Without a points handicap, it would not make sense to pay both sides of a wager the same amount when it's clear that not all teams are on equal footing. In fact, it is entirely possible for a team to lose the game in real-life but still win a bet if they only lose by less than a set number of points. Vice versa, a team can win a game, but lose the wager if they do not win by more points than what was predicted.
As an example, let’s consider a matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals. In our scenario, the Bengals are the home team, which means they will be listed last and the Colts, as the visitors, will be on the odds slip first. If Indy’s rotation number is 101, then Cincy’s rotation mark would be 102. When you place a bet live at a Vegas sportsbook or over the phone, you would say the number of the team on which you want to wager and not the name.
If you follow football at least reasonably closely, have some idea about the relative strengths of all the players and teams, and have absorbed the information provided on this page, then you should be able to become a competent football bettor. You don't really need to know much else should the aim be to simply have some fun and win some money every now and then.
If you want to predict what will happen when Team A meets Team B, your best stats to analyze are those generated in their most recent head-to-head matchups at the same venue. The habits of the betting public are fairly constant, so ATS results in general have a longer shelf life, but don’t bother going too far back in time. The 2009 New York Yankees are going to look a lot different than the 2008 Yankees or the 2000 Yankees. (Source: The Sports Bookie Blog)
Here in this point spread example for the NFL, the Falcons are playing the Panthers. Atlanta has been set as a three-point favorite on the betting line. That means that for Atlanta to cover the spread that has been set, they will need to win by at least four points. And for Carolina to cover the point spread, they can do so with a loss by two points or less, or obviously a win straight up. If the Falcons win by exactly three points, the bet would result in a push with no payouts.