How to Read NFL Betting Lines (and become a better Bettor)

How to Read NFL Betting Lines

Updated: January 29, 2023

If you’re new to the world of NFL sports betting, the long lists of odds and betting lines can seem like a foreign language. Yet, mastering this language will give you a leg up and ensure that you know what you’re doing.

Fail how to read NFL betting lines and learn the lingo and you’ll miss out on opportunities and could even lose your bankroll.

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To read and understand NFL betting lines, you must first familiarize yourself with the most common types of bets. Odds can mean different things depending on the type of bet so, by taking time to learn about each, you’ll be in a better position to start winning.

It can take time to master the art of NFL betting lines but, with practice, you’ll soon get the hang of it. In this article, we’ll explain how to read NFL betting lines so that you can place informed wagers. You’ll learn about moneylines, point spreads, and over/unders, as well as how to calculate implied probability.

 By the end, you’ll be able to bet on any sportsbook with confidence. 

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Reading NFL Moneyline Odds

The first step to understanding how to read NFL betting lines is to know what a moneyline is. A moneyline bet is the simplest type of NFL wager and, as a result, one of the most popular. With this bet, you’re simply wagering on which team will win the game outright.

Here is an example of NFL moneyline odds:

  • New England Patriots (-250)
  • Buffalo Bills (+210)

In this example, the Patriots are the favorite and the Bills are the underdog. The (-) sign in front of the Patriots’ odds indicates that they’re the favorite while the (+) sign in front of the Bills’ odds means that they’re the underdog. The number that follows the sign is called the “line” and it tells you how much you need to bet to win $100.

In the example above, you would need to bet $250 on the Patriots to win $100. Conversely, a $100 bet on the Bills would net you $210 in profits if they were to win. So, as you can see, moneyline odds can vary greatly from one team to the next.

Calculating Implied Probability

Once you’ve read and understood NFL moneyline odds, it’s time to start calculating implied probability. This number tells you the percentage chance that a given team has of winning. The higher the implied probability, the more likely the team is to win. Conversely, the lower the number, the less chance the team has of winning.

Here’s how to calculate it:

  • Implied Probability = 100 / (Decimal Odds + 100)

For example, let’s say that you want to bet on the Patriots in the example above. Their odds are -250, which means that their implied probability is 100 / (250 + 100). This calculation gives you an answer of 29.41%.

This means that, according to the bookmakers, the Patriots have a 29.41% chance of winning the game. Of course, this number is just an estimate but it still gives you a general idea of each team’s chances.


Reading NFL Point Spreads

In addition to moneyline bets, spreads are also popular among NFL bettors. With a spread bet, you’re wagering on how much better or worse one team will play than the other.

Here’s an example of an NFL point spread:

  • New York Giants (-3)
  • Baltimore Ravens (+3)

In this example, the Giants are 3-point favorites while the Ravens are 3-point underdogs. If you bet on the Giants, they must win with a score 3 points higher than the Ravens. On the other hand, if you bet on the Ravens, they can lose by up to 3 points and you won't lose your wager. Of course, if the Bills lose by more than 3 points, you will lose your bet.

Calculating Payouts for Spread Bets

The payouts for spread bets are calculated differently than they are for moneyline wagers. Rather than netting you a certain amount of profits, spread bets are paid out at odds of -110. This means that to win $100, you would need to bet $110. Of course, you can also bet more or less than $110 and your payout will be adjusted accordingly.

For example, a $50 bet on the Giants (-3) would net you $45.45 in profits if they won the game (50/110 x 100). Conversely, a $200 bet on the Ravens (+3) would pay out $381.82 if they won or if the game ended in a tie (200/110 x 100 + 200 [your original bet]).


Reading NFL Over/Under Odds

Over/under bets are another popular type of NFL wager. With this bet, you’re wagering on whether the total points scored by both teams will be over or under a certain number.

Here’s an example of NFL over/under odds:

  • Over/Under: 42.5

In this example, the over/under is set at 42.5 points. If you bet on the over, you’re predicting that the two teams will score a combined 43 or more points. If you bet on the under, you’re predicting that the two teams will score 42 points or less.

Of course, if the final score is exactly 42.5 points, the bet will be a push and your stake will be refunded. This generally is impossible in the NFL, since points are earned at a whole-number ratio but it can happen in other sports, so it’s become a standard operating procedure to offer decimal scores.

Calculating Payouts for Over/Under Bets

Over/under bets are also paid out at odds of -110. This means that to win $100, you would need to bet $110. As with spread bets, you can also bet more or less than $110 and your payout will be adjusted accordingly. You can use the same formula provided above to calculate potential payouts.


Final Thoughts

Learning how to read NFL betting lines is an essential skill for any serious bettor. By taking the time to understand each type of bet, you’ll be in a better position to make informed wagers and give yourself a better chance of winning. To learn more, you can also find information in your preferred sports betting site’s FAQ.


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