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NFL Futures Betting Explained: How to Wager On Unknown Outcomes

Published July 29, 2022

One of the things people love most about NFL football is just how wildly unpredictable it can be. Unexpected contenders, breakout performances, and record-setting seasons from individual players can make for unforgettable moments from NFL season kickoff all the way to the Super Bowl.

NFL futures betting takes the excitement to an even higher level, as fans put their money where their mouth is on a wide range of predictions. The options for NFL futures betting are virtually limitless, but there are a few specific futures wagers that are more popular than others.

Let’s look into the crystal ball and break down various types of NFL futures bets and how you can pad your bankroll with some of them.

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What Are NFL Futures Bets?

Simply put, NFL futures bets are any wagers on undetermined outcomes like which team will win the Super Bowl or who will win MVP awards.

Line movement plays a huge part in NFL futures betting. As a specific game or award deadline draws near, odds on certain wagers will get longer or shorter depending on different factors. A team or player’s performance throughout the season has a significant impact on the odds for NFL futures bets.

NFL highest scoring team odds

For example, let’s say the Buffalo Bills start the season at +625 odds to win the Super Bowl and their closest competitors are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs at +725 and +975 odds respectively. If the Bills get off to a hot start out of the gate and begin the season 5-0 while the Chiefs and Buccaneers go 3-2, the Super Bowl futures betting odds will get shorter for Buffalo and longer for Kansas City and Tampa Bay.

Check out our full guide on futures betting for a complete breakdown on how this wagering type works across all sports.

Types of NFL Futures Bets

Most sportsbooks offer a huge number of NFL futures bets, giving you the chance to find value across multiple different wagers. Even with the massive selection of NFL futures bets, there are a few specific markets that tend to dominate which lines sports bettors choose.

Here’s a quick list of the most popular NFL futures bets fans like to wager on throughout the season.

Team Win Totals

One of the most lucrative NFL futures bets to get in on early in the season is a team win totals wager. An NFL futures bet on team win totals is a wager on whether a specific team will win more (over) or less (under) games than a specific number.

Odds for team win totals will look something like this:

  • Cincinnati Bengals o9.5 (-125)
  • Cincinnati Bengals u9.5 (+100)

This NFL futures bet really is as simple as wagering whether the Cincinnati Bengals will win more that 9.5 games, or if they’ll win fewer than 9.5 games. If you think they’ll win 10 or more games, bet over, and if you think they’ll only win 9 games at the most, then bet under.

Our proprietary NFL Strength of Schedule method is one of the most helpful resources for handicapping this type of NFL futures bet. A team that is facing a difficult schedule in terms of powerful opponents is going to have a much more difficult time hitting the over on a team win totals future wager.

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You shouldn’t make any futures wagers on NFL team win totals without first considering their strength of schedule. For instance, the Kansas City Chiefs are one of the best teams in the league, yet they also have the toughest schedule ahead of them in 2022. The combined NFL win totals of 2022 Chiefs opponents tops the league at 156, which is going to make it difficult for them to hit their o10.5 win total this season.

Super Bowl Futures

Perhaps the most popular NFL futures bet is a wager on who will win this year’s Super Bowl. Getting in early is key to maximizing your profit on NFL Super Bowl futures bets.

Consider 2021 preseason odds that had the LA Rams at +1500 and Cincinnati Bengals at +15000 odds. A $100 wager on the Rams in the preseason to win Super Bowl 56 would have netted you $1,600 in total after their convincing victory in the Championship game.

Strength of schedule once again plays an important role in your Super Bowl futures bet, as a better regular season record guarantees favorable playoff seeding. Taking that into consideration along with the 2023 Super Bowl odds could help you find some huge value with this NFL futures betting type.

Division and Conference Winners

Yet another popular NFL futures bet is who will win each division and conference. The AFC and NFC conferences are highly competitive every season, with divisional rivalries dominating the conversation throughout the regular season. Comparing NFL win probabilities is a great place to start with this particular wager.

To bet on the AFC championship winner, sports betting enthusiasts can choose from a pool of teams in the AFC North, AFC West, AFC South, and AFC East divisions. For the NFC championship winner, sports bettors can pick teams from the NFC North, NFC West, NFC South, and NFC East divisions.

Sports bettors can easily make futures bets on who wins the AFC, NFC, and individual divisions respectively. Make sure you take a look at our NFL divisional odds tracker for more insight on how things could play out this year.

Individual Performance and Player Awards

Finally, individual player performance totals and seasonal awards make for some of the best NFL futures betting options across the calendar year. Some of the most common individual performance and player awards futures bets include the following:

  • NFL MVP awards
  • NFL comeback player, offensive player/rookie, and defensive player/rookie of the year
  • NFL regular season leaders: most passing TDs, total receiving TDs, total sacks, most receiving yards, most rushing yards

If you think a specific player is going to pop off for some huge numbers during the upcoming season, then this NFL futures bet is for you.

How to Improve Your NFL Futures Betting

While betting on future NFL outcomes can be difficult, there are a few things you can do to help maximize your wins and mitigate your losses. Whether it’s actively line shopping, hedging your bets, and avoiding public hype, being cautious with your NFL futures bets can go a long way.

Here are a few quick tips on how to improve your NFL futures betting.

Staying Active With Line Shopping

NFL futures betting odds are constantly on the move throughout the season, which makes line shopping even more important than usual. Because these wagers are so unpredictable, you’ll find some differences in the odds at each sportsbook before the season has even started.

The differences for ROI in NFL futures betting can be enormous. If the lines are moving drastically in one direction at a certain sportsbook, there’s a chance sharp money is backing the change, and as such other sportsbooks might be hesitant to follow along and match the NFL futures betting odds.

Additionally, make sure you’re keeping your eye out for NFL betting promos throughout the season to help maximize your NFL futures bets. We recommend Barstool Sportsbook promos particularly for NFL futures betting.

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Avoid Small Returns

It goes without saying that NFL futures bets can take a long time to resolve, and therefore, you don’t want to tie up too much of your bankroll waiting for small returns. This is a fine line, as you should always be wagering responsibly, but you also don’t want to have too many units held up on bets that might only bring small returns.

Furthermore, it can be very difficult to find value in any futures bets that present a small return, as just about every team is one QB injury away from having their season derailed. Injuries are a very real and frequent part of football, and for that reason alone, it’s not worth betting any team early in the season that offers a very small return.

Throwing up a Hail Mary on huge futures bets isn’t advisable, but at the same time, money sitting in your sportsbook account or on unresolved wagers can sometimes represent missed opportunities. Some sharps recommend avoiding futures bets that present expected returns of less than 20 percent. Keep this in mind when you go to make your NFL futures bets.

Hedge Heavy Underdogs

Let’s use last year’s Super Bowl opponents as an example of how hedging heavy underdogs in NFL futures betting can help you break even. As mentioned previously, the Cincinnati Bengals has +15000 odds of winning Super Bowl 56, while the LA Rams were set at +1500 before the season started.

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If you made a $5 bet on the Bengals in hopes of a $755 payout at the start of the year, you could have hedged just before Super Bowl 56 kicked off. The LA Rams were -200 favorites heading into Super Bowl 56, and a $5 wager on them would have netted you a $7.50 win for a total payout of $12.50. This might not seem like much, but consider the fact your $5 wager on the Bengals at the start of the year wasn’t a complete waste of money.

Hedging your bets on the main competitors of heavy underdogs you wagered on early in the season is a tremendous way to mitigate any potential losses while also going for huge winnings.

Don’t Buy Into the Hype

When it comes to NFL futures betting, the public loves to put money down on hyped up favorites. Sportsbooks like to respond by presenting unfavorable lines that mitigate risk on popular teams, while at the same time charge extra vig on markets that attract a ton of betting volume no matter how unlikely they are to payout.

Therefore, you want to look for teams or players no one is talking about in terms of NFL futures betting. These teams often have inflated odds due to a lack of interest from the betting public. Simply put, don’t believe all the hype when you’re making NFL futures bets.

Look Ahead in the Schedule

If you’re thinking about making a futures bet on a specific team, you’ll want to take a close look at that team’s schedule instead of skipping over all the games between now and the Super Bowl. This way, you might find a better time to wager on that team when you may get a better price.

For example, if you like the Bills to win it all, you should know they’re opening the season in LA against the Rams in a game where they are slight 1-point favorites.

With their odds already being pretty short as the favorite, it’s unlikely a win will shorten their odds. A loss, however, would likely send their odds to +700 or even +750. Based on the odds, the Bills have a 50% chance of losing this game.

Pinpoint the games you feel your team is likely to lose and capitalize on the line movement. Of course, if you’re that bullish on a team and don’t feel there are any of these opportunities, then recognize you might be getting the best price right now.

NFL Futures Betting FAQs

Still have questions on NFL futures betting? Here are some quick hits on NFL futures betting FAQs:

What are NFL futures bets?

NFL futures bets are any wager on a specific outcome that will be determined before the conclusion of the season.

What are the most popular NFL futures bets?

Wagers like Super Bowl champion, team win totals, and individual player performance/awards are some of the most popular NFL futures bets sports bettors like to make.

How do you improve your success with NFL futures bets?

Techniques like aggressive line shopping, hedging heavy underdogs, and avoiding public hype can help you improve your success with NFL futures betting. Taking each team’s strength of schedule into account also plays a big part in winning some of your NFL futures wagers.

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