewise, if you find the underdog listed at +6.5 or +9.5, it would be more advantageous to wait for the line to shift to +7.5 or +10.5.

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Cowboys Saints live point spread

2) Watch for injuries

Losing a star player in a matchup can be devastating to a team’s chances of winning. If you see a top player go down in the middle of a play, jump on the live odds as soon as possible to see if you can spot value before the sportsbook updates the lines, based on one team’s unfortunate loss on the field.

For example, if the Indianapolis Colts hold a 17-10 lead over the Tennessee Titans at halftime, but Carson Wentz goes down with a shoulder injury early in the third quarter, you could immediately hop on the Titans’ moneyline odds or back them against the spread, if you think Wentz's absence will hinder the Colts.

The key is to act fast and anticipate the impact of a player’s injury. If you wait until an official announcement has been made on Wentz’s status, it’s likely too late to capitalize on any value, as sportsbooks will have made the proper adjustments to their betting lines.

3) Pick your live betting strategy before kickoff

It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of an NFL game and bet with emotion.

To avoid such a trap, game-plan your NFL live betting strategy ahead of kickoff and remain steadfast to your own in-play betting rules.

Know how much of your bankroll you are willing to commit to a given matchup, which types of bets you want to focus on (and which live odds you will monitor closest, as a result), and don't chase — or bet big on a new wager to compensate for losses — if you watch one of your live bets fail to hit.

It's also helpful to decide which side of a point spread or points total you like ahead of the game and try to stay close to that number. This will keep you from overreacting to unexpected lead changes or early scores that might drastically change the live odds at the moment.

It's best to determine ahead of the game which lines you like best, then wait for a slightly better number as play unfolds.

Another way to make more informed wagers is to study coaching and team tendencies. For instance, the Eagles and 49ers run the ball more than any other team in the league, while the Buccaneers pass on 66% of their plays.

Also note which teams score the most points in which quarter. The Cardinals average the most first-quarter points in the league, while the Saints and Patriots average the most fourth-quarter points.

These stats and trends can help you better predict the outcomes of games and take advantage of the best NFL live odds available all season long.