wikiHow to Win a Football Game

Three Methods:Preparing for the GameMaking In-Game DecisionsGambling on Football

Football is America’s most popular sport, and one that people interact with in a variety of ways beyond fandom. For people who play and coach the sport, there are a number of principles and tricks you can follow to increase your chances of winning a game. Some of them come from your preparation beforehand, and others are decisions you can make during the game. Even if you don’t play, gambling can give you a stake in the outcome, and some smart gambling tips can lead you to personal success. This article is for American football, so if you are looking for information on association football (soccer) instead, check out how to play soccer.

Method 1
Preparing for the Game

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    Prepare yourself for different situations. There are many different circumstances you can find yourself in during the course of a football game, so you won’t be able to prepare for them all. That being said, there are some areas that you can expect regularly, like third downs, short yardage, or the red zone. Have a clear idea of what you want to do in these circumstances, and practice them regularly so you can be confident when those moments arise.[1]
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    Keep focused on your role. With 22 different people running around on each play, plus many coaches shouting instructions, there is a lot of information. Make sure you are clear on what you are supposed to be doing in any given situation. Focusing on your role and your actions will allow you to remain calm and perform them to the best of your abilities.[2]
    • Teamwork is vital here because you need to trust that the other members of your team are doing their jobs. That can be hard, but repetition in practice will help build that trust between players and coaches.
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    Study your opponents. Watch film and read reports about what your opponents like to do. Scout in person if you can. You’ll want to highlight the other team’s key players and favorite plays so you can think of ways to neutralize them.[3]
    • Make sure you also take time to study yourself. If you have already played a game, watch yourself to identify mistakes and areas to improve. You will probably need to focus on bad plays, as those are areas you will need to improve. Of course, if you are a coaching, showing a few good plays to highlight successes is important for building morale and confidence as well.
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    Look for ways to disguise your plans. Just like you are watching the other team, they are scouting you, and unless you are far more talented than your opponents, you won’t be able to get away without something unpredictable. Look for different formations or shifts you can run, and study your patterns to vary plays and techniques. Anything unexpected for your opponents makes it more likely to get a big play.
    • For example, learn how to vary your formations on defense. Have your defenders line up in different places, or move around before the snap. It only takes one or two of their players being out of position to create problems with a specific playcall.[4]
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    Find distractions before and after the game. You will spend plenty of time in practice getting ready for your opponent and finding ways to win. Make sure you take some time before and after the actual game to do something else to distract you from the moment, and give your mind a rest. This will help you relax, and can make your focus during the game that much better.[5]

Method 2
Making In-Game Decisions

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    Look for big plays. Games rarely turn on steady execution. Instead, the result is usually governed by plays that gain or lose lots of yards at once. Look to make plays on both offense and defense that will open up big holes or allow you to gain big chunks of yardage. Aggressive teams that try to force their opponents out of a comfort zone and set up big plays are usually more successful.[6][7]
    • Your average yards per play can be important too, especially if you like to run a lot of plays. That being said, a few big plays that turn into touchdowns can make up for a lot of little plays that end up leading to punts. It is very difficult to maintain long drives of small gains, especially with any real consistency.
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    Return every kick-off. If your returner takes a knee, your offense gets the ball at the 20 or 25 yard line (depending on the rules). While running it out of the end zone means you may start slightly further back, it also increases the chances of a big play. The average return out to the 15 yard line does not significantly decrease your chance of scoring on the drive.[8]
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    Win the battle for field position. Where drives begin has a huge impact on how successfully they end. Consistently making the plays to drive down the field is difficult, and the longer your opponents have to go, the less success they are likely to have.
    • The most common way to impact field position is through special teams, particularly punts and kick-offs. You need a good kicker who can hit the ball deep, and coverage that teams know their responsibilities in order to prevent big returns.
    • You can impact field position while on offense or defense as well. Not only does picking up good yardage on 1st and 2nd down make 3rd down attempts easier, but it also gives you a few extra yards of field position if you fail. Those yards add up, and forcing your opponent to consistently need 5-7 more yards for a touchdown adds up over a game.[9]
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    Go for it on 4th down. This is a great way to be aggressive during the game. Rather than giving up after three plays and punting, have the confidence that your offense can pick up the yardage needed to get another first down. Extending drives gives you more plays and improves your overall field position.[10]
    • This is especially true on 4th and short. You probably have many plays in the playbook that can are designed to pick up 2 to 3 yards, and do so regularly. Go with the odds and run them, instead of just giving the ball back to the other team.
    • This is a risky step, and not one that coaches commonly use. This is especially true if you are deep in your own territory, or facing a long way to go before picking up the 1st down (5 or more yards). If you are looking at a 4th and long, or are already pinned deep on your side of the field, you are better off punting to help change field position.
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    Go for touchdowns, not field goals. While this seems simple, many coaches and play-callers become more conservative as their offenses get closer to the end zone. They are worried about losing the three points from field goal if there is a turnover or a bad play. Instead, get aggressive as you get closer. The additional points you get from a touchdown are going to be more helpful for winning the game.[11]
    • Be sure to consider the situation. There are some cases where a field goal is helpful or necessary to shape the game situation, such as kicking a field goal to extend a 1-score lead into a 2-score lead (6 points to 9 points). This is especially important late in the game when there is less time remaining. If it is early in the game, you can afford to take more risks because there will be time to make up for mistakes.
    • Similarly, there can be a big advantage to going for 2 after a touchdown instead of kicking the extra point. Unless the single point is more important (taking the full game situation into account), you should have a good shot at picking up the 2 yards needed for the extra point.[12]

Method 3
Gambling on Football

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    Learn how to gamble on football. There are a variety of different ways to bet on football games. Make sure you know what result you are actually gambling on so you can make the right bet.[13]
    • Point spread. To prevent bettors from backing the favored team, oddsmakers will force you to bet against the spread, the expected margin of victory. If you bet on the favorite, they must win by at least the number of points indicated in the spread. For example, if you bet on Houston as a 4 point favorite (listed as “Houston -4”), you would lose if they only won by 3.
    • Over/under. Another common way to bet on games is to guess how many points each team will score. For example, in a game with an over/under of 50, the two teams’ scores must add up to 50 or more points for bettors who take “over” to win.
    • Survivor pool. Another common way for people to gamble on football is through a weekly “survivor,” “suicide,” or “knock out” pool. Each week, you pick one team to win their game. If they lose, you are out of the pool and have to pay up. If they win, you get to pick again the next week. The pool keeps going until there is only one person left.
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    Compare betting lines. Different casinos and odds makers will provide different bets for particular football games. If you don’t like the odds you see for a certain set of games, go to a different source. Make sure you are comfortable with your bet before you make it.[14][15]
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    Look for a niche. Football is played by many teams at a variety of skill levels. Rather than trying to track all of it, you might be more successful developing an expertise about a small group of teams, like a single college conference. That way, you only have to learn the tricks and tendencies of a small group of teams, and learn how they match up with one another. This will give you a leg-up over most other bettors, and give you a better chance of winning more often than not.
    • This is more likely to work with a smaller collegiate conferences like the MAC or Sun Belt. Most oddsmakers and gamblers don’t pay as much attention to these leagues, meaning you will probably know the likely outcomes better than they do. It probably won’t work as well with very popular leagues like the NFL or SEC.[16]
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    Compare the teams playing. Your money is on the line, so you should do a little research before making a decision about which teams and games to bet on. For example, you don’t want to pick a low-scoring team to blowout their opponent and win by a lot.[17]
    • One thing you can look for is to see how teams perform “against the spread.” Rather than tracking their wins and losses, gamblers study how often the team meets its betting expectations. A team that is consistent with its results (both meeting expectations and failing to meet them) could be one that is undervalued, and a good team to look at for picking.
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    Know your limits. Think of your gambling money as “extra” money that you wouldn’t need if you lost it. When gambling, there is always a chance you will lose. You don’t want to get into financial trouble just because some kicker missed a chip-shot field goal.[18]
    • Give yourself a “standard” amount for betting on games. This amount can be flexible, especially if you feel particularly confident about a certain result. Keep in mind, though, that adding more money could put you deeper into a hole.
    • Avoid playing “catch-up.” If you have a bad day, or bad week, don’t try to win it back all at once with a big bet the next night or week. This is just as likely to put you in a deeper hole.


  • Football, like other sports, is a game. It is important that you have fun with what you are doing, even if you don’t win all the time. Having fun will help you relax and stay focused, which generally makes you play better.[19]
  • A big chunk of football, and really any sport, is also about getting a bit lucky. You can make all the right decisions, but if your quarterback drops the snap, there’s nothing you can do.
  • Turnovers, both preventing and generating them, is very important to winning at football. The problem is that teams have very little control over them.[20]


  • If you play organized football at the collegiate or professional level, it is against the rules to gamble on the sport, especially on a game you are participating in. If you are caught, you can be suspended from playing and cost your team the game.

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