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When the oddsmakers release a betting line on a game, the first thing they do is decide which team should be the favorite and which should be the underdog.
The favorite is the team that is expected to win the game and will get a minus sign next to its odds, while the underdog is expected to lose and gets a plus sign. If the game is a toss-up, books will open it as a “pick” or “pick’em.”
There are two different ways to bet on a favorite or an underdog. The first is the point spread, which is a bet on the margin of victory. A favorite “gives” points, while an underdog “gets” points.
For example, say the Patriots are 7-point favorites (-7) against the Jets.
If you bet on the Patriots, they need to win the game by 8 points or more for you to win your bet. If the Patriots win by 8 points or more, you “cover.” If the Patriots win by exactly 7 points, that is called a “push,” which means you get back the money you originally bet.
If the Patriots win by 6 points or fewer (or lose the game straight-up), you lose your bet.