The Basics
3 Min
reading odds

If you’re new to the world of NFL betting and you’ve found your way to this page, there’s a fair chance your underlying motivation for being here is to make sense of all the strange numbers and betting terminology in order to answer the simple question of ‘how much money am I going to win betting on the NFL?


Firstly, we love your confidence! Secondly, the good news is, by the time you’re done reading this you’ll realize you don’t have to be a mathematical genius or be able to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs to understand NFL betting odds.



Odds are the tool sportsbooks use to indicate what the potential payout on a winning bet will be. There are a plethora of ways to bet on the NFL, but regardless of the bet type, the odds are showcased in the exact same way.


The most commonly used format for NFL betting odds in the USA is known as ‘moneyline’ odds (or in some cases referred to as ‘American’ odds). The hallmark of moneyline odds are the positive (+) and negative (-) signs, which indicate the underdog and the favorite, respectively.


The key takeaway here is that the negative sign corresponds to the amount a bettor needs to wager in order to turn a $100 profit, while the positive sign corresponds to the potential profit a bettor can make by wagering $100.





To clarify, let’s use the above example of the 2021 NFL season opener between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys to highlight how to read odds for the three most popular types of NFL bets; moneyline, spread and total.


Moneyline: The Cowboys are listed at odds of +350, while the Buccaneers are listed at odds of -450. Right off the bat, we can see the Cowboys are the underdogs (but not exactly the lovable type you find yourself rooting for - sorry Cowboys fans!), while the Bucs are the favorites.


Understanding this, a $100 bet on the Cowboys to win will pay $450.00 ($350.00 in profit plus the original wager of $100.00, also known as the “outlay”). In the same vein, a $100 bet on the Bucs to win would yield a payout of $122.22 ($22.22 in profit plus the $100 outlay).


While math is obviously far less enjoyable than gambling on the NFL, the two are clearly intertwined. If you’re struggling, don’t fear, there’s a bunch of free payout calculators available online. However, for those masochists out the calculations are as follows:

  • For favorites divide 100 by the odds and multiply the result by your wager amount. In our example, the calculation would be (100/450)x100=$22.22.
  • For underdogs divide the odds by 100 and multiply the result by your wager amount. In our example, the calculation would be (350/100)x100=$350.

Alternatively, most sportsbooks allow you to switch your odds to display as either fractional or decimal, which some bettors may find easier to understand. Learn more about that by clicking here.


Spread: In our example, the oddsmakers have assigned the Bucs a -9 point handicap, while essentially giving the Cowboys a +9 point head start. This means if you bet on the Bucs to cover the spread, they must win the game by 10 points or more for your bet to hit. Whereas if you bet on the Cowboys, they must lose the game by 8 points or less (or win outright) in order for you to collect. Both scenarios are offering the same payout, with odds of -110 indicating you would need to wager $110 in order to make a $100 profit.


Totals: In our example, the sportsbook anticipates that there will be a combined total of 52.5 points scored between the Bucs and Cowboys. If you choose to bet the over (indicated by the ‘o’), there needs to be 53 or more points scored in the game for your bet to win. If you choose to bet the under (indicated by the ‘u’), you’re hoping there will be 52 or less points scored in the game. As with the spread market, the odds are identical for both options at -110.


As mentioned earlier, the same method applies for reading and understanding the odds for all other NFL betting markets such as props, live betting, parlays, and futures bets.


No matter what type of NFL bet you wish to make, it’s crucial you can be able to wrap your head around the investment you’re making by understanding the odds displayed.
This will help you to get the best value possible from sportsbooks and gamble responsibly! The best way to do this is going through our Bet Basics tutorials and How To's, so make sure you complete your sportsbooks and odds training before you put your money on the line.
If you're ready to make the next step and bet for real, go to our odds page and find the best available odds for any game (it won't take long to spot these, we clearly highlight them) ;)

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