Learn to Make Smarter NFL Moneyline Bets in 2023

Learn how to sort the underdogs from the favorites with these NFL moneyline betting tips.

Aug 3, 2023 • 11:40 ET • 4 min read
Arizona Cardinals kicker Matt Prater (5) kicks the game-winning 33-yard field goal as time expires against the Dallas Cowboys at State Farm Stadium.
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

NFL moneyline betting is the simplest way to wager on pro football, asking bettors to pick which team they believe will win the game.

Betting the NFL moneyline doesn’t require a team to win or lose by a certain number of points, keeping things neat and tidy – especially for those new to betting on football odds. A 30-point blowout or a one-point squeaker all count the same.

We run you through how NFL moneyline betting works, what the moneyline odds mean, and some essential tips and tactics for betting moneylines in the NFL.

How betting the NFL moneyline works

As mentioned above, betting football moneylines is very straightforward: bet on the team you think will win the game.

Moneyline odds appear in hundreds (also known as American Odds). Oddsmakers calculate moneyline odds based on the implied probability of winning the game. Most sportsbooks use a “20-cent moneyline”, meaning there is a difference of 20 between the two moneyline values. 

Not all games are equal in competition, so the moneyline odds reflect which team is the stronger of the two and which is the weaker. 

The team projected to win the game is the moneyline favorite. The negative value indicates favorites in their odds. The weaker team is the underdog, and its odds have a positive value.

Using the chart below, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are -125 moneyline favorites versus the Dallas Cowboys, who are +105 moneyline underdogs. As you can see, there’s a difference of 20 between the two values (105 and 125). 

Because Tampa Bay is the favorite to win the game and holds less risk, bettors must wager $1.25 to win $1 ($125 to win $100). And because Dallas is the underdog and holds more risk, bettors need only to wager $1 to win $1.05 ($100 to win $100).

Matchup Moneyline Odds
Tampa Bay Tampa Bay Buccaneers -125
Cowboys Dallas Cowboys +105

Betting the spread vs. the moneyline

The NFL point spread and the moneyline are the two most common ways to wager on pro football, but what are the differences and what’s best: spread or moneyline NFL betting?

Unlike picking an outright winner with the moneyline, NFL point spreads set an estimated difference in the final score between two sides. To win the bet, the favorite must win the game by more points than the spread, or the underdog must lose by less than the spread or win outright.

Because the spread handicaps the stronger team and levels the competition between two sides, spread bets come with standard flat odds of -110 for both the favorite and underdog (risk $1.10 to win $1). 

For example, a team could be a -130 moneyline favorite to win outright and a -2.5 (-110) favorite on the point spread. Their opponent is a +110 moneyline underdog and a +2.5 (-110) point spread underdog. The point spread favorite needs to win by three or more to cover the spread, while the underdog needs to lose by less than three to cover.

If the favorite won by only two points, it would win for -130 moneyline bettors but lose for -2.5 (-110) spread bettors. 

NFL moneyline calculator

Use our moneyline calculator to help you with your NFL moneyline betting strategy. With our odds calculator, you can enter odds values to view potential payouts and convert odds to a different format, such as fractional or decimal odds. You can also use it to see the implied probability for a team to win, based on their moneyline odds.

Moneyline betting strategy

Once you understand NFL odds, you can start making wagers. Follow these tips to know sharpen your strategy and make smarter NFL moneyline bets.

Betting NFL underdogs Betting NFL underdogs

NFL moneyline underdogs are tempting to take because of the promised payouts on those long shots. However, football bettors should be selective when it comes to handicapping those straight-up dogs.

Home-team underdogs can provide more value for bettors and hold less risk, specifically smaller point spread underdogs – those getting +3 or less with the spread. Some bettors will opt for the short moneyline underdog instead of the -110 on the spread.

Beware big moneyline favorites Beware big moneyline favorites

Big moneyline favorites may be a less risky wager to make on an NFL Sunday, but those stronger sides pay out less and can quickly drain a bankroll if they’re upset. Even a winning record for your bets can have you in the red if you’re laying heavy chalk on NFL moneyline favorites.

For example, if you bet $100 on five moneyline underdogs at -250 odds each (a total of $500 risked) and went 3-2 with your bets, you would win just $120 and lose $200, for an overall loss of $80. 

Bet now, bet later Bet now, bet later

Just like point spreads and Over/Under totals, NFL moneyline odds will move and adjust to action, injuries and other factors heading into kickoff. Depending on which side of the moneyline you like – the favorite or the underdog – you will want to time your wagers to get the best odds for your opinion. 

Suppose you know the betting public will be drawn to the favorite. In that case, you may want to bet that moneyline earlier in the week before the bulk of the bets show up closer to kickoff and increase the price. But if you’re siding with the underdog in that game, you could wait until the line adjusts and get a higher payout on the moneyline pup.

You can use our Consensus percentages to see the most popular NFL picks each week and track moneyline movement with our NFL live odds.

Have multiple books Have multiple books

Moneyline odds for a single game will vary from sportsbook to sportsbook. If you plan on betting a lot of NFL moneylines, it’s vital to have multiple options so you can shop for the best odds for your bets.

Betting football moneyline odds can differ from operator to operator depending on the book’s liability. Some are slower to react to injury news or outside factors, opening the door for value if you can beat the adjustment. Most football betting sites offer bonuses, bet boosts, or reduced juice on moneylines, so shop around for the best odds and offerings. 

You can use our NFL line comparison tool to shop for the best moneyline NFL bets and read in-depth sportsbook reviews of the available sportsbooks in your area and their top bonuses.

NFL betting tips and strategies

Make smarter NFL bets with Covers. These guides dive into other ways you can bet on NFL action:

NFL moneyline betting FAQs

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