How accurate is the NFL point spread? Here’s our inside scoop on the accuracy of NFL spread betting and how to bet on the spread this season.
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The NFL has a well-earned reputation as the hardest sport to beat consistently for sports bettors.
It’s no wonder either – it’s the most widely bet league, in the most popular sport in the US. Add to that fact there are – at most – only 16 games in a week, and it’s no wonder the oddsmakers spare no expense and leave no stone unturned in setting accurate, difficult-to-beat point spreads.
But just how accurate are the point spreads? Are there any discrepancies we can uncover?
After the first three weeks of NFL action in the 2022 NFL season, we take a look at just how close these point spreads are.
September 2022 NFL Summary – First 3 Weeks
Forty-eight games were played in the first 3 weeks of this NFL season. With the point spread in mind, here is a statistical summary:
- Favorites who have covered the spread: 21
- Underdogs who have covered the spread: 23
- Games with a pick ‘em spread: (no favorite or underdog): 3
- Games to land exactly on the spread: 1
Pretty impressive performance by the oddsmakers. You have to figure a “perfect” distribution would be an even, 24-24 split between favorites and underdogs. 21-23-4 is pretty darn close, especially considering we’re in the first few weeks of the season where so much is unknown about these teams. But one interesting fact that emerges:
Of the 23 underdogs who have covered the spread – 19 have won the game outright, with one tie game.
This means 82.6% of underdogs who cover are winning the game outright. Additionally, almost 40% of NFL games are ending in upsets!
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What do we learn from this? If you’re betting an underdog in the NFL, statistically it pays to bet the money line as well. Maybe it’s a smaller wager, or maybe you’re feeling bold enough to bet money lines only on underdogs – either way, you’d be ahead in the NFL in 2022.
Let’s dive deeper with a week-by-week look at NFL point spreads in 2022.
NFL Week 1 Against the Spread
- Favorites who covered: 8
- Underdogs who covered: 8
- Underdogs who won the game outright: 6 (plus one tie game)
- Average point spread was off by: 9 points
- Closest point spread: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Los Angeles Chargers (Chargers favored by 3.5; Chargers won the game by 5 for a difference of 1.5 points)
- Biggest point spread miss: Buffalo Bills vs. Los Angeles Rams(Bills favored by 2; Bills won the game by 21 for a difference of 19 points)
Oddsmakers got five games within five points of the final margin, but six point spreads missed by 11 or more points as everyone used the first week to figure out what each team has and how to assess them moving forward.
Week 1 also featured a rare tie game between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans – an easy cover for bettors with Houston +7.5, but a bitter pill to swallow for those with the Houston (+260) money line.
NFL Week 2 Against the Spread
- Favorites who covered: 7
- Underdogs who covered: 6
- Games with a pick ‘em spread (no favorite or underdog): 2
- Games that landed right on the spread (push): 1
- Underdogs who won the game outright: 5
- Average point spread was off by: 9.25 points
- Closest point spread: New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Patriots favored by 3; Patriots won the game by 3 for a difference of 0 points)
- Biggest point spread miss: Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (Colts favored by 3; Jaguars won the game by 24 for a difference of 27 points)
The first ‘push’ of the year came in a tight game between the Patriots and Steelers. Many were surprised to see a struggling New England side as favorites with the game played in Pittsburgh, but a last-second field goal made geniuses of the oddsmakers as the game landed right on the New England -3 margin.
This week also featured two contests (Washington Commanders vs. Detroit Lions; Carolina Panthers vs. New York Giants) with ‘pick ‘em’ point spreads, meaning the bettor is simply picking a winner as the oddsmakers assess the matchup to be even. As such, neither team is judged as a favorite or underdog.
NFL Week 3 Against the Spread
- Favorites who covered: 6
- Underdogs who covered: 9
- Games with a pick ‘em spread (no favorite or underdog): 1
- Underdogs who won the game outright: 8
- Average point spread was off by: 7.5 points
- Closest point spread: Houston Texans vs. Chicago Bears (Bears favored by 4; Bears won the game by 3 for a difference of 1 point)
- Biggest point spread miss: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Los Angeles Chargers(Chargers favored by 6.5; Jaguars won the game by 28 for a difference of 34.5 points)
Big week for underdogs, as 8 of 9 underdog winners also won the game outright! It was also the best week for oddsmakers.
The Jaguars/Chargers game was the biggest miss this season, as a 6.5-point underdog won the game by 28 points – but it was the ONLY game with a spread off by more than 10 points. Exactly half the NFL games in Week 3 (8 of 16) were decided within five points of the spread.
How Are Oddsmakers Faring Against the Spread in the NFL in 2022?
All in all, through three weeks of action the average point spread is off by 8.87 points.
Of course, there’s more to it than just an average. Here’s a breakdown in tighter ranges:
Spreads that were exactly right: 1
Spreads off by 1-5 points: 16
Spreads off by 6-10 points: 19
Spreads off by 11-15 points: 6
Spreads off by 16+ points: 6
Also – if you remove the biggest miss each week, the average spread is off by only seven points!
Bettors can learn plenty by going back and looking at results against the spread. For example:
- Of the six games this year decided by 16 or more points against the spread, four of them involved the Buffalo Bills or the Jacksonville Jaguars!
The Bills covered their first two games by an average of 21 points, while the Jaguars have covered the past two games by an eye-popping average of 31 points! This suggests the oddsmakers are still getting a handle on Jacksonville and who they are as a team.
Overall, however, we are seeing what we usually do from the oddsmakers – a very close distribution of favorites and underdogs covering point spreads, most underdogs who cover also winning their games outright, and a couple big misses mixed in with a number of very accurate point spreads. Make no mistake about it – these guys are good!
Is it Smart to Bet the Spread?
If you want a better payout, then you should always look at the point spread betting lines rather than the moneyline. The moneyline is simply betting on one team to win the game, whereas the spread bet takes into account handicapping factors such as quality of squad, injuries, weather, location of the game, and more.
Can a Team Lose and Still Cover the Spread?
Absolutely. Let’s say you bet on Lions +6 against the Eagles in Week 1. The Eagles won 38-35, but because the winning margin was only 3 points, your Lions +6 wager is a winner.
How Often Does the Point Spread Matter?
The point spread matters hugely. Sportsbooks often project the point spread of a game with extreme accuracy, meaning your wager may win or lose by literally one point. That’s the thrill of betting the spread!