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What you should know about NFL positions before betting
Feb 28, 2022, 3:57:00 AM

What you should know about NFL positions before betting

The National Football League (NFL) is one of the United States’ biggest sports. In fact, each year fans roar for their favourite teams. American football arguably has the most positions in any sport and punters may get a little confused in determining them.

After understanding the players’ positions, you’ll have an edge when betting on the best NFL teams. The key to determining the NFL positions being played out on the field is through the lineup of players before the match. This can be quite challenging since each coaching system is different from the other.

Regardless, it’s easy to spot which player is playing a role in an offence or defence after you familiarise yourself with the league more. What you may not know is that your favourite player may be assigned in a position that’s regarded as one of the most important NFL positions in the league. 

This provides you with the understanding that each position is played with the objective of either scoring a touchdown, field goal, or attempting to make a stop on the defensive end. So, here are the NFL positions and what they do to help you win more when betting. 

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Each player position defined

The main goal for any football team is to score the most points in a span of 55 minutes. This is done by either scoring a touchdown where a player runs to the end zone with the football. An end zone is the area where each team needs to reach to score a touchdown, a 6 point score with a free kick that’s worth 1 point. Scoring a touchdown totals 7 points every time it is achieved.

There is also another way of scoring which is a field goal. When the team is at a point of reaching the fourth down, which is the last try of 4 attempts a team is given to reach 10 yards, they can choose to kick the football through the crossbar. A field goal is worth 3 points.

With these rules, the roles are now easier to define. For the football to reach the end zone and score the coveted 7 points, a team must curate an offence that’s both efficient and functional given an opponent’s defence.

This is where the team is split into 2 factions of roles: the NFL offensive positions and NFL defensive positions. Before the game begins, a coin toss is conducted to determine which team is on the defensive or offensive side.

The winner of the coin toss gets to choose which side they want to play in the first minutes of the game. To understand how offensive and defensive lineups work, here are the definitive NFL special teams positions:

NFL offensive positions

Offensive NFL positions are the players who run the offence to score points in football. The team with the most points by the end of the game wins. Fans can argue all day which side of the game is more important. But one thing that nobody can debate on is offensive lineups are flashier than defensive positions. 

Here are the NFL offensive positions to get you started:


The quarterback is arguably one of the highest paid positions in NFL right now. Like the point guard in the National Basketball Association (NBA), quarterbacks are the main decision makers in football.

They are the ones who get passed the ball during the first instance of a play called a ‘snap’. Once the ball goes to the quarterback, he can either make a passing play or a running play. Quarterbacks can also run as many yards as they please to edge closer to the goal line without passing or making a running play. 

Essentially, the offensive lineup will try to protect the quarterback as he makes the crucial play. When a team has a great quarterback, they tend to win more games than a team that has worse. 

All plays run through the quarterback because they are the 1st players the opposing defence focuses on at every play. At this point of writing, the NFL is a passing league first which means passing yards are the most important stats for a quarterback. 

The most elite players are always pass-first, and these passes translate to one of the most impressive touchdowns you’ll ever see in football. During close games, quarterbacks dictate the pace and the team’s success for the majority of a season.

Also, the most famous and widely regarded as best players are often quarterbacks. Some noteworthy quarterbacks include Tom Brady, Payton Manning, and Joe Montana.

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Offensive linemen

Aside from the centre of the offence which is the quarterback, there are 5 other offensive linemen that contribute to scoring in football. They are:

    •   Left tackle

The left tackle is one of the most important NFL positions. When a snap occurs for the quarterback to make a play, there is usually a blindside. The quarterback either couldn’t see because he is facing forward or has no time to check his surroundings for the opposing defence. 

The left tackle only has one job: protect the quarterback from opposing defence linemen. When they fail to do so, a play is wasted or worse, the quarterback gets injured. 

A quarterback must only get sacked twice a game to preserve their strength and physical health. Quarterbacks who get sacked a lot by defensive linemen get short careers. 

Partly to blame for unwanted injuries are the left tackle. So, having a solid left tackle is important to protect the quarterback. 

    •   Guards

Both left and right guards serve the same purpose on the football field. Just like the left tackle, guards block incoming defensive linemen but are more mobile. Unlike left tackles and centres whose primary goal is to protect the quarterback, guards can go beyond the quarterback assignment and protect running backs and wide receivers. 

When a pass is completed and a wide receiver or running back jolts as many yards to the end zone as possible, guards often follow them to block incoming defences. 

    •   Centres

Hiking is when a ball is touched on the ground and passed directly to the quarterback every time a play needs to be made. The main players responsible for hiking are the centres who usually play at the centre of every offensive line. 

The centre’s job is fairly simple in that they curate the offensive line outside of the quarterback. They are usually the ones who stop the biggest players and are on-field coaches who tell other positions where they should go for the most optimal plays. 

Tight ends

In terms of height, tight ends are generally smaller players compared to the core offensive linemen. However, they happen to also be one of the most important NFL positions. 

Tight ends have two main jobs in the game: Catching passes from a quarterback or blocking other players from disrupting the wide receivers or running backs. 

They are usually found by the end of the main offensive linemen thus their name. They are ‘tightly’ positioned at the end of the offensive line to get the pass easier. Tight ends also have the option of blocking incoming defenders once the ball gets out of the hands of the quarterback. 

Wide receivers 

There are two main types of wide receivers: the slot and wideout receivers. Both of these receivers have the role of catching the incoming passes from a quarterback. 

They can range from any size and height as long as they can run fast and go past strong defenders. Depending on the offence, wide receivers can be the focal point of the offence to quickly push the ball for an easy drive. 

Below is an in depth explanation of the two types of wide receivers:

    •   Slot receivers are typically the smaller players. This means that they are regarded as the quicker types of wide receivers. Because speed is important when having a wide receiver, slot receivers are often the more coveted out of the two types.

Since they are smaller, bigger defenders may have an easier time stopping them from reaching farther on the field.

    •   Wideouts receivers are lined up on the far-end portions during a snap. They are typically larger in contrast to slot receivers which means they can body other defenders when running past them.

The beauty of the NFL is these two types of receivers can be found in one player. Due to advanced medicine and better gym training, both large and swifty players can be a mix of the two types which is scary for the opposing defensive linemen. 

Running backs 

A running back receives the ball by a quarterback’s handout. After a snap, running backs often get near the quarterback to get a handoff and start running past defenders. 

Running backs are regarded as the largest and strongest players in football because they need to overpower defenders trying to block them. 

One useful way of using a running back is faking a hand off. You can see this play all the time to trick defenders into thinking that the quarterback is making a running play when they really want to pass. 

There are two types of running backs:

    •   Halfbacks are the most common types of running backs in the NFL. They are the first options for a running play and need to catch the ball fast from a nearby handoff.

    •   Fullbacks are the less common types of running backs in today’s NFL trend but still exist nonetheless. They are bigger than a half back and are usually used to block defenders who try to defend the running back. 

The reason why they are seen less frequently is because of the increased size and stamina of guards and tackles. When you have mobile offensive linemen on your side, there is simply no need for a fullback anymore. 

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Defensive linemen

While the offence is slightly flashier than the defence, NFL coaches often put priority in making their team’s defence as good as possible.

The defensive linemen are responsible for blocking every single play made by the opposing offensive linemen.

There are usually only 3-4 men in the defensive lineup, but that depends on the coaching system if they want to adapt a more rigid type of defence that balances out speed or power. 

For the most part, defensive linemen are there to tackle the offensive players or ‘sack’ the quarterback before the football even leaves their hands. 

Here are the two most common defensive linemen in NFL:

    •   The defensive ends play at the end of the defensive line. They are usually regarded as the pass rushers because they prevent a pass from happening in the first place. 

Sacking the quarterback is their utmost priority when playing, and the best defensive ends usually frustrate the opposing quarterback and make them look bad during every play.

    •   Defensive tackles play on the ends of their lines as well. They are also regarded as the bigger defensive linemen and are more mobile than their counterparts. 

These defensive linemen ensure that when the opposing quarterback successfully completes a pass, they will go for the player who has the ball.


Behind the defensive linemen are the linebackers, thus their name. There are usually 3-4 linebackers who block the weak side of the defence. Just like the left tackles, linebackers are the blind spotters for defenders who want to cover areas on the field that they couldn’t see.

There are 3 types of linebackers in football:

    •   The left outside linebackers (LOLB) are the stronger side of the defence and are often the equivalent of a tight end in the offence.

The reason for this comparison is their mobility and versatility when it comes to defending. Because they are outside linebackers, they have more to work with when trying to block players.

They can either go past the offence and tackle the quarterback or sack wide receivers or running backs. Either way, they often guard anybody and because they are closest to the tight end, they are famous defenders for that position.

    •   Right Outside Linebackers (ROLB) are found on the weak side of the defence and clean any mistakes made by the defence as whole. ROLBs are among the fastest players on the field because their roles are very specific.

Out of the many defensive linemen on their post, they sometimes just wait for a wide receiver or running back to go past other positions and provide help for the defence.

    •   Middle linebackers are often players who call out every defensive play when on the field. Middle linebackers are the centre equivalent to the offence and usually do the most tackles during the game.

Defensive coaches also love using the middle linebackers as the most flexible defensive units because they can guard almost anyone. They have a solid build who can rush to the quarterback or pin down the guards for the other defensive linemen to operate.


Cornerbacks are the definitive defensive answer to a wide receiver. They either solo defend the wide receiver or double them. They provide the most troubles for a Wide Receiver in that they disrupt passes and cause completion rates to deplete. 

They are also regarded as one of the fastest players on the defensive side because wide receivers are also the fastest on the offensive side.


Safeties come in 2 types: The free safety and the strong safety. Safeties play at the farthest parts of the offensive line because they are the last line of defence for a crucial play. 

Here is a more in depth explanation of the 2 types of safeties:

    •   Free safeties are the true last line of defence in football. They are regarded as the pass-defensive position who scan the field and disrupt the ball for an interception.

    •   Strong safeties are very similar to linebackers in that they need more speed to catch up to faster positions like the wide receivers and the running backs. Instead of sacking the player, they usually tackle and end yard coverage.

They have strong capabilities of stopping running and passing plays when the quarterback achieves them, thus the ‘strong safety’ name. 

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How the positions dictate the betting market

When it comes to the sports betting industry, the positions play a huge role in determining which teams can win. Here are the notable facts before betting on a team in relation to the players position:

    •   Football fans and punters often face a dilemma when watching their favourite teams. This dilemma is determining how a team wins a football game. Each team has a unique playing style that brings out the best out of their players.

When scoring, teams can either score a field goal or a touchdown. Some teams are better at scoring field goals than touchdowns and vice-versa. However, the best teams often score touchdowns the most efficiently. 

The next time you bet on a team, look at the quarterback’s passing touchdown yards to determine if they score more touchdowns than field goals. The reason why touchdowns are better is the higher scoring output. 7 points is better than 3.

    •   The importance of defensive tackles in winning Super Bowls is evident in Super Bowl LVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams. The latter arguably has the best defensive tackle in the game and made the most crucial defensive stop at the end of the 4th quarter.

After sacking the Bengals’ quarterback, Joe Burrow, the Rams proceeded to win the Super Bowl. This means that defence does win Super Bowls, a game where all punters bet on in American football.

    •   Wide receivers or running backs? This is a hard question faced by every punter who wants to know which position is more important. As of writing, the NFL league leans more towards passing yards than rushing yards.

While a great running back is always welcome in title-contending teams, a superstar wide receiver can potentially win you more games because the league has more elite passing quarterbacks who can utilise their skills more. 

How to bet on the individual NFL positions?

Betting in any sport may be quite challenging, but after understanding how the NFL positions work can help you bet on football easier. Here are some tips that you should know before betting:

    •   The highest paid positions in NFL are regarded as the best players. But how do you really know if they are better than their salaries? Looking past their figures and going back to when they were first drafted is the best way to know if they are any good or not. 

However, you should know that higher draft positions don’t necessarily mean they are great players. Sometimes, busts spring up from time to time proving the scouts can be wrong.

    •   Checking statistics like number of tackles, passing yards, conversion rates, and running yards in a whole season is also a great practice before betting begins.

    •   Looking at team statistics like how they win is crucial in making smart decisions when betting. For instance, if a team wins more by field goal, it’s generally regarded as a worse offensive team. 

There are only 2 desirable stats in the NFL when it comes to an overall team: Quarterback completion rate and passing touchdown yards committed. With these two indicators, you can tell that a team is doing well during the season and can potentially carry that on to the playoffs. 

The NFL is gifted with some of the best athletes in the world. Regarded as the most physical sport in the world, American football continues to win the hearts of millions of fans. 

As the popularity of sports betting surges, more NFL punters will see the benefits of understanding the sport more, especially when it comes to each player position that will help during bets. 

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Words: Vonn Consul

Image: Alamy


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