Football spread betting might be the most exciting way to bet on arguably the most exciting sport in the world. By handicapping favorites, football point spreads enable bettors to bet on all games and teams, and cash in on their knowledge of the NFL, any given Sunday.
Three Keys to Football Spread Betting
How Point Spreads Work
To be successful at point spread betting on football, you first need to understand what a point spread is. A point spread is the amount of points a sportsbook sets as the handicap between two uneven teams.
For example, if the New England Patriots are at home playing the Jacksonville Jaguars, the spread might look like this:
Jacksonville Jaguars (+13.5) at New England Patriots (-13.5)
Because the New England Patriots are (in this example, and for the last 100 years) the superior team, the point spread proposes a handicap between the teams that makes it justifiable to bet on either side.
While it is not necessarily in doubt that the Patriots will win this game, the spread allows bettors to bet on Jacksonville to keep it somewhat close: bettors on the Jaguars at +13.5 win if the Jags win or lose by less than two touchdowns.
Bettors on the Patriots point spread of -13.5 win if the Pats dominant and win by 14 points or more. If they win the game by less than 14, Patriots spread bettors would lose in this example.
In cases where the spread is a whole number (rather than having a .5), the game may end on the line and all bets are refunded. This outcome is known as a push. For example, if the line of this game was:
Jacksonville Jaguars (+14) at New England Patriots (-14)
point spread bet would be refunded if the game ended with the Pats winning by 14, for example 31-17.
Home Field Advantage = 3 Points
In football in particular, a rule of thumb for point spread bettors is that if a team is playing at home, oddsmakers are generally favoring them by three more points than they normally would if the teams were playing on a neutral field.
While not a hard-set rule by any means, the three-point edge for home teams in the NFL is a general pattern that reflects the natural advantages of playing at home: the crowd makes it hard for opposing quarterbacks to coordinate their offense, the players are more comfortable in the facilities, etc.
Watch for Score-Sized Spreads
One thing to keep in mind when betting on football point spreads is the pattern of scoring in the NFL in general. Because teams primarily score via field goals (worth three points) or converted touchdowns (worth seven points), spreads will often hover near or around those numbers.
A close game might see the favorite set at -2.5, while a slightly less competitive match up might inspire linesmakers to set the spread at -6.5. Keep those tendencies in mind, as they will make all the difference when your -3.5 bet on the favorite ends up losing because the team decided to settle for a field goal on their final possession.