The NFL has become a year-round phenomenon, long ago eclipsing Major League Baseball in terms of national popularity.
On this page, we provide a complete guide to betting on the NFL at legal PA sportsbooks, including tidbits on the upcoming season, how to shop for the best lines, the bet types offered by sportsbooks, and key dates in the 2020 season. You’ll also find an in-depth look at Pennsylvania’s two NFL teams and how they have fared against the spread in recent years.
Best NFL betting sites in PA
Popular NFL betting markets and formats
- Futures: A way to pass the time in the NFL offseason, there are futures available for both teams and players, from whether your team will win Super Bowl LV to the over/under team win totals for the 2020 season to the over/under on the number of yards Tom Brady will throw for in his first season with the Buccaneers.
- Point spread: One of the most popular options to bet on for an NFL game, a point spread wager is one where you “lay” the points when betting on a favorite to win by more than that margin or “take” the points when betting on an underdog to either lose by less than that margin or win outright. There are certain things to be aware of in the buildup to a game, most notably the opening lines, the closing lines, and the “steam.”
- The opening lines are the first snapshot for betting for the upcoming week, and sometimes, there is value to be had if one seems significantly off-balance.
- The closing lines will sometimes differ from the opening line, once more injury reporting and weather information becomes available, more analysis occurs, and bookmakers increase betting limits. Sometimes, lines will move because of “steam.”
- Steam takes place usually later in the week when someone is confident in a line to the point a large sum of money (usually at least in the tens of thousands) is wagered. That “steam” has the potential to move the line so sportsbooks can hedge for themselves, leaving the bettor to chose whether to “steam” with that pick or “fade” and go in the opposite direction. Some bettors merely watch for this kind of movement and “chase steam,” at which point they’ll be getting an inferior price on the same play.
- Moneyline: Another popular bet for NFL games, the moneyline bet is the most straightforward one, picking one team or another to win. A tie is also offered with a far larger payout given the rare circumstances games end deadlocked.
- Player props: Growing in popularity with the rise of legalized sports betting, player props are offered both as futures for yards among skill categories and also on a game-by-game basis for over/unders. There is also significant crossover appeal because the research that goes into making these picks can also be used to build player lineups for Daily Fantasy Sports in which bettors vie with each other for fixed amounts of prize money at various levels of buy-in.
- Total (Over/Under): Another popular bet for NFL games, betting the total is picking whether the total combined points scored in a game will be above (over) or below (under) a number established by the sportsbook. This play can also be made for individual team totals or for fixed amounts of time, including individual quarters or halves.
- Parlays: One of the more challenging forms of betting on NFL games, a parlay is when you make multiple picks, sometimes multiple picks from the same game, to try and win a larger payout. The challenge is that all of the picks, called “legs,” have to be winning ones in order to pay out.
- Teasers: In some ways similar to a parlay in which bettors can adjust lines with points to make what they feel are more favorable plays to winning bets. The most common teasers include adjusting lines by 6, 6.5, and 7 points. The more games involved, the higher the payout, with a minimum of two games bet, and like a parlay, both “legs” must win.
- Live betting: Live betting for NFL sports is still a newer market as sportsbooks in states mature. Bettors are placing wagers on outcomes after a game has started, which means betting lines have shifted in direction based on potential outcomes of events that have already taken place in a game. Live betting has the potential to offer bettors an improved chance of winning because betting lines are prone to fluctuations in value because they are often set via algorithm and sometimes do not account for intangibles.
What’s the “vig” or “juice” in betting?
The “vig” in sports betting is a shortened form of vigorish, which is what the bookmaker charges for accepting a wager. The standard pricing is -110 on both sides, which accounts to “20 cents” based on the fact $110 is being bet to win $100. That extra $10 is not part of the bet, which is why a winning bet on such a line collects $210 (the $110 bet plus $100 in winnings), and not $220.
Player props are an important part of NFL betting given there are usually wagers available on yardage, receptions, carries, touchdowns and so forth. Game spreads and moneylines on the winner/loser of a game are usually pretty similar across all sportsbooks, but that’s not the case with lines and prices on player prop bets. That is why it is important to do comparison shopping on lines because some are consistently better than others. While $3 may not seem like a big deal on one individual bet, it becomes noticeable when multiple bets are made and your bankroll may get stretched thinner more quickly.
In-game markets (live betting) are a challenging betting subset of NFL betting, but one where money can be made. They are less prone to fluctuation because sportsbooks rely more on an algorithm to establish the betting lines, which creates a window where certain plays can be undervalued and invite an opportunity to turn a profit. A seasoned bettor can read a game, and in the case of mobile sports betting, a proper user interface can make all the difference for locking in a winning play.
One thing to avoid is any standard betting line that creeps above -115. Some sportsbooks may offer this as standard, but more will offer -110 since that is more universally accepted. Some sportsbooks will run specials down to -105, and on rare occasions, offer Evens (+100) during a promotion. While the promotions are often limited to a $50 bet, they are usually on games that favor a publicly expected outcome designed to attract the general public to either open an account or replenish funds in an existing one.
But before even placing a wager, you should perform due diligence on a sportsbook website. That means reading reviews from fellow bettors. That sportsbook should be able to accept wagers on the sports you want to bet on, the types of bets you want to place, and offer a secure system for both payment in and withdrawal of funds. It should also be licensed in the state where you are making the wagers, something that is available to be seen on every state’s gambling-affiliated agency.
What’s ahead in the 2020 NFL season
With as much off-field drama of player movement and off-season action as there is during the season that culminates in the most-watched television event of the year – the Super Bowl – the NFL consistently attracts betting dollars unlike any pro sports league in the U.S.
Unlike other professional sports, it is uncertain to what extent the novel coronavirus will affect the National Football League, its personnel, facilities, off-season schedule as well as the season schedule come late summer and fall.
While the COVID-19 pandemic did force the league to cancel the annual three-day extravaganza that comes with the NFL Draft in this year’s designated site of Las Vegas, the draft itself will be conducted in late April as scheduled.
There have not yet been changes to rookie camp or regular training camp schedules, preseason schedules or the regular season, but the possibility always remains that changes will have to be made based on how the coronavirus is dealt with throughout the country.
2020 NFL free agency
The free agent and trade markets have been more scrutinized this offseason than years past due to the volume of quality quarterbacks being made available. The first notable trade came when Jacksonville dealt Pro Bowl defensive tackle Calais Campbell to Baltimore, and then the Tennessee Titans rewarded QB Ryan Tannehill for his run to the AFC title game with a four-year, $118 million deal.
A blockbuster deal came soon thereafter when the Houston Texans traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a second-round selection and a fourth-round pick in 2021. The Colts then bolstered their defensive line, landing DeForest Buckner and sending the No. 13 overall pick to San Francisco.
Miami made cornerback Byron Jones the highest-paid player at his position, while coach Brian Flores added to the team’s free agent haul to reunite with linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who left New England for its division rival.
Marcus Mariota, who lost his job to Tannehill in Tennessee, signed with the Las Vegas Raiders to provide competition for Derek Carr. The Buffalo Bills gave quarterback Josh Allen a No. 1 receiver in Stefon Diggs at a high price that included shipping this year’s first-round pick (No. 22 overall) to Minnesota.
On March 17, the quarterback carousel spun into faster gear when Tom Brady announced he would be continuing his career and moving on from the New England Patriots after 20 seasons and six Super Bowl titles. That same day, fellow 40-something Drew Brees felt the grass was greener in New Orleans, where he re-upped with a two-year deal for a reported $50 million.
The Panthers then allowed Cam Newton to seek a trade, ending a nine-year association with the 2011 No. 1 overall pick. Carolina quickly moved to fill the void, signing Saints backup Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal. Philip Rivers, who had announced he would not return to the Chargers, signed a one-year, $25 million pact with Indianapolis.
Brady’s status as a free-agent-to-be ended almost as quickly as it began as he quickly inked a two-year, $50 million contract with Tampa Bay, which had opted not to pick up the sixth-year option on 2015 No. 1 overall pic Jameis Winston. New Orleans brought back safety Malcolm Jenkins for a second time, while the Chicago Bears acquired Nick Foles – whose ill-fated stint with Jacksonville lasted only a season – to challenge Mitch Trubisky for the starting quarterback spot.
Atlanta made a free agency splash by signing edge rusher Dante Fowler from the Los Angeles Rams, who also opted to surprisingly part ways with running back Todd Gurley as well as linebacker Clay Matthews. Gurley was reunited with Fowler in Atlanta, while fellow running back Melvin Gordon opted to stay in the AFC West, leaving the Chargers for the Denver Broncos.
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders joined Brees and Co. in New Orleans, and fellow wideout Nelson Agholor departed Philadelphia to join the Raiders. New Redskins coach Ron Rivera was reunited with quarterback Kyle Allen after a trade with the Panthers, who then signed wide receiver Robby Anderson, formerly of the New York Jets.
Defensive end Michael Brockers, whose deal with the Baltimore Ravens came undone due to ankle issues, instead re-signed with the Rams. There are still many top free agents available, most notably Newton and Winston at quarterback, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, and cornerbacks Logan Ryan and Prince Amukamara.
Obviously, the biggest quarterback change takes place in Tampa Bay, where Brady has two of the best receivers in the league in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The Patriots currently have quarterbacks Brian Hoyer, Cody Kessler, and Jarrett Stidham on their roster, but with Rivers landing in Indianapolis, it is possible coach Bill Belichick could make a play to bring back Jacoby Brissett.
Bridgewater is expected to be under center for the Panthers for first-year coach Matt Rhule and has the luxury of do-everything back Christian McCaffrey to help ease his transition to a new offense.
2020 NFL Season Key Dates:
- Black Monday: Occurs usually the day after the final Sunday of the regular season when teams fire underperforming coaches. After the 2019 season, the Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins all fired their coaches on “Black Monday,” while the Dallas Cowboys made their coaching change later in the offseason.
- Free Agency: Officially began March 18, but there is a “legal tampering” period that begins two days before signings can actually take place.
- NFL Draft: Currently scheduled for April 23-25. It was supposed to take place in Las Vegas as part of the league’s promotion for the Raiders’ first season there following their move from Oakland, but the ongoing concerns created by COVID-19 have resulted in the draft being conducted in a more simple fashion. The first round will be held April 23, Rounds 2 and 3 will be held April 24, and Rounds 4 through 7 will be held April 25.
- Training camps open: Currently scheduled for mid-July when rookies report to camp ahead of veteran players, but this is currently fluid due to the effects of COVID-19.
- Preseason Week 1: Aug. 6. The NFL preseason officially begins with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, as part of a weekend celebration in which the Centennial Class will be enshrined.
- NFL Week 1 (Sept. 10): The NFL season is scheduled to begin Thursday, Sept. 10, with a game involving the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs as part of the “NFL Kickoff Game.”
- NFL Thanksgiving Games (Thursday, Nov. 26): As has been the case in recent years, three games will be played Thanksgiving Day. The traditional first two spots are a home game for the Detroit Lions in the early slot, and a home game for the Dallas Cowboys in the late afternoon slot. The NFL Network gets a primetime game Thursday night, and there is no traditional team specified for that matchup.
- NFL Week 17 (Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021): The NFL’s regular season will conclude Jan. 3. The top seven teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs, an increase of two teams from last season. Only the top-seeded team from each conference will receive a bye into the divisional round.
- Wild Card Weekend (Jan. 9-10, 2021): The team with the best record in each conference will get a bye, while the other three division winners and three best finishers of non-division winners in each conference will play in single elimination matchups. The No. 2 seed will face the No. 7 seed, the No. 3 seed faces the No. 6 seed, and the No. 4 seed faces the No. 5 seed. The three division winners from each conference will have home-field advantage in the wild-card round.
- Divisional Round (Jan. 16-17, 2021): The three wild-card winners and the top seed from each conference will play. The Nos. 2 through 7 teams are reseeded for the divisional round, with the No. 1 seed playing the lowest-seeded team remaining and the two middle seeds squaring off. The higher-seeded team will have home-field advantage.
- Conference Championship (Jan. 24, 2021): The two remaining teams in each conference will vie for a spot in the Super Bowl to represent the AFC and NFC. The higher-seeded team will be the home team for those games.
- Super Bowl LV (Feb. 3, 2021): Super Bowl LV will be held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., the first time it will have hosted the NFL’s championship game since Pittsburgh defeated Arizona 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII in 2009. It will be the third Super Bowl played at Raymond James Stadium overall, with the other coming in 2001 when Baltimore defeated the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.
Pennsylvania’s NFL teams
Philadelphia Eagles (NFC East)
The Eagles closed the 2019 season on a four-game winning streak to finish 9-7, overtaking the Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC East for the second time in three seasons. Philadelphia had a short-lived postseason, though, losing 17-9 at home to Seattle in the wild-card round. Carson Wentz played all 16 games for the first time since his rookie season in 2016, throwing for 27 touchdowns and a career-high 4,039 yards.
The Eagles made two key moves in the offseason, acquiring cornerback Darius Slay from the Detroit Lions for a pair of draft picks and signing him to a three-year, $50 million extension. They also signed defensive tackle Javon Hargrave in free agency, luring him from Pittsburgh with a three-year, $39 million contract. Philadelphia also had three notable departures as it declined a 2020 option on safety Malcolm Jenkins, who went to New Orleans; offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai signed a five-year, $50 million deal with Detroit; and wide receiver Nelson Agholor opted for a one-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Philadelphia has a favorable amount of cap space, ranking among the highest in the NFL with approximately $28 million. Three-time Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce, who has started all 126 games over nine seasons he has played with the Eagles since being drafted in the sixth round in 2011, brings an 89-game starting streak into the 2020 season and was not called for a false start over a full season for the first time in his career in 2019.
The Eagles are expected to battle the Cowboys for the NFC East once again this year as both the New York Giants and Washington Redskins are both in the throes of long-term rebuilds with young quarterbacks. The teams were fairly even throughout the season – both swept their matchups with the Giants and Redskins – and the difference last season essentially came down to Philadelphia taking care of business against the New York Jets while Dallas failed to do so.
|Year||SU Record||ATS Record||ATS Home||ATS Away||Off PPG||Def PPG|
The Eagles fan base draws from two primary areas, the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs and a sizable contingent from southern New Jersey at approximately Burlington County and south to the tip of the state in Cape May. Bordering New Jersey cities Camden and Trenton are home to pockets of Eagles fans as is the East Coast gambling mecca of Atlantic City. With both New Jersey and Pennsylvania home to legalized sports betting, Eagles fans do not lack for options when it comes to betting on their favorite team.
Eagles fans are arguably among the rowdiest in the league, though their reputation has improved somewhat following the team’s Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots in 2018. Gone are the days of pelting Santa Claus with snowballs and in-stadium jail cells, but Philadelphia is a notoriously tough city and has high expectations for its sports teams, especially the Eagles.
The key games for the Eagles always include the two divisional matchups with Dallas and the New York Giants, the former having a direct impact on the NFC East title race and the latter for geographical bragging rights. By virtue of finishing atop the division last season, Philadelphia will also play the fellow NFC division winners in 2020, which includes a home game versus New Orleans and trips to Green Bay and San Francisco.
The NFC East plays the NFC West in intraconference play, and Philadelphia will welcome the Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams to Lincoln Financial Field while also traveling west to Arizona in addition to San Francisco. The NFC East plays the AFC North this season, so the Eagles will face Baltimore and Cincinnati at home and Cleveland and in-state rival Pittsburgh on the road.
Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North)
The 2019 season was a lost one for the Steelers as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury in Week 2. Coach Mike Tomlin used rookies Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, but the departures of running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown were often too much to overcome when combined with Roethlisberger’s absence.
JuJu Schuster-Smith, thrust into the No. 1 receiver role with Brown’s departure, expectedly struggled establishing himself with Rudolph and Hodges and finished with 42 catches for 552 yards. Pittsburgh’s ground game was also plagued by injuries as James Conner and rookie Benny Snell shared top billing and combined for 890 rushing yards.
The most important move the Steelers made in the offseason was keeping one of their own, signing linebacker Bud Dupree to a franchise tender worth $15.8 million. Dupree had a breakthrough 2019 with 11.5 sacks and combined with T.J. Watt to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks from the edge. The pair combined for 26 of Pittsburgh’s NFL-leading 54 sacks.
Speaking of Watt, the Steelers now have two-thirds of the family’s football players in the fold after signing fullback Derek Watt from the Los Angeles Chargers. He is expected to be Pittsburgh’s special teams ace and could compete with Roosevelt Nix for snaps at fullback.
Pittsburgh’s big free agent signing was tight end Eric Ebron, who will give Roethlisberger a prime pass-catching target at the position not seen since the days of Heath Miller. Ebron had a sharp falloff last season for the Colts with just 31 catches for 375 yards, but some of that could be attributed to not having Andrew Luck throwing to him. In 2018, Ebron had career highs of 66 catches, 750 yards, and 13 TDs, and the hope is having Roethlisberger under center will help him get back to those numbers.
The Steelers head into April somewhat hamstrung by the salary cap with approximately only $7 million of space. Watt’s deal, which was three years for a reported $9.75 million, is somewhat high for primarily a special teams player. But Pittsburgh did take care of its top priority, which was keeping Dupree.
The Steelers are expected to be vying for second in the AFC North with the Cleveland Browns as the Baltimore Ravens are expected to be the class of the division following their impressive 2019 season while looking to avenge their postseason flameout. Pittsburgh has not missed the playoffs in three straight years since 1998-2000, and with a third wild-card spot available this season, Mike Tomlin’s team should at worst be in the hunt for one of those postseason spots.
|Year||SU Record||ATS Record||ATS Home||ATS Away||Off PPG||Def PPG|
By virtue of the “Steel Curtain” from the 1970s and early 1980s, the Steelers still enjoy a national fan base to an extent. Geographically, though, the team draws a majority of its fans from the western half of Pennsylvania – think Harrisburg and west — as well as portions of West Virginia.
Steelers fans do provide vocal support as Heinz Field has long been one of the most difficult venues for road teams. For kickers, the combination of chewed-up grass and winds coming off the Allegheny River make long-distance field goal attempts challenging. Last season, opposing kickers converted just 8 of 14 on attempts of 41 yards or longer.
Pittsburgh’s two biggest games will involve its division matchups against Baltimore, though though contests with Cleveland will be equally emotional slugfests, especially after last year’s matchup in which Browns defensive end Myles Garrett hit Rudolph on the head while swinging his helmet. That was arguably the low point of the 2019 NFL season and bad blood likely still remains on both sides.
By finishing second in the AFC North, the Steelers will play their peers across the conference – the Denver Broncos from the West, the Buffalo Bills from the East, and the Tennessee Titans from the South. The AFC North faces the AFC South in intraconference play, and Pittsburgh will host Houston and Indianapolis while traveling to Jacksonville and Tennessee. The Steelers will face the NFC East in interconference play, hosting Washington and in-state rival Philadelphia and taking to the road to face the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
Betting on NFL weather
There are usually four elements that make weather a factor in NFL games: Wind, extreme cold, precipitation and heat. Wind has the potential to neutralize a team’s passing attack, thereby rendering an offense one-dimensional during the quarters it tries to advance into a headwind.
That corresponding tailwind occasionally helps kickers get more length on field goal attempts and occasionally gives a coach pause to ponder attempting a field goal from a distance normally beyond the maximum range of his kicker. Wind is by far the biggest factor that actually impacts games and, correspondingly, points scored, while too much attention is commonly paid to other weather conditions.
Extreme cold usually becomes a factor in northern cities late in the season, including Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, and Green Bay. In the cases of Chicago, Cleveland, and Buffalo, there is the added element of the “lake effect,” which could result in a bitterly chilling wind or snow squalls that make offensive plays difficult to execute.
Precipitation, whether it be snow or rain, also can affect play. At the most basic level, footing becomes more questionable, and a more athletic player with better balance can use that to his advantage against a defender who has to react, whether by covering a wide receiver running a pattern or tackling a ball carrier. A slick ball is hard to throw for a quarterback, hard to catch for a wide receiver, and occasionally hard to handle for a running back accepting a handoff and trying to hold on afterward.
Extreme heat, which usually takes place in September in warm-weather cities including Miami, Jacksonville, and Carolina, takes a toll on teams depending on conditioning. A team that is in shape can often withstand those conditions, but early in the season, most teams have varying levels of conditioning that can be exploited by those opponents.
Kevin Roth’s Twitter account is an excellent source for finding weather forecasts that have the potential to affect games. Likewise, check out the dedicated weather page at RotoGrinders. A bettor can tailor-make widgets for their favorite teams at NFLWeather.com as well as ones for each week and Monday Night Football.
Home field advantage
Whether it is a deafening dome or dealing with the elements, home-field advantage often plays a significant part in a football game. Consider that a betting line usually factors in an advantage of up to three points for the home team, which can sometimes use that frenzied atmosphere to gain and sustain momentum.
Almost every dome can create a deafening atmosphere, but the Mercedes-Benz Superdome where the New Orleans Saints play is arguably the league’s standard. Fan noise has contributed to many a false start and delay of game with an opposing offense unable to hear a play count or work off a silent count.
Other stadiums notorious for loud atmospheres include CenturyLink Field (Seattle) and Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City), while some have weather conditions that can make life miserable for opponents, including Lambeau Field (Green Bay), New Era Field (Buffalo), and Soldier Field (Chicago). Miami and Jacksonville can sometimes gain early-season advantages playing in the sweltering Florida heat. Being approximately a mile above sea level, the Denver Broncos also have a unique advantage as opponents try to acclimate to thinner air that has lower oxygen levels.
The Los Angeles Chargers will likely be happy moving into SoFi Stadium for this season after playing the past three seasons at Dignity Health Center, which is also home to the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer. The Chargers were 11-11 at home from 2017-19.
|Team||SU Home Record 2015-19||ATS Home Record 2015-19*|
|Arizona Cardinals||18-20-2 (.475)||17-22-1 (.438)|
|Atlanta Falcons||21-19-0 (.525)||18-22-0 (.450)|
|Baltimore Ravens||27-13-0 (.675)||16-23-1 (.413)|
|Buffalo Bills||23-17-0 (.575)||19-20-1 (.488)|
|Carolina Panthers||25-15-0 (.625)||20-19-1 (.513)|
|Chicago Bears||18-22-0 (.450)||22-17-1 (.563)|
|Cincinnati Bengals||20-19-1 (.513)||17-22-1 (.438) – a|
|Cleveland Browns||12-27-1 (.313)||14-25-1 (.363) – a|
|Dallas Cowboys||23-17-0 (.575)||19-20-1 (.488)|
|Denver Broncos||23-17-0 (.575)||18-20-2 (.475)|
|Detroit Lions||19-21-0 (.475)||19-21-0 (.475)|
|Green Bay Packers||27-12-1 (.688)||21-18-1 (.538)|
|Houston Texans||26-14-0 (.650)||18-21-1 (.463)|
|Indianapolis Colts||22-18-0 (.550)||19-20-1 (.488)|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||18-22-0 (.450)||18-21-1 (.463) – f|
|Kansas City Chiefs||30-10-0 (.750)||20-19-1 (.513) – a|
|Las Vegas Raiders||21-19-0 (.525)||17-22-1 (.438) – e|
|Los Angeles Chargers||18-22-0 (.450)||12-27-1 (.313) – b|
|Los Angeles Rams||22-18-0 (.550)||17-20-3 (.463) – d|
|Miami Dolphins||22-18-0 (.550)||19-19-2 (.500) – c|
|Minnesota Vikings||29-11-0 (.725)||27-12-1 (.688)|
|New England Patriots||33-7-0 (.825)||24-13-3 (.638)|
|New Orleans Saints||27-13-0 (.675)||21-18-1 (.538)|
|New York Giants||16-24-0 (.400)||15-24-1 (.388)|
|New York Jets||19-21-0 (.475)||21-18-1 (.538)|
|Philadelphia Eagles||26-14-0 (.650)||20-20-0 (.500)|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||28-12-0 (.700)||20-18-2 (.525)|
|San Francisco 49ers||18-22-0 (.450)||16-23-1 (.413)|
|Seattle Seahawks||26-14-0 (.650)||18-21-1 (.463)|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||17-23-0 (.425)||14-24-2 (.375) – a|
|Tennessee Titans||22-18-0 (.550)||18-19-3 (.488)|
|Washington Redskins||19-21-0 (.475)||19-21-0 (.475)|
a — Includes one home game played in London
b — Includes one game played in London and one game played in Mexico City
c — Includes two home games played in London
d — Includes three home games played in London
e — Includes two games played in London and two games played in Mexico City
f – Includes five games played in London
Watching NFL Games: TV Stations, Streaming and Broadcast Teams
The popularity of the National Football League over the last generation in becoming America’s most popular televised sport means television networks have been committed to providing the best possible experience for home viewers. That includes technological advancements with cameras, graphics that pop off the screen, and access to players and coaches both in-game and post-game.
Three of the four major over-the-air networks – CBS, NBC, and FOX — all carry at least one NFL game per week and at least one postseason game. The fourth, ABC, is owned by Disney, though Disney also owns ESPN and airs Monday Night Football on that station. The NFL Network airs games Thursday, with FOX providing exclusive production for the games they air in the latter half of the season to the NFL Network and syndicated partners through 2022 as part of the most recent contract signed in 2018.
Amazon has brought NFL to the digital platform since 2017, and for the last two seasons has also offered games on its streaming platform Twitch. Amazon’s subscription service, Amazon Prime, also offers an alternative broadcast commentary feed and chat room while the Amazon Fire stream offers the “X-Ray” feature which provides statistics and other content to explore deeper.
In addition to airing Thursday Night Football, the NFL Network has become a must-watch destination for bettors because of its league news coverage and extensive reach to all 32 teams given its status as the official network of the NFL. Shows such as “Good Morning Football” and “NFL Total Access,” in addition to its wall-to-wall coverage of live events – most notably the NFL Scouting Combine and NFL Draft – provide a wealth of information via video breakdowns and statistics vital to making informed betting decisions.
On game day, there are two key ways to aggregate viewing while keeping an eye on the televised games in any given market. One is NFL Red Zone, which is run by the NFL Network and distributed to cable carriers throughout the country. The stated purpose of NFL Red Zone – which is commercial free — is to show every touchdown of every game, and that target is achieved by switching to live feeds of games when a team reaches the opponents’ 20-yard line, also known as “the red zone.”
One quirk of this feature is occasionally more than one game will have teams in the red zone. The result is an organized chaotic symphony in which host Scott Hanson will deftly navigate from play to play in such scenarios, minimizing the dead time between plays to provide a constant stream of action. Every so often it results in the “quad box” in which four scoring drives are running simultaneously that prompts Hanson for social interaction via screenshots for Twitter.
While the NFL Red Zone provides whiparound action for multiple hours Sunday, one of the seminal broadcast decisions by the league was the creation of the DirecTV Sunday Ticket, which offers all the out-of-market regional NFL games to subscribers. It was first offered in 1994 and served as a means of giving transplanted fans in different cities the option to watch their favorite NFL team regardless of where they reside. It is also used by bars and restaurants to enhance their Sunday business and allows for groups of fans to get together in far-flung cities to root on their favorite teams. And, of course, serious NFL fans and NFL bettors comprise a sizable chunk of subscriptions.
In the booth
For all the technological advancements with cameras in terms of bringing a picture to NFL viewers, a broadcast can only be as good as the announcers describing those pictures. As the NFL gained in popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, its broadcasters became household names.
Football fans would look forward to games with Pat Summerall and John Madden for CBS’ top NFC game or Dick Enberg and Merlin Olson doing likewise for AFC games on NBC. And during its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, ABC’s “Monday Night Football” with Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford, and Don Meredith was appointment viewing as the NFL established an enduring foothold in primetime television.
Each network that carries NFL football has a “No. 1” announcing team it assigns to the most important games of the week, and knowing that pair of announcers and sideline reporter are coming to your city heightens the anticipation of a game.
In recent seasons, the top pairing of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo on CBS has emerged as arguably the best duo among NFL announcing booths, and they are assisted by sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson. Nantz, who does play-by-play, is a voice long familiar with sports fans from his work at The Masters and the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament as part of his CBS sports duties.
In the two seasons Romo has been Nantz’s partner since retiring, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback has made a seamless and impressive transition from under center to alongside Nantz, dissecting offenses and predicting plays with an enthusiasm that appears to have rejuvenated Nantz in the process. Romo was the subject of a bidding war between CBS and ESPN this offseason, eventually won by the Tiffany Network when it re-signed him to a 10-year deal reportedly worth $180 million.
All three over-the-air networks have robust No. 1 broadcast teams. FOX sports the duo of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, the latter also a former Dallas Cowboys quarterback. They are supported by sideline reporter Erin Andrews. Much like Nantz, Buck has become the face of FOX with his MLB and golf announcing duties in addition to the NFL, and his partnership with Aikman – which will enter its 19th season in 2020 – is that of a smooth-running car engine in which both play to their strengths without stepping over each other’s voices.
While CBS and FOX make announcing line-up decisions based on the regional games they broadcast each week, NBC has a national platform with its Sunday Night Football. That puts play-by-play announcer Al Michaels, analyst Cris Collinsworth and sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya on the spot in what are expected to be the best games of the week.
Michaels has been the play-by-play voice of multiple sports for multiple generations, with his “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” from the 1980 Winter Olympics when the United States beat the Soviet Union in ice hockey still his signature call. Like Buck and Aikman, Michaels and Collinsworth – a former wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals — are simpatico on air, adeptly breaking down key moments and plays, but there is also a sense of more playful banter between the latter two during a broadcast.
Both have played into social media, with Collinsworth’s slide-in next to Michaels at the opening of a broadcast now judiciously watched. Michaels’ best glib moments often come late in contests with the outcome well decided, offering viewers an indirect way to signal scoring plays that affect betting lines and outcomes while Collinsworth plays straight man.
Inheriting Monday Night Football from ABC as part of the Disney/Capital Cities merger in 1996, MNF eventually migrated to ESPN in 2006, which was also when NBC re-entered the NFL television picture with its Sunday Night Football. ESPN has been consistent in terms of production values but not as much when it comes to broadcasting tandems.
There have been some hits, like Mike Tirico — now with NBC — and current Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who was one of the highest-paid NFL analysts in between his coaching gigs. Recently, though, there have been more misses as ESPN replaced Sean McDonough with Joe Tessitore as the play-by-play voice. Jason Witten spent the 2018 season as Tessitore’s analyst, but returned to the playing field in 2019, which resulted in Booger McFarland moving from sideline-level analyst to alongside Tessitore.
While ESPN had better MNF ratings year-on-year last season, Tessitore and McFarland often appeared out of their depth when compared to the No. 1 broadcast teams of other networks. ESPN has tried to address this issue in the offseason, reportedly trying to bring back Michaels via trade with NBC Sports – a move that would have brought Michaels full circle since he was dealt to NBC in 2006 by ESPN for the intellectual rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
ESPN also made a push to lure Romo from CBS, but it never had a chance to make him a formal offer. Recent reports have stated ESPN is interested in future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, who ended his quarterbacking career in 2016 with a Super Bowl title with the Denver Broncos. If such a deal is made, it would give instant credibility to a broadcast team that may retain Tessitore as well as sideline reporter Lisa Salters.
Key numbers in NFL betting
While every number has the potential to be pivotal in a bet, there are certain ones that carry more weight given they make a difference in terms of score margins. For example, a four-point margin late in the fourth quarter is important because the trailing team cannot simply kick a field goal and hope the defense will make a stop that results in a potential second possession to win the game.
Numbers that are the worth of scoring plays, most notably “3” and “7” because they are the most common, often emerge as key numbers for betting. “8” has recently emerged as a key number given the 2-point conversion has become a more widely accepted strategic option for teams to build leads or cut deficits.
For example, when the Houston Texans rallied to beat the Buffalo Bills in the AFC wild-card round, they rallied from a 16-0 deficit and took a 19-16 lead on the strength of two touchdowns and two two-point conversions around a field goal.
Another key spread number is “the hook.” The hook is the half-point that has the potential to swing betting outcomes regardless of the whole number it follows. For example, if Team A, which was favored by 2 ½ points, defeats Team B 20-17, the bettor who laid 2 ½ points on Team A had a winning bet. But the bettor who grabbed Team B and got 3 ½ points also placed a winning bet.
On certain numbers, the hook makes a bet far more challenging, as evidenced by the above example with spreads of 2 ½ and 3 ½ points. That also holds true when a spread is 6 ½ or 7 ½ points or even larger ones such as 9 ½ or 10 ½ points.
Much like spread key numbers, there are total numbers important to remember when betting on over/unders. The most basic of those are the ones divisible by “7,” which is the worth of a touchdown (14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, etc). It serves as a foundation of sorts when placing an over/under bet, whether it be on a single team or for the game. Can Team A score “X amount of touchdowns,” or Can Teams A and B score “X amount of combined touchdowns.”
Another are flat totals that combine touchdowns and a single field goal. That includes numbers starting at “10” and increasing in seven-point increments (17, 24, 31, 38, 45), usually up to “52,” which covers a majority of NFL games played. NFL teams averaged 22.8 points in 2019, which comes to 45.6 when doubled to represent two teams.
Similar to when it comes to betting the spread, the hook also looms large for bettors when it comes to making wagers on the over/under. That half-point in either direction often determines winners and losers on bets, especially when it is on numbers divisible by touchdowns or the aforementioned flat numbers that combine touchdowns and a single field goal. That is because it usually requires an additional score for the over to be a winning bet. Two-point conversions, both successful and unsuccessful, also play a role in the over/under, but they are also more difficult to account for given each game unfolds in a unique manner and coaching strategies vary from game to game.
Importance of ‘getting the best’ number
Sometimes, timing is everything when it comes to placing a bet. In the case of NFL betting, that especially holds true given the length of time between games and the length of time available to bet on a given game since a line is established early in the week and fluctuates.
Sometimes, the best time to place a wager is early in the week if the line appears to notably favor one team. That usually balances out to a degree over the course of the week if bettors feel they are “taking advantage” of that direction and the line moves correspondingly.
Another time to consider placing a wager is when the initial injury reports are released late Wednesday afternoon Eastern Time. It is the first time a key player’s status is formally addressed by the team (though a coach and/or player may address it during a news conference prior to the injury report). A second injury report released Friday also offers a window in which a betting line can move in a significant direction that provides a potential advantage.
Lastly, paying attention to media reports the day of the game can occasionally move a line significantly. That includes reports on players who could be placed on inactive lists for a game depending on their injury statuses. The hours before kickoff also occasionally provide “steam” for one team or a “fade” against another in which a sizable wager is placed that moves the betting line.
Often, that “steam” comes from “sharp” bettors, who have often shown an ability to separate themselves from average bettors in terms of successful picks. That then results in a decision for the bettor to either “chase” a steam bet and be on that side or be a contrarian and “fade” the pick by going in the opposite direction.
How the 33-yard extra point has changed things
While some rules changes – such as what defines defensive pass interference — create ancillary scoring differences, none have provided as much difference to betting outcomes as the NFL’s decision in 2015 to move the standard PAT kick from 20 yards to 33 yards. In the five seasons since the rule change, the success rate has ranged from 93.6 percent (2016) to 94.3 percent (2018). It is a stark contrast to the five seasons before the rule change in which the lowest success rate in a season was 99.1 percent in 2010.
A missed extra point early has the potential to loom large late in games, as teams may need different score combinations when trailing that affect strategy and decision-making. A team that would have been trailing by three points with a successful conversion can then find itself down four, needing a touchdown to win the game as opposed to kicking a field goal to potentially force overtime. Teams that trail by two possessions and face a deficit of 11 instead of 10 points then have more pressure to produce a successful two-point conversion (which has a success rate of 50.05% since 2015) instead of simply kicking an extra point.
The increased distance also adds a degree of pressure on kickers previously unseen for such attempts. What was once a “chip shot” almost never missed, except when blocked, now has a larger margin of error, and that extra point could make the difference between tying a game and sending it to overtime or even potentially winning a game.
Las Vegas Super Bowl betting history
Wagers, wins, and hold percentage last 10 years:
|2020||$154,679,241||$18,774,148||12.1%||KC 31, SF 20|
|2019||$145,939,025||$10,780,319||7.4%||NE 13, LAR 3|
|2018||$158,586,934||$1,170,432||0.7%||PHI 41, NE 33|
|2017||$138,480,136||$10,937,826||7.9%||NE 34, ATL 28 (OT)|
|2016||$132,545,587||$13,314,539||10.1%||DEN 24, CAR 10|
|2015||$115,986,086||$3,261,066||2.8%||NE 28, SEA 24|
|2014||$119,400,822||$19,673,960||16.5%||SEA 43, DEN 8|
|2013||$98,936,798||$7,206,460||7.3%||BAL 34, SF 31|
|2012||$93,899,840||$5,064,470||5.4%||NYG 21, NE 17|
|2011||$87,491,098||$724,176||0.8%||GB 31, PIT 25|
*Source: Nevada Gaming Control Board
Bankroll management is arguably the most important thing you can do to enjoy sports betting for the long term. While everyone wants to win, and no one wants to lose, doing so responsibly and wisely is paramount in having, regardless of outcome, a positive experience.
That means the most important rule to remember is NOT to bet beyond your budget and/or means. It’s understandable to chase a losing streak to end it or ride a winning streak to add to your bankroll, but it must be done responsibly. That means sticking to a budget and, sometimes, swallowing your pride and taking “the L.”
Another important part of management is betting with reputable sportsbooks, which allows you full access to the money in your account.
Unit size is also unique to the bettor, though the standard “unit” for handicappers who offer their picks is $100 = 1 unit, since that is also the scale used for sports betting lines. For example, that means a 2-unit play is a $200 bet. A unit, though, means different things to different people on different scales, so it can be whatever a bettor wishes it to be. For convenience purposes, though, it would make sense to make that distinct unit easily divisible into 100 (i.e., 10, 20, 25, 50) for betting and record-keeping purposes.
Betting highlights of NFL season
Almost immediately after the Super Bowl ends (February): It is never too early to think about next season, and sportsbooks are eager to capitalize on the attention of the just-completed Super Bowl to offer futures for the following season. Sometimes, there is value to be had on a potential trendy pick or taking a flyer on the new reigning champion.
Start of the free agent season (March): The free agency period, barring an unforeseen retirement of a star player, is the first real opportunity for futures to have line movement based on team personnel moves. Remember, as one team potentially gets better with a marquee signing, another gets potentially worse with that departure.
NFL Schedule release (April): While the public knows who each team will be playing the following season almost immediately after the season ends, the actual schedule release pinpoints marquee matchups for each week of the season, followed shortly thereafter with very preliminary Week 1 betting lines.
NFL Hall of Fame Game (August): The first game of the year to place bets! Like players in training camp, it is a chance to scrape off the rust, brush up on information gathering to see new faces in new places and scope out offerings by all the sportsbooks, including adjustments and line movements on futures.
NFL Kickoff Game (September): The official start of the season, usually a home game for the reigning Super Bowl champion, is also the unofficial start of the NFL betting season. Superbook contests across sportsbooks also get underway as everyone starts the season on equal footing in terms of bankroll and record.
Thanksgiving Day (November): The annual three-game slate that features a Detroit Lions home game, a Dallas Cowboys home game, and a NFL Network matchup shines a spotlight on the league and is also a key wagering day with so many people available to place bets while enjoying an off day with the family.
Weeks 15 and 16 (December): These two weeks are key for fantasy football players, who are usually in the semifinal and final rounds of league plays. These are also usually the last two weeks of games in which building lineups for DFS contests are at their most challenging with virtually every first-team player available.
Week 17 (January): Ring in the new year in style by making those final regular-season plays to try and turn a profit for the season or perhaps lessen the hurt. There is sometimes value to be had in games involving teams with nothing to play for standings-wise as a means of getting personnel healthy for the playoffs.
Playoffs (January): With an extra two games for the upcoming postseason, there are now 12 playoff games to bet on as teams vie to reach Super Bowl LV in Tampa. There will be the intrigue of having only one team get a bye to the divisional round, debate over whether the seventh team in each conference is even worthy of a playoff spot given the NFL, and with each progressive round, drama as bettors cheer on teams and their respective plays.
Super Bowl (February): It all comes full circle with the biggest game of the year in American sports. Bettors can place a wager on anything starting with the over/under on the length of the singing of the national anthem and then everything up to the final gun and even beyond in some markets with the MVP winner.
It is a time to celebrate the NFL season and then briefly exhale… before sportsbooks post futures for the next season.
Advantages of NFL betting at legal PA sportsbooks
The Super Bowl is already one of the biggest betting events in Nevada every season – there was more than $150 million legally wagered for February’s Super Bowl LIV in the Silver State alone – and as more states legalize sports betting as a way of generating tax revenue, there is a chance some states could match or possibly exceed that number as their markets mature in the coming years.
Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the federal ban on full-fledged sports betting outside Nevada, the main form of legalized betting took place in Nevada, or via NFL parlay wagering in Delaware. Many people had accounts with offshore sportsbooks, which operated illegally in the U.S. ( and many still do) and are a risk for bettors from a consumer protection standpoint. Fortunately, Pennsylvania was among the first states outside Nevada to usher in legal online sports betting.
Some of the main advantages include:
- Line/price shopping: Bettors will have the ability to comparison shop multiple sportsbooks. Bettors can compare and contrast betting lines among sportsbooks, creating a better potential outcome than what a single bookmaker can offer.
- Safety and security of funds: With legalized sports betting on a state-by-state basis comes regulation and regulatory agencies. That means a lot of things that are favorable for the bettor:
- The extensive licensing and compliance process, required for the privilege of doing business, means you’re not going to get ripped off by a fly-by-night or shady outfit, which is common at offshore sportsbooks;
- A dispute resolution process;
- The sportsbook has sufficient funds for withdrawals;
- Players can avoid egregiously high rollovers that prevent a bettor from withdrawing funds;
- Sportsbooks have to make certain disclosures, so you don’t get blindsided by terms or fees.
- Banking: Deposits and withdrawals conducted at a legal sportsbook, either in person or mobile, is far easier than dealing with an offshore account and also far better in terms of encryption for mobile accounts. Deposits and withdrawals can be made online with greater ease and convenience — without “withdrawal” fees! –while in-person bets can be made with a teller or at a self-serve kiosk in most places. You can even use PayPal at most sportsbooks!
- Local promotions: Every sportsbook is looking to grab your attention with an offer that, at the start at least, can help modestly grow your bankroll. Some sportsbooks do so in unique ways, like FanDuel Sportsbook did one December when it moved the line one point for every 250 people who signed up in Indianapolis as part of its mobile registration promotion. Almost every sportsbook will have such an offer, so being attentive and signing up with each book allows you an opportunity to perhaps find an easy win.