Learn how NFL moneyline betting works, including how to read NFL odds, differences between spread & totals bets, and strategies for the best NFL picks.
If you talk to any experienced NFL bettor, they will explain how the point spread can make their life very stressful when watching a game. This is because you’re rooting for a separate result than what the teams are trying to achieve, and seemingly mundane decisions at the end of a game can have a drastic effect on point-spread betting results. If you are new to betting or just want to keep things simplified when betting on the NFL, try a moneyline bet, which is the most straight-forward of wagers. If the team you bet on wins, you win—it’s as simple as that.
Understanding NFL Moneyline Odds
Point-spread betting is the most common form of wagering in the NFL because it’s more of an even-money proposition. Oddsmakers set the spread to try and get an equal number of bets on each team.
For example, the NFL betting odds for the opening game of the 2021 season between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers list the defending Super Bowl champions as six-point favorites (-6). Dallas, conversely, is +6—getting six points as the underdogs. The odds on each bet are set at -110. This means you have to bet $110 to win $100, which is an even-money bet when it comes to sports betting because that extra $10 goes to the entity that takes the bet (AKA the house) and is referred to as the vigorish, the vig, or the juice.
On the moneyline, you simply bet on who will win the game. Tampa Bay, as the favorite, is set at -275, meaning you must place a $275 wager on the Bucs to win $100 if they are victorious. The Cowboys are listed at +225 for this contest, so a $100 wager can pay off big at $225 if Dallas pulls off the upset, but they must win the game outright, not just lose by less than six.
Moneyline vs. Spread Betting in the NFL
There is no set formula where a specific point spread equals a corresponding number on the moneyline. For example, another game in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season features the Cleveland Browns at the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are also -6 just like the Buccaneers, but on the moneyline, Kansas City is -250, and Cleveland is +200. So even though the point spread is the same, the moneyline odds are different.
There will always be a great debate between moneyline vs. spread betting in the NFL, so the best thing to do is consider the potential advantages and drawbacks of both and decide what’s best for you. If you’re looking for guidance on who is expected to win and by how much, you’re better off looking at the spread, but you may also be able to find value in these discrepancies. The Chiefs and Bucs are both six-point favorites, but you only need to lay a $250 bet on Kansas City to win $100, while with Tampa Bay, you have to risk $275 for the same payout.
Spread betting can be more profitable if you’re confident in favorites, but if your research leads you to believe that an underdog has a good chance to win a game, this is where the moneyline can work for you. This is especially useful for small point spreads. In another 2021 Week 1 example, Seattle is +2 at Indianapolis. If you feel confident that the Seahawks will win, you can forgo those two points and bet the Seahawks on the moneyline. The -2 wager has -110, whereas on the moneyline, Seattle is +112. So instead of betting $110 to win $100 on the spread, you can bet $100 to win $112 on the moneyline for the Seahawks to win, giving you a better profit margin.
NFL Moneyline Strategies
If you’re looking to try and develop a system to be profitable on moneyline betting in the long term, here are some strategies you can take into account.
Only Bet When You Perceive Good Value On occasion, a line won’t make sense to you. You’ll have a strong opinion on a game that clashes with the oddsmakers and the betting public. If you have facts and statistics to back up your reasoning (and not “just a feeling”), this is a good time for a moneyline bet.
The Spread Isn’t as Big of a Factor as You Think Sometimes, you can just analyze a game based on the winner or loser and totally discount the spread. That’s because in the past 30 years, the spread only changes the outcome of a bet 16% of the time. For the other 84% of games, the moneyline favorite wins and covers the spread or the point-spread underdog wins the game outright.
Undervalued Favorites The key to finding undervalued favorites is to look at under-the-radar games. These usually occur on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern time and feature teams that typically aren’t the best or most popular teams in the league. Oddsmakers take the popularity of teams into account because so many casual bettors place wagers on their team. Teams like the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, and Kansas City Chiefs will inherently have worse odds when favored because more casual bettors are going to favor them anyway. You want to look for the games like (and no disrespect to these teams) Cincinnati vs. Jacksonville, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Detroit, etc. Oddsmakers won’t spend as much time setting moneyline odds on games that will produce less action overall, so these are opportunities to discover undervalued favorites and increase your chances of winning.
Road Underdog Betting System With parity being such a big part of the NFL in the past two decades, there is money to be had on road underdogs. From the five seasons covering 2007 through 2011, betting the moneyline on all road underdogs that were 2.5 to 6.5-point underdogs via the spread would’ve netted someone a profit of 62.26 units, meaning that if you bet $100 on each underdog in this situation, you would be up $6,226 after the five seasons.
Hedge With the Spread If you’re liking an underdog but the point spread has you a little tentative, hedge and split your wager. Instead of betting $100 on the moneyline, bet $45 on the moneyline and $55 on the spread. You won’t win as much if your underdog does win outright, but if they lose the game but cover the spread, you’ll at least make a $5 profit.
Place a Moneyline Bet on Your Favorite Team
The key to moneyline betting is knowing the risk vs. reward. If you bet on favorites, there isn’t much margin for error to make money, but savvy underdog betting can be a profitable system. The other advantage is that you just have to root for the team to win, and you know each team will be trying to win, so it’s a straight-forward proposition. You don’t have to root for meaningless field goals or turnovers at the end of games in order to cover a spread, which can get stressful! Make a bet through our partners via Sidelines, and enjoy the game!
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