Betting Regular Season vs. NFL Playoffs

Betting Regular Season vs. NFL Playoffs

The National Football League is truly a tale of two seasons: The regular season and the NFL Playoffs.

All 32 NFL teams enter the regular season with hopes of making the playoffs, but after playing 16 games over a 17-week period, less than half do. That means, while NFL teams try to win every game they can, they can’t let a loss or two destroy the entire campaign. Whereas, in the NFL Playoffs, it’s do or die every week.

There’s a huge difference between the regular season and the postseason for everyone involved, including players, coaches, refs, fans, and, of course, sportsbooks, oddsmakers and the casual or serious sports bettor.

The NFL’s regular season is pretty serious business, but the playoffs bring an increased awareness and heightened intensity across the board. Read on to see how the playoffs really work and how the difference between the regular season and playoffs can affect how lines are set and how you should bet on them.

Betting on NFL regular season

Michigan sportsbooks offer the following list of basic bets on NFL regular-season games and the league as a whole:

  • Moneylines: Bet on a favorite or underdog to win a game at moneyline odds. Negative odds are posted for favorites, representing how much you need to bet to stand to win $100 plus your bet back. Positive moneyline odds are posted for underdogs representing how much you stand to win for every $100 you bet, plus your bet back. Book the bet at currently posted moneyline odds and get paid at those odds if the team you bet on wins.
  • Point spreads: Bet on a favorite or underdog to win an NFL game once a point spread set by oddsmakers is factored into the final score. Add the points to the underdog’s final score or deduct them from the favorite’s to determine the betting winner. Book the bet at currently posted moneyline odds and get paid at those odds if the team you wager on wins after the point spread is factored into the final score.
  • Totals: The over/under allows you to bet on whether the combined total points scored will be over or under a line set by oddsmakers. Book the bet at currently posted moneyline odds and get paid at those odds if the side of the line you bet on is correct.
  • Props: Side bets on things that may or may not happen during a game, usually surrounding specific team or player stats.
  • Parlays: Combine two or more otherwise individual bets into a single wager. Get paid at much higher odds than the sum of the individual bets because each bet must-win for the parlay to pay.
  • Teasers: Point spread parlays allow you to move the line in your favor. Get paid at higher odds than the sum of the individual bets but less than straight parlays.
  • Futures: Bet on a team to win over or under a set number of games in the regular season, its division, its conference in the playoffs, or the Super Bowl. Lock in the bet at currently posted moneyline odds that sportsbooks adjust for future bets as the season and playoffs continue.
  • Live Betting: Book basic NFL bets and bet on expanded in-game betting markets during a game at odds that are adjusted throughout as the action changes.

NFL regular season facts

The NFL includes 32 teams and each plays 16 regular-season games over the 17-week season from September through early January. The NFL is divided into two 16-team conferences called the AFC and NFC and each conference is divided into four divisions called East, North, South, and West.

Each team’s annual schedule includes a home and away two-game series against its three divisional rivals. The rest of each team’s schedule is put together using the NFL’s own scheduling algorithm, which takes into account the standings from the previous season and previous scheduling.

Each team in a specific division will play all four teams from a single division in the AFC and a single division in the NFC, plus, two additional conference opponents based on where each team finished in the previous season’s standings.

The goal for each team is winning games and putting together the best regular-season record possible with the ultimate prize being a playoff berth. The team with the top record in the conference earns home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a first-round bye. The team with the top record in each division earns a playoff spot and one of the top four seeds.

The teams with the three best records outside of the division winners also make the playoffs and are known as wild card teams.

NFL regular season betting realities

Early season NFL lines are based more on opinion than fact. Sportsbooks have less to go on and make more mistakes, giving informed bettors who research teams effectively a better shot at winning.

As the season goes on, sportsbooks set NFL lines based on how teams are actually playing and the lines are more accurate as a result. That said, mistakes are still made and betting value can be found because of the large volume of NFL games held each week.

However, in the last quarter of the season, oddsmakers have built familiarity with the ongoings in the league. Teams tend to perform as expected and oddsmakers are able to set remarkably accurate lines as a result.

All this means it gets tougher to win with bets on the NFL as the season progresses.

Read all about it

As the NFL season continues, things like weather, injuries, home-field advantage, and historical rivalries all figure into the lines. However, oddsmakers’ knowledge of the teams and how they are playing this season tends to emerge as the most important factor.

If you’re going to take NFL betting seriously, you must first understand it is a war of information. Your goal should be to research teams to the point where you know at least as much as oddsmakers do, allowing you to find the edge if one exists.

Only proper research will tell you what NFL moneylines, spreads, totals, and props you should be betting each week.

Trim that parlay

More casual NFL bettors are often drawn in by the allure of the big payday large multi-game parlays present.

There are up to 16 games on the schedule in any given week during the NFL regular season and a parlay of that size could pay in the neighborhood of +150,000 or more.

That’s life-changing money for most of us, but parlays that big are nearly impossible to win. In fact, most serious sports bettors consider a parlay of this size a sucker bet because the true odds of winning are even greater than what it’ll pay.

There’s nothing wrong with making small bets within your means on longshots like a full-slate NFL parlay. A handful are bound to hit across the country every year. But if you’re going to bet parlays and want to win more consistently, it’s a better idea to bet smaller parlays.

It’s infinitely easier to hit for a win with just a few games and the parlay will still pay much better than the sum of the individual bets on NFL regular-season games.

Bet early, bet often

Because early season NFL lines are based more on opinion than fact, you should be looking to bet more at that point versus waiting it out. There is simply more you can take advantage of.

You should also be looking to wager more NFL futures in the early part of the season. You lock in the odds on a futures bet when you place it and the odds are almost always bigger in the preseason or early part of the season.

That’s because Michigan sportsbooks adjust futures odds alongside a team’s chances and for most favorites those chances of winning only get better as the season progresses.

Take note that these increased early-season odds can also allow you to bet futures more often. Basically, you can hedge your bet on a team to win the Super Bowl by betting on other teams as well, as long as the odds are long enough to ensure you still earn a profit if one of your teams wins.

Betting on the NFL playoffs

For the most part, Michigan sportsbooks will offer the same list of basic NFL wagers for the NFL Playoffs as they do for the regular season.

Of course, NFL futures options are limited to just the 14 playoff teams at first and dropping down with shrinking betting odds on the NFL playoffs as teams are eliminated. You may find more props surrounding each postseason game than you find in the regular season because oddsmakers can focus on just a handful of games.

Betting lines on NFL playoffs are generally tighter with mostly high-quality teams in the single-elimination part of the tournament. Plus, the fact oddsmakers can focus on just a handful of games means these lines are shockingly accurate and infinitely tougher to bet on.

As a sharp sports bettor, you should look to find a balance between respect for oddsmakers’ playoff lines and the fact you too can focus your research on just a handful of games, giving you the chance to find a bigger edge.

Important NFL playoffs betting factors

Injuries and the history between the teams in each game remain big factors in the NFL Playoffs when it comes to oddsmakers setting lines and you betting on them.

However, because of the time of the year and the quality of the teams that earn the right to play in their home stadium, weather and home-field advantage tend to become even larger factors in the playoffs

Once again, for you as an NFL bettor, research is the key to all of this and you should expand your knowledge of the teams and how they are playing this season. Include everything about their home and road records and how they fare historically against the teams they are playing. This research and a good look at the NFL Playoff betting markets will tell you what moneylines, spreads, totals, props and futures you should be betting each week throughout the postseason.

Whether you are betting on the Wild Card, Divisional and Conference Championship rounds of the playoffs, or even the Super Bowl, you should always let the research guide you.

NFL playoffs betting tips

NFL Playoffs betting presents an interesting challenge. It’s you against NFL oddsmakers and you can bet that with limited action to cover, they’ll be on their game.

The following NFL Playoffs betting tips might help you be on your game as well:

  • Set a limit and stay within it: Think of the NFL Playoffs as three separate weeks and set a betting budget, within your means, for each week. Start with Wild Card weekend and, if you’re successful, consider adjusting the budget for the Divisional round. If not, stick with that same budget you set before the playoffs started, rinse and repeat for the Conference Championships.
  • Stick to what works: If you’ve had success betting moneylines and spreads throughout the regular season, stick with it throughout the playoffs. Don’t start betting props just because there’s more of them out there or parlays because they can be smaller and more manageable. While it’s a good idea to diversify and place all kinds of different bets, you should never try to fix what isn’t broken.
  • Bet live: Live NFL betting presents you with a unique opportunity to expand your wagering repertoire, hedge winning bets and possibly make up for poor pregame betting decisions. If you’re watching the games anyway, you might as well take a look at the live in-play betting markets where you can hedge against tragic upsets, revise a losing betting strategy, and bet on all kinds of in-game props.

Super Bowl betting

The NFL Playoffs culminate with the Super Bowl. A single championship game for all the marbles means oddsmakers can focus on just two teams and the lines should be stunningly accurate and even harder to bet on than usual. Unless one team has proven itself the clear favorite throughout the season, Super Bowl lines should be relatively tight with the best teams in football representing their respective conferences.

One game with just two teams also gives you the chance to focus your research and you should quickly be able to tell if the moneyline, point spread and totals lines present good betting opportunities for you.

Props will be a little more difficult to pin down, simply because there will be more of them than any other game throughout the year.

Super Bowl MVP

For one prop, you’ll be able to bet on who will win the Super Bowl MVP award.

You book these wagers at moneyline odds with the quarterbacks on either side generally offering the lowest odds. Although, if one team or the other has a running back they’ve been truly dependent on all year long, he may emerge as the betting favorite. Just keep in mind that a QB has won the award in 30 of 54 Super Bowls.

You can pick a QB if you want, and take a flier on a wide receiver, running back or even a defensive player as well and still make a profit if one wins. That’s because no one is a true odds-on favorite to win Super Bowl MVP ahead of the game and the odds should be decent enough on almost every player.

Super Bowl betting tips

The Super Bowl is the single biggest day on the sports betting calendar with tons of betting opportunities and somewhere around $400 million bet at legal US sportsbooks on the game every year.

With this much to bet on, there’s no one-fits-all Super Bowl betting strategy, but here are a few tips that might help you find Super Bowl betting success:

  • Respect the line, fade the public: If we can tell you one thing about the Super Bowl, it’s that the lines will be insanely accurate. History shows us that favorites are 28-25-2 against the spread and the over has come in 26-27-1 all-time, as there were no totals betting for Super Bowl I. That tells you the lines have been so accurate you can’t count on one side coming in more often than not. It also tells you the Super Bowl represents the perfect time to try to fade the public. If the opening lines move because of heavy betting on one side, pounce on it. Betting that oddsmakers original predictions will be right is always a good idea.
  • Do your homework: As always, the best betting strategies involve researching the game and the teams and players involved. Betting opportunities should present themselves when you do the right kind of research ahead of the Super Bowl. Let your research guide you in making betting decisions when it comes to everything from the moneyline and point spread to all the different props available for the big game.
  • Use bonuses: The Super Bowl represents the best time to sign up for new accounts with every Michigan online sports betting app you can. Most will be offering no-deposit and deposit bonuses, bonus bets, and Super Bowl betting promos and odds boosts to new customers.

How do the NFL playoffs work?

The NFL will expand the NFL Playoffs to 14 teams for the 2020-21 season and that means three things:

  1. Two more teams will make playoffs this year, one from each conference;
  2. There will be two more playoff games, making the Wild Card Round six games instead of four;
  3. Only the top team in each conference gets a first-round bye now, as opposed to the top two teams in previous seasons.

The team with the best regular-season record in each of the four divisions is seeded Nos. 1 through 4 in each conference, with the top seed getting a valuable first-round bye.

Now, the three teams with the next best records in each conference outside of the division winners get in the playoffs and are seeded Nos. 5, 6, and 7.

The Wild Card Round now includes three games in each conference:

  • 2 vs. No. 7
  • 3 vs. No. 6
  • 4 vs. No. 5

The highest seed advancing plays the No. 1 seed and the other two winners face off in the Divisional Round held in the following week. Divisional Round winners then face off in the AFC Championship and NFC Championship games the following week.

The conference champions go up against each other in the Super Bowl two weeks later with the NFL title and Vince Lombardi Trophy on the line.

The higher-seeded team maintains home-field advantage throughout the NFL Playoffs until the Super Bowl, which is typically held at a neutral site, though a team could theoretically play at home as the Minnesota Vikings nearly did in 2018.


More money is bet on football than any other sport, with fans wagering an estimated $100 billion on football annually, though that number includes both the NFL and college football.

The length and number of games mean more money is bet during the 17-week NFL regular season than the three weeks of NFL Playoffs action. The American Gaming Association estimates as many as 38 million adults in the US bet on NFL games throughout the season.

However, the Super Bowl remains the single biggest betting day in all of sports with an estimated $6.8 billion wagered on the Super Bowl in 2020, with better than 1-in-10 American adults, or 26 million people, betting on the game.

The NFL introduced wild card entries into the NFL Playoffs in 1970. In 2020, three wild card teams will make the playoffs from each conference for the first time, up from two. That obviously increases the chances one such team will win the Super Bowl. Since 1970, 10 wild cards have advanced to the Super Bowl and six went on to win it, including the:

  • Oakland Raiders (1980)
  • Denver Broncos (1997)
  • Baltimore Ravens (2000)
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (2005)
  • New York Giants (2007)
  • Green Bay Packers (2010)

It really depends on the teams involved and the location of the game. When deciding whether to bet the over or under, you have to consider the line, the offensive and defensive prowess of each team, and whether the game will be played indoors or outdoors in cold weather, warm weather, or stormy weather.

You can look at history, which will tell you the over and under have gone 30-38 over the past three years in the NFL Playoffs. However, history can’t tell you what’s going to happen this season.

The Wild Card Round and Divisional Round have always been the hardest to predict, simply because there are more games. In 2020, there will be two more games in the Wild Card Round than in previous seasons.

Six games should make Wild Card Weekend the most unpredictable in the NFL Playoffs this year. However, upsets can and will happen in just about every round of the NFL Playoffs, making them all difficult to pin down.

Only good research can tell you which underrated NFL team is about to upset a likely overrated squad in the NFL Playoffs.

Start by watching games to see how teams are playing heading into the postseason. Continue with consuming as much information as you can about the teams in the playoffs. Finally, try to identify the teams that played their way into the playoffs after a slow start going up against possibly rusty division winners who locked up a playoff spot early.

Teams on hot streaks generally stay hot and teams that haven’t been in a meaningful game for a month may find it hard to get things going again.