Understanding football spreads
What are NFL Spreads?
A point spread is a number that must be covered by the favorite in order to be deemed a winner, or beaten by the underdog for the same result. This total is set by oddsmakers with hopes of getting equal action on both the favorite and the underdog. This is because NFL spreads give bettors an almost even chance of winning a bet regardless of the team they wager on, even if one side is clearly superior.
For example, with a 7.5 point spread, the favorite needs to win by eight points or more in order to cover the number, while the underdog must lose by seven or fewer — or win outright — to do the same.
What do NFL spreads look like?
In NFL spreads, a minus sign preceding a team’s name signals their status as the favourites, while a plus sign shows that they’re the underdogs. Take the below example:
Team A: +5.5
Team B: -5.5
Here, Team B is the favorite, and must win by six points or more to cover the spread. While to win a bet on Team A, they must either win or lose by fewer than six points. Occasionally, the spread will involve a round number, so if your team meets this total your bet will be tied (pushed) and you’ll be refunded.
Why are NFL spreads so popular?
While the moneyline is the most common type of NFL bet, the price can be quite high when betting on the favorites. As such, many bettors would much rather take their chances with teams covering a point spread, as this is typically a less expensive bet. For instance, a point spread of -7.5 at a price of -110 (betting $110 to win $100) is considerably cheaper than wagering on them to win straight up with a price of -450. That said, many underdog bettors would be more enticed to make a +350 (betting $100 to win $350) straight up bet instead of a +7.5 spread because the potential payout is much higher with the former.
As you can see, there are advantages to both NFL spreads and moneylines. Keep in mind, the point spread exists mostly for sportsbooks to show a numerical value differentiating favorites and underdogs. This ultimately allows bettors to pick which team they think has an edge, based on their own personal opinion.
How are NFL spreads determined?
Oddsmakers tend to use power rankings — systems that use metrics such as past results, upcoming fixtures and offensive/defensive statistics to rank each team — to help set opening numbers, while also taking into account home-field advantage values. The typical home-field advantage value is three points in favor of the host team, although stronger or weaker fan support can alter this either way. Public perception is another factor used to determine NFL spreads, considering bettors are always likely to bet for popular sides like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers, even if they’re not favorites for a game. Failing to account for this could result in lopsided action on the underdogs.
The most common point spreads cover the entirety of a game, including overtime if needed. But did you know that there are other spread betting types that you can wager on? Considering an NFL football game consists of four quarters (or two halves), you can bet on point spreads over any of those durations as well. There is also in-game wagering, where the point spreads fluctuate based on live situations.
In-game wagering explained
In-game wagering is a completely different beast, as a single play can change the odds of the favorite or the underdog covering the point spread. These live betting numbers can fluctuate quite a bit, so much so that a bettor could possibly middle two different points spreads (one on each side) to guarantee a profit. Middling, as it is known, can also be done with point spreads for a full game and shorter durations like halves. For example, one team could be +3.5 for a game before kickoff, but could later be +3.5 in-game if they are trailing 7-3 at halftime. If they end up losing 20-17, you would cash both bets based on the final outcome.
In addition, sportsbooks have their hands full setting numbers on all of these different types of spread betting, so the bettor can gain an advantage if they do their research. Do certain teams play better in the first quarter because they lack depth and get tired sooner? Do others get stronger as the game goes on because they have a lot of depth and a good coach who can properly motivate them at halftime? Noticing things like this can make an in-game point spread bet either way much more likely to come through than it first appears.
NFL spreads betting tips
There are numerous factors that go into making NFL spreads, including injuries, a home-field advantage, and previous trends. Oddsmakers consider all of these things and more, as that is what they are paid to do. But that doesn’t mean bettors can’t do the same and gain an advantage themselves.
Bet against the public
It is well known that casual bettors lean towards the favorites. Consequently, underdogs can sometimes have greater value because bookmakers know the everyday bettor will back the favored team anyway. So, if the public is generally wagering on one side, but the money is on their opponent, you might want to research that a bit more.
Look out for injuries
In the NFL, the injury report is critical for anyone handicapping the games, but it is also public knowledge. However, certain in-the-know social media accounts may have inside information on whether a key player will actually start a game or not, which could make all the difference in terms of the point spread. If Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers cannot play due to injury, the drop-off in talent to his back-up is massive, so betting against his team would make more sense. As such, it’s important to always be on top of player availability when making NFL bets.
Consider past trends
It’s also worth looking at recent and historical trends to see if any of them might be worth betting on. Do bear in mind though that some trends are more worthy of consideration than others. While a team’s previous record against a particular side is often a good trend to take into account, others might not be. For example, just because new NFL head coaches generally fared badly at the start of last season, that doesn’t mean this will be the case this year.
Shop for the best NFL spreads
Make sure to shop at multiple sportsbooks to get the best NFL spread odds. For example, say you’d like to wager on the Dallas Cowboys as the favorites for a game, and your standard book is posting them at a price of -120. If you find another which has them at -110, choosing this sportsbook will save you 10 bucks. Small things like this can make a huge difference in the long run. After all, successful NFL gambling often involves volume betting, and these small profits add up over time.