Point Spread Betting Nfl

A common phrase heard from experienced football bettors is: “I don’t bet teams, I bet numbers.”

While understanding key numbers is beneficial for betting point spreads on any sport, key numbers are known for having the most significance in football. In NFL football, most games are decided by three or seven points. Therefore, when shopping the odds, the difference between -7.0 and -6.5 is far greater than the difference between -5.5 and -5.0. After opening the season 6-1, the Chiefs set an historic spread against the flailing Jets, who at 0-7 are the sole remaining winless team this NFL season. While the line continues to be bet down, there’s little doubt that this lopsided matchup will go down as one of the biggest point spreads in modern NFL history. Super Bowl 55 odds: Point spread, money line and the over/under for Chiefs vs. Looking to become the first NFL team to repeat as league champions since Tom Brady and the New England.

Picking the winning team in a football game isn’t easy. It’s even more difficult to place a winning wager on a game that involves a point spread or total.

Bettors look for key numbers. These numbers in football betting (and to a lesser extent basketball) are the most common margin of victory of the final score or the point totals. These key numbers are accessible using years of final score data that can be found fairly easily online, as you’ll see shortly.

When betting on NFL games there are two specific key numbers that bettors keep an eye on. These two specific margins of victory occur much more often than any others. The most frequent margin of victory in both college and pro football is 3 points. The second most frequent margin of victory is 7 points.

These are key numbers for both sportsbook operators and bettors. In this article we’ll look at the two key numbers in football for betting full game point spreads since this is the most popular type of wager. We’ll also take a look half points, buying points to avoid a key number, if there are certain key numbers for totals, and the possibility of the key numbers becoming obsolete someday.

NFL margin of victory

The margin of victory is the number of points a team wins by. The margin of victory may mean something different to football teams than bettors. Teams might be proud of winning by a lot of points. They can keep pushing the score up or lay off as the game comes to a close.

The losing team could take offense to how they were beaten and seek retribution next time they play. Likewise, they could just see the loss as a bad day at the office. This is one possible short term effect of the margin of victory in a football game. Bettors could use this emotion as part of their handicapping a football game.

The margin of victory for football games is useful for sportsbooks in setting a point spread. Bookmakers and bettors both use this long term data and possible short term implications. At the same time, football bettors use the information when handicapping a game and placing a wager.

There is so much data — good and bad — available today that it’s easy to get lost in the information. Key numbers are one data point that is always useful for placing a wager.

Betting the point spread

Moneyline wagers are relatively simple. Just pick a team and the wager will either win or lose. Point spreads are a different monster. Sportsbooks can create a point spread for a game so that each team playing has an almost even chance of winning the game.

A good point spread should attract bettors on both sides of a game. While sportsbooks don’t necessarily want equal money on both sides, they don’t want the money entirely on one side for every football game. This puts the book at risk of major losses.

Sportsbook operators know the key numbers and use them to their advantage. You’ll often the line on a football game stay at 3 or 7 for longer than other point spreads. Sportsbooks will add vigorish (vig) as much as possible before moving instead of moving off the number.

During football games, you might see the point spread remain at 3 or 7 but the vig moves from -100 to -120 then to -130 before moving to either 2.5 or 3.5. The extra vig gives the sportsbook a little more of an edge in case the margin of victory lands in the key number.

If bettors place wagers with a higher vig, the casino won’t lose as much if the final score lands on the key number. Understanding the key numbers could be the difference between placing a winning or losing wager.

What are the key numbers?

The most common margin of victory at the end of both college and pro football games is 3 points. According to Wizard of Odds, the probability that an NFL game finished with a 3 point margin is around 14.5%.

The next closest margin of victory is 7 points. Games from 2006 through Week 1 of the 2018 season finished with a 7 point margin 9.2% of the time. This large sample size covers a total of 3,220 games.

During this sample, nearly 1 in every 4 games finished with a margin of victory of 3 or 7 points. The actual number of games to end with a margin of victory of exactly 3 or 7 points was 23.7%. That’s a lot of games ending on those key numbers, and that’s why they are so important when wagering on football.

For a better comparison here’s the probabilty for every margin of victory from 0 points to 21 points in NFL games since 2006 from Wizard of Odds.

0 = 0.2%
1 = 3.7%
2 = 3.8%
3 = 14.5%
4 = 5.2%
5 = 3.4%
6 = 6.2%
7 = 9.2%
8 = 3.6%
9 = 1.7%
10 = 5.6%
11 = 2.5%
12 = 1.5%
13 = 2.9%
14 = 4.8%
15 = 1.5%
16 = 2.1%
17 = 3.1%
18 = 2.3%
19 = 1.1%
20 = 2.4%
21 = 3.2%
22 and higher = 15.7%

Understanding why these are key numbers isn’t difficult but it’s important. Since more football scores are worth 3 points or 7 points (6 points for a touchdown plus 1 for an extra point) it’s easy to see why the margin of victory falls at each of these numbers.

The probability for the margin of victory in college football is similar but slightly different.

Keep an eye on the hook

A “hook” is a slang term for a half-point. When looking at the key numbers, the hook is a half-point away from the 3- and 7-point margin of victory.

The main hook to keep an eye is around the 3-point line. These point spreads are 2.5 and 3.5. The second hook to look for is around the key number of 7. These point spreads are 6.5 and 7.5.

Since nearly 25% of games end with a margin of victory of 3 or 7, finding a point spread just off that number could be the difference between placing a winning bet with the hook or getting a push with the flat number.

Shopping around different sportsbooks comes in handy when looking for an extra half-point on a game. If a bettor can’t find a preferred half point spread, they may choose to buy points. Depending on the sportsbook a half point will add another 10% to the vig. For example, buying a half point from 3 to 2.5 or 3.5 will change the odds from -110 to -120.

A winning wager on a 3-point spread at -110 would pay $100 for every $110 wagered. Buying a half point would mean that the bettor will have to wager $120 to win that same $100. It’s not much on a single wager but it adds up over time.

Key numbers in the future

NFL rules change every season. One relatively new rule that is already starting to affect the key numbers is the extra-point distance. Kicking and extra points used to take place with the ball starting at the two yard line. This was almost a guaranteed point for NFL teams.

Since 2015, NFL extra points begin at the 15 yard line. The pseudo 33-yard field goals are no longer thought of as a guarantee. This rule is already changing the game. In the past couple of years, more coaches are going for two-point conversions instead of attempting an extra point.

This three year sample is too small to gauge the true effect of the new extra point distance on the key numbers. However, kickers are missing more extra points and coaches are skipping the extra point. The days could be ending for 7 as a key number since touchdowns might be worth 6 or 8 points more often in the future.

Key numbers for NFL totals

There are key numbers for NFL totals but they’re a bit more widespread than key numbers for point spreads. The Wizard of Odds research shows that final score totals land on a variety of numbers.

Some key numbers to keep an eye on for totals betting are 43, 44, 41, and 37. Of the 3,220 games recorded, the total landed on each of these key numbers at least 120 times (37) but no more than 126 times (43), respectively.

The next level of key numbers for NFL totals are 51, 47, 40, and 33. During the same period the total landed exactly on these numbers between 119 times (51) and 102 times (33), respectively.

While there are key numbers for NFL totals, the final score isn’t contained to just two key numbers.


The NFL is the most wagered upon sport in North America and it's not even close. I will spare you the grand introduction and lead you right into the mean and potatoes of this article. If you are a novice bettor who is just learning how to bet on the NFL, keep reading. If you understand the common concepts like money line, spread and totals wagering, you can skip down to the advanced wagering options by clicking here. If you want to know how to lay a few bets down on the futures market, I suggest you click here.

Betting on the NFL Money Line

As a concept, this is the simplest wager you can make on any game in any sport (except soccer). The money line betting option allows you to place a bet on the team you think is simply going to win the game. In the NFL, this bet includes overtime, but there have been a few instances where the game finishes tied at the end of OT and both sides get their money refunded.


Chicago Bears: +150 ML
Minnesota Vikings: -200 ML

The money line betting odds correlate to the listed point spread. In this example, the Vikings are the favorites and you must wager $200 dollars to turn a profit of $100. If you are a homer or love betting on the underdog, the Bears will return you $150 for every $100 you wager on them if they pull off the upset. If the game happens to end in a tie, bettors with money line tickets on either side will be refunded.

Betting on the Point Spread

Regardless of if I am talking about the NFL, CFL, NCAA, Arena League or upcoming XFL, the point spread is the most popular wagering option for bettors who love to test football betting skills. The point spread is an indication of which team is the favorite and underdog heading into their matchup.

A negative betting line such as -2.5 indicates that the team is expected to not only win the game outright, but win by three or more points. On the flip side, positive betting lines such as +2.5 indicate a team's underdog status. Not only is the underdog expected to lose, but they are expected to lose by at least a field goal

When looking over betting options for the NFL, you will come across lines that look like the following:

Chicago Bears +2.5 (-110)
Minnesota Vikings: -2.5 (-110)

Depending on which side you select, your team must 'cover the spread' in order for your wager to be graded a winner.

If you choose to take Chicago +2.5, you will be a winner if either of these three scenarios play out. The first being Chicago wins the game outright by any score. The second being Chicago loses by two or fewer points, thus 'covering' the +2.5-spread. And the third being if the game finishes as a tie.

If you decided to wager on the Vikings as -2.5-point favorites, they must win by three or more points in order for wager to be graded as a winner.

One thing to keep in mind when betting on the point spread is that the point spread moves up or down depending on how much action a certain side is receiving. If you are able to lock in your bet at -2.5 and the line goes down to -1.5, your ticket would only be a winner if your team won by three or more points. If they won by two, they would have beat the closing spread of -1.5, but your odds are locked in from the time your ticket is printed or you click place bet.


Betting Game Totals

Despite being classified as the same sport, the NFL and CFL couldn't be more different. The NFL is played on a much smaller field and gives teams three downs to make a first down before electing to punt. The NFL is generally a much lower scoring league than the CFL, but that doesn't mean that betting 'unders' are the way to turn a profit in the NFL.

When looking at betting an NFL total, there should be three things you take into consideration. The first being the weather. The second is both team's offensive and defensive numbers. And the last thing is the intangibles such as is it a short week, does a team have injury problems, travel delays, etc.

Let's look at an example of a game total:

Chicago Bears/Minnesota Vikings – 'Over' 38.5 -110, 'Under' 38.5 -110

If you are to bet the 'over' 38.5, there must be a total of 39 points or more scored in the game in order for you to be a winner. If there are 38 or fewer points scored, then those who bet on the 'under' will cash their tickets.

If totals are whole numbers such as 38 or 40 and the total happens to land exactly on the number, your bet, regardless whether it's an 'over' or 'under' bet, will be graded as a push and your money will be returned to you.

Point Spread Betting Nfl Predictions

Advanced NFL Wagering Options

The NFL is the most popular sport in North America to wager on. It draws in the most money among the four major sports and there should be no surprises why. Sportsbooks offer up an endless amount of wagering option to go along with the most common three wagering options; money line, spread, total. Here are some of the popular options.

Team totals

This works almost exactly like the game total, but revolves around one team instead of both. With the 'team total' wagering option, you are essentially betting on whether you think Team X will score more or less than the line given out by the sportsbooks.


Chicago Bears Team Total: 'Over' 16.5 -110, 'Under' 16.5 -110.

In this case you have two options. You can bet them to score 17 or more points or 16 or fewer. The decision is ultimately up to you. This bet also includes overtime, unless otherwise stated in the betting rules provided by your sportsbook of choice.

First Half Spread

The 'first half spread' betting option is a trickier form of betting the full-game point spread. This option takes into account the score at half time in order to determine a winner. The first half spread is usually half of what the full game spread is.


Chicago Bears +1.5 1H
Minnesota Vikings -1.5 1H

Depending on what side you are on, the score going into half time is what is used to determine a winner. If the score is 17-14 in favor of the Vikings, bettors holding a Minnesota -1.5 1H ticket are winners since they were able to cover the -1.5- first-half spread.

Best iphone games to earn money instantly. As I mentioned above, the first half point spread is typically half of what the full game line is.

Player Props

Betting on NFL player props is a tricky situation since not all football games go according to plan. If you believe Quarterback X will complete more than 22.5 passes, but his defense scores twice and they are blowing out a team, the chances of him reaching 23 completions is very low. He will just simply hand the ball off and run out the clock.

If you think a running back has a distinct advantage of going up against a poor run defense, you may take that running back to go over the posted rushing yards line. However, if the team with the poor defense gets a sizeable lead, you can almost forget about it. That team will go into throwing mode and the running back will be the one to suffer.


Point Spread Betting Nfl Spreads

Tom Brady: 'Over' 22.5 completions -110, 'Under' 22.5 completions -110
Jay Ajayi: 'Over' 74.5 rushing yards -110, 'Under' 74.5 rushing yards -110
Antonio Brown: 'Over' 4.5 receptions -110, 'Under' 4.5 receptions -110

For each of these three player prop options, each player must go 'over' or 'under' the posted line. If you think Brady will complete at least 23 passes, you would take the 'over'. If you think Brown will be held to four or fewer catches, you would bet the 'under'.

First Touchdown Scorer/Anytime Touchdown Scorer

This proposition is the most popular when Super Bowl rolls around. For one reason or another, people always make a big deal about who is going to score the first touchdown in the Super Bowl. I get that the first touchdown is important, but rarely does a game end with only one touchdown scored.

If you wager on the First Touchdown Scorer prop your goal is to (obviously) pick the player who will score the first touchdown.

First Touchdown Scorer Example:

Rob Gronkowski +400
Danny Amendola +500
Brandin Cooks +650
Jay Ajayi +750
Alshon Jeffery +1200
Nick Foles +3300
Tom Brady +4400

Anytime Touchdown Scorer Example:
Rob Gronkowski -150
Danny Amendola +120
Brandin Cooks ++300
Jay Ajayi +350
Alshon Jeffery +400
Nick Foles +2500
Tom Brady +3000

As you can see, the 'any time touchdown scorer' odds drop drastically compared to the first touchdown scorer. But with this prop, your player can score a touchdown in any quarter, including overtime in order for you to cash your ticket.

Futures Bets

A futures bet is a wager placed in the time leading up to the start of the event on a team or player that you believe is going to win their respective competition. Heading into the 2018 NFL season, the Super Bowl futures odds look like this:

Super Bowl LIII Champion: New England +500, Philadelphia +750, Green Bay +1200, Minnesota +1200, Pittsburgh +1400, San Francisco +1600, Los Angeles +1800, New Orleans +1800, Jacksonville +2000 etc.

In order for you to successfully cash your ticket, you must correctly choose the team that will hoist the Lombardi trophy at the conclusion of Super Bowl LIII.


Team Win Totals

This is another popular type of futures bet amongst pro handicappers. The concept is straight forward. Every sportsbook will put out a 'win total' for every team long before the season begins. Handicappers must simply decide whether they believe that team will exceed the posted win total or fall short of it.

Nfl Point Spread Betting


Pittsburgh Steelers Win Total: 'Over' 11.5 wins -110, 'Under' 11.5 wins -110

Point Spread For Nfl Games This Week

If the Steelers go 12-4 or better, the 'over' would cash. If they go 11-5 or worse, the 'under' would cash.

Free NFL Picks + Predictions, Betting Tips and Parlays for Today.

Here is a list of our other betting lines and odds pages.
College Football OddsNBA OddsCollege Basketball OddsMLB OddsNHL OddsSoccer OddsWNBA OddsCFL OddsBoxing OddsGolf Odds