NFL Point Spread Explanatory Guide

How the game unfolds is almost as important as the final result for many NFL fans. This is especially true for betting on NFL games, which have point spreads like +7 and -7 associated with them. For example, if the Washington Commanders are assigned a +7 spread against the Dallas Cowboys, this means that the oddsmakers believe Washington is most likely to lose to Dallas by seven points.

Underdogs And Favorites

Any time there is a “-“ minus sign in front of a team’s point spread, it means they are favored to win. When a team’s point spread odds are denoted with a “+” plus sign, it signifies they are the underdog and are expected to lose the game. Home teams are historically most often favored, but this can vary based on matchup.

Let’s say this is the betting line for an upcoming Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers matchup: Chiefs(-3)(-110), Chargers(+3)(+110). Three points favor Kansas City against Los Angeles in plain language. In order for wagerers to win a bet on the Chiefs in this setup, Kansas City must beat Los Angeles by more than three points. Anyone who bets on the Chargers in this contest will need Los Angeles to lose by two points or less or win the game by any margin.

It is called a “cover” when a team does what they are supposed to do concerning the spread designated before the game; it is called a “cover.” If Kansas City Chiefs beats Los Angeles 27-20, they won the game by seven points(more than three) and covered the spread. If Kansas City beats Los Angeles 31-30, then Los Angeles covered the spread(lost by two or less), even though they lost the game.

In the case where a final score ends up being the exact amount of the spread, it is called a “push,” and bettors from both sides get their money back. For example, this would happen if Kansas City beat Los Angeles 17-14.

What about the numbers next to the points? +110 and -110 indicate how much money a bettor stands to win or lose. If a team is slotted in at -110, a bettor would need to bet $110 to win $100. If an underdog is locked in at +110, this means that a better would win $110 if they wagered $100.

Half Points

Sometimes, point spreads include half points, adding another layer of strategy to betting. For example, the line might read: Seattle Seahawks(+7.5)(+210) at Arizona Cardinals(-7.5)(-210). 7.5 points favor the Cardinals, but NFL scoring does not award half a point in any circumstance. This means that Arizona must win by 8 points or more in order to cover the spread and that Seattle must either win or lose by 7 or fewer points to hold up their end of the bargain.

Line Changes

The point spread before a game can change depending on news that affects the competitive balance of the matchup. The Buffalo Bills start as 13-point favorites against the New York Jets, but Pro Bowl quarterback Josh Allen hurt his shoulder in practice and is ruled out. Oddsmakers are likely to reduce that spread because the teams would be more evenly matched in Allen’s absence.

A line may also change depending on betting trends for that matchup. If most bettors are wagering on Buffalo to cover the 13-point spread with a healthy Josh Allen, oddsmakers might bump the line up to 16 points to motivate bets on the Jets to cover to even things out.