The NFL is king at the betting window at US sportsbooks, but the NBA is right behind for overall betting handle. Both make for great starting points with sports betting.
If you’re all set to start sports betting, which one is the better call — NFL betting or NBA betting? Where do beginners find more success? How about those who have more betting experience? Is one theoretically more profitable than the other?
On this page, you’ll find the basics of betting on both the NFL and NBA, and the differences between the two. Let’s get to it.
From the perspective of per individual game, it’s the NFL hands down. NFL teams play once per week, whereas it’s typically 3-4 games per week per team in the NBA. Individual NFL games also have more of a special event feel, and they attract more betting volume.
For the season as a whole, the gap is a little bit smaller. There are more NBA games in total, so there’s a good amount of total handle to be found. The marquee NBA games — nationally televised games, playoffs and the NBA Finals — can attract numbers that rival the NFL.
In short, both attract lots of sports betting action, but the NFL sees more overall. However, total betting volume shouldn’t be the lone determining factor on what you bet on. You’ll also want to consider the range of bet types you can make
The choices are similar between the two sports. You can place all of the big three bet types — moneyline, point spread and totals (over / under) — on each NFL and NBA game. There are also prop bets, futures bets and live betting available for each.
Overall, the futures market is more active for the NFL. You’ll find a wide range of prop bet choices for both sports, so it really comes down to personal preference. The same holds true for live betting. The NBA is faster-paced in terms of scoring, so some folks like that better for in-game betting.
Point spreads and totals bets attract the most attention in gambling circles. When you catch a preview of the game on TV or online, much of the conversation will revolve around these two bets. They work the same for both sports, but there are different variables to consider.
NFL point spreads are released nearly a week in advance of games. That means there’s lots of time to research, but also a good chance that the numbers will move around based on betting action.
NBA spreads come out the night before or the day of games, so there’s naturally less time for those two things to happen. Totals in the NBA are in the triple digits, such as 209.5. The NFL is lower-scoring, so a projected high-scoring game would be somewhere in the upper 50s.
From a handicapping perspective, the time between games also impacts things. NFL teams have more time to rest between contests and have less overall travel, but there’s always lots of injuries to contend with.
NBA clubs are constantly on the move during an 82-game regular season, and that opens the door to issues such as fatigue and illness. On the injury front, the NFL gets the nod for being more transparent with clear injury reports. Last-minute scratches aren’t uncommon in the NBA.
The answer to this question will vary based on the kind of bettor that you are. If you’re the casual type who just bets on a nationally televised game here or there, then you’ll find a pretty equal chance of profiting between the two sports.
For volume bettors, the NBA has more games on a season-long basis and several slates per week to choose from. Based on that, there’s technically more chances for you to profit with pro hoops.
There are other variables to consider, such as the unit amount you plan to bet per contest, and other bets you plan to explore such as props or live bets. For simplicity purposes, let’s run through a simple example of two approaches using the point spread.
Let’s say you decide to bet on all three of the weekly NFL primetime games: Thursday Night, Sunday Night and Monday Night Football. You plan to bet $110 per game on the spread at odds of -110. Essentially, you are placing a bet of $110 in hopes to win $100 on each game.
Once the third game is in the books, you’ve gone 2-1. That’s a winning percentage of 66%, which is something a pro bettor would be more than happy with. At -110 odds, your profit for your winning bets is $200. Add your two winning bets up at $1oo each, and take away the $110 losing bet, and your net profit is $90.
For an alternative, you decide to tackle a busy Wednesday night NBA slate and zero in on five games to bet on. You place a $110 bet on five spreads at odds of -110.
Once the night is through, you’ve gone 3-2, a winning percentage of 60%, and you’ve made yourself some money. Your profit on your winning bets is $300. Take away your $220 in losing bets, and your overall profit is $80.
It all comes down to your overall betting strategy, not to mention how well you do in prognosticating the games.
Public betting refers to how the money is flowing on a particular game. There are a number of sites that track this information in percentage form, and it can be a valuable research tool to glance at for both the NFL and NBA.
Once again, the time between games has an impact. Since NFL games are taking place once per week, there’s more time for bets to be placed. By extension, there’s more time for a general consensus to form.
Public money percentages are still valuable for the NBA, but there’s another facet that’s even more important. Sudden movements in the NBA odds and lines can be an indicator of where the sharp money is flowing. You should do your best to keep an eye on movements throughout the day.
As for the age-old question of whether it’s best to bet with or against the public, there’s no simple answer. Each game is its own event and should be treated as such.
As a general rule, the casual bettor leans toward favorites and the over, so consider that while reviewing public betting numbers. Also, don’t be shy about going in the other direction when your research points you there. After all, sportsbooks are on the right side more often than not in comparison to the public.
When the conversation turns to betting on NFL games, two topics will typically be addressed the most:
This is true for general betting coverage, as well, as many game breakdowns are given from the perspective of which side will cover and how many points may be scored.
While those two bets are at the top of the charts in terms of popularity, that doesn’t mean you have to stop there. Moneyline bets also see plenty of action, especially from those new to the game who aren’t ready to tackle spreads.
It’s a great starting point for new bettors, while experienced handicappers may only look this way for underdogs they like or close games.
Fantasy football is incredibly popular, and there’s a direct correlation for betting purposes. Prop bets continue to grow in popularity, as many of them revolve around player performances, such as yardage metrics or touchdown scores. This is a fantastic way to get even more engaged with the games, not to mention potentially profit.
Speaking of engagement, live betting has taken that to another stratosphere. These are wagers you place in real-time while the action plays out on the gridiron. The markets move really fast, but you’ll have opportunities to drill down and bet on quarters and halves, and even individual drives.
The NFL futures market is very popular and remains active all year round. You can bet on the Super Bowl champ, conference or division winners, player awards and more. Last but not least, a packed NFL slate will attract lots of parlay bets as bettors look to make big scores. These are bets in which you include multiple outcomes on a single slip in hopes of hitting paydirt.
As you can probably tell by now, while there are big differences between the two sports, they also share similarities from a betting perspective. Spreads and totals are the biggest needle movers for the NBA as well as football.
You’ll find lots of coverage on these two parts of the wagering menu as a result. For moneyline bets, it’s the same story. They’re a great place for new bettors to learn, while experienced bettors will also hunt around when they sniff some value.
The high-scoring nature of NBA games works out really well for prop and live bettors. There are plenty of opportunities for each game on the docket, and those who have a knack for drilling down into specific metrics and fantasy performances can find success here.
The NBA futures market is also quite active, but it trails the NFL in terms of overall interest. Parlays are also popular bets on busy NBA nights. While high-risk and high-reward, they can also be a good bet to use to find even more value out of the moneyline when you tie together several favorites on a single ticket.
For those new to sports betting, figuring out where to get started can lead to confusion. Similar to other decisions you have to make, it’s helpful to take a step back and weigh out the arguments for and against. Here’s what that looks like from the NFL perspective.
And now for the other side of the fence.
If you like to research and are the type who likes to take the time to think things through, then the NFL could align nicely with your skill set. For those who hate waiting around and prefer hard and fast decisions, another sport may be more your cup of tea.
The list of pros and cons can be quite long for both the NBA and NFL. When you’re new to betting, it’s helpful to take a big-picture view while focusing on the most important aspects. Here are a few that fall on the pro side for the NBA.
Now for some of the potential downsides.
The NBA regular season is a lengthy one. You’ll have lots of chances to bet as a result, so that could work well for those who want to remain really active with betting. If you prefer a more measured or casual approach, then a less active sport might be your thing.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here, but there are some tips that you can use to figure it out. For starters, it’s good to start with something in which you at least have a passing interest. If you like one sport and not the other, then there’s your answer. From there, consider how you like to bet and research. Limited time? The NFL could be the right place. Looking to stay more active? Then check out the NBA. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with starting slowly with both to see which one you like better.
You’ll find a pretty even mix on this front at online sportsbooks and sportsbook apps. These are the two highest revenue generators for operators, and they’re in the business of having repeat customers. There will be promos available for both NBA and NFL games each week, including odds boosts and other types of bonus opportunities.
This really depends on the amount of time you have available. If you’re limited, then it’s best to start with one and expand over to the other once you have your skills built up. For those with a little more time to work with, you can spread out with both. For example, when the seasons are running side by side, you could focus on the NBA Monday-Thursday and leave the weekends free for the NFL.
When considering paying for picks, either individually or through a subscription plan, the best advice is to take your time and make a careful decision after fully vetting your options. Unfortunately, there are lots of less-than-reputable sellers out there who are more than happy to take money off the hands of inexperienced bettors. That said, there are also sellers who operate above board and offer full transparency. In terms of which one is the wiser place to pay for picks, the NFL and NBA are on equal ground as the actual purchase should be based on its own merits.
It’s hard to make buying picks pencil economically. The best sports bettors on Earth will win at a rate of 60%, at the most. Casual bettors looking to bet small sums on games for recreation, while simultaneously paying someone for picks, will have a hard time seeing a return on investment.
Both sports align well with live betting, so it really comes down to personal preference. The NBA is really high-scoring and fast-paced. The NFL allows for a little more focus as individual team drives can take some time. For a tiebreaker, it can be helpful to think about how you remain engaged with the two games. Can you see yourself constantly scrolling for opportunities or would you rather pick your spots for a couple of carefully timed live bets? The answer to that question can point you in the right direction.
More games in the NBA mean there are additional chances for upsets, but there are naturally no guarantees that they’ll happen. Meanwhile, there’s lots of parity in the NFL. It’s not out of the question for even the poorest team in the league to pull out an upset over a legitimate Super Bowl contender. In short, all games are individual events for both the NBA and NFL. They should be treated as that for handicapping purposes. Trends and historical results can make for fantastic talking points, but they are not necessarily a guarantee of what the future holds.