NFL Betting 2021

The NFL is the biggest game in town at legal and regulated sportsbooks in the US. Pro football brings in the largest amount of overall handle, with each game on the docket attracting plenty of attention and betting action.

What’s it like to bet on the NFL? Here’s what you need to know about legally and safely betting on the NFL here in the US.

Legal NFL odds: Moneyline, spread and totals

Since the NFL attracts so much betting action, odds on the games are continually moving after the initial release straight up to kickoff. Our live odds feed pulls together the latest real-time numbers from legal US sportsbooks.

Once the season gets underway, it’s continually updated with the latest lines. The feed is customizable so you can view the numbers for the big three of NFL bets: moneylines, spreads and totals.

Legal NFL betting sites

The growth of mobile betting in legal states has been rapid. While there’s a lot to be said for the in-person experience at retail sportsbooks, users have let it be known that the flexibility of betting when and where they want is a huge draw. Here’s a look at top sportsbook apps for betting on the NFL legally in the US.

DraftKings Sportsbook

The daily fantasy sports giant has evolved into one of the top sportsbooks in several legal states. The DraftKings app is highly regarded across the industry. Live betting is one of the top features for NFL bettors to check out, as the company has excelled on this front.

DraftKings Sportsbook is available in the following states: VA, MI, NJ, PA, CO, IN, WV, NH, IA, IL, & TN

FanDuel Sportsbook

FanDuel is another sports betting titan that traces its roots back to the early days of DFS. The app is user-friendly and visually appealing. One of its more popular features for NFL betting is the same-game parlay, which allows users to combine various bets from the same contest.

FanDuel Sportsbook is available in the following states: MI, NJ, PA, IN, WV, CO, TN, IA, IL & VA

BetMGM Sportsbook

BetMGM is the result of a partnership between MGM Resorts International and Entain Holdings. The app has made great strides in the competitive legal sports betting marketplace as it continues to battle for market share. NFL bettors will find all of the bets they want and competitive lines on a smooth betting platform.

BetMGM Sportsbook is available in the following states: DC, VA, MI, NJ, CO, TN, WV, NV, PA, IN & IA

PointsBet Sportsbook

Since launching in the US in 2019, PointsBet has risen from relative obscurity to a known destination for mobile bettors in a growing number of states. The company is focused on the experience for bettors, and it shows in its offerings. For the NFL, one of the top options is its PointsBetting feature.

PointsBet Sportsbook is available in the following states: MI, NJ, IL, CO, IA & IN

BetRivers Sportsbook

BetRivers is part of the Rush Street Interactive family, a company with holdings in the physical casino space and elsewhere. The app has become quite popular, thanks in no small part to its rewards program. Everything you need to get down to business with NFL betting is right here in an app that’s easy to use.

BetRivers Sportsbook is available in the following states: VA, PA, IN, CO, IL, IA & MI

Understanding how bonus offers work

The legal online sports betting marketplace is a competitive one. The actual terms and offers will vary by book, but here’s a look at the most common ones you’ll come across.

  • Free bet: This is an offer of free funds to play with on site, sometimes for as much as $50. The amount of the free bet is not withdrawable, but any winnings are yours, free and clear.
  • Risk-free bet: After you make your first deposit, some operators will allow you to make your first bet in risk-free fashion. If the bet loses, you’ll be refunded the amount of the wager as site credits. Amounts will vary, but it can be up to $1,000 in some spots.
  • First deposit match: A sportsbook may match your first deposit. The matching funds will be a percentage of your deposit up to a set maximum amount.  

State-by-state NFL betting rules

It has been just a few years since the US Supreme Court removed the federal law stopping states from legal sports betting. Things have changed dramatically since that point, to say the least. A number of states have thriving sports betting industries to show for it, and more will follow. Here’s the current list of where you can legally bet on the NFL online.

Where you can legally betAgeLaunch date
Colorado sportsbooks21May 1, 2020
Illinois sportsbooks21June 18, 2020
Indiana sportsbooks21Oct. 3, 2019
Iowa sportsbooks21Aug. 15, 2019
Michigan sportsbooks21Jan. 22, 2021
Nevada sportsbooks21Apps began 2010
New Hampshire sportsbooks18Dec. 30, 2019
New Jersey sportsbooks21Aug. 1, 2018
Oregon sportsbooks21Oct. 16, 2019
Pennsylvania sportsbooks21May 28, 2019
Rhode Island sportsbooks18Sept. 4, 2019
Tennessee sportsbooks21Nov. 1, 2020
Virginia sportsbooks21Jan. 21, 2021
Washington, DC sportsbooks18June 4, 2020
West Virginia sportsbooks21Aug. 26, 2019

How to bet on the NFL

There are several ways to bet on the NFL. Each of the wagers will have odds attached, which can move in response to betting action. Let’s begin by looking at the big three of NFL betting: moneylines, point spreads and totals.

NFL moneyline betting

The moneyline bet is simple and straightforward. You choose which side you think will win. Odds are negative for favorites and positive for underdogs. Larger numbers indicate a bigger favorite or bigger underdog in the matchup.

TeamMoneyline
New England Patriots+110
Dallas Cowboys-130

NFL point spread betting

The point spread is a number that oddsmakers set that is akin to an estimated margin of victory. When choosing sides, you can take the favorite minus the points or the underdog plus the number. The side you select has to cover the spread for your bet to win.

TeamMoneyline
Las Vegas Raiders +3.5 (-110)
Kansas City Chiefs -3.5 (-110)

NFL totals betting

A wager on the total combined points that both teams will score in the game. Oddsmakers will set a benchmark number, known as the total. Bettors then decide if they expect the total points to be over or under that number at the end of the game.

BetOdds
Over49.5 (-110)
Under49.5 (-110)

Sportsbooks start releasing lines for the weekly slate of NFL games to the public as the current set of games is winding down. Bettors begin weighing in immediately. If clear preferences emerge in terms of which way the money is going, sportsbooks may adjust the odds and lines in an attempt to even out the action more to their liking.

This will continue right up until kickoff. Some contests won’t move all that much, while others that have a good deal of action or changes might see active fluctuations. When you place your bets, settlement will be based on where the odds stand at the time you wager. There are bettors who like to get their wagers in early, as well as plenty who like to wait and see what develops.

Bets placedProsCons
Soon after releaseBet the original numbers set by oddsmakers without worrying about market fluctuation.Odds may shift afterward in response to betting volume, as well as in response to news.
Shortly before kickoffBets are based on the current overall perception of the contest with all of the latest information factored in.Line moves could lead to numbers that you find unappealing in comparison to where they opened.
Live betting during the gameWager in real-time based on the current state of affairs, with the odds adjusted accordingly.Fast-moving market that requires constant engagement after kickoff.

For all three of the top bet types, there are specific rules that you need to be aware of in regard to bet placement, settlement and various circumstances that may come up. Here are some of the top points to keep in mind:

  • Sportsbooks consider all placed bets to be live after kickoff. The book will settle winning wagers at the odds at time of placement, regardless of any movements from that point. Final results will include overtime as necessary.
  • In the event of a slight delay in the action due to weather, bets will remain active. Sportsbooks will void and refund bets on games that are canceled.
  • For spreads and totals, sportsbooks will treat results that land exactly on the number as a push and issue refunds. On the moneyline, a game that ends in a tie will receive the same treatment.

NFL futures, props and live betting

While the pregame odds and lines control much of the conversation in NFL betting circles and bring in tons of action, there are several other popular ways to wager. Futures, props and live betting also attract lots of volume.

NFL futures betting

These are wagers on season-long outcomes. The NFL futures market is very active, with odds coming out in the offseason and moving from there based on betting action.

  • Super Bowl winner
  • Division and conference champions
  • Team regular-season win totals
  • Playoff and non-playoff teams
  • Individual awards like MVP
  • Individual statistical accomplishments

Futures are long-term wagers, as they can’t be settled until the outcome is official. In the unlikely event of a season cancellation, the book will void and refund futures wagers. As always, check specific house rules before you place any wager.

NFL prop betting

A prop is basically a side wager on a game. You can find props by clicking on the individual game listings. Prop bets can be on player performance, team accomplishments or the game as a whole.

  • How many total TDs for Patrick Mahomes — over/under 2.5?
  • Which team will have more rushing yards — Pittsburgh Steelers or Cleveland Browns?
  • Will there be a pick-six interception in the game — yes/no?

In addition to the two-sided options listed above, there are also multiple-choice props, such as which player will score the game’s first touchdown. If a player fails to suit up for a game, then sportsbooks will take all props involving that player off the board.

NFL live betting: You can wager along in real-time after the ball has been kicked off. Live betting has exploded in popularity in recent times. Once the game gets underway, you’ll see new opportunities to bet based on the situation or segment of the game.

  • Halves: Focus on the first or second half with various bets, including which team will score the most points in that timeframe.
  • Quarters: Just like halves but from a quarter perspective, with options including the team to have the most rushing yards in the period.
  • Drives: Drill down into each drive and wager on the outcome, such as touchdown, field goal, turnover or punt. These are less common. 

You’ll also see a variety of props while live betting, many of which will be similar to what you would see before the game but with odds reflecting the current situation. The settlement of live bets often is based on official league data and statistics.

Understanding the juice/vig

Vigorish, often referred to as vig for short, refers to the amount that a sportsbook charges for facilitating a wager. Also known as juice, this is part of how books make their money, and also the reason why winning bets won’t necessarily lead to a doubling of your stake.

The best visualization for the vig comes via the typical odds for NFL spread and total wagers. At most sportsbooks, the default odds for these two bet types are -110, which will adjust after the initial release in response to betting action and injury news.

If you placed a winning $110 bet at odds of -110, you’d receive back winnings of $100 plus your stake, or 90.9% of your initial wager. The difference between doubling your money and that is the vig of $10, or 9.1%.

The amount of the vig will vary by the odds, so many seasoned handicappers will shop around to find the best prices. The difference between odds of -105 and -110 may not seem like much, but those slight ticks of difference impact the potential return over the course of an NFL season.

To further conceptualize the vig, consider that spread and total bettors at standard odds of -110 need to win about 52.4% of their bets just to break even and cover the juice. The vig for other bet types isn’t quite as clear-cut, but the books certainly factor it into the overall equation.

Offshore sites and illegal betting

While the legal sports betting industry continues to surge, that doesn’t mean that the black market for wagering has completely dried up. It’s still out there, including illegal offshore betting sites. These are sites that operate outside of US jurisdiction and claim to do so under a legal gray area that gives them protection.

The offshore sites might look similar to legal and regulated options but they are not. You’ll find odds and lines for all of the games, as well as the standard bet types. There might even be more attractive odds in some spots and wagers that you won’t find at legal US sportsbooks. One of the most notable areas where this comes into play is with props.

Prop betting is huge here in the US, but offshore sites blur the lines on what’s acceptable with offerings that may include wagers that aren’t related to the field of play, such as the weather or an entertainment aspect of the game. Here in the US, there are strict rules on the books in legal states that prohibit wagers of this nature.

However, things get confusing by Super Bowl time as many entertainment tie-ins are allowed in the US, such as wagers on the coin flip or national anthem. Another area to watch is with the NFL Draft. You can bet on many facets here in the US, but offshore sites may offer options that are illegal here, such as a prospect’s performance at the NFL Combine.

Offshore sites might look like appealing options to consider, but reality tells a different story. The legal US shops have to go through an extensive licensing process before gaining approval to operate in a state. They invest heavily along the way, and have specific rules and regulations that they must adhere to. One of the biggest benefits for consumers is the knowledge that their funds will be safe while playing there.

How the playoffs work

Caesars
Detail view of NFL shield logo on a goal post pad before an NFL wild-card playoff football game between the Tennessee Titans and the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)

At the conclusion of the regular season, the league’s top teams qualify for the NFL playoffs. The format has changed a few times over the course of league history. The most recent incarnation has been in place since the 2020 campaign. Here’s how it works.

  • A total of 14 teams qualify — seven each from the AFC and NFC.
  • Four of the seven spots in each conference are reserved for division winners.
  • The final three spots go to wild card teams — clubs with the best records outside of division winners — with tie-breaking procedures implemented as necessary.
  • The top-seeded team in each conference receives a bye in the first round.
  • The first round is referred to as Wild Card Weekend: six total games, three on each side, with winners advancing.
  • Next comes the divisional round: four total games, two on each side, with winners advancing.
  • The divisional round winners meet in the AFC and NFC championship games.
  • Conference champions go on to meet in the Super Bowl.

The NFL regular season is immensely popular, but interest ratchets up even more once the postseason rolls around.

Betting on the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is the culmination of the NFL season, as well as the biggest one-day betting event of the calendar year. Each year, the big game brings in a wave of wagers, and sportsbooks respond with an avalanche of prop bets.

The fact that there are typically two weeks between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl only enhances the anticipation. Super Bowl odds come out as soon as the matchup is official, while odds for prop bets follow. For the latter, here are some of the things you’ll see:

  • What will the result of the coin flip be — heads or tails?
  • Which player will win the Super Bowl MVP?
  • What color Gatorade will the winning team use to celebrate?

While many props are geared toward casual fans, you’ll also find plenty that are tied into what actually happens on the field. The two-week runup to the Super Bowl is a very busy time for sportsbooks.

Latest NFL betting news

Things continue to move fast in legal sports betting circles across the US, including as it pertains to wagering on the NFL. You can view the latest news below, and be sure to check back often for updates.

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League/team partnerships

In April 2021, the NFL agreed to a “tri-exclusive” deal to make DraftKings, FanDuel, and Caesars its official sports betting partners. The companies receive different access to league rights and properties to promote their sports betting products.

In 2019, the NFL signed a deal with Caesars Entertainment that named the gambling giant the official casino partner of the league. The deal didn’t cover sports betting directly.

As mentioned earlier, the league’s teams may have sponsorship deals in place with sports betting entities. Here’s a look at the current landscape.

TeamSportsbookDeal highlights
Chicago BearsPointsBetFull usage of Bears IP, marks and logos. Brand visibility across digital assets.
Denver BroncosFanDuel, Betfred, BetMGMFanDuel gets usage of Broncos logos and marks. Betfred and BetMGM get sports betting lounges.
Detroit LionsBetMGMPresenting sponsor, in-stadium promotions and signage, club at stadium.
Indianapolis ColtsPointsBet, Caesars/William HillPointsBet is the presenting sponsor and gets marks and logos. Caesars/William Hill sponsor a free-to-play game.
Las Vegas RaidersBetMGMPrivate club, MGM Resorts designated as a founding member of Allegiant Stadium.
New York GiantsDraftKingsExclusive sponsorship for category, pick ’em game and virtual gameday lounge.
New York JetsBetMGMBranded studio for pre- and post-game, stadium signage and advertising across assets.
Philadelphia EaglesDraftKings, Fox Bet, UnibetDraftKings lounge, Fox Bet branded studio at stadium, Unibet designated as an official sponsor.
Pittsburgh SteelersBetMGMPresenting sponsor of pregame show, use of logos and marks, branding across properties.
Tennessee TitansBetMGMNaming rights for Titans’ TV studio, branding across properties, stadium and for key in-game moments.

Other NFL teams have deals in place with gambling entities, such as the Dallas Cowboys and the WinStar Casino in Oklahoma. For sportsbooks, deals with teams give them increased visibility as they look to make headway in new markets. We can safely assume that there will be more to come in the team/sportsbook partnership universe before too long.

The NFL shift to legal sports betting

While the NFL has always been the most popular sport for wagering, the league kept its distance from being associated with it for decades. Back in 1963, a gambling scandal made national headlines. To avoid any additional black eyes, the league took a hands-off approach toward betting for years and presented the public stance of frowning upon it.

In the 1980s, noted handicapper Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was part of the highly rated “NFL Today” program on CBS. After he and the network parted ways, sports betting went back to the shadows. There were the occasional passing references with a wink and a nod, but the topic remained taboo as far as the NFL was concerned, at least in mainstream circles.

Fast forward to May 2018, when a case from New Jersey made its way before the US Supreme Court. The justices agreed with the Garden State that the matter of allowing or disallowing sports betting was up to individual states. Many states have done just that in the aftermath, and more will follow in the coming years.

The NFL’s stance toward sports betting has changed with the times and financial opportunities. While the league still prohibits players or those with close association to the NFL or its teams from betting, its overall attitude continues to show signs of acceptance. Sports betting references are now prominent across NFL programming, and teams are allowed to ink deals with operators.

Since sports betting legalization started, the revenue numbers from legal states have consistently shown steady growth. Legal sports betting is here to stay. As a result, it appears that the NFL will continue to take steps toward outright acceptance of that reality.

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