NFL Point Spread Betting

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Let’s say you and a friend are going to watch the Super Bowl and want to bet against each other on which team will win. The NFL Super Bowl odds are very clear, with a favorite team, and you’ll likely want to both bet on the same one—the team that has the higher probability of winning. So how do you make the underdog an appealing bet?


Sportsbooks are also constantly trying to even out the action on both sides of a bet. It’s how we reduce the risk of exposure. In order to do that with a single football game that pits a dominant team against an underdog, we use NFL point spreads.



What is an NFL Point Spread?


Simply put, when the NFL odds are unbalanced, NFL spreads use a margin of victory that the dominant team must win by. It’s also a margin of loss that the underdog can lose by—while still paying backers. The point spread levels the playing field between two teams, making both teams appealing bets. With NFL spread betting, the question is no longer whether the favourite can beat their opponent; it becomes, can the favourite beat their opponent by x points? Let’s use an example to illustrate how this works.



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How do NFL Point Spreads Work?


Atlanta Falcons —5.5 (—115) Indianapolis Colts +5.5 (—105)


In this example, the Falcons are the dominant (favourite) team, as indicated by the “—” sign in front of their 5.5-point spread. Think of the negative sign as a handicap that evens out the playing field. In this case, the Falcons are starting with a 5.5-point deficit. In order for bets on them to win, Atlanta must beat the Colts by at least 6 points. As for a bet on Indianapolis, they get a 5.5-point head start. If they lose by 5 points or fewer, Indianapolis bets pay out. If the Colts manage to win outright, their bets pay out as well.


In our Atlanta-Indianapolis example, the spread includes a half point (.5), so that teams don’t land squarely on the spread. However, some point spreads are whole numbers. If a favourite wins by the same number of points as the spread, the bet is a push, and all money is returned. For example, if the Falcons are —5 on the spread, and beat the Colts 25-20, the result is a push.



How do NFL Point Spreads Pay Out?


In our earlier example, odds were included in parenthesis beside the point spreads. Let’s re-use that example:


Atlanta Falcons —5.5 (—115) Indianapolis Colts +5.5 (—105)


The Atlanta Falcons’ odds on the spread are —115, and the Indianapolis Colts’ odds are —105. These NFL odds dictate how much you’ll be paid on a winning bet. When the odds are negative, the amount you see is what would need to be staked in order to win $100. For example, you’d need to bet $115 to win $100 on Atlanta, and you’d need to bet $105 to win $100 on Indianapolis. Of course, you can bet any amount within the minimum and maximum allowances at Bodog Sportsbook. If you want to scale it down, an $11.50 bet on Atlanta would pay $10, and a $10.50 bet on Indianapolis would pay $10.


Every so often, a game line will have both teams offered as Picks on the spread. That means the teams are so evenly rated that no spread can be established. You can pick whichever team you want to back, and all they have to do is win straight up.


A big advantage gained through point spread betting is the payout that comes from betting on the favourite. When there’s no point spread, the only way to even the action between both teams is to adjust the odds that dictate the payout. For that reason, the odds for the favourite will always be short enough to make you consider betting on the underdog. However, when you’re betting on NFL spreads, the odds for the favourite are better for you because of the added hurtle of having to cover a spread.


Now that you know what a point spread is, why they’re used, and how to use them strategically, you can add it to your arsenal of NFL football wagers. NFL point spread betting is as simple as going to the game lines, finding the game you want to bet on, and tapping the “+” on the team you want to back. It’ll be added to your virtual bet slip, where you can type in the amount of money you want to stake. From there, it’s all on the team to score enough points.

You can check our NFL guide for NFL betting tips.


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