Football lines are the ‘price’ at which sportsbooks offer up NFL teams to be bet – in effect creating a market and a trading environment. Sportsbook customers review the lines on offer and bet accordingly.
The football betting line takes three basic forms:
Pointspreads: This is fundamentally handicap betting. The oddsmaker assigns a positive number to one team (the underdog) and a negative number to the other team (the favorite). He does this basically to attract action to both sides of the book (both teams). The handicap has the effect of eliminating ‘favorite’ and ‘underdog’ status, as both teams in theory have an equal chance of victory after the sportsbook has applied the handicap. The handicap applies to the final score deficit in the game.
Pointspread Example: The New England Patriots are playing on home field against the New York Jets. The sportsbook decides that the Patriots are strong favorites and gives them a handicap number of -7, the New York Jets are therefore +7. The Patriots prevail, winning 24 – 10 and pointspread bet is also a winner because the Patriots won by a margin of greater than 7. Had the score been 20 – 17 to the Patriots, then they would still have won the game, but they would not have ‘covered the spread’ / won the pointspread bet because they won by a margin of less than 7, or if you prefer, the Jets would have won the pointspread bet because the margin of victory was only 3 and on the handicap they had a +7 start. gtr
If the deficit is exactly 7 then on the pointspread this is a tie and bet stakes are returned. The standard line for pointspread bets is -110 (10/11) so $110 bet would win $100 a win return of $210. Make sure that you shop around – often you will pick up specials where the line is set at -105 for example.
Moneyline: Football lines can also take the form of a straight bet i.e. without a pointspread or handicap. These moneyline or ‘straight up’ bets reflect the favorite and underdog status of the teams. So in the Patriots v Jets example the moneyline bet might read: Patriots -300 Jets +400. A $100 bet on the Jets would return $400 – a good return if you believe the Jets have a better chance of victory than their betting line suggests. In the even of a tie, stakes are returned.
Totals or Over/Unders: The ‘totals’ market offers the opportunity to bet ‘over’ or ‘under’ the posted total. So if in the above example the posted total line was 33. An ‘over’ bet on the totals market would win, whilst an ‘under’ bet would lose – with the actual total score in the game being 34. Again these bets are offered at a standard -110 (10/11) but often vary. This is a fun and relatively simple type of football line that often provides good value bets.
There are many other type of football betting lines mainly taking the form of specials or proposition bets but it is the above bets that are the popular bets offered by the sportsbooks on a daily basis.