Money line betting in the NFL

The forgotten money line is examined as a way to cash more tickets, for greater value, when betting NFL football.

The money linke talks - counterpoint to betting NFL point spreads

As previously discussed here, there are countless ways to drive ourselves crazy deciding on which team to bet upon for virtually any NFL game. In our tech-driven, stat mad culture, we readily have dozens of opportunities to convince us which specific factors point toward playing a particular favorite or reasons to back a strong underdog. Worse, reasons to talk us out of say, playing the Seahawks at -4 but not at -3, etc.

Speaking of points, why do we get hung-up on the mere deciding measure of the point spread at all? If you think about it, does any team go about their business with the intention and motivation to win or lose by a specific margin? OK, before we get too out of touch on this philosophical thinking, we must ask ourselves if the major offshore sportsbooks offer a wagering alternative. Good news is that they do. And in case anyone has forgotten it has been around for a long, long time. It's called The Money Line.

Money Line Rules

Basically, the principle is quite simple. You pick the winner of the game, that's it mister. No "back-door covers" to worry about or prayer your team needs an extra touchdown to seal your bet. After all, their motivation is to win, whether it is by one skinny point or by 21. That's all that matters. In the NFL, as opposed to College Football, there is no voting committee to worry about. It's very black & white. The bigger question is why so many bettors choose to ignore the money line.

It might be out of habit and years of publicity through media sources. Our everyday conversation plus newspaper and online sources drive us to know the point spread for each weekly game. It's simply easier to remember that "the Eagles are favored by three this Monday Night over the Packers". Not as many causal fans wants to discuss if you think the Eagles are a good bet at -190 straight up at popular offshore sportsbook BetOnline. And by the way, if indeed you do like the Eagles to win, you might get a better price by comparing the price at Heritage, Bovada or Diamond Sports. No different than the point spread, money line value works the same way.

Money Line Value

The other factor to watch for is the comparison spread in the money line. In this we don't mean the traditional point spread. Unlike baseball, where you'll often see a "dimeline" or a ten-digit gap between team betting numbers, there is likely to be a far greater distance between the favorite and an underdog in football money line wagering. Again, this is likely due to bettor's preference to play point spreads and often ignore the money line or 'straight up' alternative wagering.

NFL money line gamblingFor example, in baseball two pitchers will be set-up to choose at popular sportsbooks like a Bovada or Diamond Sports on a competitive game at a -130/+120 wagering line with very even action forecasted. NFL football does not often yield that type of opportunity for most sportsbooks, therefore the gap between favorites and underdogs is traditionally quite wider. And often, the higher the comparable point spread is, the wider the gap in the money line will likely be.

NFL Money Line Examples

The following are a few current money lines for games this Sunday, courtesy of preferred sportsbook BetOnline:

San Diego Chargers
pointspread (-1½)
moneyline    -125

Houston Texans
pointspread (+1½)
moneyline    +105

New England Patriots
pointspread   (-9)
moneyline    -380

New York Jets
pointspread   (+9)
moneyline    +320

As you can see, the money line spread between the narrow point spread game (Chargers-Texans) is quite smaller than the gap between the Patriots-Jets game. It is obvious all online bookmakers anticipate more balanced action between the Chargers and Texans to win the game straight-up than they will receive on the Patriots-Jets.

Ways to Play the Money Line

Often the first thing a bettor might consider in choosing the money line vs. the point spread as an alternative is to eliminate the worry of getting beat with the points as a "favorite". That is not always true. Especially in the NFL, where a huge number of competitive underdogs win outright. And a very respectable number of teams win as underdogs on the road.

Take last week's Bills-Bengals game as a testament. With a better record, the Bills were getting a small +2 to +2.5 points visiting struggling Cincinnati at most sportsbooks. Instead, you could have been rewarded in the neighborhood of +125 for their outright 16-12 win. In hindsight, only those few points would have made the difference in comparison. Overall, when you do the math, it can add up in the wallet if consistently betting the money line. And makes even more sense if you're a parlay bettor, willing to sacrifice some money for less risk.

Conversely, many sharp bettors took a calculated risk on the Patriots at -450 straight up instead of laying -10.5 against the 49ers. It just didn't seem possible that Tom Brady & friends could lose in San Francisco against the hapless Niners, but still very possible for a San Francisco cover. As it turned out, it didn't matter either way as New England predictably cruised 30-17.

Then again, Jake Arrieta and Max Scherzer have thrown in a few clunkers at similar odds on the road this past baseball season. Losing one of those will set you back big-time and thinking why you just didn't bet the point spread. That's why they call it gambling my friend and why you have many options in life and at many offshore sportsbooks.

Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at For weekly betting insights, inlcuding previews and picks from Glenn, click here.

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