NFL Spread Betting

The NFL Spread

Most sports bettors should be familiar with what a point spread, or a spread bet is. For those that do not know, a point spread bet is when the oddsmakers, and sportsbooks, give a NFL matchup a certain amount of points. This value is the predicted total point difference of the matchup.

For example, if the point spread is a +/- 4 this means the final score must either end with a 4 point difference or depending on the wager made by the bettor, below or above a 4 point difference.

Essentially, a spread bet is how many points the Favorite team in the match-up is going to beat the Underdog team by.



How the Spread Works

The sports bettor has to take into account their wager when learning to read and bet on the point spread. There are two possible wagers for the bettor; he can bet on the Favorite or he can bet on the Underdog. When a bettor places a bet on the point spread, and their bet wins, it is referred to as “beating the spread”.

Betting the Favorite

As most should know, the point spread of the team that is favored to win is always preceded by the “” symbol. When the bettor places a wager on the Favorite, they are betting that the team will not only beat the Underdog, but will do so by outscoring them by the amount stated in the point spread. In order for this bet to payout, the Favorite must beat the other team by more than the stated amount; if they win by the amount stated, it is considered a tie and the wager is returned.

Betting the Underdog

The Underdog point spread is preceded by the “+” symbol. Betting on the Underdog seems riskier, but has two possible ways of winning the bet. The first and most obvious way of winning the bet is if the Underdog simply beats the Favorite, then the point spread does not matter. The second option for the Underdog is if, even though they lose the match, they are able to keep the final score difference lower than the amount stated in the sportsbook.

Example of a Point Spread


We can see from the above information, pulled from the Bovada online sportsbook, that the point spread for this particular matchup is -5.

We can see two important pieces of information, that the favorite is the Green Bay Packers, and the point spread is -5; meaning they have to outscore the Chicago Bears by 6 or more points for that bet to payout.

The bettor placed the bet on the Green Bay Packers to beat the spread, which means the Packers have to get a final score difference of 6 or more points. The final score of the matchup ended up being 23 – 10, in favor of the Packers. This means the bettor has won the bet and the Packers beat the spread; there is a 13 point difference, which is much more than 5 points.

Spread Betting Variables

There are various different variables that come into play when analyzing the point spread that bettors should know about. The spread bet is based on public opinion, and the odds makers and sportsbooks use this information to come up with a value that is supposed to draw bettors to either side of the wager. When the bettor takes advantage of this little known fact, it is called “fading the public”.

The way this works is that the bettor will analyze the point spread posted by the sportsbook early on; this number is just a semi-random number they post in order to start the betting cycle. The bettor should remain patient, and as time draws closer to the matchup date and time, the sportsbook will have skewed the point spread thanks to the public opinion. This is when a bettor should compare where the point spread was at before and where it is at now, and bet accordingly.

Point Spread Betting Strategy

It is always prudent to have a good strategy before placing a wager on any type of bet, including the point spread bet. There are several factors that a bettor can use to enhance their winning potential by betting on the point spread. There is the obvious handicapping, looking at the spread itself, and using the middling betting strategy.


Handicapping refers to giving yourself, the bettor, an advantage over the sportsbook or even the actual betting system. Most handicappers use statistics to their advantage, and in the case of a point spread, there are several factors that could influence the wager. A NFL team’s average score FOR vs. AGAINST, how well they perform against teams of the same caliber as their opponent, and even their average defensive and offensive performance could come into play. Learning what statistics to use and how to use them is very important to become a successful handicapper.

The Point Spread Numbers

By looking at the point spread itself can be a good indicator, especially when the number either include a ½ (.5) or are large point spreads.

When the point spread ends with a ½ (.5), this usually means the sportsbook is giving the advantage to the Underdog. For example, if a matchup between the Chicago Bears and the Atlanta Falcons has a point spread of -3.5 in favor of the Bears. This means the Bears still have to win by 4 or more points, but the Falcons do not have to keep the difference to 2 or less points, since if they are able to keep it at 3 points, the Falcons would beat the spread. That is the advantage of having a ½ (.5) in the spread.

The large point spreads indicate a very skewed and unbalanced matchup; as in, one team is extremely better than the other. However, if the Underdog team is the Home team, this could make that point spread very enticing, as Home team’s usually have an advantage; even if they do lose, it is probable that they keep a close enough score.

Middling the Bet

Middling refers to placing two bets, on the same matchup, in order to meet in the middle and either win a small amount or lose a small amount. This works only if the bettor is a member of two or more sportsbooks, as two sportsbooks are needed to middle a bet. By taking the best odds for the Favorite from one sportsbook, and the best odds for the Underdog at the other, the bettor can limit their potential losses, while still being able to win some money. Bettors wanting to middle a bet should be prepared to see low payouts, since this method lowers the risk. However, if done enough times, over a long period of time, the bettor will be looking at a very profitable strategy.