Should You Bet an NFL Spread of +2.5 or Take the Moneyline?

Should You Bet an NFL Spread of +2.5 or Take the Moneyline?

Article was originally published on October 12, 2014 and has been updated and edited to reflect October 28, 2016

In the NFL some of the most important key numbers include 3, 7, and 10. Since so many spreads in the NFL are closer than in College Football, the results tend to be closer as well. Most weeks there will be at least two or three games with the dreaded spread of +2.5 leaving bettors asking themselves, “Should I bet the +2.5, buy the half-point to +3, or just take the moneyline?”

There’s plenty of data and statistics from our historical database to help bettors make the same decision each and every time. While it’s obvious to most bettors that shopping for a better line of +3 is preferable to taking +2.5, that is not always an option.

The moneyline equivalent to +2.5 points on the spread is roughly +125, while +3 points translates to roughly +140 on the moneyline. In the NFL, buying a half-point from +2.5 to +3 costs about 25 cents depending on the sportsbook. (Note: Bettors can calculate odds of buying half points here.)

The table below shows the records if bettors took +2.5 points on the spread compared to the moneyline, and +3 points on the spread compared to the moneyline. I’ve also included +2 as a point of reference to show that it’s not profitable at all (Data goes back to 2003):

Bet TypeRecordUnits WonROI
+2 Spread26-31 ATS-5.81 units-10.2%
+2 Moneyline26-34 SU-4.41 units-7.3%
+2.5 Spread104-82 ATS+22.66 units12.2%
+2.5 Moneyline96-89 SU+29.77 units16.1%
+3 Spread279-240 ATS+28.05 units5.4%
+3 Moneyline250-320 SU+41.12 units7.2%

Although taking the points seems safer than taking the moneyline, over the long haul you can see that it’s actually more beneficial to roll the dice and take the short underdog to win straight up.

Using our Bet Labs software, we found that the probability of a Push on a closing spread of +3 points is about 10%. When the closing spread is +2.5 points, the probability of a game ending with an outcome of 3 points is also about 10%. So this begs this question, is it even worth it to buy the half-point from +2.5 to +3? And are you better off just taking the moneyline either way?

We can examine what would happen if we bought the half-point on every closing spread of +2.5 points. Since around 10% of games with a spread of +2.5 points ends with an outcome of 3 points (meaning the +2.5 team lost by 3), we can remove 10% of the losses on +2.5 which would have ended in a push. However, keep in mind that we’ve bought the half-point on each of these games, so instead of +2.5 with -110 juice, each game is now +3 with -135 juice.

The table below shows the record when taking +2.5 points, taking the moneyline on +2.5 points, and buying the half-point to +3 points.

Bet TypeRecord (Win-Loss-Push)Units WonROI
+2.5 Spread104-82 ATS+22.66 units12.2%
+2.5 Moneyline96-89 SU+29.77 units16.1%
Bought to +3 Spread (using 1/2 point = 25 cents)104-64-18 ATS+13.03 units7.0%

These results are consistent with what we’ve found comparing the spread to the moneyline. In the case of buying a half-point from +2.5 to +3, it’s simply just not worth it. You’re cutting down on your profits just by taking the “safer” bet, which is actually riskier in the long run. It’s also more profitable to simply take the moneyline on +2.5 or +3 rather than the points.

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Dan McGuire

Dan McGuire is the Operations Manager and soccer specialist at Sports Insights. You can find him on Twitter (@ArsenalDMC) and he can be reached directly at dan.mcguire@actionnetwork.com.

7 Comments
  • Joe
    October 10, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Is this starting that just simply betting on the money line for all 2.5 and 3 point underdogs would produce positive results? Or was this for only teams recieving less than a certain percentage?

    • David Solar
      October 10, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      This includes all teams that are 2.5 or 3-point underdogs.

    • Paul
      October 29, 2016 at 12:37 am

      Been better the ML with spreads under 3 for years but with moving the EX point back it’s going to take a few years to see if it’s still profitable.

  • Jim
    October 11, 2014 at 11:41 am

    How did you arrive at +125 for 2.5 points? At Sportsbook Review they have a spread/money line converter chart http://www.sportsbookreview.com/betting-tools/spread-ml-converter/ and it says 2.5 equals +110. At +3 it says it should equal +135, which is much closer to what you have.

  • Mike
    August 13, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    I was wondering if this system works historically with college football too?

  • wade
    December 20, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    When you bet the money line do the points ever come into equation or do you just pick the team to when as in last night if I took Carolina on the money line was the pick just to win outright.

    • David Solar
      December 20, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      Taking the moneyline means you’re betting the team to win straight up, so the margin doesn’t come into consideration. Since the Panthers won the game, they would have paid out on the moneyline.

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