While it may be tough to imagine these days, there was a time when NFL viewing options were a bit more limited. Back in the day, the schedule played out on Sunday afternoons. A Monday Night Football game was added to the docket in 1970, and that format remained in place for some time.
Fast forward to today, and there are now three primetime games per week to complement the full Sunday slate. As we head towards the latter part of the season, there are even some random Saturday games thrown into the mix.
All of these developments have been a huge benefit for fans in general, not to mention sports bettors. You can now bet on the NFL up to four days per week during the season, which affords handicappers even more time to focus on each part of the slate.
So how does the NFL schedule mix impact things from a betting perspective? Are there things you need to watch out for based on when the game is set to kick-off? Can team performance or the NFL betting odds for the game be affected depending on when the contest is happening?
You can consider this your complete guide to schedule-based NFL betting. We’re going to cover the answers to those questions and many more right here. We’ll begin by taking a closer look at one of the most popular betting events of the week during NFL season.
NFL Monday Night Football betting
On Sept. 21, 1970, the Cleveland Browns played host to the New York Jets on the debut edition of Monday Night Football. While there were some random primetime NFL games here and there before that, this time marked the beginning of an institution.
The Browns would go on to win an exciting contest by a score of 31-21. Interest was through the roof. MNF has been a fixture of the NFL schedule ever since. The game attracts tons of viewers every week, and the same holds for NFL Monday Night Football betting action.
As the weekly NFL slate starts winding down, we begin to see lines for the next set of games. Handicappers have a full week to dissect and digest the lines for the next MNF game.
This is just one of the unique aspects of the primetime spectacle. While each NFL game is an event in and of itself, the pomp and circumstance get ramped up for night games. Add in the fact that we have a full day to anticipate the lone football game on tap, and MNF has itself a winning formula.
Of course, the spotlight doesn’t necessarily agree with every squad. Over the past decade, we’ve seen teams that consistently crush it on MNF. Here are the top four records for the game over the last 10 seasons, listed by winning percentage.
- Pittsburgh Steelers, 10-2, .833
- Seattle Seahawks, 10-2, .833
- San Francisco 49ers, 11-3, .785
- New England Patriots, 9-3, .750
Other squads haven’t been as fortunate. Here are the four at the bottom of the barrel.
- Cincinnati Bengals, 2-7, .222
- Miami Dolphins, 2-8, .200
- Washington Redskins, 2-13, .133
- Buffalo Bills, 0-3, .000
When handicapping MNF games, there are a couple of factors to watch out for, such as the travel impact for road teams and the strength of the squad playing at home. Teams that excel on their home field are ones to circle, while those that don’t travel well should have you feeling skittish.
If the home side is known for having raucous fans, then the stands could be jumping even more than normal with the eyes of the NFL world upon them. In theory, that means the offense will have a little more pep in its step while the defense could become even more stout than normal.
Since both teams have a little extra time to prepare, it should result in more crispness on both sides, but that’s not always the case. Be sure to review the overall quality of the two teams extra carefully, and also watch out for recent trends.
Being that MNF is the only football game on the docket, you could feel inclined to step it up on the betting front. You should resist that urge and focus on the game just like you would any other. Only bet with amounts that you are comfortable with, and stick to the bet types that work best for your strategy.
If you have a special focus on one or more of the big three, moneylines, spreads, and totals, then start there. For those who like to branch out into props or live betting, you can rest assured that there will be plenty offered for the contest.
Also be on the lookout for specials revolving around the game, such as odds boosts or special props. While MNF is a big draw as it is, sportsbooks aim to please and attract as much action as possible while doing so.
For a simple rule of thumb, if there’s a bet or bet type that you’re generally not comfortable with, don’t go against your instincts just because it’s MNF and the only NFL game on for a few days. Stick to what works best for you and enjoy the game.
Monday Night Football has made its home on ESPN since the 2006 season. Before that, games were carried each week on ABC. Kickoff happens at 8:15 p.m. ET except Week 1. There’s a MNF doubleheader for the opening week with the first game starting at 7:15 p.m. ET, followed by the nightcap at 10:10 p.m. ET.
There have been rumblings that ESPN is shaking up the broadcast booth for this season, so we’ll have to patiently wait for an official announcement. Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland have been the primary team for the last two years. You can also catch the game online with ESPN or via mobile app, but you’ll need to sign in with cable provider information.
NFL Thursday Night Football betting
For decades, the only time that NFL games were played on Thursday was on Thanksgiving. That changed in 2006 with the debut of Thursday Night Football. During the initial run, TNF was reserved for the latter part of the NFL regular season schedule.
These days, there’s a Thursday night game nearly every week of the season. It’s the opener for the weekly slate of NFL games, and it draws plenty of attention from fans and bettors as a result. Thursday Night Football betting lines come out as the prior week’s schedule is winding down, so keep an eye out and be ready to react to appealing numbers.
As you would expect, the short week of preparation and quick turnaround for TNF games can have an impact. Teams that are dealing with a rash of injuries may not be fully up to speed, while the teams that have to travel have another hurdle to overcome.
Some teams have just fared better than others underneath the Thursday night lights. Here are the teams with the best records in these contests since the inception of TNF.
- New England Patriots, 8-1, .875
- Seattle Seahawks, 6-2, .857
- Pittsburgh Steelers, 9-3, .750
- Baltimore Ravens, 9-4, .750
It has been a vastly different story for a handful of other teams. Here’s a look at the worst TNF records.
- Carolina Panthers, 3-8, .333
- Los Angeles Rams, 3-7, .333
- Minnesota Vikings, 2-4, .333
- Buffalo Bills, 2-5, .288
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2-7, .250
Strong home teams should be given precedence on TNF, but also be mindful of away teams that enter the contests on a hot streak. Also, some Thursday night games are divisional affairs, so dive into the history books and examine the typical margin of victory and points combined for when the two sides hook up.
Some bettors pass on betting on TNF all together. The consensus opinion for those in this camp is that the short week of prep leads to a sloppy product, and by extension an unpredictable game.
As an alternative approach, we’d suggest approaching the game like any other instead of taking a blanket stance. If you handicap the game and come away with the impression that you should pass, then by all means do so. However, if you wind up feeling confident about things, then it doesn’t make sense to pass just because it’s a certain day of the week.
Just like for MNF, there will be odds boosts and special bets offered for TNF. The same line of thinking applies: stick to what works for you but also don’t be shy about going outside of your comfort zone if you come across an opportunity that looks solid.
One other important note to keep in mind: one of the TNF games will be on Thanksgiving night. You may see even more betting specials as a result, but also don’t forget to factor in any potential holiday impact while breaking down the game.
You have some different viewing options for Thursday Night Football. The season-opening game is typically on NBC, while the remainder of the schedule is handled by FOX and NFL Network.
Amazon Prime Video also provides live coverage of the broadcast. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman generally handle broadcast duties for Fox/NFLN. Kickoff for TNF games is 8:20 p.m. ET.
NFL Saturday Football betting
Unlike MNF and TNF, there hasn’t been a set structure for NFL Saturday games through the years. There have been seasons in which games were scheduled on several Saturdays at the tail end of the season, and others in which there haven’t been any.
As a general rule, there are no Saturday games scheduled until the college football regular season is in the books. In 2017 and 2018, two Saturdays were featuring NFL games, while it was just one in 2019.
NFL betting lines are generally released along with the rest of the weekly games, so you’ll have plenty of time to prepare. For the 2020 season, Saturday games haven’t been scheduled as of yet. However, several contests in Week 15 and 16 have a ‘TBD’ for time on the Sunday slate.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see a full Saturday slate for one of those weeks as a result. Last season, it was a tripleheader in the latter part of the season. That opened the doors for an all-day parlay bet, which can be a great way to kick up the profits if you have a strong feel for the games.
If it does come to pass, you can expect to see special offerings from sportsbooks, so keep your eyes peeled and be ready to take advantage. As for the best football bets to focus on, treat the games just like you would on a Sunday. When you have a good read on a game or prop wager, go for it. If live betting works for you, then don’t be shy either.
Since the Saturday schedule has varied from year to year, there’s not as much history to glean as there is for MNF and TNF. We can still look back over the last three campaigns and find some potential nuggets of intel.
|December 16, 2017|
| Chicago Bears|
| Detroit Lions|
| Lions 20-10
|December 16, 2017|
| Los Angeles Chargers|
| Kansas City Chiefs|
| Chiefs 30-13
|December 23, 2017|
| Indianapolis Colts|
| Baltimore Ravens|
| Ravens 23-16
|December 23, 2017|
| Minnesota Vikings|
| Green Bay Packers|
| Vikings 16-0
|December 15, 2018|
| Houston Texans|
| New York Jets|
| Texans 29-22
|December 15, 2018|
| Cleveland Browns|
| Denver Broncos|
| Browns 17-16
|December 22, 2018|
| Washington Redskins|
| Tennessee Titans|
| Titans 25-16
|December 22, 2018|
| Baltimore Ravens|
| Los Angeles Chargers|
| Ravens 22-10
|December 21, 2019|
| Houston Texans|
| Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
| Texans 23-20
|December 21, 2019|
| Buffalo Bills|
| New England Patriots|
| Patriots 24-17
|December 21, 2019|
| Los Angeles Rams|
| San Francisco 49ers|
| 49ers 34-31
Here are the key takeaways from the last 11 Saturday affairs that we can keep in mind.
- Home teams were 6-5.
- The average margin of victory was 7.45 points.
- The average combined points were 39.45.
We’ll keep our eyes peeled for any schedule changes in the coming season. Broadcast coverage will vary if anything gets flipped around, so we’ll have to patiently wait and see.
Betting on NFL Sunday – Early vs late games vs. Sunday night
While there may be other days of the week to catch NFL games, the Sunday slate remains the main course. Traditionally, it’s broken down into an early- and late-afternoon window of games. Recent years have even seen some international games in the morning hours thrown in for good measure.
Sunday Night Football caps off the day. Before 1987, there were some occasional Sunday evening games here and there, but SNF has been cemented on the schedule since then. Like TNF, the games were initially run over the latter part of the season, but it has since been expanded to run over the full year.
CBS and FOX handle the afternoon portion of the schedule. All games can also be accessed on DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket package, while NFL RedZone provides all-day wraparound coverage. NBC is the destination for SNF.
The action gets underway at 1 p.m. ET for the early afternoon part of the late. Late games start between 4:05 and 4:25 p.m. ET, while the nightcap kicks off at 8:20 p.m. ET. In short, Sunday is an all-day feast for the NFL and the best day for football betting as a result.
You’ll find intriguing storylines to follow for all three-day parts, as well as scores of NFL bet types to consider for each contest. All of the options can seem overwhelming at times, but remember this: no rule says you need to bet on every game.
While you certainly can if you’d like, there’s also nothing wrong with focusing on the games you feel best about. The same holds for wager types. As a simple example, you might like a trio of games in the early part of the day, two in the late afternoon, and reserve some funds for the primetime affair.
There’s no specific advantage to betting on one day part over the other, but there are some interesting factors to consider. For example, a West Coast team traveling east for an early start might have trouble achieving liftoff, while the same could hold for an East Coast team that’s used to starting earlier in the day when they play out west.
The sheer number of games playing out over the day can open the door to some intriguing parlay possibilities. If you have several games — or even just a couple — that you feel good about, it can make sense to take a crack at greater returns on a parlay ticket.
You’ll also find props aplenty for each game, so it should take the time to review the offerings. If you come across a number of football betting lines that look off based on your research, that could mean it’s a great time to pounce.
For SNF specifically, the same rules we follow for TNF and MNF apply. Some teams excel on primetime and others fall flat, while strong home teams facing off against poor road teams could have an advantage. Here are the teams who have fared well on SNF.
- New England Patriots, 21-13, .618
- Pittsburgh Steelers, 17-13, .567
- Seattle Seahawks, 13-7-1, .619
- New Orleans Saints, 15-4, .789
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the following teams have struggled on Sunday nights.
- Detroit Lions, 1-6, .143
- Cincinnati Bengals, 0-8, .000
- Cleveland Browns, 0-2, .000
- Miami Dolphins, 0-3, .000
NFL Sundays are some of the biggest betting days of the year. Many bettors make it a huge focus of their overall handicapping strategy as a result. Lines start coming out as each week wraps up, so you’ll have plenty of time to study and handicap Sunday Night Football betting odds .
Differences for NFL night games vs. day games
So what’s the real scoop on betting on NFL night games versus day games? Unfortunately, there’s just no one-size-fits-all answer. It’s going to vary by team and even season. Digging even deeper, the same applies to the individual players.
We can still use history as a guide. As part of your weekly handicapping, you’ll naturally want to break down the individual matchups and search for edges. Beyond that, spend some time researching overall records and recent trends for the following:
- Home and away performance
- Records against the spread
- Performance on totals
- Historical results between the two teams: straight-up, spread, and totals
While doing so, you can also go even deeper and review the historical trends for teams and players for the day part they’ll be playing in. That may all sound like lots of work, but the good news is that there are some fantastic resources to lean on.
A good place to start is with a simple game preview which can be found at major outlets such as ESPN. You can also explore betting-specific websites to find even more detailed information. There are some good ones to choose from, so shop around and find the ones you like the best.
Also, keep in mind that some teams play in primetime more often than others. It’s no coincidence that those with lots of primetime data to review are generally the better teams in the league.
While every squad should have at least one night game per season, the NFL does aim to put its best foot forward for standalone games. Better teams and those that attract plenty of eyeballs receive preference for primetime affairs as a result.
On paper, the better teams and players should step up the most when the spotlight shines the brightest. However, athletes are human, so that’s not always the case. As an example, be mindful of how starting QBs perform in the day versus the night, at home, or away, etc.
For the three main bet types, here are some specific areas you can look for clues.
- Moneylines: The odds board tells us what we need to know. The wider the perceived gap between the two teams, then the larger the range between the two numbers will be. As you research the overall strength of the two squads and the matchup, keep this in mind, but don’t be shy about jumping on upsets if your research justifies it.
- Point spreads: It’s tough to beat the spread long-term, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show a profit. Lean on power rankings and ratings, and also keep it simple by focusing on average margins of victory posted by both sides. Oddsmakers set the numbers where they do for a reason, so keep that in mind. Also, watch out for movement during the week so that you can follow the money.
- Totals: Recent form can be a solid indicator. When offenses are humming, there’s a good chance they’ll keep doing so. It’s a similar story for the performance on the defensive side of the ball. Also, take the time to research how many points the two teams have combined for in their most recent matchups through the years to gain a sense of what kind of game might be on tap.
Last but not least, each NFL game is an individual event and should be treated as such. History and trends provide us with a guide and help us build a handicapping case, but also remember to trust your instincts and to look beyond the numbers.
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Schedule-based NFL betting tips
We’ve already covered several different angles to explore for each part of the NFL schedule, but there are plenty more to consider. Here’s another handful you can keep in your back pocket as you get set to break down the games.
Take strong home favorites seriously, but watch the lines
The stronger teams in the league are postseason contenders, and they need to be taken seriously as a result, especially when playing at home. However, remember that the public loves to bet on favorites. This can lead to spreads rising to untenable levels, so be on the lookout for situations in which the road dog may be able to steal a cover due to the extra points.
Use playing styles as a guide on totals in primetime
When two high-scoring teams square off under the lights, the scoreboard operator will likely have some work to do. If two strong defensive squads are squaring up, then a low-scoring affair is probably in the offing. While you should consider the playing styles of the two teams for all dayparts, they can especially live up to their respective reputations when all eyes are upon them.
Monitor travel, schedule, and the overall state of affairs
As part of your research, be sure to take the time to review what has been going on with a team as of late. Has a team been on the road for a lengthy time? Is a team struggling as they head towards a bye? Have the teams been playing lots of tough opponents in a row? If you can answer these and other questions as part of your routine, then your overall decision-making will improve.
Situational performance of teams and players
As mentioned, teams and players may perform differently based on daypart, but there’s, unfortunately, no hard and fast rule. It all comes down to those involved, so spend a little extra time researching situational performances. Also, go beyond overall records and stats and see how the squads have performed against the spread and on the Over/Under for the situation at hand.
The NFL is the biggest game in town for sports betting, so you’ll have plenty of options to consider all season long. When everything is said and done, the goal is to have more winners than losers while turning a profit, so exercise patience and zero in on a system that works best for your style and overall approach.