With the rise of sports betting sites, betting on the NFL has never been easier – or more popular. And whether you’re just looking to add a little spice to your Sunday or you’re thinking about moving into a career as a sports bettor, you’re going to need to know how point spread betting works.
You’re in the right place. We’re going to explain what point spread betting is, and how it works when betting on the NFL. We’ll then take a look at some of the other ways you can bet on NFL games.
Sounds good? Then let’s get started.
What is point spread betting?
Everyone has their favorite team – a team that they back, that they want to see go all the way.
But your favorite team is not the favorite team, if you get my meaning.
In almost any game, there’s going to be a favorite and an underdog. That goes for the first game of the season, and it goes for the Super Bowl. That created an interesting problem for bookmakers.
You see, if everyone knows the favorite for every game, then bettors would place all their money on the favorite almost every time, and bookies would be out of a job. Point spread betting – sometimes just called “spread betting” or “betting the spread” – is the solution.
In spread betting, the favorite team doesn’t just have to beat the opposing team – they have to beat the spread. In the same way, the underdog doesn’t have to beat the favorite – they just have to lose by less than the spread.
Without examples, that might seem about as clear as mud. But don’t worry – we’ve got a great example for you.
Point spread example
Let’s go way back to the start of the 2020 NFL season. The Kickoff Game was Kansas City vs. Houston, with Kansas City as the favorites (and, at that time, reigning Super Bowl champions). The point spread line looked like this:
|Kansas City Chiefs||+10||-110|
In this example, the Chiefs would have to win by more than 10 points for a bet on them to win. On the other hand, the Texans would have to lose by less than 10 points (or win) for a bet on them to win. If the game ended with the Chiefs exactly 10 points ahead, the bet would be a push, and money would be returned to the bettor.
The Chiefs won their contest against the Texans 34-20, so point line bets on the Chiefs paid out – they won by 14 points.
The odds on point spread bets are almost always -110, though you can sometimes find “reduced juice” odds of -105. These odds tend to be the same whether you bet on the favorite or the underdog – after all, point spread betting was created to even out the bets on both sides.
NFL point spreads
Sports betting is complex, and NFL spread betting is no exception. Bettors who want to improve their chances of making money should have a few core concepts down before placing a spread bet.
Key numbers in football
The most common margins of victory in the NFL are 3 points and 7 points. These numbers should ring a bell – they’re the total value of a field goal and a touchdown + point after touchdown, respectively.
That means you should be on the lookout for point spreads around those numbers. If you think your team is liable to win (or lose) by a field goal, then a bet on a point spread of +/- 3 would be a push, while a bet on a point spread of +/- 2.5 or 3.5 could land you in the money. 0.5 on a point spread is known as a hook.
Shop around different betting sites
Because of these key numbers, it’s a good idea to look at the different spreads being offered by various betting sites to try to get your edge. To help you with this, we’ve created a guide to the best sites for sports betting. Look for the best spread across those sites before placing your bet! You can also shop around for the best odds – you’ll find reduced juice and other perks on certain sites.
Sometimes, the point spread will be 0. This is often referred to as a pick ‘em – there’s no clear favorite or underdog. In these circumstances, the point spread payout will often be similar to the moneyline payout (more on that later).
Other types of NFL bets
Point spread betting is the most popular type of NFL bet, but there are a number of other ways you can bet money on football. Here are a few of the alternatives:
Want to bet on the NFL, but it’s only April? Futures are the bet for you. You can bet on the first pick in the draft (as of the writing of this piece, on one site, Trevor Lawrence pays out an astoundingly low -10000). You can bet on who is going to win the Super Bowl (on that same site, the Chiefs to win it all pays out +500).
Futures bets are not the safest bets – they’re almost always casual bets for bettors who can’t wait to get some action on the NFL. Don’t play these for money (unless you really know what you’re doing) – play them for fun.
Moneyline bets are super simple: you bet on the team that you think is going to win. For moneyline bets, favorites usually pay out quite a bit lower than underdogs. You can tell who the favorite is because they’ll have a minus next to their odds, while the underdog will have a plus.
Totals bets aren’t about who wins and loses – it’s about how they play the game!
More specifically, totals bets look at the total number of points scored by both teams. The bookie will set a number – say 41. The bettor will then bet on whether the total points scored will be over or under that number. If it’s exactly that number, the bet is pushed.
NFL prop bets
Prop bets are basically any bet that isn’t a totals, moneyline, or point spread bet. Most futures bets are prop bets. You might place a prop bet on how long the national anthem will be, or even who will win the coin toss.
Think of prop bets as the kind of bet that friends would make with each other. It’s hard to assess the odds of prop bets unless you have a ton of data – for that reason, they’re usually avoided by seasoned sports bettors.
Kyle Covers NFL point spread betting
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