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 LVII 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 2022 NFL season
2022 NFL free agency and trades
Compared to the other major sports, the NFL offseason was usually much quieter. Trades were infrequent, and the fireworks didn’t arrive until draft night when college football’s best joined the big stage.
This offseason proved that sentiment to be completely false. The sheer number of star players on the move was unparalleled to any other offseason in recent memory.
The most notable trade that caused shock waves throughout the NFL was when the Houston Texans dealt Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns for six draft picks. Watson was then signed to the highest guaranteed contract in NFL history.
Watson is a subject of controversy as he had as many as 24 civil lawsuits regarding accusations of sexual misconduct and assault from different masseuses. After a rigorous legal process, Watson has since been suspended for the first 11 games of this NFL season.
We discussed the WR movement and Russell Wilson trade above, but there was plenty of other action around the league. Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack was dealt to the Los Angeles Chargers to team up with Joey Bosa for the Chargers’ 2022 2nd round pick.
Additionally, the Colts decided to again start over at the quarterback position. GM Chris Ballard elected to deal Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders. He then acquired NFL MVP Matt Ryan as their new starter. Ryan will be the 4th different starting quarterback for the Colts since Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement in 2019.
In free agency, there was plenty of star power on the move. The Dolphins got a huge boost at the offensive line when they signed All-Pro Terron Armstead along with Connor Williams. The Dolphins will need to shore up their trenches as the Bills got even stronger on the defensive line when they pried Super Bowl MVP Von Miller away from the defending Super Bowl champion, the Rams.
Surprisingly, the Jags spent early and often this free agency. They made a splash with Christian Kirk and signed Brandon Scherff on the offensive line along with some enforcements on defense: Foye Oluokun, Darious Williams, and Folorunso Fatukasi. With Doug Pederson leading the way in Duval County, don’t be surprised if the Jaguars surprise in the AFC South.
Some other notable moves were the Patriots electing to let All-Pro corner J.C. Jackson walk and sign a monster deal with the LA Chargers. In addition, the Raiders chose to load up on defense when they signed Chandler Jones to a 3-year contract worth more than $50 million.
2022 NFL Draft
Although this NFL Draft wasn’t highlighted by elite quarterbacks like the 2021 NFL draft, there was plenty of talent in this pool of players.
The draft started with a bang when the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Travon Walker with the first overall pick. Many viewed Walker as the 3rd or 4th best defensive lineman on the Georgia defensive line, but thanks to a ridiculous combine performance, Walker’s stock skyrocketed.
The Lions followed this up by selecting hometown kid Aidan Hutchinson with the second pick. Many viewed Hutchinson as the top prospect and should step in and start immediately in Detroit.
Despite the crazy start to the draft, there may not have been a bigger storyline in the draft than the New York Jets. The Jets came into the draft with two top ten picks and walked away with Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson. Later in round one, GM Joe Douglas pulled the trigger and decided to trade up for Jermaine Johnson. The Jets followed it up early on day two and chose the first running back off the board in Breece Hall. The Jets were viewed by many as the “winner” of the draft, but when will it turn to wins? Second-year quarterback Zach Wilson has plenty of talent around him to take a considerable step forward this season.
And finally, we only saw one quarterback come off the board in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. In the first round, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Kenny Pickett as the successor of future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger. However, a quarterback did not come off the board until round three, when the Atlanta Falcons selected Desmond Ridder. Malik Willis was the third quarterback off the board; Willis was considered the top quarterback prospect by many analysts for most of the draft cycle.
2022 NFL Season Key Dates:
- Free Agency: Officially began on March 16, but a “legal tampering” period begins two days before signings occur.
- NFL Draft: Currently scheduled for April 28-30. The draft took place in Las Vegas, Nevada. The first round was held on April 28, Rounds 2 and 3 on April 29, and Rounds 4 through 7 on April 30.
- Training camps open: Some NFL teams opened training camps on July 18.
- Preseason Week 1: Aug. 4. The NFL preseason officially began with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, as part of a weekend celebration in which the Centennial Class was enshrined. The Las Vegas Raiders topped the Jacksonville Jaguars, 27-11.
- NFL Week 1 (Sept. 8): The NFL season is scheduled to begin Thursday, Sept. 8, with a game involving the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams as part of the “NFL Kickoff Game” against the Super Bowl favorite, Buffalo Bills.
- NFL Thanksgiving Games (Thursday, Nov. 24): As has been the case in recent years, three games will be played on 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 no traditional team is specified for that matchup. The Lions will take on the Bills, the Cowboys will play the Giants, and the night will feature the Patriots at the Vikings.
- NFL Week 18 (Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023): The NFL’s regular season will conclude on Jan. 8. The top seven teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs, an increase of two teams from previous years. Only the top-seeded team from each conference will receive a bye into the divisional round.
- Wild Card Weekend (Jan. 14-15, 2023): 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 will face the No. 6 seed, and the No. 4 seed will face the No. 5 seed. The three division winners from each conference will have a home-field advantage in the wild-card round.
- Divisional Round (Jan. 21-22, 2023): 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 a home-field advantage.
- Conference Championship (Jan. 29, 2023): 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 LVII (Feb. 12, 2022): Super Bowl LVII will be held at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Pennsylvania’s NFL teams
Philadelphia Eagles (NFC East)
Going into the 2021 NFL season, many thought the Eagles could be one of the worst teams in the league.
That proved to be false as the Eagles went 9-8 in the regular season and secured one of the three wild card spots in the NFC. Philly was pounced in round one by the Bucs, 31-15, but there is plenty of optimism on Broad Street for the Birds heading into the 2022 season.
The Eagles had arguably one of the best offseasons in the NFL. In free agency, they signed edge rusher Haason Reddick to a 3-year deal. Reddick has been among football’s more productive pass rushers since his breakout in 2020.
The Eagles would also sign inside linebacker Kyzir White. White is coming off a career-high 144 total tackles. Other notable moves GM Howie Roseman made were the signings of Zach Pascal and James Bradberry.
However, there was no single move more significant for Philly than the acquisition of superstar wideout AJ Brown. Howie dealt the 18th pick from New Orleans and a 3rd rounder for Brown. With the addition of Brown, the Eagles have one of the more tantalizing receiving corps in football.
In the draft, the Eagles came in with plenty of ammo. Deciding to deal one of their 1sts for Brown, Howie elected to take nose tackle, Jordan Davis with their lone 1st rounder. Davis was an anchor for the UGA defense where he won a national title. In the 2nd round, the Eagles selected Cam Jurgens. Jurgens is thought to be a potential replacement for All-Pro center Jason Kelce. And in round three, Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean fell in the Eagles’ lap. Dean was once thought of as a first-round talent, but injury and size concerns caused him to fall.
The Eagles head into the season expected to battle the Cowboys for the NFC East once as both the New York Giants and Washington Redskins are in the throes of long-term rebuilds.
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 state’s tip in Cape May. Bordering New Jersey cities, Camden and Trenton is 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 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 with 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 finishing second in the division last season, Philadelphia will also play the Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, and New Orleans Saints.
The NFC East plays the NFC North in intraconference play, and Philadelphia will welcome the Vikings and Packers to Lincoln Financial Field while also traveling to Detroit in their opener in addition to Chicago. The NFC East plays the AFC South this season, so the Eagles will face Jacksonville and Tennessee at home and Indianapolis and Houston on the road.
Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North)
The 2022 season was one to forget for the Steelers as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked like a shell of his former self. The Steelers still managed to overachieve and secure a wild card berth with a 9-7-1 record, but they were handled in the wild card round by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Ben Roethlisberger retired this offseason after an illustrious 18-year career that included two Super Bowl victories.
Mitch Trubisky was signed early in the offseason to be his replacement. Despite the draft pick of Kenny Pickett in round one, Trubisky is expected to start week one in Pittsburgh.
JuJu Smith-Schuster elected to walk away this free agency and sign a 1-year deal to play with one of the game’s best quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes. The Steelers drafted his replacement, George Pickens, in the second round of the NFL draft. Pickens has been making highlight after highlight in training camp.
The Steelers are known to prioritize keeping their own, and they did just that this offseason. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Diontae Johnson were each rewarded with lucrative extensions. The Steelers also re-signed former first-round pick, Terrell Edmunds. The Steelers signed offensive lineman James Daniels, cornerback Levi Wallace, and linebacker Myles Jack in free agency.
The Steelers head into this season as a big underdog in the AFC North. Despite the prowess of head coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers are picked to finish last behind the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and Cleveland Browns.
We’ll see what the “Terrible Towel” fandom will have to say about that. By virtue of the “Steel Curtain” from the 1970s and early 1980s, the Steelers still enjoy a national fan base. Geographically, though, the team draws most of its fans from the western half of Pennsylvania – think Harrisburg and west- and portions of West Virginia.
Steelers fans provide vocal support as Acrisure (RIP Heinz) Field has long been one of the most challenging venues for road teams. The combination of chewed-up grass and winds coming off the Allegheny River make throwing for quarterbacks and long-distance field goal attempts for kickers very challenging.
Pittsburgh’s three biggest games will involve its division matchups against Baltimore, though contests with Cincinnati and Cleveland will be equally emotional slugfests.
By finishing second in the AFC North in 2021, the Steelers will play their peers across the conference – the Las Vegas Raiders from the West, the Indianapolis Colts from the South, and their in-state counterpart, the Eagles. The AFC North faces the AFC East in intraconference play, and Pittsburgh will host New England and New York while traveling to Buffalo and Miami. The Steelers will face the NFC South in interconference play, hosting Tampa Bay and New Orleans and going on the road to face the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons.
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), Highmark Stadium (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.
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 use to air games on 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.
But 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. Amazon Prime will be airing Thursday Night Football full-time this upcoming season.
In addition to previously 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.
There was plenty of movement this offseason. One constant is the top pairing of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo on CBS, who have 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 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 in the past, and 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 Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen, the latter a former Carolina Panthers tight end.
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 Mike Tirico, analyst Cris Collinsworth and sideline reporter Melissa Stark, who will be making her debut, on the spot in what are expected to be the best games of the week.
Formerly, Al Michaels was next to Collinsworth. Like Buck and Aikman, Michaels and Collinsworth – a former wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals — were 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, but now, we will see how the tandem of Tirico and Collinsworth materializes.
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.
ESPN has tried to address this issue in the offseason, reportedly trying to bring back Michaels via trade with NBC Sports – but they decided to go with the team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. 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 21st season in 2022 – is that of a smooth-running car engine in which both play to their strengths without stepping over each other’s voices.
Thursday Night Football will be debuting on Prime Video full-time this upcoming season with Kirk Herbstreit and Al Michaels. Herbstreit will be balancing his duties at ESPN with College Gameday along with the rigors of Thursday Night Football.
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.
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 their first five seasons after the rule change, the success rate 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 16 and 17 (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 18 (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 in the new postseason formats, there are now 12 playoff games to bet on as teams vie to reach Super Bowl LVII in Arizona. There is always 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 nearly $600 million legally wagered in February during the Super Bowl 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.