While there are plenty of choices at online sportsbooks, some just capture the imagination of the masses much more than others. Pro football is one that falls into that select category. As opposed to sports where teams play more regularly, football squads are on the field once per week during the season.
The relative scarcity of games turns each one into a must-see event. Whether it’s the CFL or NFL, there’s plenty to get excited about all season long. So which of the top two pigskin leagues is the best for wagering? What are the differences between the two that you need to be aware of? We have the answers to those questions and many more right here.
Which is more popular at sportsbooks — CFL or NFL?
Down in the US, NFL betting is the unquestioned leader in overall interest and volume at sportsbooks. There are plenty of NFL fans in Canada, as well, but not quite at the levels of what you’ll find south of the border.
The CFL has a loyal and passionate following across the nation. The nine teams that make up the league are spread out geographically, so folks in all areas of the country have a club to latch onto and root for. From a betting perspective, the interest in the Canadian game is very strong, as well.
In certain pockets of the country, the NFL may be the more popular option. For example, the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks have strong followings in Canada, so those in close proximity to those regions may lean toward the NFL. Meanwhile, folks in Manitoba and Quebec may focus on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes and the rest of the CFL.
Available betting markets for CFL vs. NFL
The main bets are the same for both the CFL and NFL. When you click on the tab for the league you want to bet on at an online sportsbook, you’ll see a listing of the upcoming games. Next to the two team names will be the odds and lines for three main bets.
- BC Lions +160 +4.5 (-110) O 53.5 (-110)
- Toronto Argonauts -180 -4.5 (-110) U 53.5 (-110)
Reading from the left to right, we see the odds for the moneyline, spread and total. These bets are popular attractions for both sports, and all will see their fair share of volume for each game. Here’s how they work.
- Moneyline: Pick the side that you think will win the game.
- Point spread: Select the favourite minus the points or the underdog plus the same number.
- Totals: You can bet over or under on the estimated number of total points in the game.
The concept of all three bets is the same for both sports. On the moneyline, a small range between the numbers indicates a close contest, while a wide span indicates a potential mismatch. A spread of three points or lower points to the potential for a tight game, while a double-digit number means that sportsbooks perceive one side as having a clear advantage.
For totals, CFL games have traditionally been higher-scoring, but the NFL continues to trend upward on that front. In both sports, totals at 50 or less are on the low end, while 55+ means that some fireworks may be in order. Beyond the big three bets, you can wager on both leagues in several other ways.
Props: You can find available props by clicking on the game listings. Many of the most popular options are wagers on individual player performances.
How many total TDs for Josh Allen?
- Over 3.5 +105
- Under 3.5 -125
Live betting: Once the game gets underway, you can keep on wagering with updated game lines and various other bets.
Which side will have more passing yards in the first half?
- Calgary Stampeders +110
- Ottawa Redblacks -130
How many total regular-season wins for the Seattle Seahawks?
- Over 9.5 -140
- Under 9.5 +120
Parlays: This is similar to what you’ll find on Pro-Line — make multiple choices and be correct on all to have a chance to win.
Two-team CFL moneyline parlay:
- Calgary Stampeders +130 over Edmonton Football Team
- Hamilton Tiger-Cats -122 over Winnipeg Blue Bombers
- Total parlay odds of +319
In short, you won’t be lacking for betting options with either sport, and there’s even more to consider beyond the options we’ve laid out. There’s cross-over between what’s available for CFL and NFL betting, so those with experience wagering on one can quickly get up to speed with the other.
Do the odds work the same for CFL and NFL betting?
For a standard sportsbook listing that you would find in Las Vegas or elsewhere in the US, the answer is yes, CFL and NFL odds follow the same format. For example, moneyline odds will be negative for favourites and positive for underdogs. The same holds true for point spreads, and totals bets have the same structure in both sports.
Across Canada, games that the provincial lottery system offers also use odds, such as Pro-Line contests that are part of Ontario sports betting. Certain games have odds attached, but they follow the decimal format, such as 1.9 for a moneyline favourite and 2.8 for the underdog. If a sportsbook offers both formats, it’s easy to toggle back and forth.
The standard odds listing in the US is American odds. If you ever need to convert that format into decimal odds, or vice versa, there are quick formulas that you can use.
Convert decimal to American odds
Positive: Value of the decimal odds minus one multiplied by 100.
Example: (2.5 – 1) * 100 = 150
Negative: Negative 100 divided by the decimal odds value minus one.
Example: -100 / (1.5 – 1) = -200
Convert American to decimal odds
Positive: One plus the value of the American odds divided by 100.
Example: 1 + (250/100) = 3.5
Negative: One plus -100 divided by the value of the American odds.
Example: 1 – (-100/-350) = 1.28
Does public betting matter for the CFL or NFL?
When handicapping sports, it’s a good idea to know which way the public is leaning. You can tell this by watching the movements on the odds board as sportsbooks respond to public betting action. For example, they’ll make the less popular side more appealing while lessening the appeal on the side that’s seeing more bets.
There are also sites and apps that track public betting numbers in percentage form. Regardless of how you figure it out, it can be a valuable addition to your handicapping routine. There’s no absolute rule that states you should always be betting with or against the public, but a sense of market sentiment can help to build your case.
Additionally, movement in the odds can also point you to news that you may have missed or some other research point that you’ve overlooked. While you should always prioritize your own conclusions when breaking down CFL and NFL games, public sentiment can serve as a second set of eyes ahead of games.
Where can you make more money betting — CFL or NFL?
No matter what you are betting on, your actual profit levels will depend on a number of variables, including your skill level, stake size, the odds for your wagers and the amount of volume you play. Betting on either the CFL or NFL is not the same as walking up to an instant teller machine. If you want to turn a profit on one or the other, it’s going to take some effort.
If we put that aside for the moment, the NFL is the bigger league and has more teams and games, hence more opportunities to wager. Based on that, there’s more profit potential for those who plan to bet at significant volumes. For those who prefer to pick their spots with select games, then the potential evens out with both sports.
In terms of regularly winning, the CFL and NFL are both challenging nuts to crack. It’s possible to build up your skills to the point where you find regular success. However, it’s not easier to do so in one over the other. Additionally, there’s no need to choose between the two. There are plenty of handicappers who focus on both.
What are the biggest rule differences between the CFL and NFL?
Football is football, but there are significant differences between the American and Canadian versions of the game. Naturally, that can have an impact on gameplay and various handicapping aspects. Here are some of the key points:
- Field size: The CFL’s is much larger at 110 by 65 yards with a 20-yard end zone vs. 100 by 53 ⅓ and a 10-yard end zone for the NFL.
- Players on field: In the NFL, it’s 11 on 11, while it’s 12 on 12 in the CFL.
- First downs: CFL teams have three plays to make a first down, while it’s four for the NFL.
- Line of scrimmage: CFL teams line up one yard apart, while the standard is 11 inches in the NFL.
- Snap of the ball: Only one player is allowed to be in motion in the NFL, but all offensive backfield members outside of the QB can do so in the CFL.
- Play clock: CFL teams have 20 seconds to run a play. NFL squads have 40 seconds.
- Timeouts: NFL teams get three per half, while CFL teams get two per game.
- Rogue: CFL teams receive a single point for kickoffs that the opposing team fails to return out of the end zone or for kicks that go through the end zone (outside of kickoff).
- Goalpost position: Situated on the end line in the NFL, at the goal line in the CFL.
- Fair catch: NFL players can call for a fair catch on punts, while CFL players have to make a play, but they get five yards of leeway prior to touching the ball.
There are several other smaller differences between the two sports, but the above are the ones that have the biggest impacts on play. The action may play out slightly differently here and there in CFL and NFL games, but the overall object of the game remains the same: advance the ball and score points while preventing your opponent from doing the same.
How do the schedules compare between the CFL and NFL?
The CFL preseason typically gets underway in May, with the games that matter beginning in June. There’s about a month of prep for the campaign in which each team plays a pair of games against teams in its own division. Then the regular season shakes out like this:
- It’s a 21-week regular season that runs from the latter part of June to early November.
- Teams play 18 games apiece and get three bye weeks.
- A team receives two points for a win, one for a tie and none for a loss.
- Each club plays the other eight teams in the league twice for a total of 16 games.
- The remaining two games are divisional contests that rotate each season.
- After the regular season, there’s a three-week postseason that culminates with the Grey Cup final.
- The top points-getter in each division gets a bye for the opening round.
- The next two teams in the divisional standings face off in semifinal matchups, with winners advancing.
- If a team from the opposite division has a better standing than one of the two seeds from the other division, the squad with the better record gets the berth.
- The league uses tiebreakers as needed to decide playoff qualifiers.
Over in the NFL, the league has extended the regular season while shortening the preseason. Training camps begin in July, followed by preseason action in August in which teams play three exhibition games. Here’s the current incarnation of the NFL schedule:
- An 18-week regular season that begins in September and wraps up in early January.
- Teams play 17 games and get one bye week.
- Standings are based on record with no points awarded.
- Clubs play six games against divisional opponents, four games against teams from a division in the same conference, and four against teams from a division from the opposite conference, for a total of 14.
- The remaining three games are split as two against teams from the same conference in the same divisional position, and one against a team from the opposite conference under the same standard.
- Fourteen teams qualify for the postseason: four division winners and three wild card teams from each conference.
- The league uses tiebreakers as needed to sort out the field.
- Playoffs run for three weeks in single-elimination style with winners advancing.
- It’s six games for the wild card round, four for the divisional round, and two for the conference championships.
- Winners of the AFC and NFC championship games advance to play in the Super Bowl.
Including the preseason, both sports last for seven months out of the year. From a broader perspective, those who stay engaged with both leagues have pro pigskin to look forward to from the start of the CFL preseason straight through to the Super Bowl.
Betting on the Grey Cup vs. the Super Bowl
The CFL postseason culminates with the Grey Cup championship game. While there’s lots of interest in the sport during the regular season, it grows even further when the playoffs roll around. The same holds true for the NFL, as playoff games see some of the heaviest betting of the year. The Super Bowl is the biggest sports betting event on an annual basis.
Once the stakes increase in both sports, you can still apply the same overall handicapping principles. You’ll find the same bets available, but you can expect them to attract more volume than normal. As such, there may be even more movement on the odds board as sportsbooks react to public sentiment.
Pros and cons of betting — CFL vs. NFL
If you love football, then there’s a lot to love about betting on both the CFL and NFL. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s instant nirvana. There are downsides to consider, and those hoping to find long-term success with wagering on either have to factor those into the equation. Staring on the CFL side, here’s the argument on both sides of the ledger.
Pros of CFL betting
- Limited number of games to focus on each week.
- Smaller slates translate into extra research time.
- Only nine teams to study.
Cons of CFL betting
- Fewer games to bet on in comparison to other sports.
- Limited action means bettors will pounce on favourable odds.
- Fewer props to consider in comparison to the NFL.
There are several big positives, and none of the cons are enough to make betting on the CFL completely unappealing. Over in the NFL, it’s a similar story.
Pros of NFL betting
- Many games to choose from each week.
- Attracts plenty of attention and media coverage.
- Can specialize in many ways.
Cons of NFL betting
- Sheer number of choices can be a little overwhelming.
- Strong betting volume can lead to frequent line moves.
- A lot of parity across the league, so anything can happen.
From a bottom-line perspective, if you really like having intimate knowledge of every team, it’s easier to do so with the CFL due to fewer squads. For those who like more variety, the NFL is the ticket. Of course, there’s also a lot to be said for working both sports into your wagering routine. After all, football season can really go by in a flash
CFL vs. NFL: Choose one or bet on both?
For starters, you should start by looking at where your passions lie and the amount of time that you have available for handicapping on a weekly basis. On the former, it’s a matter of which of the two keeps you most engaged. As for time, consider that there will be a stretch when both sports are in season, but also pockets of time when one or the other is on break.
Additionally, assess your overall understanding of the two sports. It’s important to go much deeper than your rooting interest for this step. Do you have a better handle on one over the other? If the answer is yes, then you should begin with the one you are more familiar with and work toward adding in the other.
If time is not a concern and you love both sports, then it may make sense to wager on both. In fact, there are plenty of football bettors who stay quite active with the CFL and NFL while even throwing college football betting into the mix. You can do the same and allocate your time accordingly.
When both are in season, there are more NFL games to choose from, so you may spend the majority of your time there, but you can still reserve some effort for digging into the weekly CFL slate. At the end of the day, the decision of where to focus your efforts ultimately comes down to what works best for you and your overall handicapping approach.