How To Bet On The NFL In Michigan

Given how popular the NFL is in our sports culture, it’s no surprise that it also reigns supreme when it comes to sports betting. On a per-game basis, no sport in the U.S. regularly generates the type of action that football does. Now that sports betting is legal and live in Michigan in both retail casinos and online, you may have some questions about how to place those first bets.

In this guide we’ll focus on legal Michigan sportsbooks both in-person and online, popular NFL bets and terms, explain the ins and outs of the market and what Michigan bettors can expect from the newly-legal online market. We’ll also touch on the Detroit Lions, previewing what is ahead for them in the 2021-22 season, in addition to providing some general betting tips to get you off on the right foot. 

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Popular NFL Betting markets and formats

  • Futures: Bettors can place futures bets on various team and individual player outcomes. The most common NFL futures bets are on the eventual Super Bowl champion individual teams’ season win totals (over/under). It’s also possible to make futures bets on player props such as award winners and season-long player stats. 
  • Point spread: The most popular form of betting in the NFL is spread betting. In order to attempt to “even the playing field,” books will handicap the game to try to get even betting on both sides of the number. If the Lions are three-point favorites, -3, they’d need to win by more than three points in order to “cover the spread.” If they win by exactly three points, the bet is a “push” and is essentially a tie — the bettor gets his wager amount back. Let’s say the Lions were considered six-point underdogs. In order to cover the spread, they’d need to either win the game or lose by five or less. 
  • Moneyline: This is another popular form of NFL betting and instead of factoring in any sort of point spread, moneyline bets simply require the team you wagered on to win in order to cash the ticket. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though. If you’re betting on a large favorite, such as a team listed at -250, you’d have to risk $250 in order to turn a $100 profit. It’s generally not advised to regularly bet large moneyline favorites — you only need to lose one in a handful of bets to end up in the red. 
  • Player props: Covered in more detail below, it’s basically betting on player on-field production, which could be passing yards, touchdowns, receptions, you name it. Finding an accurate projection system is integral for success in prop betting. RotoGrinders.com provides daily player projections for the NFL, which can help considerably when looking at the prop board to find value. 
  • Totals (Over/Under): Totals betting is based on the score of an individual game. By betting the over, you’ll be rooting for lots of scoring and, most importantly, for the game to go over the posted total. Those with under tickets will want to see lots of punts and field goals. Here’s an example: If the Lions/Packers game has a total of 44.5 points, the over hits if 45 or more points or scored. If the total finishes at 44 or less, under bettors rejoice! 
  • Parlays: Grouping together multiple bets on one ticket, all of which need to win in order for the ticket to cash, is referred to as a parlay. A bettor could place a 10-team parlay and have the first nine legs win, but if the 10th loses, the parlay is a loser. The industry standard for two-team parlay payouts is 2.6-to-1, with three-team parlays paying out at 6-1, four-team at 11-1, and five-team at 22-1. It’s worth noting that parlays are not generally considered “good value” among seasoned bettors, but they are quite fun and popular.
  • Teasers: This type of bet combines more than one bet into a single ticket, and allows the bettor to adjust the point spread in their favor for both games, usually six points in either direction. The return on the bet, however, is lower in the event of a win than it would be on a straight bet. These are most common in the NFL and are used by some to get past (or get to) “key” gambling numbers — more on that later. 
  • Live betting: Want to wait to see how a team looks out of the gate before deciding to wager? Maybe you know a particular team struggles early and you may be able to get a better number after kickoff? Live betting can scratch that itch. There is usually a higher rake or vig attached to in-game betting. 

Key numbers in NFL betting

Numbers known as “key” numbers represent the most common margin of victory in NFL games, but they apply to totals as well. In spread betting, the key numbers are 3 and 7, because the margin of victory in an NFL game lands on those two numbers more than any other. It’s not as straightforward in totals, but we’ll cover the key numbers there as well. 

  • Spread key numbers: 3 and 7. We’ll see a margin of victory of three points roughly 14% of the time and a margin of seven roughly 9% of the time. When betting around the number of three, you’d be aiming to get an underdog at +3.5 as opposed to +3, which has a higher chance of a push rather than a win. On the flip side, you’d prefer to get a favorite at -2.5 rather than -3, as you’d be more likely to walk away a winner.
  • Total key numbers: 43, 41, 44, and 37. To go another level, 51, 47, 40, and 33 could also be considered key numbers. 
  • Impact of extra points: The NFL moving the extra point back to the 33-yard line beginning in 2015 has had a larger impact on key numbers as far as totals than most would have expected. It is no longer the layup it used to be — the success rate dropped from 99% to 94.9% in the first year it was implemented. The rate of two-point attempts also nearly doubled, leading to some variance from typical final scores. 

As with almost everything in life, it’s important to get the best price. That also translates to betting — those who can find the best number have the best chance of winning. Betting around these key numbers is important, but it’s also important to try to strike early in the week.

NFL lines are often released late on Sundays or Mondays, and while betting limits are lower at this time, early betting can move lines a handful of points or beyond key numbers within a day. Because the NFL betting market is very efficient, it gets harder to find value in betting lines as the week progresses. Injury news and weather can have major impacts on the line as kickoff approaches, so it’s integral to monitor news throughout the week. 

Other key NFL betting terms

  • Opening lines vs. closing lines: Seasoned bettors know that “getting the best number” is paramount. Handicapping is a skill that is honed with lots of experience and doesn’t come easy, but the skill to be able to determine the best time to buy in on a particular bet is crucial to sustained success. The opening line doesn’t usually end up matching up with the closing line (at kickoff), and the opening line changes based on betting that occurs after the opening. If one side is getting more action, the spread will typically move to reflect that. 
  • Steam: Those with access to information regarding the number of tickets vs. money on a particular bet can generally get some insight into which side is considered the “sharp” side. When lines move in unusual ways — a reverse-line movement — it’s usually a result of professional action. “Steam” moves can also help identify pro action. However, “chasing” steam is a losing strategy — you’ll be getting inferior prices or lines compared to what the people causing a shift in odds are getting. 

What’s the “vig” in NFL betting?

The “vig” or “juice” in betting refers to the book’s take — the “fee” the book charges for taking the wager. This is identifiable in spread or total (over/under) bets — regardless of which side you play, you are generally playing it at -110. What that means is that $110 would have to be wagered in order to profit $100. In other words, the book is taking a 10% fee, which is the industry standard rake/vig.  Having -110 on both sides may also be referred to as “20 cents,” since it’s “10 cents” vig on each side.

It’s very common to see spread and total bets priced at -110, but player props are a little different. They tend to be priced a little higher, around -115 to -120 depending on the book. Juice can also be considerably higher on certain bets; for example, you may see an under priced at -180 with the over bet priced at +140 or +150. These prices can differ significantly from book to book, unlike typical spread or total numbers. Some books will have slightly different totals for players than competitors. Professional bettors with access to accurate player projections tend to love betting props, as they find more pricing errors there than in a more efficient market like NFL spreads or totals. 

Live betting or in-game markets also tend to come with higher vig, around -115. For those unfamiliar, live betting refers to in-game wagers placed while the game is already in action. 

In general, when making spread or total bets, you should aim to pay the industry standard 10% vig. With player props or live wagering, -115 is standard but can vary depending on the bet and the situation. You may see a prop “juiced up” to -150 or -200, which does not necessarily mean you should run away. The right pick priced at the right number might still profile as positive expected value, depending on projections and expectations. 

Michigan’s NFL team: the Detroit Lions

The NFL is so much more than just a sport in modern society. It’s ingrained so heavily into the fabric of our lives that the public has an unwavering loyalty to the league and its teams that can pass on from generation to generation. If that weren’t the case, how could a strong, sports-centric city keep showing up for a team year after year without ever seeing a Super Bowl? I promise that wasn’t a dig at the Lions, but rather a hat tip to the state of Michigan for continuing to rally behind them: It’s gotta happen sometime! Right?!

The Lions started off the 2019-2020 season on the right foot but had a hard time keeping a good record, and still can’t seem to rein in their penalties.  There were a lot of shakeups in the 2020 season, particularly the firing of head coach Matt Patricia, GM Bob Quinn, and special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs after the Lions’ poor performance against Houston during NFL’s Thanksgiving games.

Lions trends (if you’re into that thing)

  • The Lions placed 4th in the NFC North for the 2020-21 season
  • Had a 5-11 overall season record
  • 352.07 offensive passing yards in 2020-21 season
  • 93.7 rush yards, making them 30th in the league

Looking ahead to the 2021-22 NFL season

Under the helm of new head coach Dan Campbell, previously assistant coach for the Dolphins and the Saints, the Lions are expecting big things in the 2021-22 season. We’re all aware of how the Lions could improve– their position groups are solid, but defense particularly needs some tightening. They’ve got to get better on pass rushing if they want to perform better than they have in the past few years and get back to the momentum they had in the first few years of the 2010’s.

It’s looking like QB Matt Stafford might be traded, but those developments are still a bit far off. Da’Shawn Hand is back on the injured reserve, unfortunately, and his defensive counterpart Mike Daniels is now a free agent and not likely to sign back on. The draft will occur on April 29, 2021-May 1st 2021 in Cleveland, so stay tuned for more developments and changes to the Lions’ roster.

Big-name free agent moves in the 2021 offseason 

Well, it’s too early to call any of these, as the NFL season’s free agency period doesn’t technically start until March. However, there are a few moves that are either in the works or expected for the season, including:

  • Big shoes to fill, Cam Newton took over as head QB for the Patriots in 2020 and is now a free agent
  • Daryl Williams will re-sign with the Buffalo Bills for $8M
  • Dak Prescott is perhaps the most coveted free agent QB in the league right now
  • Tough edge-defender Romeo Okwara is a free agent after a decent 2020 season with the Lions
  • Von Miller and his ten years of experience as an offensive linebacker is now up-for-grabs

Some of the biggest NFL news outside of Detroit:

  • The NFL has approved and finalized rule changes to allow for 16 teams to compete in the playoffs due to the abbreviated 2019-20 season: the rule change was only made for that season, so may not carry over to the 2022 postseason.
  • Drew Brees is expected to retire from football in 2021, after a two decades-long career with the Chargers and later the New Orleans Saints as QB.
  • Shane Waldron, passing coordinator for the LA Rams, is coming to Seattle as their next offensive coordinator
  • With the retiring of Andrew Luck, Colts owner Jim Irsay notes six positions of need for the franchise, including QB. He hopes that bringing on new talent can “change the trajectory” of the Colts, who have had numerous playoff appearances but only one Super Bowl appearance in the last decade. This comes after the disappointing quick retirement of Luck’s replacement, Philip Rivers, who plans to coach high school football after his near-twenty year career.

Major coaching changes in 2021

  • Urban Meyer was hired by Jacksonville in January. Meyer, a veteran in the NCAA and a well-known analyst, is now getting back into the game starting in 2021 as head coach of the Jaguars.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles hired offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who was part and parcel of the Colts’ 2019 playoff push.
  • Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley is now HC of the LA Chargers

Advantages of betting the NFL at legal sportsbooks

Sports betting has only recently been legalized in the U.S. outside of Nevada, so many longtime bettors have grown accustomed to betting at illegal offshore sites or with local bookies also operating illegally. While this was just considered the way of life for bettors in the past, the legalization of sports betting in the United States has opened up tons of doors for bettors in states that allow wagering, which Michigan is now a part of.

In Michigan, as in a growing number of other states, there’s a bevy of benefits to placing your action legally, including line shopping, safe and secure funds, quick payouts and a stream of promotions and bonuses.

  • Strong bonus offers: Bettors are more likely to find faulty bonuses or promotions on offshore books. They may have impossible rollover requirements that can lead to a bonus actually being a net negative for the player. 
  • Line/price shopping: The ability to shuffle between legal sportsbooks to find the best line or price on a particular bet is incredibly beneficial to bettors, especially those that wager regularly. If you are consistently getting the best price on bets, it’ll be a plus for your bottom line. There are services such as ScoresAndOdds.com that make line shopping very easy, placing odds for all legal books on one page.
  • Safety and security of funds: Betting legally allows bettors to wager with reputable businesses and brands, ensuring fast payouts and the security of your funds. That is a pipe dream with local bookies or offshore books that may not pay you on time or even at all. 
  • Convenient banking options: If you’ve ever deposited with an offshore book in the past, you may know the unfortunate feeling of heading to a Western Union to (hopefully) get funds in your account. Legal books make it much easier — those with PayPal accounts can usually deposit within minutes Customers also use checking accounts among much simpler, easier and quicker methods than Western Union.
  • Local promotions: Sportsbooks regularly run promotions for local teams that can create very advantageous situations for bettors. For example, a Michigan book may run a promotion where for every 1,000 spread bets placed on the Detroit Lions, the point spread will move one point in the Lions favor (with no cap). This may lead to the Lions being massive spread underdogs in a game where they are actually a favorite, thus providing plenty of betting value. 

2021 NFL Schedule: Key dates

The 2020 schedule was heavily affected by the dramatic events of the year, with the Pro Bowl cancelled in addition to all preseason games. Barring any unforeseeable changes, this is what we expect from the 2021 NFL Season:

  • NFL Free Agency: March 17th
  • NFL Draft: April 29th- May 1st
  • Training Camp: April 5th is when teams with an established HC will start their workouts, all others beginning April 19th
  • The NFL Preseason: August 5th
  • The 2021 NFL Regular Season: September 9th – TBA (depending on results of Collective Bargaining Agreement re: 16 or 17 games)
  • Thanksgiving: November 25th
  • Wild Card Weekend: January 9th
  • Divisional Round: Winners in the Wild Card round plus the top seed in each conference will face off, with the teams receiving first-round byes hosting each contest.
  • Conference Championships: Winners in the Divisional Round will meet in each conference’s final to determine which teams will play in the Super Bowl.
  • Super Bowl LVI: The 2022 Super Bowl will be held at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

Waiting on the Collective Bargaining Agreement, we’re eager to find out if there will be a 17th game added to the 2021-22 season, which might push the Super Bowl out a week. Additionally, it seems like all systems are go for a normal NFL season in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but everything in this “new normal” is subject to change– including these dates.

NFL weather

This may surprise some new bettors, but the weather can have a big impact on the line and particularly on the total in the NFL. Some factors can be blown a little out of proportion, but others aren’t as impactful as you might guess.

  • What matters: Wind impacts the game more than rain, sleet, or snow. 
    • Wind doesn’t tend to have an impact until it approaches 15+ mph. Sustained wind speeds over 25-30 mph can lead to drastic drops in totals as teams tend to struggle more to score in those conditions. 
    • Passing attacks can suffer as a result, leading to more clock-grinding runs and slow drives. 
  • What doesn’t matter: While games in warmer conditions tend to generate slightly more scoring, the temperature impact isn’t significant. Precipitation doesn’t have as clear of an impact on scoring as wind. 
  • Spread and total swings: It’s possible for a total to move as much as six or seven points with severe wind along with other factors. Precipitation doesn’t tend to impact totals as heavily, but poor conditions will still tend to lead to totals dropping modestly, although that’s not always the case. 

Some of the best weather resources in the industry are over at RotoGrinders.com. DFS Weather Wizard Kevin Roth provides daily weather updates that not only inform the decisions of daily fantasy players, but also those betting the NFL.

RotoGrinders also has a specialized NFL Weather page that allows you to quickly cycle through each game on the schedule to get a look at an updated forecast. 

Home field advantage

It’s not a secret that playing at home tends to benefit NFL teams, but the degree of the advantage varies from stadium to stadium. Whether it’s sleeping in their own beds or a lack of travel, or the rush of the home crowd, overall it makes a difference. However, it’s obviously much more complex than that. Home field advantage can mean more for teams in contention than it does for bottom-dwellers or teams without a loyal following. Let’s take a look at a few teams for which home field really pays dividends:

  • New England: Maybe it’s just the talent on the roster, but the Patriots have won a larger percentage of their home games over the last decade than any other team in the league. Cold conditions in Foxboro — especially in the playoffs — have always been perceived as a benefit to Belichick’s bunch.
  • Green Bay: The Packers are right behind the Ravens as the second-winningest team at home over the decade. Lambeau Field and the frozen tundra have such a historic allure. 
  • Kansas City and Seattle: Both the Chiefs and Seahawks play in incredibly loud stadiums and the fan base in each city is rabid. 

Some teams can struggle in their own stadiums. It might be roster related, maybe it’s a coaching problem, maybe the fans don’t get loud enough. Whatever it is, some teams may not mind the road as much…

  • Los Angeles: The Rams and Chargers are prime examples. If a team with a loyal fan base comes into town, games in LA can look like road games for the Rams and Chargers, given that the Los Angeles population is new to these teams and they both left fan bases in St Louis and San Diego. 
  • Cleveland: Despite how badly Browns fans want the team to be successful, the organization can’t get out of its own way. The Browns have been by far the worst NFL team at home over their time in the league.
TEAMSU HOME RECORD 2015-19ATS HOME RECORD 2015-19*
Arizona Cardinals18-20-2 (.475)17-22-1 (.438)
Atlanta Falcons21-19-0 (.525)18-22-0 (.450)
Baltimore Ravens27-13-0 (.675)16-23-1 (.413)
Buffalo Bills23-17-0 (.575)19-20-1 (.488)
Carolina Panthers25-15-0 (.625)20-19-1 (.513)
Chicago Bears18-22-0 (.450)22-17-1 (.563)
Cincinnati Bengals20-19-1 (.513)17-22-1 (.438) – a
Cleveland Browns12-27-1 (.313)14-25-1 (.363) – a
Dallas Cowboys23-17-0 (.575)19-20-1 (.488)
Denver Broncos23-17-0 (.575)18-20-2 (.475)
Detroit Lions19-21-0 (.475)19-21-0 (.475)
Green Bay Packers27-12-1 (.688)21-18-1 (.538)
Houston Texans26-14-0 (.650)18-21-1 (.463)
Indianapolis Colts22-18-0 (.550)19-20-1 (.488)
Jacksonville Jaguars18-22-0 (.450)18-21-1 (.463) – f
Kansas City Chiefs30-10-0 (.750)20-19-1 (.513) – a
Las Vegas Raiders21-19-0 (.525)17-22-1 (.438) – e
Los Angeles Chargers18-22-0 (.450)12-27-1 (.313) – b
Los Angeles Rams22-18-0 (.550)17-20-3 (.463) – d
Miami Dolphins22-18-0 (.550)19-19-2 (.500) – c
Minnesota Vikings29-11-0 (.725)27-12-1 (.688)
New England Patriots33-7-0 (.825)24-13-3 (.638)
New Orleans Saints27-13-0 (.675)21-18-1 (.538)
New York Giants16-24-0 (.400)15-24-1 (.388)
New York Jets19-21-0 (.475)21-18-1 (.538)
Philadelphia Eagles26-14-0 (.650)20-20-0 (.500)
Pittsburgh Steelers28-12-0 (.700)20-18-2 (.525)
San Francisco 49ers18-22-0 (.450)16-23-1 (.413)
Seattle Seahawks26-14-0 (.650)18-21-1 (.463)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers17-23-0 (.425)14-24-2 (.375) – a
Tennessee Titans22-18-0 (.550)18-19-3 (.488)
Washington Redskins19-21-0 (.475)19-21-0 (.475)

Watching NFL games 

In 1939, NBC was the first network to air a professional football game, using two cameras and about eight staffers, according to the NFL. The game was broadcast to about 1,000 televisions in New York, and that’s grown to roughly 16 million viewers per game in this day and age. The current TV rights deal runs through 2021 for Monday Night Football and through 2022 for the other packages, and it’s no surprise that the league figures to earn even more when negotiating the next deal.

NBC, CBS, and FOX air most NFL games with ESPN/ABC holding onto the Monday game. It’s also now becoming even easier to watch, with services like Amazon Prime offering the ability to stream certain prime-time games. Besides the main offerings, it’s also possible to catch NFL games and content in other ways:

  • NFL Network: While it doesn’t air games on Sundays or Mondays, the NFL Network channel covers the league around the clock and is a great place to stay up on NFL news and notes 24/7. 
  • NFL Red Zone: There is no better place for fantasy football players or high-volume NFL bettors to watch games than NFL Red Zone. From kickoff of the early games to the final snap of the late-afternoon contests, Red Zone covers all scoring plays and has live action at all times, focusing on games where points are about to be scored — teams in the red zone. It’s a simple add-on to your cable package or online TV subscription. 
  • DirecTV Sunday Ticket: Want to be able to flip to any NFL game on a Sunday afternoon as you wish? DirecTV Sunday Ticket provides viewing access to the full slate of games so you can toggle freely. 

Regular fans usually have NFL announcers that they either love or can’t stand to listen to. There are some well-known booth pairings in the NFL, and recently retired players like Tony Romo are exhibiting that they can make as much in the booth as they could in the league. Romo signed an $18 million dollar deal to remain an NFL analyst for CBS. While teamed with Jim Nantz, CBS’ favorite pairing has garnered plenty of public affection.

The Sunday night NBC pairing of Al Michaels and former NFL receiver Cris Collinsworth and FOX’s No. 1 duo of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck round out the most notable pairings among NFL announcers. 

NFL betting resources

Because of how popular betting on the NFL has become, there are a myriad of resources available online that can aid you in your quest to become a profitable bettor. It’s important to be able to stay up-to-date on injury/starting lineup news and be informed quickly on those matters to ensure you are getting the best number possible.

Setting up notifications for news alerts with a service like RotoGrinders helps to keep you in the loop all week long. Regardless of your process, try to gather as much information as possible without having to commit too much time to the process. There are plenty of options out there to make this easier:

  • RotoGrinders.com
  • SharpSide.com
  • Football Outsiders
  • Establish the Run
  • Sharp Football Analysis

Sites that easily consolidate NFL information aren’t the only possible resource, and they all don’t require reading! Podcasts have become a great medium for NFL analysis. All of the above sites have podcast offerings of their own, and networks like VSiN also put out quality podcast content.

Twitter is the most valuable source for NFL news, and regular bettors should familiarize themselves with the platform. When it comes to NFL news, Twitter gets it first. Adam Schefter and Ian Rapoport have a long-standing rivalry in the breaking news game and the race to tweet news first is a very real one.

Twitter isn’t only for breaking news — there are a number of quality follows that range from betting experts to film-room analysts, draft reporters, and all sorts of different niches within NFL twitter.

Bankroll management

There is no more important factor for sports betting than bankroll management. It’s something every bettor should be very conscious of, because those who are reckless tend to run out of money lightning quick. This isn’t limited to big bettors either — even those shelling out some spending money should bet based on bankroll. 

To start, bettors usually want to figure out what their starting bankroll will be. This obviously depends on the bettor’s personal financial situation and comfort level, but it should be an amount you can afford to lose or “spend” for the entertainment. From that point, establishing a “unit size” comes into a play. Most bettors place one unit on a particular bet, although some may wager more on games they are more confident in. For some it may be $5, others $500.

It’s usually recommended to bet a certain percentage of your bankroll as your unit size. That number can range from 1-5% or perhaps more, depending on your personal situation. Unit sizes can also change based on the ebbs and flows of your bankroll. If you’re consistently winning, you may be comfortable upping your unit size to reflect your current bankroll. Someone on a losing streak may want to cut back on their unit size to ensure they can continue on through the down swing. 

Big dates for NFL bettors in the 2021 season

  • Week 1: For NFL bettors, the Sunday of Week 1 is like Christmas morning. Sportsbooks tend to get loads of action on opening weekend as football re-enters the lives of Americans. 
  • Thanksgiving Day: What better way to complement some turkey and mashed potatoes than a Lions spread bet? The NFL steals the show on Thanksgiving as far as sports as concerned.
  • Playoffs! Every playoff weekend generates lots of betting interest. The games have more meaning and there are fewer of them, placing more eyeballs on the marquee matchups. 
  • Super Bowl LVI: The Super Bowl generates more action than any other sporting event, and who doesn’t love those elusive halftime props?