NFL Betting Lines

How NFL Betting Lines work

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If you're just getting started with NFL betting, the most important thing you need to do is learn how the lines work. But this is easier said than done because NFL lines can seem like learning Greek to new bettors. Fortunately, learning football betting lines won't take you nearly as long to master as the Greek language. In fact, you should have a good understanding of the matter just by looking at the following information on how NFL betting lines work.

Example of an NFL Line

San Francisco 49ers   -6.5   -180   38.5
Los Angeles Rams       +6.5   +160    38.5

Above, you can see several numbers to the right of both teams. These all represent the different lines that are available on the San Francisco vs. Los Angeles game. The first set of numbers for both teams is the point spread, the second set is the moneyline, and the third set is the over/under (a.k.a. totals). We'll explain each of these lines more in-depth below.

Point Spread

Because most NFL games are mismatches, bookmakers use a point spread to balance out betting action on the two sides. Otherwise, everybody would just wager on the favorites to win, and bookies would be left to cover the difference. So in the case of the 49ers vs. Rams, San Francisco is the favorite at -6.5.

Anybody who wagers on the 49ers would need them to win by 7 points or more for a winning bet. Those betting on the Rams (+6.5) would need them to lose by 6 points or less (or win) for a winning wager. It's also worth mentioning that a half point is used in many point spreads (such as the -6.5/+6.5) to prevent pushes because no team can score half a point.


With a moneyline, the team you pick merely has to win the game. However, the action is balanced out by how much money you stand to win with either side. Referring to the 49ers/Rams line again, San Francisco is listed at -180 on the moneyline. This means that you would have to risk $180 to win $100 in profit since the 49ers are favored.

Now the Rams are listed at +160, which means that if the Rams won, you'd earn $160 in profit for every $100 wagered. Keep in mind that you don't actually have to bet $100 to participate in a moneyline wager; this is just an easy way for sportsbooks to show how much money you stand to earn.

Over/Under (Totals)

The last type of NFL line that needs to be discussed is the over/under. This is a wager that deals with the two teams going over or under a combined amount of points. In the game involving San Francisco and St. Louis, the total is set at 38.5 points.

So if you bet the over, you'd be guessing that both teams will combine to score 39 points or more. Assuming you wagered on the under, you're hoping that the two squads score 38 points or less at the end of regulation. The odds on a totals bet are usually -110, meaning you are risking $110 to win $100 in profit.

Understanding NFL betting lines is just the first step towards making profits with football wagering. Once you've got the basics down, it's important to continue learning sports betting strategy to improve your long-term chances of winning. If you're able to win more than 52.4% of the time, you'll be well on your way towards being a profitable NFL bettor.