If you’re new to sports betting or simply need a refresher, here are some basic NFL betting terms and meanings as you venture into this space. From moneylines to prop bets to DFS, here are key tools for your betting toolbox.
NFL Betting Terms, Meanings, and Definitions
The best bets aren’t always the safest. The worst bets aren’t always the riskiest. What do we mean? Let’s dive into some terminology to get a better understanding of the NFL betting space and our place in it.
Odds are based on the presumed probability of a team winning or losing, of a player achieving or not achieving some statistical milestone, or of any other sports-related outcome that’s paired with a betting opportunity.
Odds with a plus sign in front of the number (e.g. “+250”) imply that this bet, if successful, produces a payout equal to or above what the bettor wagered. So betting $1 on something with a +100 betting line would, if successful, yield a $1 profit, while +200 promises a $2 profit, if successful.
Negative betting lines (e.g. “-150”) yield lower payouts if successful. This is because such a bet has a higher probability of winning than a high-payout-yielding bet of, say, +250.
To put it in everyday terms, if you eat cereal and milk most mornings, the odds of you eating it tomorrow morning might be somewhere around -600. It’s expected. It’s a fairly safe bet, although with a payout that’s only a fraction of what you’re wagering. So there’s some risk that you’ll lose much more than you’re venturing to gain.
Betting on point spreads is also referred to as betting “against the spread,” or “ATS.” These spreads allow bettors to choose which team will outperform point-spread expectations.
A team with a -5 point spread is the “favorite.” That team is expected to win by five points. By betting on that team, you believe they’ll win by more than five points. By betting on the opponent team that, in this example, is expected to lose (“underdog”), you believe the opponent will win outright, or else lose by fewer than five points.
If the favored team ends up winning by five points, it’s called a “push.” The bettor doesn’t win or lose. And, in fact, many point spreads use half points (e.g. -5.5), where bettors either will win or lose, because a push is not possible in those scenarios.
A moneyline bet is a wager on one team beating an opponent. Moneylines come with odds. For example, a 12-1 team favored by 15 points over a 3-9 team might have odds ranging from -350 to -450, give or take. So betting on that team would net you a minimal return because that team is expected to win comfortably.
Conversely, using that scenario, picking the underdog might give you very favorable moneyline odds of +350 or better, producing a significant return if you’re successful. But of course, since the underdog is a long shot, you’re also taking more risk by betting on them.
If a game has an over/under of 46.5 points, and you bet the “over,” then you’re betting on a final combined score of at least 47 points (e.g. 27-20). If you bet the “under,” then naturally, you’re hoping both teams combine for 46 points or fewer.
Typically, in a game between defensive-minded teams, or in brutal weather conditions, the over/under might be as low as 32.5-to-34.5 points. In a game between offensive-minded teams in favorable weather conditions, the over/under might be as high as 52.5-to-54.5.
In the old days, we’d track bets by hand. But this is the 21st century.
There are many tools out there for tracking one’s bets and remaining up-to-date on results. For example, Pikkit has a bet-tracking app that keeps your wagers and results on one screen for easy viewing.
Prop bets come in all shapes and sizes. Player props, for example, are bets made on a player’s statistical performance during a game. This might entail whether Quarterback A will throw two or more touchdown passes in this game. Or, will Receiver B have a reception that goes for at least 16 yards? Endless combinations.
There are also game-specific props — for example, whether the contest’s opening drive will result in a punt versus a turnover/safety versus a field goal versus a touchdown. Just as with player props, each scenario has specific odds.
If you’ve watched the brilliant Uncut Gems, you know everything you need to know about parlays. If you haven’t, then read on.
A parlay is a combination of two or more bets. For the parlay to win, all of the bets within the combination must hit. So, as you might imagine, the more bets there are in a parlay, the steeper the odds of winning, and the bigger the payout if you’re successful.
Or, you might find a parlay consisting of merely two long shot bets; win both, and you’re a far bigger winner than if you’d bet only on one of the conditions.
“Daily Fantasy Sports.” DraftKings, FanDuel, etc. DFS competitions run the gamut from head-to-head to you versus a million or more people. In some contests (like “50/50”), you need only finish in the top half, the top third, or, say, the top fifth of the standings to win. In other contests (“tournaments”), the odds of winning money are tougher, but the payouts, if you’re incredibly successful, are much higher.