Odds Explained



Many people are interested in NFL betting, but do not quite understand how the process works. A simple explanation can make it fun for everyone, whether they are beginners or have wagered in the past. Virtually everyone knows that football betting involves risking money on one or more games with the intent of making more money by correctly guessing the outcome. You begin by placing a bet on a game and if you are correct in your prediction, the money you win will be relative to the odds on that outcome. If you are wrong, obviously you lose the money you invested into the game. In this sense, NFL betting is very much the same as wagering on any other type of sport, including horseracing. The major difference concerns the odds. Beginning bettors typically have a few questions concerning how totals, odds and the spread work.

Point Spread

Understanding the point spread is not difficult and it is by far the easiest way to bet NFL games. The point spread is essentially a handicap that the favored team must overcome for the win. The more a team is favored, the higher the number of points they will be laying. For example, if the Browns are a 7 point favorite, they will be listed as Cleveland -7. The minus sign is always used to tell bettors which team is favored and the number of points by which they must win. 

This is the way that oddmakers set point spreads for sportsbooks and it results in action on each side of the game. It is a rare occurrence when two teams are evenly matched, but when this does occur, the game is dubbed as a “pick 'em.” Although lines fluctuate during the week, bettors are locked into the odds as they stood when the spread bet was placed. 

Money Line

Betting on the money line is a technique that is more common in sports such as hockey or baseball, but it is used in football as well. The favorite team is listed with a minus sign as previously mentioned, but this time the number will be much higher, such as -225. What this means is that a $225 bet is required in order to win an additional $100. 

Determining when to wager using the money line and when to bet using the point spread is merely one of the decisions bettors must continuously make. There is certainly nothing written in stone concerning when to bet with the money line and when to use the point spread. It depends on various factors, including the personal opinion of the bettor.


Another popular way to bet in the NFL is on totals–also referred to as over/unders–the latter of which is usually written as O/U. The “total” number simply refers to the total number of points scored by both teams by the end of the game. Using the Browns as an example again, if the total on the Cleveland game is 46, both teams must have scored over 46 for the “over” bettor to be victorious. Similarly, the score must be less than that total number for the “under” bettor to win his or her wager.