How to Bet on NFL Games Online: 5 Tips and Strategies

Profile Picture: Ashley Anderson

December 9th, 2021

Not only is American football the most watched sport in the United States, it's also the most popular sport to bet on.

According to research by the American Gaming Association (AGA), a record 45.2 million Americans are expected to wager on the NFL during the 2021 season, and that figure will only increase in the future as more states legalize sports betting.

Are you one of the millions looking to jump in on the excitement surrounding football betting? Come along as we walk you through five tips and strategies for wagering on NFL games at your online sportsbook.

1. Track line movement

Rarely do odds remain stagnant in the week leading up to an NFL matchup.

For instance, the Green Bay Packers may open as a seven-point home favorite ahead of their matchup with the Chicago Bears, but if Aaron Rodgers goes down with an injury during practice, bettors may begin backing the Bears against the spread, which could shift the line to a number, like 3.5, once more handle comes in on Chicago's side. 

The same goes for the Over/Under, or the projected total number of points scored in the matchup. 

If the weather forecast suddenly calls for high wind or snow at Lambeau Field, the Packers and Bears are likely to struggle passing the ball and will probably turn to their run game, as a result. This new game-plan will affect the total number of points scored and will make the Under a more enticing play.

By monitoring line movement, you can find the most favorable odds as the week progresses.

If you see a team listed as a three-point underdog but think the opposing team will win by a field goal, wait to see if the line moves to 3.5 points and jump on the underdog once you get a more favorable line. By waiting for the half-point shift, you put yourself in better position to win and avoid a push, if the underdog loses by a field goal.

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Steelers-Vikings point spread at TwinSpires Sports.

Also look for reverse-line movement, in which a line moves against the side receiving most of the betting action. This type of movement is often the result of sharp money, or action from a professional bettor. 

Sportsbooks will adjust their lines when sharp money comes in so they can be on the same side as the pros, who tend to know better than the general public, and eliminate their risk.

By following such line movement, you can immediately pounce on the side of the professional bettors, who will more than likely be on the winning side.

Know the public teams

Another important NFL betting tip is to know which franchises are considered "public teams". These are highly popular teams, such as the Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and New England Patriots, who boast large fanbases and pull in a ton of betting handle from fans who wager with emotion.

These types of teams tend to see more action on their side, even when they aren't necessarily the better team on paper. If you're looking to bet a public team, try to place a wager early in the week, before the rest of the public moves the line.

This way, you can get a team like the Cowboys at -2.5, before the point spread moves all the way to six points or higher.

On the contrary, if you plan to bet against the public, wait for the line to shift in your favor, after a large amount of bettors throw money on a public team.

2. Monitor team injuries

As mentioned above, injuries can drastically alter the odds at the sportsbook.

Knowing which players will be active for a game is essential to making an informed wager.

If Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and cornerback Joe Haden are both sidelined with injury, the opposing quarterback will likely have a much more successful outing than he would if facing both of these defensive players.

If you're betting player props, you may feel inclined to back the other team's quarterback to hit the Over on his passing yards or number of touchdown passes. Pittsburgh's defensive absences might also make you feel confident in backing the other team to cover the spread.

Make sure you know which players will be available for a matchup so you can better predict the outcome on the field.

3. Bet with your head, not your heart

By staying up to date on injuries and betting trends — like which teams own a winning record against the spread when playing at home, or which primetime games tend to see more points scored — you are more likely to bet with logic, as opposed to playing with emotion.

Don't be like those bettors who favor public teams simply because they grew up in the same city as a certain franchise or perceive a particular team as a world-beater, because they were highly successful in the 1990s.

Another way bettors sometimes wager with their heart, over their head, is when placing parlays. A novice bettor might be tempted by the long odds they can get on a 12-leg parlay, but the reality is, these types of bets rarely hit.

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Multi-leg parlay, as seen on TwinSpires Sports.

The best strategy for betting NFL parlays is to limit these multi-wagers to two or three legs.

While a low-stakes, seven-leg combo bet can make for great entertainment, you are not doing yourself any good to throw a large amount of money on an intricate parlay with astronomical odds.

4. Pick an NFL betting strategy and stick to it

Another good way to refrain from betting with emotion is to game-plan a strategy before the start of a game or the beginning of a new week in the NFL.

Decide how much of your bankroll you want to commit to a matchup or a set of games during a weekend slate, which types of bets you want to focus on (such as the moneyline, spread, or props), and don't chase — or bet big on a new wager to make up for losses.

Also, don't overreact to the previous week's games. A top playoff contender that won by double digits against a division rival one week could easily come out flat against a lowly team with a losing record the next.

The same principle applies to your own wins and losses when betting the NFL. Never get too high or too low when betting on the NFL. This game is full of parity, and some of the worst teams can pull off an upset when you least expect it.

Set aside some time to budget your money, decide how much you'll bet for the week, choose which games you feel most confident in, and make educated adjustments as you play throughout the season.

5. Try your hand at NFL live betting

NFL live betting is an increasingly popular way to bet on American football. 

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, so you can shop the best lines and find an edge against the sportsbook.

You can live bet the moneyline, spread, Over/Under, and player or game props. 

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Cowboys Saints live point spread

This is an incredibly fun way to wager on a matchup you are already watching, with even more markets available to bet on and ample opportunity to hit winning wagers.

In order to win at NFL live betting, the best bettors study coaches' tendencies, keep track of which players are in the game or have been utilized most during the current drive, who is injured, and any other influential factors pertinent to a matchup. 

Another major NFL betting tip that applies both to pregame betting and live betting is to know your key numbers.

Nearly 15% of all NFL games are decided by either three points (the number of points scored on a field goal) or seven points (the number of points scored on a touchdown and one extra-point kick).

The four other most common margins of victory in the NFL are 10, 4, 6, and 14.

Keep these numbers in the back of your mind, whether you're betting pre-kickoff or during the game.

For example, let’s say the Los Angeles Rams own a small lead entering the last quarter and are favored by 3.5 points, but you predict NFC West rival Seattle will give them a close battle to the finish.

Wait a few plays to see if the line moves to 2.5, which is a more favorable number. Your wager would still hit on the Rams -2.5 if Russell Wilson and the Seahawks march down the field and tie up the game, but end up losing on a last-second field goal.

Similarly, if you find the underdog listed at +6.5 or +9.5, it's better to wait for the line to shift to +7.5 or +10.5.

Make TwinSpires Sports your home for NFL Betting

By following the above football betting tips and strategies, you can begin to spot the best NFL odds all year long and boost your bankroll by the end of the season! Visit TwinSpires Sports today to get started.