Most Popular Types of Football Bets

Football is one of the most popular sports to bet on across all sportsbooks. This makes sense considering football’s massive popularity in the US. Sports betting is already live in upstate New York at brick-and-mortar locations. Online sportsbooks could be on the way to legality in the coming year. With that being the case, future users need to be aware of all the types of wagers they can place on football.

Football bet types explained

Football bets are similar to bets that you can place on other sports. You have all the main basics, but you also have some specific just to football. A majority of the bets listed below should be available for college football and the NFL when mobile sports betting becomes available in New York.

Note: Understanding odds can be difficult. All the numbers you see will be +/-100 or greater. This is how it works: If an odds listing is +100 or greater, we consider that positive odds. If the number is -100 or lower, we consider that negative odds. These numbers are based around $100. For instance, if you place a $100 wager and the odds are +250, you could win $250. If you have odds set at -250, then you would have to place a wager of $250 to win $100. Most sportsbooks will show you your exact earning potential and losses for every wager.


A moneyline bet is one of the simplest wagers in sports betting. This bet appears in all sports markets. With a moneyline bet, you are simply wagering on the outright winner. There will almost always be a favorite and an underdog in this type of wager. The favorite will have negative odds, like -250. The underdog will usually have positive odds, like +250.

It is important to note that the lower the odds for the favorite, the higher the expectations are that the favorite will win. The same goes for underdogs; the higher the odds, the less likely they are to win. These bets can be fun, as anything can happen, and underdogs have the potential for some nice payouts. Sometimes two teams will be so evenly matched that the odds are not so far apart. There are even some games where there is not a true favorite nor an underdog. Users can expect to find -110 (or somewhere near this) for each team in games like these.

Note: You also place moneyline wagers for the first and second halves of games. Some sportsbooks even offer moneyline bets per quarter.

  • Example: in Week 17 of the 2020 NFL season, the New York Giants hosted division rival the Dallas Cowboys. This game was expected to be close, so the odds had the Cowboys as the favorite (-112) and Giants as the underdog (-104). The Giants upset the Cowboys and won, but as you can see from the odds, it was a minor upset.
  • Example: In Week 15, the New York Jets traveled to take on the Los Angeles Rams. The Jets were heavy underdogs, as they had not won a game yet that season (+957). Los Angeles was the heavy favorite (-1601). The Jets ended up winning this game, which was a great payout considering they had such high odds.

Point spread

Point spread bets are one of the most common ways people wager on football. This form of betting aims to even the playing field between two teams by factoring in an estimated margin of victory. Point spreads have pretty even odds for each side, usually right around -110. The odds are even because favorites lose points (for instance, -6.0) while underdogs gain points (+6.0).

Basically, instead of choosing a straight-up winner, you wager on the difference of the final score. The favorite must win by more points than it sacrifices (in the example above, the favorite would need to win by more than six points). The underdog must not lose by more points than that number.

Note: You may also place point spread wagers for the first and second halves of games. Some sportsbooks even offer point spread bets per quarter.

  • Example: In Week 8 of the 2020 NFL season, the New York Giants hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay was a large favorite, so the spread was -12.5. This meant that if the Giants did not lose by more than 12.5 points, bets on them would win. The game finished 25-23 Tampa Bay. While the Giants lost the game straight-up, they won the point spread bet for bettors.

Over/unders (totals)

Totals betting is also one of the most popular ways sports bettors wager on football. Totals betting works with an over/under system. Just like point spread betting, the odds are usually set at -110 for each side, and you do not need to pick the winner of the game. Instead, you are betting on the combined total score of the game. For instance, if the line for a game is set at 49.5 total points, you can bet on whether the actual total score will be over or under 49.5 points.

Note: You can also place wagers on totals for the first and second halves of games. Some sportsbooks even offer totals per quarter. There are also usually options to bet on team totals for the entire game and per half.

  • Example: In Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season, The Buffalo Bills hosted the New York Jets. No one was certain how either of these teams would play that season. The total for the game was set at a low 39 points. Buffalo won the game 27-17. The final total for the game was 44 points, which meant bets on the over were winners.

Parlays and teasers

Parlays are a high-risk, high-reward type of wager. They allow you to combine multiple bets as a single wager. When combining multiple bets, the odds increase greatly. This is one of the reasons for the popularity of parlay bets. You can also place parlays that span multiple days and multiple sports. You must get every pick correct in a parlay for you to win, so while more wagers will increase your odds, they also increase the difficulty of winning.

Some gamblers wager on just a few teams, which increases odds but may still win. Some gamblers make huge 12-team parlays. They usually place small wagers and very rarely hit, but the payouts can be massive. You can place moneyline, point spread, totals and prop bets in parlays. Check with your preferred sportsbook to see its rules for parlay bets. Remember, one loss and you lose the entire parlay.

  • Example: Say you want to do an all-New York parlay. You can do this in several ways. For this example, let’s say you want to place moneyline bets for all three teams. A moneyline parlay could consist of the Jets (+750), the Giants (+225) and the Bills (-300). This would give you odds of +3583. While this is a massive payout, you have to remember that the greater the reward, the greater the risk.

Teasers are similar to parlays in that you are combining multiple wagers into one. For teasers, however, you can usually only wager on point spreads. Usually, sportsbooks allow you to tease +6.0, +6.5 or +7.0 points. The odds will decrease with the more points you tease. If you tease +6.0 points, it will add those points in your favor for each of your bets in the teaser. For instance, if a team is at -3.0 on the point spread, a teaser of +6.0 would change that to +3.0. This can be a smarter way to wager on multiple games with a single bet, but the odds will be lower than for parlays.

  • Example: Suppose you want to place an all-New York teaser in Week 17 of the 2020 NFL season. The Giants are +1.5 in their matchup versus the Cowboys, the Bills are +3.0 in their matchup versus the Dolphins and the Jets are +3.0 in their matchup versus the Patriots. With a six-point teaser, your lines would look like this:
    • Giants +7.5
    • Bills +9.0
    • Jets +9.0


Prop bets are a popular option for football bettors, and even more popular in big games like the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Props are side bets that aren’t specifically about the outcome of the game. For instance, which QB will throw for more yards? Will Sam Darnold have over/under 1.5 touchdowns? Will Sterling Shepard have over/under seven receptions? Props allow you to wager on individual stats instead of the entire game.

Live betting on football

In game betting or live betting is when you place wagers on a game that is in progress. This has become popular for football bettors, as you can watch the game and make your wagers in real time. Depending on your sportsbook, you can make almost every type of wager listed above as a live bet. Note that odds are updated throughout the game.

  • Example: Say the Jets are playing the Giants. The Giants are the favorites before the game starts at -250, and the Jets are at +125 on the moneyline. After the first quarter, the Jets are up 17-0. The odds flip, and the Jets are now the favorites at -400 while the Giants are underdogs at +250. These types of bets can be fun if a favorite goes down early, but you expect them to come back and win. The odds are constantly changing in live betting, so be sure to keep up and place wagers on time.

Football betting history

Football betting in the US has a long history. Wagering on football games has been popular since the 1930s, while it was still illegal. The point spread form of betting became popular in the 1940s, known then as the “Minneapolis line.” This is also the time that the -110 format of sports wagering became popular.

In 1951, Nevada saw its first legal sportsbook open. The next 50 years were complicated for betting on football. This period saw excessive taxes on wagering, legal acts and amendments meant to stop sports betting. There was also concern about the integrity of the game. Through the 2000s, sports betting became more common and less taboo. On May 14, 2018, the US Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on sports betting. Since then, 20 states, including New York, have legalized some form of sports betting. Today there is TV programming, podcasts and radio shows that discuss football betting. It’s clear sports betting is becoming increasingly popular, and football betting is leading the charge.