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NFL Moneyline vs Spread: A Guide to Football’s Most Popular Bets

Point spreads and moneylines are two of the most common ways for people to bet on an NFL football game every week. For first-time bettors, and even those who are more seasoned, deciding which bet to make on any given Sunday, Monday, Thursday and some Saturdays in December usually comes down to those two betting types.

Here at Odds Shark, we want you to make smart picks. This page will explore the spread vs moneyline so you can decide which form of betting makes sense for your NFL wagers – whether it’s the Super Bowl, the NFC wild-card game or a typical matchup between the Patriots and Jets.

What is the Moneyline?

Moneyline betting is also called straight-up betting. This is the most basic way to bet because you are simply picking a team to win.

When you visit your sportsbook of choice, you’ll see moneyline odds that look something like this:

Falcons -150

Saints +125

In this case Atlanta is the favorite and New Orleans is the underdog. You can always tell which NFL team is the favorite because they are represented by the minus sign (-), whereas underdogs are shown with the plus sign (+). This is universal across all sports and not just the NFL.

If you were to bet $100 on the Falcons and they won, you’d get a payout of $166.67 – your original $100 comes back along with your winnings of $66.67. On the other hand, the same bet on a triumphant Saints team would give you a payout of $225 – you get your $100 back and your winnings of $125. When you make your NFL picks, you do not have to wager $100. You can bet any amount you want. Our Odds Calculator can help you determine how much you’d win based on the amount you bet.

What is the Point Spread?

Point spreads are a little more advanced, but still pretty easy to wrap your head around. Rather than choosing outright who will win the game, the spread allows you to choose by how much that team will win or lose.

Spread odds would look something like this:

Cowboys -3.5

Texans +3.5

For this NFL betting example, Dallas has to win the game by four or more points and Houston has to win the game outright or not lose by more than three points. A winning bet would be on whichever team covers the spread.

The spread is the key unit of measurement between two sides when it comes to NFL betting. This is what oddsmakers – those who set the betting lines for NFL and other sports – use to define how much better one team is perceived to be than their opponent in an effort to create equal action on both sides of the bet.

Spreads usually come with half-points such as 3.5 because this eliminates the option of pushing a game because of a tie – which can happen in the NFL, although it is rare. A PUSH is when the final score or final spread hits the oddsmaker’s number exactly and your bet is refunded.

Moneyline vs Spread: Finding Betting Value

Typically, the moneyline odds on a favorite don’t appear to have much significance. Sportsbooks will give points to an underdog and take points away from the favorite. This can be pretty valuable when betting on a heavy favorite if their moneyline is outrageous at something like -200 where you’d have to bet $200 to win $100. That same team could be -8.5 favorites and if they cover that by winning by nine or more points, the odds could be lower at, let’s say, -130. In some cases, you can even find plus (+) money if the spread is very large. In scenarios like that, an NFL spread may be more useful because you are confident in a team winning but there may be more worth for that team to win by 8.5 or more points.

Continuing with the moneyline vs spread debate, a straight-up bet can be very profitable if you have an angle or consensus data on why the underdog is going to win the game. Unless it’s a close game with pick’em odds (where both teams are offered at -110), the dog usually has plus odds. For instance, the Seahawks could be -200 favorites to beat the Chargers, who are coming back at +150. If you feel that Los Angeles is going to win when you make your picks, you could lay down $100 and profit an extra $150.

When you are deciding to bet on the underdog, it’s always important to consider both the NFL moneyline and the point spread. If the point spread is low, such as +2.5, the odds will likely be greater to just bet that team to win outright rather than succumb to their opponent by two or fewer points. If an underdog team has a spread of +2.5, the odds for that may be -160 whereas for them to win outright would likely be plus-money, maybe at +130.

Final scores matter for both sports betting options, and sportsbooks will offer NFL odds on both spreads and moneylines, but it all comes down to where you think the betting value lies. Just remember that when you bet on a point spread, you’re actually betting on the number of points a team needs to cover and not the final score like you would with the moneyline.

Our NFL Database can help you decide which side of a bet to take. This handicapping tool shows you how two teams performed against the spread (ATS) and each other in their previous matchups. Complete with scores and wager info, you’ll be able to make spread and/or moneyline bets each week like a pro.