Point Spreads and Football Betting Fundamentals
Like anything else that you do in life, the more you know and better that you understand your options the more likely you are to experience success. Betting on football is easy. Winning is somewhat more difficult. We’ll assume that you are already an NFL fan who likes to watch games and has a decent idea of what teams you think are good or bad. Now put yourself in the position of the bookies and what they’re trying to achieve.
Setting the Betting Line
The point spread and over/under for each game are formed so that sportsbooks attracts an equal amount of action on each team and the total. For instance, if the Packers are hosting the Eagles, Green Bay might be declared a seven point favorite, or “-7” and the over/under could be 47. If you bet on the Packers, Green Bay must win by more than seven points in order for you to win your bet. If you wager on Philadelphia, the Eagles must either win the game or lose by less than seven points in order for you to cash your winning ticket. If you bet on the total, a bet on the over requires more than 47 total points to be scored in the game while an under wager means less than 47 combined points between the teams is required. If the final score is 27-20, the bets are declared a tie and bets are refunded. If the Packers win 28-20 then Green Bay and the over are winners. If the Packers triumph 26-20, bets on the Eagles and the under win.
Remember that the reason Las Vegas usually wins is because of the vigorish. A better needs to wager $11 to win $10 or bet $110 to win $100. This means that if a sportsbook like TopBet.com gets equal action on both sides of the wager, and they book a lot of money, they guarantee themselves a profit. For instance, if both the Packers and Eagles are wagered on at the same rate, and $1,100,000 is placed on both sides, just for playing the middle man, the bookie will profit $100,000.
$1,100,000 wagered on Packers -7
$1,100,000 wagers on Eagles +7
Packers win 28-20
Those who bet on Packers make $1,000,000
Those who bet on Eagles lose $1,100,000
TopBet makes $100,000 for taking the bets
How and Why Point Spreads Move
Shortly after games wrap up on Sunday night point spreads for next weeks games begin appearing online. Bookmaker.eu frequently sets the first line and many other books follow their lead. The initial line is the best guess sports books have at how the public will feel about the games. If they initially set a line as New England minus three against Baltimore, but suddenly a lot of bets begin coming in on the Patriots, in order to stop getting all money on one side, they might adjust the line to three and a half. This is a very big difference. If the Patriots win 27-24, and the spread is three, it is a tie and all bets are refunded. If the spread is three and a half, suddenly all bets on New England are losers (they needed to win by at least 3.5 points to cover the spread), and wagers on Baltimore become winners (they “covered the spread.” By adding 3.5 to their 24 points they would win the bet 27.5 to 27). By being aware of how a spread might change, those who wager early can lock in a betting line that might be to their advantage. Every half point counts.
What Goes Into the Point Spread
While we will discuss certain strategies in the next section, before you decide what side you want to wager on, it is important to consider a wide range of factors in each game. When the 2013 schedule came out, the week five matchup in Chicago was an interesting one to analyze. The Bears host New Orleans. While we don’t yet know the point spread, one would guess it will be three points or less in either direction, and it seems likely the public will jump on New Orleans. However, consider these observations. While Drew Brees might be better than Jay Cutler, the Bears have a better defense than New Orleans. The Saints are not used to playing outdoors while Chicago loves cold weather and plays well at home. The Saints will be coming off a likely Monday Night home win over Miami, meaning that they will have less time to prepare, will be coming off the excitement of having played a game that the entire world was watching, and public opinion will be very high on the Saints because they will have looked good in victory. New Orleans, who likely will be 3-1 or 4-0 could be looking ahead to their battle with New England in a “Super Bowl Preview” type game in week six. Meanwhile, the Bears will be coming home after two straight road games. It is very possible that the only time the public will have seen them play was during a Sunday Night game in week three where trying to win in Pittsburgh is no easy task. And, it is likely, but easy to forget during the heat of the season, that with a first year head coach Chicago will not begin hitting their stride until a month or so into the season.