Fancy a bet on American Football but not sure where to start? Here’s everything you need to get involved.
American football has seen a surge in popularity in the UK in recent years, largely a result of the NFL staging regular season games in London. It’s also becoming an increasingly attractive proposition for sports bettors. There are a wide range of markets to choose from and, given most NFL games kick-off on Sunday at around 6pm UK time, it doesn’t need to get in the way of the rest of your weekend sports viewing.
And the good news is , you don’t need to be an American Football expert to get involved either. Just think of it as a variation of rugby with helmets, pads and forward passes. So, read on, as we run you through the basics of betting on American Football.
What are the rules of American Football?
The rules to American Football are often over-complicated and can sometimes put people off the sport. In reality, there are only a couple of things you need to know to enjoy – and bet – on it.
1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Down
The team with the ball are aiming to move the ball up the field. They have four chances (a down) to move the ball a total of 10 yards, either by running or passing it. If they make 10 yards, then they get another set of four downs. If they fail to make 10 yards in the four downs then the other team gets the ball.
They attacking team may choose a conservative approach, where the quarterback hands the ball to a running back who attempts to gain three or four yards per play. It’s more exciting, however, when the quarterback (the playmaker in effect, or to put it in football terms, the Zinedine Zidane of the team) ups the ante and attempts a long pass to a wide receiver.
If you are watching American Football on TV, you will probably see the words “1st and 10” written in the corner of tour screen. This means it’s the 1st Down with 10 yards to make. If four yards are gained on the first down, this will change to “2nd and 6” and so on.
Six points are scored if a player runs into the end zone in possession of the football. This is called a touchdown, triggering fireworks, cheerleaders and fans going wild. An extra point results if the kicker plants the ball between the posts.
If, however, a team is close to the end zone but has got to fourth down, then they usually don’t risk a touchdown attempt. Instead, they can try to kick a field goal, which is worth three points.
There are four periods of active play, divided into quarters, each of them 15 minutes long with barely any dead time. The clock stops as soon as a receiver runs out of bounds (off the field), or points are scored, or possession switches to the other team, or a play is reviewed by the officials.
In addition, each team has six timeouts to use at its discretion. The clock also stops with two minutes to go at the end of the second and fourth quarters. All that means the average NFL game lasts in excess of three hours, including a break of around 12 minutes at halftime.
How does the NFL season work?
The NFL regular season is short and sweet. It begins on the weekend following the first Monday of September and ends in December or early January. There are a total of 256 games, with each of the 32 teams playing 16 games during a 17-week period.
The NFL is divided into two conferences, the AFC and NFC. After the regular season, seven teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs. If teams are tied with the same regular season won-lost-tied record, the playoff seeding is determined by a set of tie-breaking rules.
The playoffs of course culminate in the Super Bowl. This is when the winning teams from each conference play each other to become ‘world’ champion. Since 2002, the Super Bowl has been played on the first Sunday in February. It is one of the biggest events on the sporting calendar, attracting millions of viewers not only in the US but worldwide.
American Football Betting Markets Explained
There are a wide range of markets available to American Football punters. Some you may be familiar with from betting on other sports, but others require a little more explanation.
The ‘Money Line’ is the bedrock of American Football betting. Simply put, it means betting on a specific team to win a game. Although rare, it is possible for a match to end as a tie if no points are scored during overtime.
Also known as handicap betting, spread betting involves giving one team a head start in order to even out the odds. You are betting on a specific team to either win or lose by a certain margin. This is great if you fancy a team to win comfortably. Or maybe you can see the perceived underdog taking a stronger side all the way without necessarily winning.
In this market you are betting on whether you think the combined total of points scored by both teams will be over or under a specific line. A recent game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens had a line of 51.5. It finished 34-20 in favour of the Chiefs. If you add both scores together, you get a total of 54 points. That means your bet would have won if you backed over 51.5 points and lost if you backed the low side of the line.
First Touchdown Scorer
This market requires little explanation. You are simply betting on which player you think will score the first touchdown of a game.
Anytime Touchdown Scorer
Similarly, the Anytime Touchdown Scorer market involves betting on a player to score a touchdown at any point of a game.
One last thing…
Before placing an NFL bet it is always worth checking the rules around overtime. Most match bet markets do include overtime, but not all, so make sure you know where you stand by checking out our rules around American Football betting.