NBA vs. NFL Betting: Which is the Best Sport to Bet on?

The two most popular sports in the US are the NFL and NBA. They bring the most eyeballs to the screen, draw the most fans in person and attract the most coverage from various media entities. It should come as no surprise that these two behemoths are also the biggest drivers of action at legal sportsbooks.

While football still rules the day on that front, basketball does quite well, too. For those new to wagering, there are pros and cons to betting on each. We’ll walk through that and much more right here. By the time you’re through, you’ll have a great sense of which one is for you, and you may even decide to take a crack at both.

Which sport sees more betting volume — NBA or NFL?

Betting on the NFL still attracts the most volume at legal and regulated NY sportsbooks. Each game on the regular-season schedule is an event in and of itself that will attract tons of wagers. Interest can go even further through the roof for the primetime games and during the postseason. NFL season is the busiest time of the year for sportsbooks.

That said, the NBA also attracts a large share. There are also more games to wager on. While NFL teams play a 16-game schedule, the number bumps up to 82 games for NBA squads. In short, the opportunities are much more spread out for the NBA, but marquee affairs, nationally televised games and postseason contests will bring in a boatload of action.

For the most common bet types — moneylines, spreads and totals — it’s the NFL on a per-game basis. That’s also likely the case with props and futures, but that can depend on the game at hand. The NFL futures market is the most popular for that style of wagering, but NBA futures also attract plenty of interest. It’s the NFL overall, but the NBA isn’t too far behind.

Main bet types for NFL vs. NBA

The main bet types are basically the same for NFL and NBA wagering. When you visit online sportsbooks or download a betting app, the main game listings for the two sports will have the odds and lines for three bet types: moneylines, point spreads and totals. Let’s take a quick look at how they work and the differences to watch out for.


A simple bet where you are simply picking the winner. The favorite in the contest will have negative odds, while the value is positive for the underdog.

  • New York Knicks    +155
  • Brooklyn Nets          -175

What to watch out for: Can be tough to find value outside of underdogs.

Point spread

Oddsmakers set the spread for bettors to wager on. You can take the favorite minus the points or the underdog plus the number.

  • New York Jets       +4.5 (-110)
  • New York Giants    -4.5 (-110)

What to watch out for: Challenging to beat the spread consistently.


Sportsbooks set the bar with an estimated total, and bettors then wager whether the final total score will be over or under that amount.

  • Over        209.5 (-110)
  • Under      209.5 (-110)

What to watch out for: Market action can skew the numbers.

These three wager types will attract lots of volume for both sports, but they are not all that is available. There’s another trio of betting options that are quite popular for betting on both football and basketball.


Essentially side wagers on the individual games for things that may happen from a player, team or game perspective. For example, who will score more points in the game?

  • R.J. Barrett      -115
  • Kyrie Irving     +105

Live betting

These are bets you can place in real-time as the game plays out. It’s a fast-moving market in which odds and offerings will vary based on what’s happening. For instance: which side will have more rushing yards in the second quarter?

  • Patriots        +120
  • Cowboys      -110


These are long-term wagers on things like the winner of the next Super Bowl or NBA Finals. There are a lot of markets to choose from for both sports. An example could be something like how many regular-season wins for the Los Angeles Lakers?

  • Over         47.5       -135
  • Under       47.5       +115

While the top bet types are the same, there are naturally some variances to consider between the two sports. For example, NBA games are played more regularly, so travel, rest and fatigue are all issues to consider while handicapping the games. Meanwhile, the once-a-week nature of the NFL means that the odds and lines have extra time to move before kickoff.

What is the most profitable sport to bet on — basketball or football?

This really depends on your overall wagering strategy. For volume bettors who like to wager on lots of games with the hopes of coming out ahead, the NBA plays much more regularly than the NFL. Bettors who prefer to take a very selective approach while aiming for a high strike rate may find the NFL more attractive.

Beyond the approach, it’ll also depend upon your skill level and overall familiarity with a sport. In general, the more knowledge you have about a sport, the better your chances for long-term success. That said, overcoming the learning curve to wager on both the NBA and NFL can happen if you’re willing to put in the effort.

Public betting for NBA vs NFL

While both sports are popular with bettors, public numbers tend to be more closely watched in the NFL. That’s mainly due to the length of time between games. There’s more time for research when betting on the NFL, so that means handicappers can more closely go over every facet.

However, there are also plenty of handicappers who work public betting numbers into their overall NBA research routine. In both sports, tracking the line moves from the initial release until the time you are ready to bet is a good idea, as this can give you fantastic clues on the overall market direction.

As for when to follow or go against the public numbers, there’s no one set rule. While there are theories that suggest always going against the public is the way to go, the reality is that you should judge each game on its own merits. While there will be plenty of times when the public is off the mark, there will also be times when the public money is correct.

Which NFL bets attract the most action?

Of the big bet types, the point spread is the wager of choice for many seasoned handicappers. The main reason is that there’s consistency on the odds board, as spread bets start with a baseline of -110 at most books. By comparison, moneyline odds can be all over the map as they’re solely based on the straight-up winner.

While the point spread is the biggest driver, there are plenty of handicappers who love totals, as well, along with those who prefer the simplicity of the moneyline bet. For other bet types, futures are very popular in NFL circles, while props and live betting bring in a ton of action for both the Sunday afternoon slate and the primetime games.

What are the most popular NBA bets?

In the NBA, it’s a similar story. There’s more value on the spread, so bettors tend to flock there. However, moneyline bets and totals have their fans. The high-scoring nature of NBA games makes the over/under bet a popular attraction, while folks who don’t want to be bothered figuring out spreads may favor the moneyline.

The fast-paced nature of the games also translates well into the world of props and live betting. Props bring some fantasy sports flavor to the proceedings, while live betting is very popular for nationally televised contests. NBA futures see slightly less volume than NFL markets, but they’re still very active, with lots of bettors getting involved.

The case for betting on the NFL

When deciding which of the two sports is for you, the first step is to assess your overall comfort level for each. If you’re a big fan of one and not crazy about the other, there’s your answer. For those who have at least a general level of interest in both the NBA and NFL, it’s helpful to go through the pros and cons of each and then make your choice from there.

Since these are the two most popular sports in the US, it’s pretty simple to make a strong case for wagering on either. Over on the NFL side, here are some of the biggest positives.

  • The most popular sport. Easy to find games on TV and plenty of coverage.
  • Wide range of bet types to consider, all of which see a good amount of volume.
  • Extra time for handicapping due to the schedule.

Those are all strong arguments, but there are a few downsides to consider when wagering on the NFL. Here are three to keep in mind.

  • Heavy betting volume can skew the numbers.
  • An overwhelming amount of coverage can lead to information overload.
  • Lots of parity across the league means that anything can happen.

As you compare the two sports, go through your personal checklist of what’s important to you. If you take the time to really think it through, the answer will likely become apparent, and you may even decide that you have room to do both.

The case for betting on the NBA

Just like the NFL, there are pros and cons to wagering on the NBA. In the end, it’ll ultimately come down to personal preference and comfort level, but going through the same exercise can help you get to the bottom of things. Betting on the NBA can be lots of fun and potentially profitable. Here are some of the top reasons.

  • The second-most popular sport in the US and a huge driver of betting volume.
  • Games to choose from nearly every night throughout the season.
  • Plenty of bet types to consider for each game on the docket.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, some factors may just not work for you. Here are a few potential pitfalls to consider when betting on the NBA.

  • Daily slates of games mean less time for research.
  • Can be hard to get a handle on injury information that may impact the game.
  • Travel and fatigue can impact the product on the court and lead to unpredictability.

Once again, we have to stress that the ultimate choice is up to you. If you’re completely on the fence in between the two sports, the best advice is to start small. A clear preference may emerge before too long, but it’s also possible that you’ll want to stick with both sports.

NBA vs. NFL Betting FAQ

The answer depends on which sport you are more comfortable with on an overall basis. If you’re an NFL fan who doesn’t know much about pro hoops, then start with the former. The same applies in reverse. For those who are starting completely from scratch, there are similarities in the bet types for the two sports. If you like things more spread out, focus on the NFL, while a bettor who would like more regular action should consider the NBA.

On an overall basis, it’s a pretty even mix on the promotional front at online sportsbooks. However, since the NFL is the busiest time of the year for books, they may put in some extra effort to maximize potential for this time of the year. In both sports, you’ll find a regular array of promos such as odds boosts and parlay insurance. The best advice is to watch for promotions regardless of which sport it may be.

This will depend on your comfort level with the two sports and what your overall goals are with sports betting. If you’re drawn to betting solely because of one sport over the other, then begin by focusing your efforts on the one that brought you in. Take the time to learn all of the nuances and build up your skills. From there, you can branch out into the other sport if interested or as time permits.

If you plan on doing your own handicapping, paying for picks doesn’t make much sense. There are plenty of free resources out there on the internet that you can use for research and confirmation of your instincts. If you are pressed for time or don’t desire to do any handicapping, you could maybe make a case for buying picks. That said, it’s not a strong one. There are lots of scamdicappers out there who will take your money without delivering quality results. If you plan to buy picks, vet your selections extremely carefully

Both the NFL and NBA have their merits for live betting, so it really comes down to how you like to wager. If you like to bet at a really fast pace, then high-scoring NBA games could be the ticket. For those who like a little extra time to make decisions, NFL games move at a slower pace. That said, live betting markets move fast regardless of which sport we’re talking about, so base it on your overall comfort level with each sport.

When handicapping, you should be treating each game as an individual event and not randomly betting on the side that’s the favorite or the underdog. A strategy such as that may work in short spurts, but it’s not a recipe for long-term success. When breaking down the games, assess the strengths and weaknesses on both sides and pick your spots. There will be times when the favorite makes sense, as well as times when you spot a potential upset.

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