While an NFL underdog might be (+500) on the moneyline, the point spread market gives both teams a fighting chance to “cover” or beat the spread. It doesn’t matter if a (+14) underdog wins the game outright, so long as their performance exceeds expectations. However, there’s a messy side to this style of betting, too. NFL Odds: Sunday, February 7, 2021: Time: Game: Spread: Money Line: Over/Under O/U: 3:30 PM PT 4:30 PM MT 5:30 PM CT 6:30 PM ET 4:30 PM MT 6:30 PM ET 11:30 PM GMT 7.
Easily the most popular type of betting for NFL football is “spread” betting or more commonly known as betting against the spread. Bettors who are new to NFL betting or betting in general may be a little confused with NFL spread betting, but it is pretty easy to understand once it is explained to you. We will explain what betting against the spread means below.
What is Betting Against The Spread?
For each NFL game the oddsmakers set a number of points in which the favored team is favored by. Bettors can then either choose for the favored team to win by more than the number of points set, or bet on the underdogs to lose by less than the number of points they are underdogs by or win the game straight up. For example, the spread could be set on the favored team at 6.5 points. This would mean in order for a bet on the favored team on the spread to win they would need to win by more than 6.5 points (7 or more) in order to win the bet. It also means that a bet on the underdog team would win if the underdogs lost by less than 6.5 points (6 or less) or won the game outright.
Example of NFL Spread Bet
Below is an example of what NFL spread betting would look like:
- Dallas Cowboys -2.5
- New York Giants +2-5
The negative (-) sign indicates that the Cowboys are the favorites, while the positive (+) sign indicates that the New York Giants are the underdogs. With the spread set at 2.5 points, a bet on the Cowboys would mean that they would have to win by more than 2.5 points (3 or more) in order for you to win that bet. A bet on New York would mean that the Giants would have to either lose by 2.5 or less points (2 or less) or win the game outright in order for your bet to win.
Here is another example with a screenshot taken from 5Dimes.eu during Week 3 of the 2013 NFL season:
Here you can see that the Rams are +3.5, while the Cowboys are -3.5. So for this example the Cowboys are 3.5 point favorites, while the Rams are underdogs of 3.5 points. If you were to bet on St Louis you would need them to lose by 3 or fewer points or just win the game outright. If you were to bet on Dallas you would need the Cowboys to win by 4 or more points.
If the Cowboys were to win by 3 points, lets say 30-27, any bets on the Rams +3.5 would win. Even though the Rams didn’t win the game they covered the spread of 3.5 points.
Now if the Cowboys were to win by 4 points, lets say 31-27, the Cowboys have covered the spread and anyone who wagered on Dallas would win their bets.
Other NFL Spread Betting Information
You may often notice that the spread is sometimes set at an even number such as 3, 6 , 10, etc. In this case if the favored team won by the exact amount set for the spread the bet would be pushed, and all bets would be returned. For example, if the Patriots were 3 point favorites and they won by a FG (3 points) than this would results in a push, meaning no matter which side you bet on you would get your money returned to you.
The most common NFL spreads are usually set between about 2.5-10.5 points, but you will also almost always have games each week with spreads lower than 2.5 and higher than 10.5. In the event that the oddsmakers feel the game doesn’t need a spread, it would be set at 0 or what some call a pick’em (both teams are given even odds to win for this type of bet).
The odds given on the spread are usually -110 unless otherwise noted. It is not uncommon to see one side of the spread being -105, with the other side being -115. If you don’t see any odds listed for each side of NFL spreads you are supposed to assume the odds are -110 on each. Not sure how to read NFL betting odds? Check out our Sports Betting Odds guide.
Now that you know the basics of NFL spread betting you’ll want to check out our Sports Betting Strategy guide which has some great NFL strategy articles written by a professional bettor.
Point spread betting is the most popular form of sports betting. The vast majority of sports wagers use a point spread thanks to the popularity of football and basketball. Even though this type of betting is so popular, it may take awhile to understand.
The point spread is sometimes known as an equalizer for sportsbook operators. All teams aren’t created equally, so sportsbooks can create a point spread for a game so that each team playing has an almost even chance of winning the game. In a way, the point spread will even the field for both teams.
The point spread gives a reason for bettors to risk money on both teams. The better team playing in the game is considered favorite. They have to win by the point spread offered by the sportsbook. The favorite in a game is listed as being minus (-) the point spread.
The worse of the teams playing in the game is called the underdog. The bettor wins if this team wins the game outright or loses by an amount smaller than the point spread. The underdog in a game is listed as being plus (+) the point spread.
Let’s use the upcoming Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an example.
Using this example, the Chiefs opened as 3-point favorites over the Buccaneers (currently Chiefs ). The Chiefs need to win by 4 or more points to cover the spread.
Likewise, the Buccaneers opened as 3-point underdogs. That means the Buccaneers would need to win the game outright or not lose the contest by 4 points or more. If the line is Chiefs -3 and they win by exactly 3 points, the betting result is a “push” and bettors for both sides would get their wagers refunded.
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Point spread betting odds
Point spreads are usually set with -110 odds, but pricing often fluctuates at online sportsbooks. This is the sportsbook operators’ house edge. The odds guarantee the sportsbook operator will see a little money over time. When the odds are set at -110, the bettor must wager $110 to win $100 (or $11 to win $10).
The odds on a point spread are most commonly known as the vigorish or “vig” for the sportsbook. You might hear this small profit margin for the sportsbook called the “juice” by some sports bettors.
Point spread FAQs
What does ‘pick em’ or ‘pick’ mean in NFL betting?
A “pick em” (sometimes seen as “pick”) is when the teams have a point spread of zero, meaning neither team is favored. In this instance, you’re essentially picking moneyline and your bet will be determined on the winner alone.
What does -7 and +7 mean in NFL betting?
A spread of minus-seven (-7) means that a is favored to win the game by a touchdown (technically, a touchdown and the extra point). A team favored by -7 must win the game by eight or more points to win the bet. If the team wins by seven, the result is a “push” and the bet is refunded.
A spread of +7 means the team must win the game or lose by fewer than seven points to win the bet. A loss by seven would result in a push.
What does -3 and +3 mean in NFL betting?
A -3 spread means that the favorite must win by more than a field goal to win the wager. A three-point win would result in a push and the sportsbook would refund the wager.
A spread of +3 means the team listed as the underdog must win the game or lose by fewer than three points to cash the bet. A three-point loss would be graded as a push by the sportsbook and the bet would be refunded.
Why are point spreads in the NFL so much lower than in college?
In 2019, the Baltimore Ravens led the NFL in point differential per game at +13.7 points; the Miami Dolphins ranked last in the NFL in point differential per game at -11.7. Even Kansas City– known for their explosive offense– had an average point differential in 2019 of just 9.7 points. The net point differential in the NFL is -14.1, or -0.9 points per game. Basically, the talent differential in the NFL is so minute that even mismatched teams often draw games within a score of each other.
NFL spreads are most commonly between one point and four, with six being a heavy favorite and extremes coming out around 15-20 point favors. (For those wondering, the 1941 Chicago Bears hold the NFL record of point differential at +15.7 points per game. Conversely, Ohio State had a +33.1 average point differential in 2019.)
Point Spread Nfl Football Games
Point spread and odds movement
Sportsbook operators often aim to have equal money on both sides of a point spread. When the money is exactly split the sportsbook operator will see the exact vigorish as their profit margin. If all things are equal over time this will maximize how much money the sportsbook operator can make.
In an effort to have equal money on both sides of a wager, the sportsbook operator will move the point spread to attract money on the side that customers aren’t betting on. The odds for a point spread might change before the actual point spread. There are certain point spread numbers, like 3 and 7 in football, the sportsbook operators would like to avoid moving away from since the final score margin falls on these two numbers most often.
For example, if a lot more money is wagered on the New England Patriots -3, the vig may shift from -112 to -115 and -120 before the line moves to -3.5.
Run and puck lines
Las Vegas Point Spread Nfl Football
Football and basketball games are mostly bet using a point spread. The less popular major sports, baseball and hockey, are mostly bet using a moneyline. In an effort to make baseball and hockey more appealing to point spread bettors, the sportsbook operators offer run and puck lines, respectively.
Point Spreads For Nfl Games This Week
These alternative lines give point spread bettors a chance to wager on other sports using a more familiar method of betting. Since points (runs and goals) aren’t as easy to come by in baseball and hockey, the odds with the lines may have a wider spread than a football or basketball game. Blackjack basic strategy.