Of all the different NFL bet types available, the most popular ones are the standard single bets (aka straight bets) that make up the game lines. These include the point spread, the moneyline, and the total. The point spread is the quarterback of this Big Three; more NFL wagers are conducted using this method than any other. Major newspapers have listed these point spreads in their game previews since well before the internet ever came along. They’re part of our football culture.
But not everyone knows exactly how these spreads work. Here’s a famous line from Super Bowl III, when Joe Namath and the upstart New York Jets took on the mighty Baltimore Colts:
New York Jets +18 (-110)
Baltimore Colts -18 (-110)
The Colts were the designated home team at the Orange Bowl in Miami, so they were listed on the bottom. And they were 18-point favorites, meaning they had to win by more than 18 points to cover the spread and pay out their supporters. The Jets were +18, so even if they had lost by as many as 17 points, they would have covered. A Baltimore win by exactly 18 points would have created a push, in which case all bets would have been returned. In the end, Namath and the Jets made history by winning 16-7.
Give It Some Juice
You may have noticed the –110 figure posted at the end of each line. That represents the juice (aka vigorish or vig) you pay the sportsbook to process your bet. In this case, you would have to bet $110 to win $100, or any multiple higher or lower. If you don’t see any juice attached to a line, it’s shorthand for the standard –110. Sometimes the juice will shift to –105 or +105 or even higher, depending on the action.
The moneyline works in much the same way as the juice. This is the old-school method for NFL betting, where you pick one team to win outright without the points. Here’s how Super Bowl III would have looked at some books:
New York Jets +1000
Baltimore Colts –2000
The Colts were still the favorites; at these odds, you’d have bet $2000 to win $100 for a Baltimore victory. Or if you preferred the underdogs, you’d have bet $100 on the Jets, with a $1000 payout if they pulled off the big upset.
Lastly, you have the total, which asks you to bet on the combined final score going over or under a certain number. Here’s the total for Super Bowl III:
Over 40 (–110)
Under 40 (–110)
Just like the point spread, you have a number for the combined score, and you have the vigorish attached. The combined score for Super Bowl III was 23 points, so that game went Under the posted total. This has become one of the more popular NFL wagers over the years, second only to the point spread. Which of these straight bets will you be making this season? Try all three at Bovada, and we’ll see you on the gridiron.