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NFL Point Spread Strategy


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NFL Point Spread Explained

Every gambler says that anyone can pick games, but the point spread is the equalizer that separates the pro bettors from those who do it for fun on Sundays. So, what does a beginner at NFL sports betting need to know about the NFL point spread strategy? Why is it such an essential factor in the NFL?

The point spread is the great equalizer because you cannot just pick up a straight-up winner. If you like a team to win, they have to win within the point spread. Many think that the point spread is made based off of what an oddsmaker thinks is going to happen. That is a common misconception. The oddsmaker is making his point spread based on what he says he can get the mass public to bet evenly on both sides.

Sportsbooks Strategies

The idea for oddsmakers is that if at a (-110) price, which means bettors must risk $110 to win $100 if you get two bets on opposite sides, you get $220, and cash out the winning team their $110 back plus $100 profit. So, it is a $10 win for the house in handling the money.  

So, the teams that many think will win will be favored. How much people think they win by will determine just how the point spread is. Let’s use an example.

Let’s say the Baltimore Ravens are at the Pittsburgh Steelers this week. Every common NFL fan knows the Steelers and Ravens are heated rivals. They also always know this game comes down to a last second drive to win for either side. The home team typically wins by three in this rivalry, and you tend to think this matchup sets up for another three-point home team win.

Oddsmakers understand that everyone assumes the home team will win by three points in this situation. So, they make the spread Baltimore Ravens +3 at Pittsburgh Steelers -3.

(-3) means that the Pittsburgh Steelers are the favorites to win the game. The easiest way to look at it is to think that they start the game with (-3) points. Then start the scoring from there, so if they kick an opening field goal, the game is tied. Of course, if you are cheering on the underdog, add three points to their score to start the game.


The Steelers are at home, everybody expects them to win by three, and the oddsmakers are forcing you to make the tough decision as to whether or not they will win by more or less than three points.

Everybody thinks the Steelers will win. But, it is not that simple in sports gambling. If they win by one or two, the Ravens side cashes. That is why they are (+3). They are the underdog in this situation. Everybody thinks that they are going to lose. However, not many people think they will lose by more than three points. If the spread went to (+3.5), the Ravens could lose classically by a field goal and still cash against the number.

NFL Strategy Key Numbers

This is where the key numbers in the sports betting market are introduced. Since so many games land on three in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry the difference between 3.5, and 2.5 on the point spread is massive. A Steelers 24-21 win cashes for the Steelers at (-2.5), but not at (-3.5).

Other numbers that matter in NFL sports betting is 4,6, and 7. These are the numbers that NFL games fall on the most due to three points for field goals, six for touchdowns and one for extra points. While the incentive to go for two has risen and has changed some of these probabilities, games still fall on 3,4,6, and 7 the most often.

Key Moves In The Lines

With that in mind, it is essential to pay attention to key moves in the line. Lines change based on how many bets made on one side. Back to the Steelers example. Let’s say Ben Roethlisberger is playing through an injury, but a lot of people know he will not perform well. A lot of money came in on the Ravens, despite being 3 point underdogs. The money caused them to move to 2.5 point underdogs.

That line move is extremely significant because now if the Steelers do find a way to win by three, your ticket cashes, whereas it originally would have been a push. Going from 7.5 to 7, or 7 to 6.5 is just as significant, considering a lot of teams can win by only a touchdown.

However, a move from 1 to 1.5, or 5 to 5.5 is not as significant in the market. It is not often a team win by two or five points in the NFL. While every slight edge in your direction helps, you want to pay attention to movement around 3,4,6, and 7.

Backdoor Covers

With that in mind, you also want to look out for backdoor covers. Backdoor covers are most prevalent around 7 but can occur in many manners. NFL teams are playing to win, not cover the spread. However, if you are laying 7.5 on a team, you are really hoping that they win by two scores.

With NFL teams not caring about the point spread, they tend to play soft defense late into games with two score leads. They would instead give up completions over the middle and let the clock run than do anything stupid deep down the sideline. Still, teams can often take what is given, and push the game to one score. However, it usually drains enough time for the favorite to close the game out, but fail to cover.

This again is why those key numbers matter so much. The Steelers are up 20-10 late against the Ravens. However, they let the Ravens matriculate down the field while chewing up the clock to finish out a 20-17 win. All of a sudden the difference between betting the Steelers (-2.5) is a win, (-3) is a push and (-3.5) is a loss. That is why those numbers are so key.

If you would like to know more about betting within the NFL then visit our NFL Totals Betting Strategy page for detailed insights on how to do this.