Understanding NFL betting lines is just the first step towards making profits with football wagering. Once you've got the basics down, it's important to continue learning sports betting strategy to improve your long-term chances of winning. If you're able to win more than 52.4% of the time, you'll be well on your way towards being a profitable NFL bettor.
In the United States, it was previously illegal under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 for states to authorize legal sports betting, hence making it effectively illegal. The states of Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon—which had pre-existing sports lotteries and sports betting frameworks, were grandfathered and exempted from the effects of the Act.[6]
This is a very common occurrence in sports betting and sportsbooks have the full right to shift the spread or odds for any given match prior to it starting. Many factors can influence a change of the spread such as injuries, the number of bets coming in for either team or the weather, to name a few. Depending on the timing of placing the bet, the bettor can also have an advantage or a disadvantage depending on which way the spread has shifted.
The majority of bets on any sport are usually on the final outcome of the particular contest. However, for sports like the NFL and NBA, there are 1st quarter and 1st half lines offered as well. The quarter spread is used to determine who will be the winner at the end of the 1st quarter. The same is true for a 1st half line, only the wager ends when the first two quarters are completed. Generally, the 1st half spread will be close to half of the overall spread on the game.
Identify the type of line you are looking at. All online sports books offer you the chance to have your lines in an "American" or "Money line" version. If I were you, I would use this as my standard. An "American" line uses either a + or - before a number to indicate odds. So a -120 and a +120 are two very different odds on a team… I will explain the differences shortly. Two other less common variations exist: decimal odds and fractional odds.
Futures bets are exactly what they sound like, a wager placed on an event that will occur in the future. As you can imagine, the most popular futures bet in the NFL is who will win the Superbowl. In fact, the Team Odds to win it all are released within a week after the previous year’s championship. It is not uncommon to see last year’s worse team to be 100/1 dogs or worse. Naturally, Futures are not limited to simply who will win the big game. Much like proposition (prop) bets for any particular contest, you can place several futures bets on potential outcomes, from who will win what division to who will win the league’s MVP. Futures Odds can be found at nearly any reputable sportsbook, but some have a limited selection of wagers they will actually take.
As an illustration, let's look at Super Bowl futures. Sports books list each NFL team with corresponding odds to win the Super Bowl. For example, the Ravens may be 5-1, the Redskins 12-1, the Cardinals 100-1, etc. If you place $10 on the Redskins and they go on to win the Super Bowl, you collect $120 plus your $10 back for a total payoff of $130. It does not matter whether your team covers the point spread in the Super Bowl. For the purposes of future book betting, the team has to win only the Super Bowl.
With the over/under or total, bets are being made on what the total score may be. In our example which features two solid defenses and good offenses, the total might be around 41. If OSU scores 24 and Wisconsin 20, the total would be 44 or over the 41. If the Buckeyes scored 21 and the Badgers 14, then the total would be 35 so the under would win. Once again sometimes, if the total is a whole number, the result may be a push. That results in all bets simply being returned.

Corruption in tennis has been long considered as issue.[59] In 2011, the former world No. 55 Austrian tennis player, Daniel Koellerer, became the first tennis player to be banned for life for attempting to fix matches. The violations were outstanding between October 2009 and July 2010 after The Tennis Integrity Units had launched an investigation on behalf of the International Tennis Federation and the ATP and WTA tours. In 2004 and 2006, Koellerer was banned for six months due to his bad behavior. In addition, on August 2010, he facilitated betting by placing odds for matches and had links for placing bets.[60]
For example, if you want to bet that -140 favorite, you’ll need to risk $140 in order to win $100. To bet on the +120 underdog we mentioned above, you’ll need to bet $100 to win $120 if the dog wins outright. In many cases, betting moneylines offers better value and can provide a bigger profit for less risk. Check out our NFL Betting Guide to learn more about when you should bet a moneyline instead of a point spread.
As an illustration, let's look at Super Bowl futures. Sports books list each NFL team with corresponding odds to win the Super Bowl. For example, the Ravens may be 5-1, the Redskins 12-1, the Cardinals 100-1, etc. If you place $10 on the Redskins and they go on to win the Super Bowl, you collect $120 plus your $10 back for a total payoff of $130. It does not matter whether your team covers the point spread in the Super Bowl. For the purposes of future book betting, the team has to win only the Super Bowl.
Futures bets are exactly what they sound like, a wager placed on an event that will occur in the future. As you can imagine, the most popular futures bet in the NFL is who will win the Superbowl. In fact, the Team Odds to win it all are released within a week after the previous year’s championship. It is not uncommon to see last year’s worse team to be 100/1 dogs or worse. Naturally, Futures are not limited to simply who will win the big game. Much like proposition (prop) bets for any particular contest, you can place several futures bets on potential outcomes, from who will win what division to who will win the league’s MVP. Futures Odds can be found at nearly any reputable sportsbook, but some have a limited selection of wagers they will actually take.
In addition to the spread bet, a very common "side bet" on an event is the total (commonly called the over/under or O/U) bet. This is a bet on the total number of points scored by both teams. Suppose team A is playing team B and the total is set at 44.5 points. If the final score is team A 24, team B 17, the total is 41 and bettors who took the under will win. If the final score is team A 30, team B 31, the total is 61 and bettors who took the over will win. The total is popular because it allows gamblers to bet on their overall perception of the game (e.g., a high-scoring offensive show or a defensive battle) without needing to pick the actual winner.
You can also make a football moneyline bet on either team, simply picking which team you believe will win the game outright. The moneyline price on your team will determine how much you win on your bet. For example, Team A is a -360 favorite on the moneyline and opponent Team B is a +300 underdog. That means for every dollar you want to win on the Team A moneyline, you must bet $3.60. However, a bet on the Team B moneyline will win $3 for every $1 wagered.
This arrangement tells us a lot: which team is home (listed on bottom, in this case the Seattle Seahawks), which team is the underdog (listed with a plus sign next to their name, in this case the New England Patriots), we know which team is the favorite (listed with a minus sign next to their name, in this case the Seattle Seahawks), and we know the point spread (2.5 points).
To achieve this balance, the book can move the spread and/or the juice at any time after the first lines hit the NFL odds board, all the way up until kick-off. If there had been too much action on the Packers at Super Bowl 1, the oddsmakers could have made Kansas City a 15-point underdog (+15), in order to encourage more people to bet on the Chiefs. They also could have kept the spread at 14 points and moved the juice, perhaps to –105 for Kansas City and -115 for Green Bay. You’ll often see the books adjust the juice first when the spread is three points; since so many NFL games end in a winning margin of three points (roughly one in six games), moving the spread from 3 to 3.5 points is a pretty big deal, and it might tilt the balance too far in the other direction.
The Jets are favored by 7 points. When you wager on the Jets -7 points, they have to win by 8 or more for you to get paid. A win by exactly 7 points would be a push and you get your money back. If you wager on the Giants +7 points, you’ll need them to win or lose by 6 points or less to win your bet. The Giants can win the game and you’ll win the wager because they didn’t lose by 7 or more. A loss by exactly 7 points would be a push and you get your money back.

This is a very common occurrence in sports betting and sportsbooks have the full right to shift the spread or odds for any given match prior to it starting. Many factors can influence a change of the spread such as injuries, the number of bets coming in for either team or the weather, to name a few. Depending on the timing of placing the bet, the bettor can also have an advantage or a disadvantage depending on which way the spread has shifted.


Identify the favorite: Lines with a - before the number (i.e. -200) indicate the favorite. A -200 should be read as: "For every $200 wagered, I win $100." When there is a negative sign, the line should always be read with relation to 100. That does not mean you have to bet that much, it's just easiest to understand! When a + sign is present, just reverse the reading, always keeping reference to 100:
Point Spread: The point spread remains the favorite way to wager on pro football, regardless of how many new forms of wagering come on stream. It’s called the line or spread and it’s known as betting ‘sides.’ The common misconception is that Las Vegas sets the spread as its best guess at the margin of victory. But really, it's a number they feel that is a perfect balance and will see an equal number of people to bet the underdog as on the favorite. A negative value like -6.5 means that team is favored by 6.5 points. So deduct 6.5 points from their total score. A positive value on the same game would be +6.5 (add 6.5 points to their final score) and would make that team an underdog of 6.5 points. The favorite must win by at least seven points to cover the spread. The underdog can lose by six points and still cover.
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