NBA Vs. NFL Betting

How to adjust your betting strategy

While there are always plenty of betting options on the sports betting menu, two are consistently at the top of the charts. The NBA and NFL attract loads of interest from the general public, and they also both bring plenty of folks to the betting window.

The popularity of these two sports is undeniable, and there are plenty of bettors who play both. Some prefer to focus on one over the other. You can find some similarities between wagering on both, but there are naturally some big differences to consider.

Now that legal sports betting is rolling here in Illinois, many of those new to the game are considering which of the big two is better for betting. We’ll covering what you need to know right here. Let’s start by looking at some of the similarities.

Similarities between NBA vs. NFL betting

When looking at NBA betting and NFL betting, you’ll notice that the main available bet types are the same. Moneyline, point spread and totals are the default bet types. Clicking on the game will open up the door to even more.

The wager types work in the same fashion, so those looking to bet either sport will be able to lean on similar handicapping principles while researching. However, there are also some distinct differences to consider while wagering each that we’ll cover in a bit.

Key differences between NBA vs. NFL betting

A major difference comes in the number of games for the two sports. NFL teams play 16 games each during the regular season, at one game per week. An NBA squad plays 82 games over the course of a typical campaign with multiple games per week.

NFL games are events as a result, and they attract lots of betting volume. For the NBA, marquee affairs will see the majority of volume while the rest of the docket sees less than that. Additionally, the NFL is known for having more parity than the NBA.

How do NBA team schedules work?

There are 30 NBA teams spread across two conferences — Eastern and Western — and six divisions. Each team in the league plays an 82-game schedule balanced among division rivals, conference foes and clubs from the opposite conference.

The season generally gets underway in November, with the regular season winding down in April. From there, it’s the NBA playoffs, which typically see the top eight teams from each conference qualifying.

The playoffs take place in series, with winners advancing. The top two make it to the conference finals on both sides, with the winners advancing to the NBA Finals, a best-of-seven event. Marquee matchups during the season see the most action, while all postseason games also feature heavy wagering.

In terms of competition, there’s usually a hierarchy to the league: A handful of elite contenders, a bunch of clubs jockeying for playoff positioning and the also-rans who make up the back of the pack. When the elites face-off with the cellar dwellers, big mismatches could be in the offing, but upsets can and do happen.

How do NFL team schedules work?

The NFL has 32 teams in two conferences, the American Football Conference and National Football Conference. Inside each conference are four divisions, each with a quartet of teams.

The regular season generally gets underway in early September and runs through late December or early January. It’s a 17-week season in which each NFL team plays 16 games. Schedules are balanced between division, conference and interconference affairs, with each team getting a week off during the campaign.

For the postseason, the top seven teams in each conference qualify. The top seed on each side receives a bye into the divisional round, while the remaining teams square off on “Wild Card Weekend.”

The NFL playoffs are single-elimination games. The top two teams on each side make it to the conference championship games, with the winners of those tilts advancing to the Super Bowl, which is the biggest sports betting event of the year.

There’s a good deal of parity in the NFL. As the phrase “any given Sunday” indicates, upsets can and will happen. That said, there is a pecking order that develops over the season. Each year will have some powerhouse contenders, others a step behind and in the playoff mix and the rest falling to the back of the pack.

Online betting rules for the NBA vs. the NFL

Each online sportsbook in Illinois has a set of house rules for each sport. While there are a standards across the industry, there can be some differences in some spots. Here’s an overview of the basics:

  • Bets are considered live once the game gets underway. In the event of a delay or postponement, wagers may still be considered active if the contest is set to be completed in a reasonable time frame, such as within 24 hours.
  • Books used official league data to settle wagers. This applies to final scores and stats for props and live betting.
  • Spread and total wagers that land on the listed number will be treated as a “push,” and bets will be refunded.
  • In the event of a cancellation of a game or season, bets will be considered void and refunded.

While that covers a host of circumstances, you should still take the time to review the rules at the books you play on for specifics. Unusual and unexpected circumstances may come up, and they could be handled differently in one spot versus another.

For both the NBA and NFL, one area to watch is how prop bets are handled. If a player is suited up and ready to go, all bets made on that player are considered action. But what happens if the player gets injured or doesn’t compete? That’s one of many questions that you can find an answer for in the house rules.

Comparing odds for the NBA vs. the NFL

Each NBA and NFL game on the docket will be available for betting at legal and regulated sportsbooks in Illinois. Naturally, there will be odds attached to each of the bet types. They work in the same fashion for both sports, with the biggest difference coming via when they are released.

During the regular season, the NBA is a daily sport. Individual teams won’t play every day, but they’ll be on the court several times per week. There are days with lots of games and some with only a handful, but there will be hoops to bet on regularly.

NBA betting lines for the games will come out the morning of the contest, and sometimes even as early as the night before. The numbers will move as the betting action comes in and that can continue right up until game time.

The NFL is structured differently. Each team only plays once per week, and there are distinct broadcast windows for the contest. The schedule kicks off with Thursday Night Football, continues with the Sunday slate, and wraps up with Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football.

The odds come out well in advance of the contests. Some operators will provide look-ahead lines more than a week in advance. As a general rule, you can expect to see NFL betting lines for most games as Sunday winds down, with everything else unveiled soon thereafter.

The span between games leaves extra time for line movement, as well as for handicapping. Each NFL game attracts lots of betting volume, so it’s not uncommon to see decent-sized shifts between the initial release and kickoff.

For both sports, if there are any delays in the lines from the usual release, it means the oddsmakers are waiting on a key piece of information, such as the injury status of a key player.

Last but not least, keep in mind that the odds won’t always be the same at every book. DraftKings Sportsbook may have one spread on an NBA game, while FanDuel Sportsbook has a slight difference, for example. You can always take the time to shop around for the best prices before placing your wagers.

NBA vs. NFL betting on moneylines, spreads and totals

The three main ways to bet on the NBA and NFL are the same. Moneyline, point spread and totals bets are available for both sports. When you scroll through the listings at IL online sportsbooks, you’ll see the odds for all three of them.


This is an easy bet to understand and a great place to start for those new to betting. When you bet the moneyline, you simply have to choose the winner of the game. For the NBA, a line might look like this:

Orlando Magic +120
Chicago Bulls -150

The line works the same way for the NFL. Favorites have negative odds, while the number is positive over on the side of the underdog. Here’s another example using a Chicago Bears game:

Denver Broncos +130
Chicago Bears -160

For moneyline bets, a big difference between the two numbers indicates a clear favorite. Closer numbers mean the sportsbook sees this game as more of a tossup.

Point spread

Oddsmakers place a spread bet on the game. It’s essentially an estimated margin of victory that you need to account for in your handicapping. An NBA spread might look like this:

Philadelphia 76ers +2.5 (-110)
Boston Celtics -2.5 (-110)

You can pick the favorite minus the points or go with the dog plus the number. Spreads work the same way in the NFL. Here’s an example:

Green Bay Packers +1.5 (-110)
Indianapolis Colts -1.5 (-110)

To win the bet, the side you choose has to cover the spread. Looking at our NFL example, the Packers cover by keeping the margin to one point or by winning outright, while the Colts have to win by two or more points to cover.


Also known as an over/under, this bet covers the total points scored in the game. Oddsmakers set a benchmark number for bettors. Here’s how it might look for the NBA:

O 209.5 (-110)
U 209.5 (-110)

In the high-scoring NBA, the bar for totals gets set in the triple digits. Over in the NFL, the over/under falls in the double digits. Here’s an example:

  • O 49.5 (-110)
    U 49.5 (-110)

If you bet on the over with this example, you’re looking for 50 points or more to be scored. When you bet on the under, you’re hoping for 49 points or fewer.

Prop betting for the NBA vs. the NFL

Prop betting is a popular wager type for both sports. Props are additional betting opportunities for individual games. There will be some specific to the game as a whole or team performance, while many are based on the statistical achievements of players.

Props that fall into that last category are among the top choices. Let’s take a look at what you might see, starting on the NBA side:

  • Who will score more points in the game — LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard?
  • How many points plus rebounds will Anthony Davis have — over/under 30.5?
  • Who will lead the Bulls in scoring — Zach LaVine or other?

There will generally be a wide range of prop bet choices for every NFL and NBA game on the docket. Some of the NFL props you’ll come across will resemble the following:

  • Will there be a defensive or special teams TD in the game — yes/no?
  • Which side will record more sacks in the game — Bears or Rams?
  • How many total passing yards will Aaron Rodgers have — over/under 284.5?

Props are great options to explore for both sports. The biggest games in the NBA and NFL will attract the most action, but there will be strong interest in props for all games on the docket.

Live betting on the NBA vs. the NFL

Also known as in-game betting, live betting opens the doors to wagering as the action plays out in realtime. The market moves quickly, but apps from top operators are optimized to keep pace with it all and keep things humming along seamlessly.

In both sports, you’ll see opportunities to bet on game circumstances and player performance. There will also be updated betting odds for the main wager types, as well as lines for things like quarters and halves.

The biggest difference for live betting comes in the pace of play. In the NFL, there’s time to bet on the outcome of the next drive. NBA possessions go by so quickly that the focus is better spent on game segments or player metrics.

NBA vs. NFL futures market

For those who like to take out the crystal ball and predict what may happen down the road, the futures market is right up your alley. These are wagers you can place on an outcome that won’t be known until a later date.

Two of the most popular sections of the futures market are the NBA and NFL. The biggest attractions are betting on the winner of the Super Bowl or NBA Finals. You’ll find many of the other bet types are similar for the two leagues, including:

  • Teams to make or miss playoffs.
  • Conference and division winners.
  • Regular-season win totals.
  • Player award winners — MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc.
  • Statistical leaders — NBA top scorer, NFL rushing yards, etc.

Futures work the same on both sides. You’re placing a bet that requires a long-term perspective. Odds come out in the offseason, with the markets staying active throughout the year. There will be movement in the numbers as a result, but you can always shop around.

It’s important to remember that your funds will be locked up until the wager can be settled. In terms of popularity, the NFL has an edge over the NBA on an overall basis for futures, but there’s a high level of interest on both sides.

Handicapping differences for the NBA vs. the NFL

The biggest difference to keep in mind is this: time between games. NFL clubs play once per week, while NBA squads play several times over the same span. The break between games on the NFL side provides more time for handicapping.

Additionally, less frequent games mean more potential for outcomes that are at least reasonably predictable. When teams are playing several times per week, that opens the door to more variance and other issues that can impact the product on the court.

From a top-down view, the same handicapping principles are relevant for the two sports. You need to examine the matchups in full detail, review a recent play and study the results on various betting metrics for both sports, for example.

Since they’re entirely different games, there are naturally some focus areas that aren’t as applicable to the other. For example, a superstar player or two can have a massive impact on the results and stats for an NBA game.

Superstar players can certainly excel and impact the proceedings on the NFL side, but the results are more driven by the complete sum of the parts. Also, keep in mind that weather can be a factor for NFL games, while it’s not an issue to worry about with the NBA.

The good news is that handicapping skills are transferable. If you’re having success in one area, then there’s a good chance you can get up to speed with what you need to know for another. That said, be sure to take the time to learn any new sport you plan to tackle before attempting to dive into the deep end of the pool.

What to remember about NBA vs. NFL betting

The two most popular sports at the betting window are the NBA and the NFL. The odds are available for each game at online sportsbooks, and they’ll all attract their fair share of volume.

NBA games are played more regularly, with teams playing several games per week during the season. Meanwhile, NFL clubs play 16 games per season with one bye week over 17 weeks.

When handicapping the two sports, you can lean on several basic principles for both, but you’ll also have to add in more sport-specific items. Specializing in one or the other is perfectly normal, but there are also plenty of bettors who wager on both sports and find success.

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