How does the Spread work in NFL?

How does the Spread work in NFL?

Sports betting differs in major ways compared to old-school gambling games of roulette or blackjack. With these games, it is as simple as placing a bet. If your cards win or your number hits, you win double your bet.

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When it comes to football (American football), on the other hand, your payouts work in a different way.

It all comes down to the spread. There is a point spread and money spread when it comes to football.

What is the Spread?

Betting on the spread is by far the most popular bet when it comes to the NFL or even college football. The reason for this is the fact that the spread bet is easy to understand and also easy to win if you know what you are doing.

The best way to explain betting on the spread is by showing an example of one and dissecting it.


*This bet is fake and fabricated strictly for this example

Green Bay Packers -7   -110

New England Patriots +7 -110

The Packers are the favorite in this scenario. The “-” in front of the “7” indicates the favorite in a match. The “7” indicates the point spread.

To win this bet, the Packers have to win by 8 or more points. This is referred to as covering the spread.

The Patriots are the underdogs, as indicated by the “+” in front of the “7”. For the underdog to win, they must either win the game or lose by less than 7 points. This is referred to as beating the spread.

In the possibility that either the Packers win by exactly 7 or the Patriots lose by exactly 7, the wager is refunded and the bet is considered void, in a sense.

There are times when there is a point spread that doesn’t have the chance of being voided if there is a winner of the game.

Games ending in a tie do not apply. These spreads will have a half point instead of a whole number. Here’s an example:

*This bet is fake and fabricated strictly for this example

Miami Dolphins -3.5 -110

New York Jets +3.5 -110

The Dolphins are still the favorite, per the “-”. However, the Dolphins must win by at least four points. The Jets can still win the spread if they outright win or lose by 3 or fewer. There is no way for one or the other to win or lose by the select number as you cannot score a half point in football.

The last part of a point spread bet is the -110. This refers to the payout. In sports betting, these numbers are all based on a $100 bet. This keeps it simple to calculate the winnings.

With the point spread bets and over/under bets, -110 is the most common odd you will get. As “-” indicates the favorite, you will be harder to win the most amount of money. With -110, you must bet $110 to win $100.

However, if the bet hits (wins) then you win the $100 as well as you get your bet back.

The total winnings are then $210.

You won’t see it in a point spread bet, but there are also odds with a “+” instead. The “+” is the underdog and it is a more challenging bet, therefore you win more money.

With the odds of +200, if you bet $100 and win, you win $200 plus you get your initial bet returned.

Money Spread

There is another type of spread when it comes to football and that is the money spread. This one is similar to a point spread but much easier. Yes, there is an “easy” way to win a bet. With every football bet that is based on determining the winner, there is always the option of a point or money spread. Here is an example to study:

*This bet is fake and fabricated strictly for the example

New York Giants (-3  -110)   +220

Houston Texans (+3 -110)   -170

The numbers in the parentheses are the point spread. The last number resembles the money spread odds. These odds refer to the simple winner. You either bet on the Giants or the Texans to win, no matter the score. The “+” refers to the underdog and the “-” is the favorite, of course. If it is predicted to be a huge blowout and the underdog has virtually no chance, then the “+” odds will be much higher and the “-” odds will be high as well.


New York Giants (-21  -110) -1100

Houston Texans (+21 -110) +2750

In this scenario, the Giants are 11-0 on the season and the best team in the league. The Texans are 0-11 and are just a shamble of a team. Being a 21-point underdog, it is no surprise that a $100 bet on the Texans pays out $2,750.

Result of a tie

 It was stated that bets can end up being “voided”. Both point spreads and money spreads can result in getting a refund if a tie occurs. In gambling terms, this is called a push. If the game would end in a tie on a money spread bet, your wager is refunded.

With a point spread, a push occurs if the game ends a tie. If the spread is a whole number, there is also a push when the favorite or underdog (depending on which one you bet on) wins or loses by the exact number.

Pick Em

 It is uncommon, but sometimes there can be no favorite or underdog when it comes to a point or money spread. This is referred to as a “Pick Em”. In these cases, the odds are both “-”. This is from the odd makers believing the game is too close to call and there is no clear favorite.

Changing Odds

Spread odds are subject to change daily.

There are several factors that can change the point spread or money spread from one day to the next:

  • Injury to player(s)
  • Change of weather for outdoor games
  • An excessive number of bets placed on one team
  • Personnel change- Coaches, GM, players being benched

These odds also change very frequently if you bet live during the game. You can usually bet up until either one team has a massive lead with no time for the losing team to come back and win or the game is ending in a matter of minutes. Betting live is more suited for bettors who love a challenge and want to be kept on their toes.

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