The Point Spread
The point spread is the most commonly-used odds format in all of sports betting. Using a point spread, your sportsbook gathers bets on both sides of a contest, handicapping the favorite in order to attract bets on the underdog.
Here’s an example of an NFL point spread:
The (-3.5) symbol next to the Redskins means they are favored by the book to win, and a bet on Washington will only pay off if they win by four points or more. A wager on the Cowboys will pay off if they beat Chicago outright or lose by three points or fewer.
Bets on the moneyline ask the bettor to pick which team will win outright, regardless of points scored.
Here’s an example of an NFL moneyline using the same example as above:
The number next to each team’s name tells us a couple of things – the plus or minus symbol tells us which is the favorite, in this case Washington. The number next to that symbol gives information about the financial side of the wager, though it’s different for the underdog and the favorite.
In our example Washington is the favorite, so bettors earn a payout of $1 for every $1.30 wagered. A successful bet on Dallas will pay out $1.10 for every $1 wagered. The forty cent difference between these two bets represents the incentive the book uses to make underdog bets attractive.
I like the moneyline and so do a lot of sports bettors – it just hasn’t caught on as much in NFL betting as point spreads and parlays.
When you do find a moneyline wager available, you might be in luck if you lock in your wager early. The difference between the two numbers in any line (the $0.40 from our above example) can swing wildly due to changes in popular opinion. This has to do with the smaller number of total bets made on the moneyline.
If you have a strong feeling about a team’s chanced and want to wager on the moneyline, get your bet n early before action on that heavy favorite increases. Obviously the opposite is true for underdogs – locking in a wager at the last minute, when you can get the best price from the book, is the best way to go. Why buy Dallas at +110 on a Tuesday when you can get them for +140 on Saturday morning?
Also called over/unders, game totals are wagers on the total number of points scored by both teams in an NFL game.
Bettors that think the point total will be more than the number established by the book bet “over;” those who think the total will be less bet the “under.” Here’s an example of what a totals line looks like for our above made-up game example:
Dallas/Washington – O/U 31
In this example, a bet of “over” pays off if the two teams combine for 32 points or more; while an “under” bet wins if the teams score 30 points or fewer.
NFL Betting Basics
I’ve put together three tips to help you out with some basic NFL betting strategy:
Tip #1: Home vs. away statistics are a valuable tool.
The impact of home field advantage (and away team blues) has a huge impact In the NFL. Because seasons are short and home turf makes such a difference, it’s important to research both teams’ performance on the road and at home. This one statistic is a powerful tool in quickly handicapping any pro football game.
Tip #2: Become familiar with league injury reports.
Like in Major League Baseball, football teams are given a lot of leeway in terms of how they operate their injury lists. It’s possible for teams to hide major injuries until the last minute – it’s also possible for coaches to fake or exaggerate injuries, all in an attempt to confuse the opposing coach. The NFL injury report system moves quickly – you need to keep up to make an accurate pick.
Tip #3: Watch for (and Take Advantage of) Line Movement
Lines move over the course of a week – the reasons are legion. Watching how lines change is what can elevate you from an amateur bettor to a serious NFL punter. Changes in a line can affect your overall strategy and can even tell you where the smart money is played. Line movement strategy is a bit advanced for newcomers; but you can start to step your game up to the next level now by taking note of line changes.
So why wager on the National Football League? For beginners, the sport offers a lot of research time between contests, compared to a sport like baseball or basketball. For experienced bettors, NFL wagering offers a huge pool of bets and action on all sides of the market to take advantage of.
Put another way – bets on the NFL are a good fit for people of all experience levels. These are easy-to-understand wagers, and research involves simple stats available at the push of a button. Because American pro football is so popular, the wagers are widely available at brick and mortar and online sportsbooks. To people who enjoy betting on the NFL, it’s the perfect sport, with something for everyone.