For starters, you will need somewhere to place bets.  If you are in Vegas, great!  You can bet at one of the sportsbooks in their casinos.  As more and more states pass laws to legalize sports betting, you will also be able to place wagers at local casinos in your area.  You could also find a local bookie to bet through, but we recommend betting online.
Here you can see that the Rams are +3.5, while the Cowboys are -3.5.  So for this example the Cowboys are 3.5 point favorites, while the Rams are underdogs of 3.5 points.  If you were to bet on St Louis you would need them to lose by 3 or fewer points or just win the game outright.  If you were to bet on Dallas you would need the Cowboys to win by 4 or more points.

Betting against the spread - In the sports betting industry the acronym ATS is used to label a team's record when betting against the spread. ATS records are a valuable tool in sports handicapping. A team may be playing great straight-up, winning a lot of games but at the same time they could have a dreadful ATS record because they are overvalued by the general public and the oddsmakers. And, conversely, a team could be losing a lot of games but playing in a lot of close games as underdogs and have a good ATS record going.


Oftentimes you’ll see a point spread that has a half-point added to the number. Of course, there’s no such thing as half a point in a football game, so why do we so often see point spreads with a (.5) attached to the score? Sportsbooks do this to make sure there isn’t a chance of a push.  Let’s take another look at our game from above with the half point added.
For starters, you will need somewhere to place bets.  If you are in Vegas, great!  You can bet at one of the sportsbooks in their casinos.  As more and more states pass laws to legalize sports betting, you will also be able to place wagers at local casinos in your area.  You could also find a local bookie to bet through, but we recommend betting online.
The odds given on the spread are usually -110 unless otherwise noted. It is not uncommon to see one side of the spread being -105, with the other side being -115. If you don’t see any odds listed for each side of NFL spreads you are supposed to assume the odds are -110 on each. Not sure how to read NFL betting odds? Check out our Sports Betting Odds guide.
The general purpose of spread betting is to create an active market for both sides of a binary wager, even if the outcome of an event may appear prima facie to be biased towards one side or the other. In a sporting event a strong team may be matched up against a historically weaker team; almost every game has a favorite and an underdog. If the wager is simply "Will the favorite win?", more bets are likely to be made for the favorite, possibly to such an extent that there would be very few betters willing to take the underdog.
If the Cowboys are 6-point favorites, their odds are -6. If the Giants are 6-point underdogs, their odds are +6. From the oddsmakers' perspective, the Giants are starting the game with a 6-0 lead, while from the Dallas side, the Cowboys are starting with a 0-6 deficit. If you bet on the Cowboys and they win 34-30, they failed to cover the spread by two points. If you bet on the Giants, they beat the spread by two points.
In general, the betting public tends to gravitate towards favorites when betting the games regardless of the actual pointspread. This is especially true with high-profile teams such as Dallas and Green Bay in the NFL and Golden State and Cleveland in the NBA. The sportsbooks are well aware of this phenomenon and often times they will adjust the betting spreads accordingly. This, in turn, actually adds some value to the underdog when you consider that a pointspread is nothing more than a handicapping tool that is designed to even out the match.
Who will win the next Super Bowl? You can place futures bets at any time on the upcoming Super Bowl champion. Oddsmakers set lines and change them throughout the entire season, depending on a team’s success or lack thereof. For example, a first-place team in October may be +300 to win the title. This means a $100 bet would pay out a $300 profit if they go on to win the title. However, a 1-8 team may be set at +2000, where a $100 wager would pay $2,000 as a long shot. They can be profitable and it’s always fun to predict the winner so early in the season. Be careful, though — wagering a large amount on an NFL futures bet ties up your money for a long time.
The first number (56.5 in our sample line) is the book’s predicted total score, while the second number (110 in our Giants/Cowboys rivalry game) is how much a punter has to bet in order to win $100. If you were to bet the over-under on this game, you’ll have to decide whether you think the combined score of both teams will be higher or lower than the number put up by the book. Let’s say you bet the over, assuming the game will be a shootout between two talented offenses, you’re hoping that the final score will be anything that totals 57 or more. It could be Dallas 54, New York 3, or any other point combination that adds up to 57 or more and your bet will win. Betting the under means that the two teams cannot score more than 56 points combined, or else you lose your bet.

Although the potential payouts look tempting - many sports bettors have dreamt of cashing in nearly $10,000 by nailing a $10, 10-teamer at 850/1 - they are a bad bet because they are difficult to hit and do not pay anywhere near true odds. This is how the sportsbooks make a lot of their money. For instance, let's say you want to bet a two-team parlay. For two games, there are four different possible combinations of outcomes, thus the true odds are 4/1. However, the sportsbook is only going to pay you 2.6/1 for your efforts, thus giving them a "juice" or vigorish in their favor. However, if you only have $20 to your name for a football bankroll and really like two games, the two-teamer might be the way to go because you could win $52 for your $20 wager.
A point spread, or “the line,” is a number set by oddsmakers to give an advantage to one team and a disadvantage to another team based on the margin of victory or defeat for the two teams. The favorite team is giving up points for purposes of the wager, meaning they not only have to win, but they have to win by X amount of points. The underdog team is getting points for purposes of the wager, meaning they can still lose the game, but they must lose by less than X amount of points.

The most common NFL spreads are usually set between about 2.5-10.5 points, but you will also almost always have games each week with spreads lower than 2.5 and higher than 10.5. In the event that the oddsmakers feel the game doesn’t need a spread, it would be set at 0 or what some call a pick’em (both teams are given even odds to win for this type of bet).
For example, a negative value (-11.5) next to a team indicates that they are favored by that many points. So you must deduct 11.5 points from their score to determine if they won the game or not. On the other hand, a positive value on the same game (+11.5) means the underdog starts with an 11.5-point lead before the game even begins. In NFL betting, the favorite must win by 12 points or more to cover the NFL spread. The underdog is able to lose by 11 points and still cover the spread.
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