American football: How it’s played and how to bet on it

American football has become increasingly famous in the world over the past decade, with the percentage of people confusing it with rugby shrinking every year, and fans of European football are (gradually becoming) less offended by Americans for the word " soccer."


No wonder, because in the age of the Internet, borders are crumbling, and people, if desired, can join this contact and incredibly tactical sport, including betting through online bookmakers. How to bet on this sport, how to predict the results of competitions and which Nigerian bookmakers take bets on American football? We talk about the basics.

Bloody past and successful present

The official date of birth of football is considered to be November 6, 1869. On that day, the teams of the two universities (Rutgers and Princeton), without agreeing on what exactly they were going to play, held a momentous match with strange rules, which reminded both European soccer and rugby.

In the early stages of development, football was so brutal that a newspaper headline "18 football players were killed and 159 seriously injured" was not considered something out of the ordinary. However, the public was dissatisfied with the senseless bloodshed in the stadiums, and over time the rules were complicated in the direction of safety, the protection of football players increased, in addition, the dynamics of the game became less forceful, with a greater emphasis on speed and skill of players.

The National Football League (NFL), the most influential organization in the world of American football, was formed in the 1920s but began to develop rapidly only in the second half of the 20th century. It now has 32 teams playing 16 regular-season games from September to January, and America's central sporting event is the Super Bowl in February, the NFL’s Finals.

Although football went through its peak of popularity in the 2000s, it is still a favourite sport of U.S. residents. More than 30% of Americans call the NFL their major league, the NBA basketball, for example, is second and nearly three times less popular.

The NFL's annual season-by-season revenue exceeds $10 billion, while league clubs regularly make the top 10 of the world's most famous and expensive sports brands, competing with the giants of European football.

The biggest competition in the world of American football in the NCAA Bowl Games, which surpassed professionals in popularity until the 1960s, as well as the Canadian Football League (CFL).

However, the vast majority of bets are placed on NFL games, so let's focus on this league in more detail.

Types of bets on football

On the outcome. The most obvious and one of the two most popular betting markets for American football. There are quotes with two options: to win the first or second team. The NFL remains the only American league where a draw is technically possible, but the probability of it due to the peculiarities of the rules is extremely low. From 1974 to 2017, only 22 draws took place.

Handicap bets. Along with the bets on the outcome bets with a handicap are in the greatest demand among the players. Especially at the end of the season, when the big clubs are gnawing for the playoffs, their matches with the underdogs are not interesting for analysis in terms of wins/defeats, but the handicap gives the player food for thought.

For example, if is it thought that the Patriots will beat the Dolphins by 17 points, then the bookmaker will offer the Dolphins a handicap of +16.5 so that there are certain chances that the underdog will be able to defeat the opponent not on the scoreline, but at least in the player’s bet.

You also need to understand that because of the specifics of the game, the value of the odds changes non-linearly, not in the same way as in most sports. In the NFL, the outcome of most of the games is decided by a late three-point field goal, in second place with a huge margin from other options - a touchdown with an extra point, leading to a difference of seven points.

According to statistics, 30% of NFL matches end with a difference of either three or seven points, so the most popular odds among bookmakers are -2.5 and 3.5, -6.5 and 7.5. If in basketball the probability of going for the odds of 7.5 and 6.5 is quite close, in football there is a big gap between these two events.

Total. Here you can make a prediction of how many points both teams will score in total throughout the game, taking into account overtime. On average, NFL teams score 43 points per game, but 43 points per game is still a rare occurrence. The most popular totals in the NFL are 41 and 44 points, each of which is found in about 4% of matches.

There is an opportunity to bet "more/less" on individual teams - a good option, if you, say, studied the attack of one team and the defence of the opponent, but are not sure about the rest of the game lines.

Related and interdependent markets in relation to totals are quotes on the team – for example, the team with the most productive quarter, as well as bets on who will be the first to get to a certain number of points.

For individual quarters and halves. All designated types of bets can be found not only for the match taking into account overtime but also on segments of it. The calculation of the result is carried out only within the specified interval, the element of chance increases - it is much easier for a bad team to take a quarter from the favourite than to consistently outplay the favourite throughout the entire game.

On the stats. Offers depending on the bookmaking office are very different - and on the statistics of players, and on the statistics of the teams. For example, whether a quarterback will throw for a certain number of yards per match, whether he will throw interceptions, and so on.

You can guess the number of touchdowns and field goals in the match, whether there will be at least one safety - a situation where the defence brings two points to his team by stopping the opponent in their own endzone. There are many options, but the limits of the stakes on the mural are usually not as high.

Long-term rates. Throughout the NFL regular season, which ran from September to January, you can bet on the playoff winner (Super Bowl winner), the winners of individual playoff conferences, and the winners of the playoffs (there are only 8, 4 in each conference) according to the results of the regular season.

The NFL can be called a relatively competitive league, and even in the case of a season’s obvious favourite, the division-winning ratio rarely exceeds 10 each season. The league tries to keep the balance of power with the help of financial instruments and the draft system so that unexpected breakthroughs happen from time to time.

Special bets. Football is one of the most popular sports in the world in terms of money on bets, so without exotic and strange offers here could not do. Before the start of the season, many offices offer odds on, for example, which coach will be fired first, whether to score at least one field goal for the entire season from a distant 60 yards and others.

The odds for the perfect season are in demand - in the history of the league, only four teams have held at least one "regular" continuous winning streak. The event is already unlikely, and in special bets, it can be seen on the average teams for a factor of more than 500.

Live. Making predictions on the NFL in real-time is mostly unprofitable due to the increased betting margin, but at the same time with proper skill and a careful viewing of the game, there is a chance to catch profitable odds.

Immediately after the change of the game situation, for example, immediately after a touchdown, there is the inertia of the line and some of its instability: experienced players sometimes use this, quickly assessing the situation and betting on football in live.

There is also a glut of betting market on the favourite in the live, even if the favourite is losing after the first half. Then there may be a profitable prognosis for the underdog.

How to bet on football: the basics of predictions

Before betting on football, you need to take some precautions and take into account certain factors. Below are some tips to help you make more successful bets. It's not that these tips are a universal strategy for betting on football but knowing all these things is necessary to at least avoid unnecessary losses.

Think with your head. Do not start primarily from the line in your analysis, and before viewing the odds, assess for yourself what chances each team has to score a certain number of points in the match or play a head start.

You need to take into account all the factors in combination - weather, injuries, home-field advantage, team uniforms and so on. Having formed your opinion, it is already possible to draw parallels with the quotes proposed by the bookmaker.

You don't have to bet on every match. Yes, unlike other American leagues in the NFL, this is at least physically possible because of a not-so-dense calendar, but it's unlikely you'll break the pot by betting.

It is much more effective to choose each week to analyze the few teams that you think are most profitable in the week and focus on their matches. This will make it easier to track the dynamics of your game, notice mistakes and develop a betting strategy.

Catch the line as early as possible. At the very start of the market, you can sometimes find better odds on the bet you need, especially if the analysis has led you to the forecast for the favourite.

Often during the week, fans of big teams load the line with bets on Dallas, New England or Green Bay, and the odds of -4 at the start of the market turns to -7 a few hours before the match. Do not be fooled by the hype and be alert - predict wisely and look for the best moment to bet, not losing sight of the earliest stages of the market.

The home-field advantage is always noteworthy. Teams play matches in different stadiums, and each city has its own features – some are natural turf, and some artificial fields, some fill the stadiums with fans, others play in the chamber of silence due the numerous failed seasons.

On the NFL's themed foreign websites, you can see the home factor for each team, but the average league bookmakers give the home team a 3-point advantage in line relative to its own away quotes.

Simplifying an analysis can help by viewing the stats of yards and the form of quarterbacks. American football is a confrontation between attacking and defensive lines of teams. Therefore, the simplest way to understand the strength of the team is to track how many yards their offence gains on average and how many yards their defence allows per game. Naturally, teams that cover more territory than their opponent win more often.

Quarterback. The quarterback is the main creator on the field, and a huge percentage of success depends on his form and skill. If the team playing has a top-five quarterback in the league, and there are no injuries in the attacking line, then betting on the favourite can be a good option.

The best quarterbacks play smart, throw hard and accurately, and make close-to-perfect decisions under pressure. Even a good defence, in this case, cannot easily adjust all of the time because a capable quarterback will still find holes in it. For example, New England, led by Tom Brady, won 13 of 16 games in 2017, and even with an average 1.30 win, the Patriots made a good profit.

Also worthy of attention for the forecast is not stellar, but physically strong, agile, with a quick release of the throw and few mistake making quarterbacks. Their results could creep up if the club surrounds such a quarterback with top receivers. Their agility and ability to make difficult passes level the playmaker's shortcomings.

On the other hand, beware of betting even on big teams whose quarterbacks have trouble making decisions and who are prone to throwing interceptions. The tension in the NFL, the most popular league in the United States, is enormous, and errors under pressure can knock the once-capable quarterback into a rut. It's better to wait out this bad form and get back to betting on the team when the quarterback feels confident again.

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