Football Betting Guide - How to Bet on Football

Football dominates the US sports landscape among fans and sports bettors alike. Fans flock to their retail or online sportsbook every weekend to place college and NFL bets. If you want to get in on the action but don't know how to bet on football, you are in luck!

Below we will share our football betting guide to help you get a leg-up on the competition before placing your first bet. The guide contains an overview of football rules, the types of bets available, parlay bets, bonuses, and the leagues to choose from.

Football Rule Explained

Before we learn how to bet on football, it's important to understand the rules around the sport. Understanding gameplay and the key rules are essential to making smart bets.
Let's start by learning how college and NFL games are played.

Basic Gameplay

The goal of each team is to advance the ball into the opponent's end zone. Each must have no more than 11 players on the field simultaneously. 

The offense has four chances to move the ball past the first down marker, which is set ten yards from their starting point. If the offense passes the marker, they receive a new set of downs. The offensive drive continues if they pass the first down marker within four tries.

If the offense cannot pass the first down marker after four attempts, the defense takes possession of the ball. It is common for most teams to punt or kick a field goal if they do not attain a first down after three tries.

A field goal is worth three points if the team can kick it through the field goal post in their opponent's end zone. If they miss the attempt, they lose possession of the ball.

They may choose to punt after three downs if the offense is still far from the end zone. This involves kicking the ball down the field for their opponent to catch and attempt to advance.

When the offense can advance the ball into their opponent's end zone, they receive six points with what is called a "touchdown". They then can kick a field goal for one extra point or attempt to score from a few yards away for two extra points.

Whenever a team score points, they kick the ball down to the opponent in their half of the field.

Common penalties

Many different penalties can be called in a football game, but some are more common than others. Here are a few of the ones you will likely see when watching college or NFL games:

  • Offsides: When the defense crosses the line of scrimmage before the offense begins the play. This results in the offense gaining five yards.
  • False Start: When the offensive moves before they begin the play, causing the defense to move or jump offsides. This results in the offense losing five yards
  • Offensive Holding: When an offensive player grabs and holds a defender, preventing them from making a play. This costs the offense 10 yards.
  • Defensive Holding: When a defender grabs an offensive player to stop them from making a play. This gives the offense five yards
  • Pass Interference: When a defender uses contact with an offensive player to stop them from catching a pass. In the NFL, this results in the offense being able to move the ball up to wherever the penalty occurred. In college, this results in 15 yards for the offense

Types of Football Bets

Football has many of the same bets available as the other major US sports. There are many to choose from, so understanding each is important.
Here are some of the different football betting types:

Point spread

Betting on the point spread means betting on the margin of victory in a game. The sportsbook will set the line as a number preceded by a plus or minus sign. A plus indicates an underdog, while the minutes show next to the favorite.

Point spread betting has been the most popular option as it offers even odds regardless of the team you pick. It also allows you to bet on lopsided games where the moneyline odds may not have much value.


This is the most straightforward bet type available, as you pick who you believe will win the game. Check the odds before betting the moneyline, as taking favorites usually have unfavorable odds that give them little value.

If you are looking to bet a heavy favorite, we suggest betting the point spread to increase your potential profits. 

Point Total

Often referred to as the "over/under", betting on the point total is another straightforward bet. With this type of bet, you choose whether the points scored will be higher or lower than the sportsbook predicts.

Prop bets

Prop bets can be the most exciting on the list but are also the most complex. Prop bets range from betting on individual aspects of the game to the totals per total or half. Common prop bets include bets on what team will score the first touchdown or how many yards a player will have.
The benefit to prop bets is that they offer better odds and can allow you to make several bets in one game. The downside is that they are near impossible to predict, making most of them a matter of luck (hence the favorable odds).

Live Betting

Like other major sports, football betting allows you to place wagers while the game is being played. This could include bets on things like the second-half point spread, or final score of football games, or who will win the game outright.
Always remember that odds are constantly changing for live-betting college and NFL games, so be sure to check often to capitalize on the most favorable.

Futures bet

This type of bet involves betting on future outcomes of the college of NFL season. This often includes division winners, conference, and Super Bowl champions. They also cover player awards such as the MVP.

Futures bets often have the best odds of any of these but are also the hardest to predict. Picking a heavy favorite to win a bad conference may seem like an easy win, but a key injury or trade could drastically alter a team's season.

Single Game Parlays

A parlay is when a bettor combines multiple picks into one bet. With each new pick (or leg) added, the overall odds go up and increase your potential profits. However, you need each leg to be correct to win the parlay.

While parlaying multiple games is common, single-game parlays can often offer the most excitement. They also make it convenient to track your parlay bets, eliminating the need to search for updates on multiple games.

Single parlay bets can include betting on the point spread, moneyline, point total, and prop bets. This gives you a ton of options to choose from for your single-game parlay.
We always recommend focusing on football games you know more about when using this kind of parlay bet. The more information you have about the teams and players involved, the better your chances of creating a winning single-game parlay bet.

Take Advantage of a Welcome Bonus

Like all major sports, football betting contains various sports betting promotions for new players. These "welcome bonuses" include benefits like deposit matches or bonus bet promotions.

You can find our best bet promotions by clicking on the "Promos" link at the top of the page. Taking advantage of football betting promotions can be a great way to get a head start before placing you begin your football betting career.

Place Bets on Popular Football Events

While there are several smaller football leagues globally, the NFL and NCAA leagues dominate the betting market. This is because these leagues are the most prominent and more familiar for sports bettors.

Sports betting leagues you are familiar with always give you a better chance at winning. NFL fans will have a leg up when betting a point spread, moneyline, or prop bet. Don't waste an advantage you already have, and focus on betting on college and NFL games.