Daily Fantasy Sports Strategy: Using Betting Odds & Lines

One piece of fantasy sports strategy advice can be found

Use the Vegas betting lines and odds to determine the
appropriate fantasy sports strategy.

The reasoning behind that is clear, too. After all, no one is
better at making projections and handicapping games than the
sportsbooks in Las Vegas. Why not tap into that data?

Here’s the problem at first, though:

HOW does one use those betting lines and odds when making

The focus for the rest of this page is on providing specific
advice for translating that data into something useful for the
daily fantasy sports player.

Betting Lines & How They Work

We’ll start with an overview of betting lines and how they
work. There are three specific types of lines that you should
understand, as follows.

  1. Point Spreads
  2. Moneylines
  3. Totals

Experienced sports bettors can safely skip this section. But
someone might make a distinction they wouldn’t otherwise make
based on this explanation, so consider reading it anyway.

Point Spreads

Point spreads are used for bets where we care who wins and by
how much. The point spread is a tool that the book uses to get
action on both sides of a game. As a general rule, bettors wager
$110 to win $100 on a point spread bet, but this varies
according to the book being used. Some require bettors to wager
$115 or $120; others only require bettors to wager $105.

Either way, a team has to beat the point spread in order to
win a bet. Here’s an example of what a point spread looks like.

Broncos v Ravens
Point Spread
Denver Broncos
Baltimore Ravens

The – always indicates the favorite, so in this example, the
Denver Broncos are expected to win. The + indicates the
underdog, so the Baltimore Ravens are expected to lose.

The number after the + or – is the amount they have to win or
lose by in order for the bet to pay off. A bet on the Denver
Broncos (the favorite) requires a win of at least 8 points or
more in order for the bet to pay off.

There’s another way of looking at it too, where you adjust
the final score based on the point spread. Here’s how that works
based on the above example.

  • Suppose the Broncos scored 49 points, and the Ravens
    scored 27 points.
  • The Broncos were favorite by 7.5 points, so that needs
    subtracting from their score.
  • This gives them 41.5 points (49 – 7.5).
  • That score wins against the Ravens’ score of 27 points.
  • A bet on the favorite would have won.

Here’s another example.

Patriots v Bills
Point Spread
Denver Broncos
Baltimore Ravens

The Patriots are the favorite and are expected to win by 10

  • Suppose the Patriots score 23 points and the Bills score
  • Subtract 10 from the Patriots score to get 13 points.
  • 13 points doesn’t beat 21 points.
  • A bet on the favorite would have lost—even though the
    favorite won the game.
  • This is because they didn’t win by enough of a margin to
    beat the point spread.


Moneylines are for bets where the only concern is who wins.
How much they win by is beside the point.

Here’s an example of what a moneyline might look like.

Blue Jays v Rangers
Moneyline Betting
Toronto Blue Jays
Texas Rangers

The team with the – is the favorite. The team with the + is
the underdog. This means that the book expects the favorite to
win and the underdog to lose. The number after the + or –
reflects how much money must be risked or how much the bettor

The $228 return includes the initial stake, for an overall
profit of $100.

Again, the $218 includes the stake. So the overall profit is

The higher the moneyline is, the more likely it is that the
favorite is going to win.

Here’s another example.

Dodgers v Reds
Moneyline Betting
Los Angeles Dodgers
Cincinnati Reds

Now a gambler has to risk $210 to win $100 on the favorite,
the Los Angeles Dodgers. And if he risks $100, he can win $185
on the underdog, the Cincinnati Reds.


Totals bets are also sometimes called over/under bets. This
is a wager on whether or not the total points scored by both
sides will be over or under the prediction of the book. It
doesn’t matter which team wins or loses. It only matters what
the total score for both sides combined is.

Here’s how totals work, using the Denver/Baltimore game from
earlier as an example.

  • The over/under is 48.5.
  • A gambler can bet that the score will be over that
  • Or they can bet that the score will be under that
  • As usual bettors have to bet a little bit more than what
    they hope to win.
  • That’s called paying the “vig”. Betting $110 to win $100
    is typical in this situation.
  • Denver scored 49 points, and Baltimore scored 27 points.
  • The total score for the game was 76 points (49 + 27).
  • Had someone bet the over on the game, he’d have won.
  • If he’d bet the under, he’d have lost.

Here’s another example.

  • In the New England/Buffalo game, the over/under was 51.
  • The score was 23 – 21, so the total points scored were
  • That’s less than 51, so had you bet the over, you’d have
  • Had you bet the under, you’d have won.

This is all very interesting, but what you really need to
know is how it all translates into a strategy for daily fantasy

Basing Team Selections on Projections

The goal is to have a team which scores more points than
one’s opponents. One of the tools for finding players for that
team is to look at the over/under and the point spread. Then
think about what that means relative to the playing tendencies
for the teams involved.

For example, let’s suppose the NFL has the following lines
one week.

Favorite Point Spread Underdogs Over/Under
Denver Broncos -7.5 Baltimore Ravens 48.5
New England Patriots -10 Buffalo Bills 51
Pittsburgh Steelers -6 Tennessee Titans 42
New Orleans Saints -3.5 Atlanta Falcons 55
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -4 New York Jets 39.5
Kansas City Chiefs -3.5 Jacksonville Jaguars 42.5
Chicago Bears -3 Cincinnati Bengals 41.5
Cleveland Browns -2.5 Miami Dolphins 41
Seattle Seahawks -3 Carolina Panthers 44.5
Detroit Lions -4 Minnesota Vikings 46.5
Indianapolis Colts -11 Oakland Raiders 45.5
St. Louis Rams -4 Arizona Cardinals 42.5
San Francisco 49ers -5.5 Green Bay Packers 47.5
Dallas Cowboys -3.5 New York Giants 50

This information can be used to calculate how many points
every team is projected to score in this week’s games. Who’s
expected to win, who’s expected to lose, by how much, and how
many total points they’re going to score are all known.

Calculating that is easy, with just five simple steps to

Step 1 Divide the over/under by 2

In that first game on the table (Denver/Baltimore), it’s

Step 2 Divide the point spread by 2

The point spread in the same game is 7.5, which divided by 2
is 3.75.

Step 3 Add the results from steps 1 and 2 together

24.25 + 3.75 gives us 28. This is the projected winning

Step 4 Subtract the projected winning score from the over/under

The projected winning score is 28, which subtracted from 48.5
gives us 20.5. This is the projected losing score.

Step 5 Project the final score

Based on the above calculations, we have a projected score as

  • Denver Broncos 28
  • Baltimore Ravens 20.5

This can be calculated for every team every week. Here’s a
table with that data calculated using all the above examples.

Favorite Projected Score Underdogs Projected Score
Denver Broncos 28 Baltimore Ravens 20.5
New England Patriots 30.5 Buffalo Bills 20.5
Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Tennessee Titans 18
New Orleans Saints 29.25 Atlanta Falcons 25.75
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21.75 New York Jets 17.75
Kansas City Chiefs 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 19.5
Chicago Bears 22.25 Cincinnati Bengals 18.75
Cleveland Browns 21.75 Miami Dolphins 19.25
Seattle Seahawks 23.75 Carolina Panthers 20.75
Detroit Lions 25.25 Minnesota Vikings 21.25
Indianapolis Colts 28.25 Oakland Raiders 17.25
St. Louis Rams 23.25 Arizona Cardinals 19.25
San Francisco 49ers 26.5 Green Bay Packers 21
Dallas Cowboys 26.75 New York Giants 23.25

What can be done with these projected scores?

For one thing, fantasy sports managers can prioritize which
quarterback they want to draft. Since the quarterback is
involved in most scoring plays, the team with the highest
projected score for the week is likely to also have the highest
performing quarterback for the week.

In the above example, the team with the highest projected
score (30.5) is New England. Since Tom Brady is their
quarterback that week, he should be on the radar.

But the New Orleans Saints are also expected to have a high
score (29.25). So Drew Brees is also a good choice.

When choosing between these quarterbacks, take into account
their salaries. If Tom Brady costs $7,000 but Drew Brees is
available for $5,000, Brees is probably the better choice. His
team is expected to score almost as many points as Tom Brady’s

Also, look at who the favorite targets for those quarterbacks
are. For example, Tom Brady often throws to Julian Edelman, so
you might want to stack those two players. Drew Brees often
throws to Brandin Cooks, so he’s a possibility too.

Whether or not you want to stack the QB with his WR (or TE)
depends on the kind of game you’re playing in, too. In a
tournament, where you’re hoping to fire on all cylinders,
stacking these two players might make a lot of sense.

But in a cash game, where minimizing risk is the name of the
game, it might make sense to take Tom Brady and Brandin Cooks,
instead—or Drew Brees and Julian Edelman. Given the projections,
it’s unlikely that both the quarterbacks and the wide receivers
on the two teams with the highest projected scores for the week
are going to have a bad week.

Avoid the defenses for the teams playing against the
projected highest scoring teams. The Buffalo Bills defense is
unlikely to fare well against the Patriots offense, for example.
It’s hard to imagine getting many points from the Atlanta
Falcons if they’re playing the New Orleans Saints.

In fact, since defenses get points based on how low they can
hold their opponents’ scores to, it’s a good idea to look at the
defense playing the projected lowest scoring offense. Using the
above week as an example, the Tennessee Titans are only expected
to score 18 points this week. Even though the Pittsburgh
Steelers are only projected to score 24 points, their defense
should do well in fantasy points.

In terms of finding running backs, look for games where one
team is a heavy favorite. Their running back is going to have
the ball more often because they’re bound to have possession a
lot—especially if their opponent is projected to have a low
score. In the above example, the Indianapolis Colts and the New
England Patriots are both big (10+) point favorites, so their
running backs should see a lot of opportunities for production.

The Importance of Sports Knowledge

We’ve covered football above, but how does this line of
thinking apply to other sports?

It’s basically the same line of thinking, but it’s very
important to get familiar enough with the sport in question to
see the application. If someone can project a score for a
baseball team, they can get an idea of which pitchers to
consider when drafting.

The lines and odds aren’t the only factor you look at. They
represent one aspect of the game. In some sports, injuries are
way more important—for example, in basketball, be as sure as
possible that all players are going to spend a lot of time on
the court.

If you’re not familiar enough with a specific sport to apply
the Vegas lines and odds to your thinking using the examples
above, spend some time getting more familiar with the sport in

Time & Effort Requirements

Some people are thinking that this seems like a lot of work
just to draft a fantasy team. But the above stats were put
together from looking at the historical lines and odds from the
first games of 2013. And it took less than an hour.

Someone who is not willing to invest an hour a week into
their fantasy sports hobby isn’t very serious. Getting money
into action without putting a lot of thought and effort into it
is understandable, but isn’t it more fun if you try to win?

Of course, websites extrapolate these projections down to the
individual player level. Most of them use a methodology similar
to this behind the scenes. That’s how they come up with the
individual player projections for their sites.

But daily fantasy sports strategy takes more work than just
typing a URL into a browser and selecting the optimal lineup
someone else projected. Where’s the fun in that?

Also, if by using that as your strategy, you’re going to tie
the other players who are also using that strategy. Everyone
will have the same lineup, after all.

And since the fantasy sports sites take a percentage of the
entry fee even if you tie, a push is as good as a loss.


One of the most important aspects of daily fantasy sports
strategy is considering what the Vegas lines and odds are for
the upcoming games. No one makes more accurate projections than
Las Vegas. They’re not always right. In fact, on any given day
or in any given week, there’s going to be at least one upset.

But don’t count on picking the upsets consistently every day
or every week. You’re not psychic. Rational human beings use the
best data possible to get the best chance possible at winning
cash consistently.

The Vegas betting lines and odds are a huge stepping stone
toward achieving that goal.