Whilst it’s undoubted that American football is much more popular in the US then say the UK for example, the sport is actually one that has developed quickly on a more global scale. The main benefactor behind this is that the coverage of the sport is much wider than it’s ever been. The likes of Sky Sports and other international sports broadcasts have all included healthy selections of games from the NFL.
In terms of other leagues, well they are few and far between. There are very few bookmakers that actually provide markets on them mainly because of the lack of professional leagues from outside the US. One thing that we have found as a result is that if you are looking to bet outside the NFL you will likely have to join bookmakers to whom those leagues reside in. The UK for example does not have a professional league, or at least one that gets any coverage, so the only viable options come from the NFL.
That being said, as with a lot of American sports the college level games are just as popular in the US as the professional leagues. College football is something that we look out for in terms of depth within American football but quite frankly, this addition would be a bonus.
Best American Football Betting Sites
#1 – Ladbrokes
We are going to be honest here and say that Ladbrokes really surprised us with home comprehensive their American football betting section is. We’ve gone over numerous sports over the years and sometimes the bookmaker can be a little hit or miss, but we definitely see their American football section as a major hit.
To start with they cover the NFL, NCAAF and the CFL, but on differentiating levels. The NFL is their bread and butter league and its here where you are going to find the majority of markets and the majority of betting activity. We really liked their specials section that included a few markets that weren’t necessarily run of the mill betting opportunities such as teams to go 16-0 and MVP throughout the season.
In game betting markets were also on a really decent level. Games were having upwards of 15 pre-game markets to bet on that included points spread, money line, total points, half/quarter lines and game specials. Whilst in terms of quantity they don’t cover as much as a US bookie would, for the most part they will cover more than enough for the majority of bettors out there, especially those of us in the UK and EU.
One thing we do want to mention is that Ladbrokes turn all of their NFL games in-play, meaning you can bet live as the game takes place. You can keep up with a real time score but in terms of details about the match, we found this to vary depending on the game, with the higher profile games getting a little more information than most.
#2 – BetVictor
Bet Victor’s coverage is all to dissimilar to Ladbrokes in that they include a wide range of games from the NFL and the NCAAF. One area in which they don’t compare is the lack of coverage for the CFL. Whilst we know this isn’t going to be a huge deal for the majority of you, we do feel that it was quite a big omission giving that their two rivals above both offer up – varying – markets for this competition.
Their betting markets for each game were more than commendable with around 20 or so to bet on. Again, we found that the higher profile games or even the games that are going to be broadcasted around the world tended to get a little more coverage in terms of markets at least, but nonetheless, it was pretty solid all round.
We want to give an honourable mention to Coral before we finish and they ran Bet Victor very close for third spot. The reason why Bet Victor just piped them is because of their pricing. They are extremely good value on the whole and we will say that if value is your number one priority then they will probably be the best bookmaker long term. They aren’t that much better than the two bookies above and you will find times where they aren’t best priced, but on the whole we have found them very tough to beat.
How to Bet on American Football
If you are someone that is based outside the US then you may think that it would be quite tough to bet on American football. The sport is predominantly played over there – to any decent level at least – and you would think that Euro facing bookmakers would have a plethora of alternative sports to bet on.
Hopefully if you’ve read our three bookmaker picks you will see that this is no longer the case and it’s very easy to not only find a bookmaker that should suit your need, but also find a market in the industry that is extremely competitive, even outside the US. The increased exposure of the sport means that you get variety and choice as bettor so it’s important you work out what you want to bet and then base your decision around that.
The one thing that you will find from betting American football is that the betting markets can be quite different to those that are used to. There are three main options that you will be able to choose from.
The first is called the spread. The spread is basically a handicapping market where you give one team an advantage over their rivals. An example may be that Team A is +6 on the spread whilst their opponents are -6. All that this means is that after full time the points are either deducted or added depending on which selection you made to give the result versus the spread.
The second one is the totals in which you simply choose the over or under for the total combined points for a game. This will often include a fraction to prevent any push results. It may look like over 46.5 or under 46.5. The final one is the to win (or money line) where you simply bet on which team you think will win the match overall. Remember, American football does not have draws, so a result will always occur, even if overtime is needed.
American Football Bets
- Winning Team/Money Line – Simply select which team will win the game. Remember in American Football there are no draws, so a positive or negative result has to occur.
- Points Spread – A points spread is basically the same as handicapping. One team starts with a positive number of points and the other team with a negative. The scores are then adjusted at the end of the game to determine the points spread winner.
- Game Totals – This is the total number of points scored in the game cumulative of both teams. A line will be set by the bookmaker then you simply choose to go over or under that line.
- Team to Score First – Simply select which team will score first in the match. This can be a Touch down or a penalty.
- First Scoring play – Choose which play will be the first scoring play. This can include a touchdown, field goal or any other score. You will need to select the team in which scores the points as well.
- Shortest/ Longest Touchdown Scored – You can select in yards the shortest and longest touchdowns of the match. This will be an over or under line set by the bookmaker.
- Winning Margin – Select the winning margin of the game. You will need to first get the winning team correct then a number of points brackets can be taken on the margin of victory.
NFL Betting Rules
It’s worth pointing out that match bets will include overtime and in the event of a tie even after overtime, then the bet will be marked as push and all stakes will be returned. This also applies to all points and total points markets where overtime will be used. This will not apply to markets that are specific to certain quarters or half’s, where these will be completed upon the completion of each. Betting on overtime markets will only include the outcome of this section of the game and will not include the previous quarters.
Proposition bets will become void if the game is abandoned for whatever reason. If that market has already been settled prior to abandonment then these bets will stand. Player props will require that player to start for that bet to stand.
- Abandoned/Postponed Games – If a game is postponed or abandoned then bets are classed as void. This is only overturned where the game is replayed within that game week. Settled bets prior to the postponement of a game will stand.
- Push Rules – Push rules are applied in 2 way markets. So if the result turns out to be the same then stakes will be returned.
- Overtime – Pre-game bets do not include overtime. Overtime betting can be placed on in-play markets only.
How Points Are Scored in American Football
Let us start by looking at one of the most basic aspects of the NFL: how points are scored. Every time a team has the ball in an offensive position, they need to travel a minimum of ten yards. They get four tries to do this, so it doesn’t need to be an immediate thing, but if they fail to achieve a ten yard progression then possession of the football gets turned over to the other team. On occasions when a team makes it all the way down the field and scores a touchdown, they get six points, as well as the chance to score more.
The chance to score more comes via a kick, which can either be through the goalposts for one point or else a two-point conversion. The latter is basically a try at another touchdown, coming from two yards outside of the endzone. If they fail to make it the endzone then they can look to boost their score by three points thanks to a field goal, which involves kicking the ball between the posts that stand at the back of the endzone. If a field goal can’t be scored, the ball will often be punted back to the opposition deep in their own half, allowing the offence to take to the field.
In American football, substitutions can be made between downs. This means that players can be brought on or taken off depending on what the coach thinks the best play is at any given moment. There are no more than 11 players allowed on the field at any given moment, with each player being assigned a particular task depend on the play. Given that the number of tries the team gets to advance ten yards resets every time they manage it, it is no surprise that coaches try to use their players in a way that will allow them to get as high up the field of play as possible.
Offense vs Defense
The team is typically split into offensive players and defensive players. Within the offensive group, there are five offensive linemen, whose job is mainly to block opposition players as they protect their quarterback, and six backs and receivers, who are looking to move the ball up the field either by passing it or running with it. The defensive team, meanwhile, has the objective of stopping the opposition from scoring a goal. Ideally, the defensive team wants to force the offensive team to turn the ball over into their possession.
The rules of the National Football League are quite prescriptive when it comes to the offensive team, with the organisation being mandated by the rules of the game. The same is not as true for the defensive team, which has a bit more variation in terms of what it can and can’t do. Regardless, the overall aim of the teams is to score more points than their opponents, which is why a coach’s use of the specialists can be so crucial to the overall performance. In American football, the coaches can be almost as influential as the players.
Pro v College Football
To those that haven’t grown up following and understanding the system, the world of American football can seem overly convoluted. The ‘Draft’ was something many people thought happened during the Vietnam War, so seeing players get incredibly excited about being first pick might seem a tad confusing. There are obvious similarities between the world of professional football and that of the game at college, not least of all the fact that the rules are pretty much identical. Yet there are also many differences between them, which can be important to know before placing a bet.
Ties, Contact, Passes & the Clock
In college football, ties can’t happen. Professional games can be tied, unless it is a play-off game, in which case they can’t. Equally, contact is necessary for a down to be ruled in the NFL, but that isn’t the case in college football. When playing the college game, one one foot needs to be on the floor for a pass to be considered legal, but in the NFL it is two feet. In the NFL, the clock will continue to run after the first down but in college ball the clock stops after the first down. If you’re issued a defensive holding penalty in the NFL, it’s five yards compared to 10 in the NFL.
They are just some of the differences between the two versions of what is ostensibly the same sport, to say nothing of the fact that the NFL only reviews scoring plays, turnovers and plays in the final two minutes of the game, whereas all plays are subject to review in the world of college football. There are also huge differences in the number of teams and players involved. College football involves 130 teams that get fielded by academies, colleges and universities, split into ten conferences. The NFL splits its 32 teams into eight conferences.
The rosters of college teams can stretch to triple digits, whereas NFL teams consist of 53 players, 46 of which are active for game day. Though it’s unfair to say that college players are untrained, it is certainly the case that they opt for quantity over quality. This is reflected in things such as jersey numbers, with NFL jersey numbers reflecting the role that the player takes up on the field when compared to college games where the jersey numbers are mostly random. College players have careers that tend to last for one to four years, the length of their time in college, compared to eight to ten years for pros.
In terms of betting, perhaps the biggest difference between the world of college ball and the pro game is the play-offs. There are multiple different play-offs in the NFL, meaning that several different teams have a chance of winning. In college football, there is just one play-off, meaning that it’s only going to be the good teams that get there. This means that it is much easier to predict which teams are going to make the play-offs in college football than in the professional game. This can be a pro and a con, depending on your level of insight.
Another aspect of American football that might seem a bit wild to non-fans of the sport is the manner in which they use conferences. Though fans of British football will be used to the idea of divisions, it doesn’t work in quite the same way when it comes to America’s favourite sport. In Britain, the leagues are based on ability, whereas in the United States, it is all about geographical location. The first thing that you need to know is that the 32 teams of the National Football League are split into two conferences:
- The American Football Conference
- The National Football Conference
Each conference is then broken down further into four divisions: East, North, South and West. That gives us a grand total of eight divisions across the two conferences, with the four teams in each division playing 17 regular games in a season. There is one ‘bye’ week per team. The schedule is such that the seasons will alternate, meaning that at times they will host nine regular-season games and one pre-season, whilst the next season they will host eight regular-season games and two pre-season matchups.
From the 2021 season onwards, the manner in which the games are played has changed. As a result, the opponent of each team is as follows:
- Six games against opponents from the same division, broken down into two games per team, home and away
- Four games against opponents form a different division within the same conference, made up of two games at home and two away
- Four games against opponents from one of the divisions in the opposite conference, with two being at home and two away
- Two games against opponents from the remaining divisions in its own conference, one home and one away, with the matchups being based on the divisional ranking from the previous season
- There is a new 17th game. This is to be played against a non-conference opponent that is from a division that the team is not scheduled to play. Once again, divisional rankings from the previous season decides the opponent
From 2022 onwards, each team is guaranteed to play at least one game internationally every eight years. There are already games played in Mexico and the United Kingdom, but destinations such as Canada, South America and Europe have been added to the roster. The games are regular season ones, just played in an entirely different place to where they should have been played. In the 2021 season, for example, games in Week 5 and Week 6 were played at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, fulfilling the international schedule for four teams.
The Road to the Super Bowl
If there is one American football match that most people in the United Kingdom and beyond have heard of then it is definitely going to be the Super Bowl. Spell it wrong and you’ll end up talking about a Superb Owl, but otherwise you’re looking at the biggest game in the NFL’s calendar and the match that the entire season builds towards. The AFC and the NFC have their games throughout the season to decide which teams is the best in each conference, but that alone isn’t good enough for American sports fans, who want to know which is the best team in the country.
AFC vs NFC
In order to decide as much, the sport sees the winners of the American Football Conference and the victors in the National Football Conference go up against one another in an end-of-season play-off for the right to crown themselves the best team in the United States of America. In British footballing teams, imagine if the winners of the Scottish Premiership went up against the winners of the Premier League every summer, with the aim being to decide which was the best team in the United Kingdom.
Final Game of the Season Since 1966
That is obviously a simplistic way of thinking about it, with massive fans of the NFL probably rolling their eyes whilst reading that, to say nothing of anger from the Welsh, but it gives you some sense of what the match means. The Super Bowl has been the final game of every NFL season since 1966, which was when it was brought in to replace the NFL Championship game. The teams fight for the right to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy, as well as the ability to call themselves Super Bowl champions forever more.
Looking at a Team’s Super Bowl Experience
There is obviously plenty that you can look out for in terms of stats and information about the Super Bowl before the main event rolls around, such as whether or not the teams have come up against one another already in the season thanks to the NFL’s new structure. If not, have they been in the Super Bowl in the past? How did they cope with the big occasion? The very nature of American football is such that it isn’t necessarily the best team in the division that makes it to the Super Bowl, so is there anything you can learn there?
If there is one drum that we will keep on banging then it is one of doing your research. There is so much information out there than can make a real difference to your bets, with that being arguably more true of American football than most other sports. There is a huge wealth of statistical analysis online that you can turn to in order to find out as much as possible about the teams taking part in each and every game, so there really is no excuse not to ensure that you use it to put yourself in the best position to win your wagers.