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Pro betting tips: NFL odds explained

The 2023 NFL season has been another scintillating feast of footballing action for fans to enjoy. Of course, the standout story so far has been in NFC East and has seen the Eagles looking in impressive form to date. It looks all to play for around the rest of the NFC, though and there are lots of teams eyeing a playoff spot when regular season ends. This is also true in the AFC, where perhaps only the Dolphins in AFC East look dominant.

There is still plenty of action to get involved with as the season rumbles on, and plenty of games to watch. Lots of NFL fans will also get closer to the sport through betting on matches and backing their side to win. For any NFL bettor, though, it is essential to fully understand how odds work before putting their money down.

Why is it important to know how NFL odds work?

The first reason this makes sense is that it enables bettors to operate from a more informed position and fully understand any wagers they place. This is obviously a lot more sensible than placing bets with odds that you don’t really get! Knowing how odds work makes the process of betting more enjoyable and leaves you feeling more in control when placing wagers.

Understanding NFL odds is also key so you know for sure the potential returns any bet may make. This is important, so you can consider whether the money you are risking is worth the potential return. It is also crucial for allowing bettors to know the payout they should expect if their bet wins, and being able to confirm that this is what their sportsbook credits them with.

Getting to know how the most popular NFL odds work is also worthwhile for the variety it can add to your betting. This is because you are able to utilize the odds that are most appealing and offer the best potential returns. If you only know how one type of NFL odds work, you will be much more limited. Having a firm handle on odds when betting also enables you to get an idea of how likely the wager is to pay out, and how likely the event you will bet on is to occur.

But just how do the most popular NFL odds work?

Points spread odds

Betting on the spread is one of the most popular ways to wager on football games and comes with its own odds to grasp. This normally sees each team in the game have a number listed next to it, with a + or – sign. The side with a minus figure next to it is the favorite and must win by more than the negative figure shown for the bet to pay out. The team with the positive number is the underdog and must either win outright or lose by less than the figure shown for the wager to win.

For example, if the Seahawks were to play the Cardinals, you might see points spread odds such as:

Seattle Seahawks -11.5

Arizona Cardinals +11.5

In this instance, the Seahawks are the favored side and must win by 12 or more for the bet to pay out. If you were to bet on the Cardinals as the underdog, though, they must lose by less than 12 or win outright for your wager to come in.

You will note that the figures shown above are not whole numbers and this is common when looking at odds like this or checking out the latest NFL spread betting tips. You may see whole numbers listed at times but this leaves the chance of a tie happening. If this occurs, it is known as a “push”, and your stake is returned. You may also see another number in brackets next to the points spread odds at sportsbooks online. This figure shows how much you need to bet to win $100.

Moneyline odds

The next most popular NFL betting odds to understand are moneyline. These may look the same as points spread odds but operate in a totally different way. When placing a moneyline bet, you are simply betting on one side to win the game. For this reason, you may also hear people call this the “Win” market.

But how do these sorts of betting odds work in the NFL? As with spread odds, each side’s odds in a game will have either a positive or negative number shown next to it. This could look something like:

Miami Dolphins -250

New England Patriots +350

When reading moneyline odds for NFL wagering, the first thing to note is that the side with the negative figure is seen as the favorite. As you might expect, this means that the team with the positive odds is the underdog. The figures shown next to the favorite show how much bettors must wager to win $100.

The number next to the underdog shows how much a bettor wins when they put $100 on that team. In our example, therefore, you would have to bet $250 to make $100 if backing the Dolphins. If you chose to bet on the Patriots to win instead, a $100 wager would return a $350 profit.

As with spread betting, it is key to note that you do not have to place a bet worth $100 and can bet any amount you like. These formulas simply give bettors an easy way of working out potential returns or risk.


Totals are perhaps the last most common NFL odds to get a grip of before betting. These can also be known as “Over/Under” odds but are the same thing. Many gamblers like these odds because they are very easy to grasp and can be easier to make a profit from – this is because the total points can be simpler to predict compared to who might win a game or by how much.

These odds relate to the total number of points both teams in an NFL match might score. This number is usually shown as Over, with a decimal number next to it, or Under, with a decimal number next to it. If you bet on the Over market, then the total points scored would have to exceed this for the wager to pay out. If you back the Under odds, then the points scored would have to be less than the figure shown to win.

If an NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints, for example, had Over odds of 39.5, this would pay out if the total points in the match reached 40 or more. If the Under odds were 39.5, then the wager would win if only 35 points were scored in the game.

NFL betting odds key for bettors

Although the above are not all the odds you might come across when betting on the NFL, they are the most widely seen at sportsbooks online. It really does make sense to fully understand how each one works before starting to bet on the sport. This not only adds flexibility to your gambling journey but also sees you betting in a more responsible manner.

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