How Do NFL Odds Work? How to Read NFL Betting Odds Online

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Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) runs with the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
(AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
BetMGM @ Aug 02, 2022, 10:14 AM

If the Buffalo Bills are a 6.5-point home favorite against the Indianapolis Colts in NFL odds for a Monday Night Football game, what does that mean?

And what does the moneyline mean? Or the over/under total?

NFL betting is a unique and thrilling experience regardless of your football expertise and online sports betting experience. And it doesn’t take long to learn how to read NFL betting odds if you’ve never bet on football odds or want a refresher.

How Do NFL Odds Work?

Odds are set by the sportsbook for thousands of events each year, including all NFL preseason, regular season and postseason games.

There are various types of odds, most notably the spread, moneyline, and over/under total.

What is the Spread in Betting?

How many points will a team win or lose by?

The spread, aka point spread, is the margin by which one team is favored, i.e., margin of victory, as determined by the sportsbook.

The spread for a Colts-Bills game was 6.5 points, meaning Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and the Bills must win by at least 6.5 points (i.e., seven points or more) to win a bet on the Bills’ spread. 

Conversely, Jonathan Taylor, Matt Ryan, and the Colts must lose by fewer than 6.5 points (i.e., six points or fewer to win a bet on the Colts’ spread.

Spread odds are displayed as: 

Colts +6.5 (-110) at Bills -6.5 (-110).

If, for example, the Bills won 31-24, the margin of victory is seven points and enough to cash tickets for those who bet on them. But if the Bills won 31-29 after Ryan connected with Michael Pittman Jr. on a last-second touchdown but missed the game-tying two-point conversion, they’d still win the game but wouldn’t cash tickets.

How to Calculate a Betting Payout

If you placed a winning bet on the spread, what’s the payout?

That depends on two things: the bet amount (aka stake) and odds. 

In this example, the odds are -110 for both sides of the spread, which is usually the case but not always. If you won the Bills’ bet with a $110 stake, you’d receive a payout of $210 (including stake).

At BetMGM, the payout is automatically calculated on your betting slip. After adding a bet to the slip, you’ll see the potential payout if the ticket cashes.

What is the Moneyline?

Which team will win the game?

An NFL moneyline bet is a bet on the winner regardless of the margin of victory in regulation or overtime.

The Bills might be -280 favorites against the Colts, who are +220 underdogs. And the potential payout is calculated in the same manner as spread betting. 

If you won a Bills moneyline bet with a $250 stake, the payout is $339.29 (including stake). 

The Colts, meanwhile, have plus odds (+) as the underdog and would return a greater payout if they win outright. The payout on a $250 Colts’ moneyline bet is $880. 

What is the Over/Under Total?

How many total points will be scored by both teams in the game?

The Colts-Bills over/under total might be 51.5. You could’ve bet they’ll combine for more than 51.5 points, i.e., over (-110), or fewer than 51.5 points (-110). 

For example, if the Bills won 31-27, the over would hit and return $210 on a $100 bet. However, if the Bills won 24-20, the under would’ve hit and return $210 on a $110 bet.

Oftentimes, the over/under total is a whole number, e.g., 46. If the teams combined for that exact total, it’s a push, and all bets are refunded.

What is an NFL Parlay?

NFL parlays are the perfect way to take your betting to the next level.


Parlay betting allows you to combine multiple bets, aka legs, into one low-risk, high-return bet that increases the potential payout without increasing the stake.

Perhaps while browsing NFL odds, you spotted a few favorable numbers across multiple games:

  • Spread: Ravens -4.5 (-110)
  • Moneyline: Rams -350
  • Over/Under Total: Cardinals/Seahawks Under 52 (-110)

You could place three $50 wagers on each bet and hold three separate tickets (for $150 total) with potential payouts totaling $255.19:

  • Ravens: $95.45
  • Rams: $64.29
  • Cardinals/Seahawks: $95.45

Or you could combine the bets into an NFL parlay and lower your stake to $50 for a potential payout of $234.28. If all three bets hit, your payout is only $20 less despite lowering your stake by $100.

At BetMGM, you can bet online with updated NFL betting lines this week, live NFL betting odds, and more for the best online sports betting and mobile sports betting experience.

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