How are point spreads made for NFL games? Veteran Vegas oddsmakers explain

LAS VEGAS — Oddsmakers’ opinions of the NFL might be the most pure and honest of anyone around. When they’re wrong, they can’t just throw a jersey in a trash can for social media views and move on.

If oddsmakers are wrong, it can cost their bosses millions of dollars. Or billions, in the case of a Super Bowl.

When you see a point spread for any NFL game, and in particular the Super Bowl, it’s not set in a casual manner. It can’t be. There’s too much money at stake.

“It’s 100 percent to set the right line,” said Lamarr Mitchell, the director of trading at MGM Resorts and BetMGM. “If you don’t, it just becomes gambling for the house.”

Chris Andrews is the sports book manager at the South Point in Las Vegas, and has been setting point spreads since 1979. Every week in the fall and early winter he’ll put up odds on an NFL game and when a sharp bettor confidently wagers on a team, Andrews will wonder if he made a mistake in setting the line.

“They’re going to bet. Once they bet, did I miss something?” Andrews said. “You’re thinking, ‘I missed something because they’re betting $10,000, $20,000.’ They’re not betting for the hell of it. So you go back and look. What did [the bettor] see that I didn’t see?”

Mitchell experiences the same thing. Usually early in an NFL week, often on Monday, he’ll see some of the professional players taking a shot at the lines, looking for edges.

“When you open it initially you will know if it’s the right number based on where the professional players come in on it,” Mitchell said.

Setting the line for the Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs was an interesting exercise. Oddsmakers started projecting lines for potential Super Bowl matchups before the conference championship games, and the 49ers were going to be a 3-point favorite over the Chiefs. But by the end of the conference championship round, after the Chiefs dominated at the Baltimore Ravens and the 49ers needed a big comeback to get by the…


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