There are tons of different ways you can bet on the NFL. 

You can take prop bets on which player is going to score the first touchdown. You can bet the moneyline, placing your bet on the team that you think is going to win. 

You can even bet on whether or not the combined point total of both teams at the end of the game is over or under a certain number.

But, by far, the most popular way to bet on the NFL is point spread betting. But what is point spread betting? Why was it created? And why is it so popular?

We’re going to cover all that, and more. Let’s get started.

Why Was Point Spread Betting Created?

Back in the day, bookmakers faced an interesting problem. We all have favorite teams, but we know those favorite teams aren’t always likely to win. In every match, there’s a favorite and an underdog. 

Bettors want to make money. So do bookmakers. When there’s a clear favorite, bettors will disproportionately place money on the favorite. That means that bookmakers either had to lose money or make the odds so bad that no one would place bets.

Neither situation was particularly attractive.

Enter point spread betting.

What Is Point Spread Betting?

You can think of the point spread as a kind of handicap. Instead of having to beat the other team for a bet on a given team to payout, the team needs to “beat the spread”.

Clear as mud, right? Let me give you an example.

Imagine we have a game coming up: the Dallas Cowboys at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers are favored to win. The point spread might look like this:


Point Spread


Tampa Bay






In this scenario, for a bet on Tampa Bay to payout, the Buccaneers need to beat the Cowboys by at least 6.5 points. There are, of course, no half points in the NFL, so they’d need to win by at least 7.

Conversely, a bet on Dallas pays out even if they lose, as long as they lose by 6.5 points or less. If Dallas wins, the bet still pays out.

In these circumstances, there are no ties, because of that .5. If the point spread was 7, however, the bet would push if Tampa Bay won by exactly 7 points.

Why Is Point Spread Betting So Popular?

The odds on point spread betting are almost always -110 no matter which team you put money on. That’s because bookies want an even number of bets on both sides. That way, no matter which team wins, they make their vig.

A quick aside on vig: a successful bet of $100 at -110 odds pays out $90.91 in profit. That means on every $100 a book collects from the losing side, they make $9.09. 

That’s why the system is popular for bookmakers—when done right, it’s almost guaranteed money. But why is it popular among bettors?

For starters, spread betting allows you to bet on your favorite team, even if they are the underdog. That means that you can win money no matter who you cheer for.

Point spread betting is also popular among professional bettors. The idea is that these bettors can find point spreads where the odds aren’t 50/50, then put a lot of money on the side they think is favored.

Key Numbers in NFL Point Spread Betting

We can’t give you all the tips you’ll need on point spread betting in this article, but we can clue you into two key numbers in the NFL.

Those numbers are 3 and 7. In fact, about ¼ of all games end with either a difference of 3 points or 7 points. What does that mean for you?

It means that spreads of 3.5 and 7.5 may slightly favor the underdog. If the underdog loses by 3 or 7 points, you’ll still win the bet. On the flip side, those spreads make it more difficult for the favorite to beat the spread.

Spreads of 3 and 7 are more likely to push. Spreads of 2.5 and 6.5 may slightly favor the favorite.

If you want more information, you can consider getting expert NFL picks against the spread. By seeing what experts pick, you can improve your own point spread betting game. 

Sports betting is data-driven, after all—the more information you have, the better you’re likely to do.

Hopefully, you understand point spread betting now. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below! 


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