NFL odds are offered for several ways to bet at sportsbooks across the US. Football is the most popular sport to wager on, so understanding how to read NFL odds is critical to your enjoyment and success as a bettor.
This is a quick primer to help you prepare for the 2022-23 NFL season, which starts on Sept. 8 with the Buffalo Bills taking on the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
What is the Point Spread?
Let’s examine the betting line for Bills-Rams at DraftKings to see how the point spread works.
|Bills||-2.5 (-110)||-135||O 52.5 (-110)|
|Rams||+2.5 (-110)||+115||U 52.5 (-110)|
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Buffalo is a short favorite. The Bills are giving (or laying) 2.5 points. This means they have to win the game by at least three points to cover the spread.
Los Angeles, as the underdog, is getting 2.5 points. This means the Rams can lose the game by two points and still cover the spread. Who covers the bet if Buffalo wins by a score of 23-21? Los Angeles does because it’s getting 2.5 additional points on the spread.
Notice in the table above that Buffalo has -110 odds to cover the spread at -2.5 points. Sportsbooks charge a fee to handle your bet. This is known as the vig or juice, and it’s only applied on losing bets.
The vig computes to 4.36% at standard odds of -110 on both sides of the bet. This simply means you have to bet $11 to win $10 (of course, your initial $11 wager would be returned to you as well, so you would collect $21 in total). Typically, $100 is used as the benchmark for making these calculations. You don’t have to bet that much, though — bet $10, $25, $50, or more depending on your bankroll.
While -110 is the standard vig applied to a point spread bet, bookmakers sometimes vary the juice. For example, if you see -115 next to the spread for one team, it means you have to bet $115 to win $100.
If the other team is offered at -105, a bet of $105 returns $100 if the Rams cover the spread (i.e. lose by no more than two points or win the game outright).
How do Moneyline Odds Work?
Moneyline odds are offered on teams winning the game outright. It doesn’t matter by how many points, as it does when you are betting against spread. You just need your chosen team to get the “W” here.
Using our example above, underdog Los Angeles is +115 on the moneyline. If you think they win the game without needing extra points from the spread, you’d bet them on the moneyline. A $100 bet nets you $115 if LA wins the game outright (again, a total of $215 would be returned to you).
Backing the favored Bills is a more expensive proposition. At moneyline odds of -135, a $135 bet is required to win $100.
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What is the ‘Over/Under’ Or ‘Total’?
Odds offered on the over/under or total revolve around the combined number of points scored by both teams. You’re either betting under or over a set number. The total for the Bills-Rams game above was set at 52.5 with -110 on both sides of the bet. In both cases, you’re betting $110 to win $100.
That’s a fairly big total, but the Bills and Rams were two of the NFL’s highest-scoring teams last year — and are expected to be again this season. That’s why oddsmakers at sportsbooks like BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel all offer the total at a minimum of 52.5 points as of this post three days before the game.
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What Other Types of NFL Bets Can I Make?
We’re glad you asked now that we’ve covered the football basics, including the point spread, moneyline, and total.
Futures bets are made on the outcome of an event that takes place in the future. Simple, right? The best example of this is betting on the winner of the next Super Bowl. You can do this at any point during the calendar year. Here are Super Bowl 57 futures odds at FanDuel for all 32 NFL teams heading into the new season:
At FanDuel, the Bills are the betting favorite to win Super Bowl 57 at odds of +650. A $100 bet on Buffalo returns $650 (and your original $100 bet) if the Bills win the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Futures odds can fluctuate greatly between sportsbooks. For this reason, it’s even more important to compare the futures odds being offered by multiple books. Buffalo is a consensus favorite to win, and its odds didn’t vary much across the industry. But what if you wanted to bet on the New York Giants to win Super Bowl 57?
FanDuel offered the Giants at +8500 odds, but DraftKings was dealing New York at +13000. Whoa! Where are you making this bet? At DraftKings, of course. The same $100 bet wins you $13,000 at DraftKings as opposed to $8,500 at FanDuel.
Prop bets are fun. These odds are offered on outcomes that aren’t tied directly to the final result of the game. NFL player props, for example, are offered on the number of rushing, passing, and receiving yards a player has in a game.
Check out a previous preview from Gaming Today’s Craig Williams, who does a comprehensive analysis each week of the NFL season to help you win these types of bets.
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Parlays offer bigger payouts, but they are harder to win because you need multiple outcomes to go your way. Let’s start small and say you’re betting a two-team parlay in Week 1 of the NFL season. You like the Bills (-135) to beat the Rams and the Dallas Cowboys (-105) to win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Using Gaming Today’s parlay calculator, you plug those figures in and get your parlay odds (2.32), implied probability of winning (30.09%), and potential payout ($116.16) on a $50 bet. You receive your initial stake back too, so you’re more than doubling your money if this parlay hits.
Remember that every leg of your parlay must be correct to win, though. The more legs (or outcomes) you add, the more difficult it becomes to win. Bottom line: Don’t expect to cash many 10-team parlays.
Frequently Asked Questions
This article helps you understand how to read NFL odds for a variety of bet types.
That means an underdog is getting seven points — or a full touchdown — on the spread. If you bet on a team +7, you win your bet if the team wins the game or loses by 6 points or fewer. If the team loses by 8 points or more, you lose your bet. If the team loses by exactly 7 points, your bet is “push” or a tie, and the amount of your wager is refunded.
This means for every dollar you bet, you can win $2. A $2 bet wins $4, a $5 bet wins $10, and so on. You are doubling your money at these odds.
This means a team is getting 2.5 points on the spread. For the Bills-Rams season opener, underdog Los Angeles is +2.5 on the spread. Buffalo is the favorite at -2.5. Should the Rams win the game or lose by 2 points or fewer, a bet on the Rams wins. The Bills must win the game by 3 points or more for a bet in Buffalo to win.