NFL Lines and Spreads Explained | Football Betting Tips

NFL Lines and Spreads Explained

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2 years ago
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What is an NFL Line?

The term 'line' in NFL betting refers to what is also called a point-spread bet. In this type of bet, the bookmaker places a handicap on the scores so that the favorites begin at a disadvantage on paper which they will have to overcome when the action gets underway. This is where the term ‘covering the spread’ comes from.

This is done to even the scales of a fixture and encourage bettors to place money on both the favorite and the underdog in a game - the line, spread, or handicap gives the underdog a slight advantage so that you can win money by placing a bet on them, regardless of whether they win the match or not. 

All that matters is the final margin of victory when it comes to NFL lines and spreads. Bookmakers often change the lines before a game based on how many wagers are being placed on one side of the market over the other, with the intention being to reduce saturation on one side.

NFL Lines and Spreads Example

As mentioned, NFL lines and spreads are all about the final margin of victory. They also inform you which team is the favorite (and attracting the most bets) and which team isn't. 

Let's take an example involving the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns:




Cincinnati Bengals 

-6.5 (-108)


Cleveland Browns 

+6.5 (-114)


The lines for this fixture are offered at -6.5 for the Bengals, which means that they will effectively be starting the game with a score of -6.5 to the Browns' 0. It's straightforward to understand here that the Bengals are the favorites since they are the ones given a handicap to overcome. 

The moneyline odds in this example show that you would have to spend $180 on the Bengals to win $100 and $100 on the Browns to win $300, i.e., there is a mismatch between how much you would have to spend on the teams. 

NFL lines and spreads diminish this mismatch and level the playing field. In this case, the Bengals are still the favorites and might well end up winning the game. But if they don't do it by at least 7 points, then you have a chance to make money on the Browns with a smaller level of risk attached. 

You'll notice that in the spread market, their odds are actually shorter than those of the Bengals - which isn't the case in the moneyline market. So, the NFL lines and spreads, in this case, have given the Browns a license to win outright or lose, as long as the losing margin isn't more than 6.5 points. 

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