8 Mar

How to Bet on Football Events

NFL Betting Made Easy: Starter Guide to College & Pro Football Betting

NFL Betting Made Easy Starter Guide to College & Pro Football BettingThe wait is over – Hoosiers can finally bet on football in a legal, regulated environment. Live and online bookies are anxiously awaiting your wagers. But don’t rush out to the nearest sportsbook just yet. Don’t download the first app you find and start throwing money at your favorite teams. If this is your first time betting on football, a little preparation will go a very long way.

In this guide, you’ll learn all about the types of football bets you can make, how they work, and what it takes to win them. We’ll cover single bets on spreads, totals and moneylines, as well as multi-game parlays, teasers and pleasers, and of course futures on championship series like the Super Bowl.

Before we get started, there are a few things you’ll need to understand, like how to read US odds, and the typical lingo associated with betting. These links should help you out.

Basic Legalities of Football Betting in Indiana

First, let’s take a moment to review what football games you’re legally eligible to bet on. Now that sports betting is legal in Indiana, you can’t just go betting on any and every football game scheduled for kick-off. There are restrictions and limitations. Here’s the short of it…

Is it legal in Indiana to bet on…
Professional Football (NFL, CFL)
College Football (NCAA)
Yes, with limitations
Youth Football (under 18)

Professional Football: The state of Indiana permits betting on all professional football leagues, including the National Football League (NFL) and Canadian Football League (CFL). [Learn more about the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and other professional sports teams of Indiana.]

College Football: Indiana state law limits betting on college football (and other college sports) to “NCAA Division I” athletics. All lower-level athletics, including (but not necessarily limited to) NCAA Division II and III, NAIA, and NJCAA, are off limits. Furthermore, Indiana law strictly prohibits player prop live betting on individual athletes. [Learn more about what the Indiana Code says about college sports betting.]

Youth Football: Youth sports are considered any sport in which some or all of the athletes are under the age of 18 (e.g. high school football). Betting on youth sports is strictly prohibited in Indiana.

Single Game Football Betting

Betting on a single football game is exactly what it sounds like. You’re picking one outcome, and placing one bet on whether that outcome will occur. These are very straight forward bets, settled the moment the game is over.

Visit your favorite online sportsbook, and the opening lines for a typical NFL football game might look something like this. The teams are listed on the left, with available betting lines on the right.

Match Up




Cincinnati Bengals


+5.5 (-110)

51.5 (-110) O

Cleveland Browns


-5.5 (-110)

51.5 (-110) U

As you can see, there are three basic ways to place a single-game bet on NFL or College football:

  1. Win Bet (a.k.a. Moneylines)
  2. Points Spread Bet (a.k.a. Spreads)
  3. Totals Bet (a.k.a. Over/Unders)

Straight Bet to Win

Straight bets aren’t the most popular these days, but they are the easiest to understand. These bets, known as moneylines, are simple bets on which team will win the game.

Match Up
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns

The team with the positive lines—in this case, the Bengals at +150—is the underdog. If you bet $100 on the Bengals to win, you will make $150 if they do. The Browns, at -200, are the favorite. If you bet on them, you would have to bet $200 to win just $100. You can bet however much you want, of course, but that’s the gist of it, according to the +150 and -200 lines.

Long story short, moneylines are straight-up bets on the team you think will win.

Betting Against the Spread (ATS)

Spread betting is the most popular form of NFL betting today. You’ll find it often referred to as betting “Against the Spread”, or ATS for short.

The “spread” refers to the point spread, which is the amount of points oddsmakers give the underdog to make up for the amount of points they believe the favorite will win by. It’s their way of leveling the playing field—balancing the advantage so that, for bettors and bookies, there is no advantage.

Match Up
Cincinnati Bengals
+5.5 (-110)
Cleveland Browns
-5.5 (-110)

In the game lines portrayed above, we see that, to bet on the Browns (favorite), bettors are giving up 5.5 points. So, in order to win, the Browns must “cover the spread”, meaning they must win by 6 points or more. If they win by 5 points or less, or lose the game altogether, this bet loses.

Alternatively, you could take the points and bet on the Bengals. In doing so, you would receive 5.5 points. So, if the Bengals lose by only 5 points or less—or, if they beat the odds and win the game outright—you will win that bet. If they lose by 6 points or more, you lose.

You’ll note the lines for both teams are set at -110 (i.e. bet $110 to win $100). This reflects the bookmarker’s belief that the probability of either team winning, based on the given point spread, is even. And of course that extra -10 is the sportsbook’s juice, or commission; their little insurance policy to make sure they always come out ahead.

In rare cases when the lines don’t match up, it’s because the bookmaker is shifting the lines. This happens when they’re getting far more action on one side than the other, and/or when the sharp money is leaning in one direction. You can learn more about that here:

Bet on Point Totals

Totals, also known as Over/Unders, are betting lines on the total score at the end of a game. The oddsmakers predict what they think the total score will be, then you—the bettor—can place a wager on whether the actual total will be “over” the total, or “under” the total. This type of bet is popular because it has nothing to do with who wins or loses the game. All that matters is how many points are scored between the two teams, combined.

Match Up
Cincinnati Bengals
51.5 (-110) O
Cleveland Browns
51.5 (-110) U

In the Browns/Bengals lines above, we see that the total score has been set at 51.5. Obviously, a half-point score is not possible. Bookmakers like to post totals with half-point decimals because it guarantees no ties. The game either ends with 52+ points, paying out winnings to those who bet the Over, or ~51 points, paying out winnings to those who bet the Under.

Again, we see the lines set at an even mount of -110 on both sides. No one (except the juice collecting bookies) is given an advantage.

Multi-Game Betting on Football

Football is the perfect sport for multi-game betting. Every week throughout the NFL season, there could be anywhere from 13 to 16 games to bet on. With college football, those numbers multiply dramatically. Throw in a few CFL match ups, and you’ve got an overflow of choices, ripe for the betting—if you know your stuff.

There are a number of ways to combine multiple picks into a single bet, including parlays, teasers and pleasers.

Parlay Betting / Accumulators

A parlay bet, a.k.a. accumulator, is simply a way of placing a single bet on multiple outcomes. The payout for such a bet increases exponentially with the number of picks involved. For example, a 3-leg parlay might pay 6 to 1 (+600), whereas a 5-leg parlay might pay 25 to 1 (+2500).

That’s a pretty significant jump in profits for two extra selections, which should give you some indication of just how hard it is to win multi-pick bets. The catch is, every selection must be correct. It’s not like keno, where getting most of your number right still gives you a small win. In parlay bets, missing just one pick means you lose the bet.

Also note that you can’t combine certain types of parlay bets to give yourself an advantage. You can pick moneylines, spreads and totals, but you can’t bet the moneyline, spread, and/or total for the same match up.

I won’t go into too much more detail here, because we’ve already covered this topic in our Ultimate Guide to Parlay Betting. If you want to learn more, I suggest visiting that link. It has everything you need to know about parlays, pay tables, and even some strategy tips on what to look for.

Teaser Betting

Teasers are a special kind of parlay reserved for ATS accumulators. The bettor selects point spreads from all available games, and is given extra points to apply, however they see fit. The pay table is adjusted accordingly, meaning the more points you take, the more profit you give up for a win.

For example, let’s say you’ve picked 4 teams to cover their spread. You choose to place your wager as a 6 point teaser. Maybe there’s one game you’re not so sure you’re going to win. You could throw all 6 points to that team. Or, you could throw 4 to that team, and toss the other 2 on your other selections. You get to divvy those points up however you want. In exchange, the +1000 odds you would have gotten on a standard parlay bet will be reduced to just +250. The lower the risk, the lower the reward.

You can learn a lot more about these bets in our section, Parlay Teasers & Odds.

Pleaser Betting

A pleaser bet is essentially the opposite of a teaser. Instead of taking extra points for a reduced payouts, you can give up points for a higher payout. Where a 4-leg parlay normally comes with odds of +1000, a 4-leg 7-point pleaser comes in at a whopping +170000 (pays 1700 to 1).

Once again, the deep incline in profit potential should be indicative of just how hard—and when I say hard, I mean damn near impossible—it is to win such a bet. Pleasers are perhaps the worst way to bet on football. You can learn more about pleasers, and why you should steer clear of them, here: Parlay Pleasers & Odds.

Partial Football Game Betting

In most sports, you don’t even have to bet on a whole game. You can wager on portions of the game, like which team will outscore the other in the first half of the game, the second half, or a specific quarter. These can be great bets when the circumstances are just right. It all comes down to statistics. One team may perform best in the opening quarter, while another may be known for its fourth quarter comebacks. If a 4-qtr team is up against a low-stamina defense, it could be an easy opportunity to make some cash.

Combined with the above single-game betting information, the names of these bets are pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll just list some of the more common options.

Bets to Win
Totals Over/Under
  • 1st Half Winner
  • 2nd Half Winner
  • 1st Quarter Winner
  • 2nd Quarter Winner
  • 3rd Quarter Winner
  • 4th Quarter Winner
  • 1st Half Total O/U
  • 2nd Half Total O/U
  • 1st Quarter Total O/U
  • 2nd Quarter Total O/U
  • 3rd Quarter Total O/U
  • 4th Quarter Total O/U

There are more intricate ways to bet on the in-game actions of a football game, but they fall into the realm of “Live Betting”. You can learn more about that here:

Football Futures Betting

A lot of die-hard football fans like to get some NFL futures bets on the table before the start of the season. With a little skill and a whole lot of luck, these can become extremely profitable. They’re also easy to secure a hedge profit on, if your picks are good. We’ll start with NFL futures, then move onto the collegiate scene. First, some important pros/cons to consider.

The problem with these bets is that you generally have to place them before the season starts. At that point, future performance can only be based on distant past performance, which tends to be less accurate. However, that also means the odds are pretty long, which translates to nice profits for those who pick correctly.

If you pick well, and your team does make it to the Super Bowl, or whatever tournament position you’ve picked, they don’t necessarily have to win for you to make money. Once your team makes it to the game you bet they would win, you should be able to hedge your bets (wager on the other team) to secure a profit.

I’ll use the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win at Super Bowl LV in February 2021 to explain how this works.

In the summer of 2020, Tom Brady (QB) was traded to the Buccaneers. Shortly thereafter, Brady’s right-wing man, Rob Gronkowski (TE), signed on too. The team’s odds of winning the Super Bowl jumped significantly at that point, shifting the lines to +900. Those who took that bet had an opportunity to hedge it when the Bucs won the NFC Championship game. Smart bettors placed a new wager on the AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs to win the Super Bowl. With the right math and bet sizing, they were able to guarantee a nice profit, no matter who took home the trophy.

Don’t get too excited, though. Remember, your pick has to make it to the big game first. Those odds are long for a reason.

NFL Championship Winners

The most common football future bets are placed on which team will win a specific championship game. In the NFL, that includes the Super Bowl, and the NFC and AFC Championship games. The teams that win the AFC and NFC Championships, respectively, are the two teams that meet in the Super Bowl two weeks later.

In the off-season, prior to the draft, training camp, and open trading, you can expect to see Super Bowl odds ranging from about +500 up to +10,000 or more. Once things start happening in the spring and summer months, those lines will begin to shift. AFC/NFC Championship odds are generally about half that of the Super Bowl odds for each team.

NFL Division Winners

There are also eight division winners to pick from prior to the start of each NFL season. With only four teams per division, these are a little easier to win.

AFC North
NFC North
  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Cincinnati Bengals
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Chicago Bears
  • Detroit Lions
  • Green Bay Packers
  • Minnesota Vikings
AFC South
NFC South
  • Houston Texas
  • Indianapolis Colts
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Tennessee Titans
  • Atlanta Falcons
  • Carolina Panthers
  • New Orleans Saints
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers
AFC East
NFC East
  • Buffalo Bills
  • Miami Dolphins
  • New England Patriots
  • New York Jets
  • Dallas Cowboys
  • New York Giants
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Washington Football Team
AFC West
NFC West
  • Denver Broncos
  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Las Vegas Raiders
  • Los Angeles Chargers
  • Arizona Cardinals
  • Los Angeles Rams
  • San Francisco 49ers
  • Seattle Seahawks

College Football Futures

The big bets in NCAAF futures go to the College Football Playoffs (CFP). Bettors can choose the four teams to make the playoffs, as well as the winner of the CFP National Championship. These bets tend to stay open throughout much of the year, but you’ll see the most action heating up around summertime, when athletes begin reporting back for the fall semester. This is when you can start gathering intel on things like changes to the coaching staff, depth chart adjustments and player suspensions.

Although there are many, many teams competing in the NCAA Division I level, there are a few that always have the greatest odds of making the playoffs each year. Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma currently top that list.

Additional Sports Betting Tutorials

Interested in learning more? Check out our additional targeted sports wagering pages.

Learn How to Bet on…

Legal Indiana Sports Betting in 2021

BetRivers is licensed and regulated on a state level by Indiana to operate legally. It offers a wide range of sport betting options – every popular game is covered. Mobile options are also covered for an “on-the-go” experience. Our editor pick for safe and legal betting in 2021.

Visit https://In.BetRivers.com