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NFL point spread betting explained
In American football, NFL point spread betting online is the go-to market and the most popular form of betting. Its popularity comes from the level playing field that it creates between favorites and underdogs, changing the way we watch the game. NFL point spreads are synonymous with NFL betting.
An NFL point spread is a way to create a near-even handicap between two teams. Teams will have to win by (or not lose by) a specific number of points that are set by the sportsbook. An example of a point spread is Dallas Cowboys (-5.5) at New York Giants (+5.5). The better a team is deemed to be than its opponent, the higher the point spread will be.
The reason for a points spread is to give bettors a chance at a near-even money bet as both teams have similar odds in an NFL point spread bet. NFL point spread betting online has become the most popular way to bet on the NFL.
Unlike a moneyline bet, a team can win the game and still lose the point spread bet. Likewise, a team can lose the game but win the point spread bet. Winning a point spread game is called covering against the spread and only one team can cover per match. In our example above, if the Cowboys win by more than 5.5 points then they cover the spread.
Like other moneyline, total, and/or prop bets, spreads can be parlayed together to create a bet with a higher potential payout.
In spread betting, you have two options: the favorite or the underdog. The favorite will be displayed with negative odds, which is a minus symbol (-) followed by a number (-5.5). The underdog will be displayed with positive odds, which is plus sign (+) followed by a number (+5.5).
Spread betting sounds confusing, but it really isn't. If the Dallas Cowboys are -5.5, they need to win by six points or more to win the bet. If the New York Giants are +5.5 on the spread, they can’t lose by more than five points to win the bet. If the spread numbers are both 5.5, there is no middle ground for both teams to win/lose.
Here’s how it would be displayed online:
|Dallas Cowboys -5.5||-110|
|New York Giants. +5.5||-110|
Using the above example, if we wager $100 on the Dallas Cowboys (-5.5) with odds of -110 and they win the game 27-21, we would profit $90 because they won by six or more points. If the spread was -6.5 and they won the game 27-21, we would lose our $100 wager because they didn’t win (cover) by seven points or more. At -5.5, winning by six points or more is good and winning by five points or fewer is bad.
With underdogs, it’s a little different. If we wagered $100 on the Giants (+5.5) at -110 and they lost the game 27-21, we would lose our $100 bet because they lost by six points or more. If the spread were +6.5 and the Giants lost 27-21, the +6.5 would win (cover) because the Giants didn’t lose by seven points or more. At +5.5, losing by five points or fewer is good and losing by six points or more is bad.
American odds can be confusing, but our odds calculator can help us determine how much we’d win based on the amount we wagered.
American odds always use $100 as a default stake too, but NFL point spread bettors can bet any amount they feel comfortable with and is within their limits.
Understand how the spread works, and what that means for your betting.
Find out why betting over/unders (totals) is an important skill for any online bettor.
Get bigger odds and bigger returns - find out how to make the most of parlays.
NFL point spreads are used to create a near 50/50 betting scenario so it’s uncommon to win more than you wager in single-game point spread bets, something worth remembering when learning how to bet on NFL points spreads. Not including parlay bets, point spread bets usually have odds between -120 and +100.
An NFL point spread, or line, is set at half-numbers to avoid the possibility of a tie. Since teams can only score whole numbers, a point spread of -5.5 for example can only provide a winning or losing bet. If the spread is a whole number, and the points difference ends as this number exactly, it is known as a “push”. If this happens you receive your stake back.
There are two sides to a point spread in the NFL — the favorite or the underdog. A favorite needs to win by the point spread amount to win (six or more points if the spread is -5.5). Conversely, the underdog needs to not lose by the spread amount to win (six or fewer points at +5.5).
In 2020, NFL favorites finished 44.3% against the spread (ATS), meaning NFL teams that were favorites in the point spread won less than half the time. In 2019, NFL favorites won 46.9% of the time ATS.
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