How to Read NFL Betting Lines

When betting on NFL games it is very important to know how to read the odds, doing that well, could make a big difference between making large sums of money and losing. Odds for NFL games are easily found in many different places like the online sportsbooks, sports news sites like ESPN, or in newspapers. There is a great deal behind those odds that need to be learned in order for you to make a good decision when you bet on NFL games.

Betting Lines Explained

Here are the typical NFL betting odds at a sportsbook.  This is a screenshot from

Odds or lines are posted for each game during the entire football season right up through the Super Bowl. Each team will have a series of odds such as money line, point spread and over/under. These are not the only odds you will find but are the most common and listed in a number of locations each week. Other, such as parlays, teasers and pleasers can only be found online in the many different sportsbooks.

Money Line
Betting the money line means the favorite or underdog is not taken into consideration and you are betting on the eventual winner. For example if you see -200 for the Giants and +300 for the Cowboys and you choose the Giants then it means you much wager that amount of money in order to have a chance at winning $100. The +300 would mean a bet on the Cowboys to win you would bet $100 to receive $300.

Straight Bet
On a straight up bet, you will see the team and a number beside it. The points next to each team in a matchup are either negative or positive. The team with the negative points is the favorite and is favored by that amount of points. Of course, the team with the positive value beside it is therefore the underdog by that same number of points. If you choose a team that is favored by 7 points then that team must win by more than those 7 points. If they win by less then you lose and if they win by the 7 then it is a “push” and there is not win but you will lose the amount the house charges for the bet.

Over/Under (Total)
The over/under total for NFL games is often found to the right side of the point spread and is the total points that are predicted for both teams to score. To bet on the over/under you need to decide if you think the total points will fall below or above the number listed. As in all bets, the point total is reached by calculating trends, past scores, weather conditions and other factors that might influence the outcome of the game. If you believe the game total will exceed the amount then you bet OVER and if you believe it will be below you bet UNDER. Total points that are equal to the posted amount will once again create a “push.”