Beginners Guide to American Football Betting

So, you want to take up American football betting? Great choice! NFL bets are the biggest part of the US sports betting market. $100 billion in wagers is placed on games each season, and the number only seems to be growing larger.

To help you have fun and make correct predictions in the long run, we’ve prepared a short guide. You’ll get a quick rundown on American football betting. It contains all the knowledge you need to create proper strategies. Ready to tackle some facts and numbers?

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Understanding the Rules

If you want to bet on football games, you can’t just visit the first betting site and start wagering. Nope, you need to take it easy. Even if you know the game inside-out, don’t forget to brush up on the rules. The league has an official rulebook. All the bookies use it to determine NFL-related disputes, so you should be ready. So, let’s take a quick look into how American football works and what makes the games exciting.

First of all, what’s the goal of a football game? The main objective is to score more points than the opposing team, obviously. A team can achieve this by passing, carrying, or kicking an egg-shaped ball with pointy ends into the opponent’s end zone.

The end zone is just one part of the gridiron, which is the name of the field in American football. It’s a 100 yard-long and 160 feet-wide grass field. At the end of each side of the gridiron, the end zone is 10 yards long and is covered in colours corresponding to the team that is supposed to defend it. There’s a goal within each end zone — it’s like a trident, but without the middle spike.

But enough about the field, let’s take a look at the juicy stuff — the players and their positions. Each NFL team can have up to 48 players on a roster, and they’re divided into two groups — offense and defense. Only one group can be on the field at a specific time. If the team is attacking, then the offense will take the gridiron and vice-versa. Let’s tackle (pun intended) each side and their positions.

The Offensive Line

nfl game attack

Offensive players have a goal to score points for the team. While some players, such as QBs and WRs, only think of scoring, there are also other roles to fill. The offensive functions are divided amongst the following players:

  • Quarterback – He’s the one who throws the ball in an offensive possession. QBs are often seen as ‘coaches on the gridiron’, as they call plays, yell signals, and initiate plays. Once the QB receives the ball from the centre, he can either carry it himself, hand it off to a running back, or throw it to a receiver.
  • Center – The guy who initiates every offensive play. When the team’s offensive line faces the other team’s defence, the center throws the ball to the QB, making the play.
  • Wide receiver – WRs are usually the guys who score touchdowns by running into the opposing end zone. When the QB receives the ball, you can see the team’s 2-4 WRs running wide (hence the name) in an attempt to make a catch and score a TD.
  • Running back – What if the WR is well-covered? Then, the QB simply hands the ball off to the RB, who then proceeds to run with it in an attempt to reach the end zone. Think of RBs as more of a ground attack, while WRs focus on the aerial part of the game.
  • Fullback – Suppose an RB wants to rush the ball. In that case, he will face significant resistance in the form of opposing defenders trying to tackle him. That’s where the fullback comes in. His role is to block the defenders so that the RB can cover more yards in a single rush. Fullbacks also protect the QB when he’s throwing the ball.
  • Tight end – In a hybrid position, the tight end can receive the ball and block opponents from tackling their teammates. His place is right next to the QB, either on the left or the right side.
  • Left/right guard – Guards are supplementary players, and their main goal is protection. They block and use their bodies to protect the RB or the QB.
  • Left/right tackle – Also known as offensive tackles, these big guys are there to guard the outer reaches of the offensive line and prevent any disruptions. Simply put, they tackle opposing defenders that try to barge in.

Defensive Line and Special Teams

nfl game defence

Now, time for the defensive line. When the team scores a touchdown or a field goal, they go to the bench, and the other side steps in to defend the opponent’s four downs. Their goal is to disrupt the other team’s offense as much as possible — by either tackling opponents, disrupting lanes, or clogging the field. Here are their positions and roles:

  • Cornerback – A CB’s main role is to man-mark the opposing receiver. Wherever his guy goes, the CB must remain glued to him at all times. They can either slow down the WR so that he can’t catch the ball in time, or they cause a pass interference by putting their hands on the ball.
  • Safety – Safeties are the deepest players in the defensive line. Think of them as zone defenders. They roam free in the back and are mostly used as the second line of defense if the CB fails to stop the WB in time.
  • Defensive tackle – DTs come in twos, and their main job is to stop a running play from happening. If an opportunity emerges, they can also slip through the cracks of the opposing offensive line and sack the QB.
  • Defensive end – Located on the outer reaches of the defensive line, DEs are there to prevent opposing TEs, guards, and offensive tackles from shielding their players. This allows DTs to sack the QB and effectively neutralize any form of running play.
  • Linebackers – LBs are located behind the scrimmage line and are known as the best tacklers on the team. If other defensive linemen fail to stop a play from occurring, the LBs prevent both throws and running plays.

Even though offensive and defensive players make up the bulk of each team’s roster, there’s also one other distinct group — the special teams. What is their role, exactly? Well, each opposing team has four attempts (downs) to advance the ball 10 yards or more. If they fail to do so during the first three downs, they have two choices. If the ball is close to the goal, they kick it. If it’s not, they punt it (a form of a kick) so that the opposing team starts as far away from the end zone as possible.

It is in that specific situation that the special teams come to play. They are exclusively on the field for kicking plays. Aside from punts and field goals, they can also be present during kickoff. Here are the three main members of the special team and their roles:

  • Kicker – A kicker is involved in every play where using your feet to contact the ball is allowed. He takes care of extra points, field goals, and kickoffs. When the team’s designated kicker enters the game, the ball is held by another player or placed on a tee. His job is just to smash it in a precise manner.
  • Punter – Lined up behind the scrimmage line, the punter’s job is to kick the ball. However, he does it in a different situation and in a different way than regular kickers do. When the team is on its fourth down, the center snaps (throws backwards) the ball to the punter. The punter then throws the ball about 4-5 feet in the air and kicks it as far away as possible.
  • Returner – When the opposing team punts, the goal is to use the opportunity and make a play. That’s where punt/kick returners are immensely valuable. They often camp out near their team’s endzone and wait for the punt. After the catch, the returner seeks to advance the ball as far downfield as possible. Oftentimes, these guys are the fastest on the whole team.

Basic Terms

Are you up to date with all the rules? Great, but that’s just the first step on your road. To learn how to bet on football online, you need to be aware of football terminology.’ It’s a bit more complicated than ‘which team will win’, but nothing too complex. See for yourself, as these are the most common NFL terms you can see at sportsbooks:

  • Line of scrimmage – An imaginary line that runs through the location where the ball landed on the last play. Neither team’s linemen can cross until the play begins by the center throwing the ball to the QB.
  • Red zone – A colloquial name for the area behind the 20-yard line, all the way to the goal line. It’s considered a significant place of activity on the field. An offence is much more likely to score a touchdown when the distance to the end zone is this small.
  • Sack – A sack is an action when the defensive player manages to squeeze behind the scrimmage line and sack the QB. This results in a loss of yardage for the team whose QB got sacked.
  • Interception – When a defensive player manages to snatch the ball during the opposing team’s down, it’s called an interception. If such a thing happens, the team on offense immediately relinquishes its possession of the ball.
  • Down – A period of action when the ball is in play. The team on offense gets four downs to advance the ball 10 yards or more. If they fall, they have to give the ball to the opposing team.
  • Drive – Any series of plays, moves, or strategies implemented during a down, with the attempt to score a field goal.
  • Touchdown – A touchdown is a score worth six points, and it happens when a player crosses the opposing end zone — the coloured part at the end of the field.
  • Field goal – Unlike touchdowns, field goals are worth three points and are scored by kicking the ball instead of carrying it into the end zone.

Where to Find American Football Betting Websites?

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Now, with knowledge about all the available bets and the NFL rulebook at your fingertips, it’s finally time to play, right? Not so fast. Even if you have the best football bets up your sleeve, you still need to know where to bet on NFL games.

Why is this important? Believe it or not, peace of mind is essential in American Football betting. That’s why having a secure, licensed bookmaker should be your top priority when looking at NFL betting sites.

To get started, check out our guide on the top-rated bookmakers for American football betting. It contains all the info you need to find a bookie that fits your needs. Make sure you pick up a good welcome bonus while you’re at it, too!

Which Are the Most Popular Leagues?

Even though American Football betting is basically NFL betting, there are still other leagues to follow. After all, Monday Night Football is still once per week. If you’re looking to get into football betting more seriously, you will need to diversify your sources of knowledge.

So, what American football leagues other than the NFL should you follow? Your best bet is, of course, college football. If that isn’t on the menu, your best bet is the Canadian Football League (CFL) or the Central European Football League (CEFL). Both leagues have grown immensely in the last few years, so you’re in for a treat. Oh, and did you notice that Vince McMahon’s XFL is back on?

NFL Betting — What Should You Know?

nfl game stadium

There’s always that extra something, and American Football betting markets are no exception. To win consistently, you need to look beyond NFL odds and things such as handicap betting. The target of your focus should be the following less-known factors:

Understand Conferences and Divisions

There are 32 teams in the NFL, and they are separated into two conferences, the AFC and the NFC, each containing four more divisions. This has resulted in some pretty epic rivalries and matchups.

NFL Games Schedule

Since the league takes up a large chunk of the North American continent, no team can play every other team. Watch for the schedule when it comes out, as it will help you predict upsets.

NFL Playoff Games

American Football betting odds go crazy once late December comes around. Use the lack of games to analyze each matchup more thoroughly. Write down any patterns or standout performers, too.

NFL Super Bowl

Ah yes, The Big One. Once the final game of the season comes around, there will be a plethora of NFL prop bets to choose from. You can even bet on the halftime performers!

NFL Short History and Facts

The National Football League (NFL), as we know it today, was founded in 1920. In the 1960s, it merged with its rival league, the AFL. This gave birth to modern football as we know it. Today, the NFL has the highest average attendance of any sports league in the world and is also the most lucrative. Since the Super Bowl era began, few of the most successful teams are the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Final Thoughts

American football betting is an exciting hobby. That’s why Nostrabet advises you to prepare thoroughly before placing your first bet. Study the rules, analyze the players, and use online resources. Also, don’t forget to cast a glance at your list of the top-rated bookies for NFL bets.


What is American football handicap betting, and how does it work?

Also known as line betting or point betting, football handicap betting serves to even the playing field between the two teams. The weaker side is given a virtual advantage before the game starts.

What are the most popular American football markets I can find?

The most popular American football markets include spread, moneyline, half-time lines, teasers and future bets.

Can I earn from American Football betting?

Yes, you can, but it’s still gambling. If you devise a good strategy and if luck is on your side, you might see some returns.

How does handicap betting (spreads) work in American football?

When you’re betting on the NFL, a spread is a bookie’s pick for the winner. Instead of just flagging the favourites, betting sites also use software to determine how many points the favourites will win. For underdogs, the bookie also sets a bar for how many points they will lose by. It’s like a basic moneyline bet, but with an extra bit of flavour.

Is American football betting legal in the US?

Since sports betting is not federally illegal since 2018, states now have the freedom to set their own laws. Nevertheless, no law can prevent you from visiting offshore sites, even if there are no online sportsbooks where you live.

Which other leagues are good for American football betting?

The European CEFL and the Canadian CFL both provide good entertainment and are popular amongst US bettors.

Is it safe to bet on futures when betting on American football?

Technically, no. Still, you can capitalize on the fact that different bookies offer different odds of futures markets. That means you should never make them a part of your regular strategy, but there’s no harm done in betting $10 on the SuperBowl MVP in 2007. Returns are always juicy.

Kristiyan Kyulyunkov
Kristiyan KyulyunkovKristiyan Kyulyunkov specializes in bookmakers’ analyses. He has years of experience betting online and always keeps an eye on the different operators. His tasks in Nostrabet include writing, editing and publishing expert reviews.