How NFL Lines and Point Spreads Work

Betting on sports can add to the fun of the event and make being a spectator even more exciting. Whether you’re watching from the stands, in a world-class stadium or following the game online; betting on football, hockey, baseball or basketball can be a fun way to enjoy your favorite sport.

As the most popular sport in the country, betting on the NFL is extremely popular. Of course, it’s important you understand exactly how the betting process works before you decide who you’re going to back.

The most popular way of betting on the NFL is using a point spread, so you’ll want to know what each spread means and how you can place a bet using it. Learning how to bet on your favorite team means acquiring some new terminology but there’s no need to panic – you’ll soon know your money line from your rotation number.

How do football betting lines work?

Betting companies or sportsbooks  will create a point spread for each game. This is designed to make the betting playing field a little more equal than it might be in reality. If the Oakland Raiders are playing the Miami Dolphins, for example, past performance would suggest the Raiders will win by a high margin, so why would anyone bet on the Dolphins?

With a point spread, however, betting on either team can be an attractive option. The team most likely to win the match is known as the favorite, whilst the team least likely to win is referred to as the underdog. You’ll see that a favorite has a minus sign, or -, on the point spread and the underdog has a plus sign, or +.

How does the spread work in the NFL?

So, a point spread bet might give the favorite an eight-point margin. If so, they would need to win by eight points or more for you to win your bet on them. Alternatively, the underdog would need to win or not lose by eight points for a bettor to win by backing them.

An example of a points spread might be as follows:

Oakland Raiders         -8     (-110)
Miami Dolphins           +8    (-110)

You can see that the Oakland Raiders are eight-point favorites, whilst the Miami Dolphins are the underdogs. The (-110) refers to odds you’ll get if you place a bet. The odds are often set at -110 but they do fluctuate so be sure to pay attention to what you’re offered.

When a minus figure is offered as the odds, this highlights what amount you’d need to bet to win $100. In the above example, you would need to bet $110 to get your stake bet and win $100.

Although the point spread and the odds offered can differ from sportsbook to sportsbook, rotation numbers are used to keep things organized. A rotation number is simply a way to refer to games without mentioning the teams, like a form of shorthand. As each sportsbook uses the same rotation numbers, it’s easy to compare odds and spreads.

How do you read a money line?

Betting on the money line can be simpler than point spread betting. Instead of a team having to win (or not lose) by a certain number of points, you can simply bet on the team you think will win. Regardless of whether they win by 1 point or 72 points, you’ll still win your bet. Sound simple? It is!

However, betting on the money line does have it’s limitations. When there is a clear favorite to win a game, you’ll have to bet a lot more money to get a decent return. If there is a -200 money line, for example, you would need to bet $200 to win $100, presuming your prediction was accurate. Conversely, if there is a +200 line, you would win $200 if you bet $100 and you predicted the outcome correctly.

Should you bet on the money line or the point spread?

How you bet is completely up to you, and there are advantages of both types of betting. Whilst betting on the money line is simpler, you might not win as much if your bet is successful. As you’ll have to bet more to get a potentially good return, you also risk losing more if your prediction is wrong.

When you use point spread betting, it might be trickier to place a successful bet but, when you do, the returns are usually higher.

Of course, this all depends on the odds on the day. As you might expect, the point spread and the odds can change drastically. There are a number of factors that are taken into account when deciding what spread and odds to offer, including the teams playing, their recent performance, who is on the starting lineup and even whether any players are out injured.

As well as following the teams and sports news yourself, you can use daily tips to help you learn more about a particular team’s form and who is expected to win which matches. At sites like, for example, you can get up-to-minute news and betting information, so it’s easy to keep track of who’s offering the best odds.

Placing your first bet on the NFL

It can take a little time to understand the terminology associated with sports betting, so don’t worry if you don’t grasp it straight away. Before you launch into placing your first bet, however, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into. With handy online guides and step-by-step betting examples, you can learn everything you need to know about placing a bet on the NFL.

Once you’re confident you understand what you’re doing, you’ll simply need to choose which games you want to bet on, what teams you think will win, how much you think they will win (or not lose) by and how much you want to bet. After that, you’ll simply need to sit back, enjoy the game and cheer your team to victory!