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Can One Player Move a Point Spread?

Scott Morris | July 8, 2021
Can one player change the spread and by how much?

The simple answer to this question is yes…and no…or it depends. In order to understand if a player can have an impact on a point spread, it helps to understand point spreads and what makes them move. Point spreads are established by oddsmakers using a number of mathematical and statistical models that the average bettor doesn’t understand. Spreads move for a number of reasons, but there is one ultimate goal and that is the key to understanding point spread changes.

Sportsbook Goals

A sportsbook is in business to make money. They are not charities and, as such, are designed to profit by offering betting action on all sorts of sporting events. In order to ensure they win no matter what, a sportsbook works to take in equal action on both sides of a bet. An example helps to explain.

You have a game pitting Team A versus Team B. The sportsbook takes in $100 on Team A and $100 on Team B. No matter who wins, the sportsbook makes money. It takes the money from the losers to pay the winners. Remember, the sportsbook takes a little off the top – its commission known as juice – of each bet. That is their profit, which is simply their fee for making the bet possible.

A real NFL example better illustrates this. Kansas City is playing Denver at home. The Chiefs are a 6-point favorite at -110. The sportsbook takes a $10 bet on the Chiefs and a $10 bet on Denver to cover. The Chiefs win and the bettor gets the $10 bet back plus $9.09 for the win. That $9.09 comes from the loser’s $10 bet. The remaining $0.91 is the sportsbook’s profit.


Factors That Move a Point Spread

Sticking with the same Chiefs-Broncos example, we know that Kansas City has a high-scoring offense and they are playing at home. In the betting industry, it is typically understood that home field advantage can account for two to three points. With KC’s offense at home, betting on the Chiefs to cover six points results in bettors coming in heavy on Kansas City.

The Sunday weather forecast shows a huge rainstorm hitting during game time. Because the weather will impact the Chiefs ability to move the football and score, the point spread may be adjusted to reflect that. With that bad weather on the horizon, oddsmakers may adjust the spread to -4.5 to account for those bettors taking Denver to cover.

One of the biggest factors in adjusting a point spread is simply the amount wagered on a certain team. The Chiefs have won 11 straight over Denver. The Broncos haven’t beaten KC since the 2015 season. Bettors see that 6-point spread and jump all over Kansas City. To encourage more money to come in on Denver, oddsmakers will adjust the spread to 6.5, 7 or 7.5. This will incentivize more bettors to bet on the Broncos to cover. 

The other factor that can have an impact on a point spread is injuries. This is where players can have a direct impact on point spread movement. Again using the same Broncos-Chiefs example, we’ll say the injury report shows that a certain player or players will not play on Sunday. 

In football with 22 players on the field at all times, only a handful of players can have a big impact on a game. Quarterback is obviously the most important position in football and if KC’s Patrick Mahomes was out due to injury you can bet the point spread would change. Bettors would begin taking Denver to cover at +6. As the money poured in on Denver, oddsmakers would have to adjust the spread to make sure an equal amount came in on Kansas City. 

Anthony Davis affects point spread

Anthony Davis returns to line and Lakers line immediately moves by several points.

In NBA betting, one player can have a bigger impact on a game’s outcome, depending on who the player is, of course. With only ten players on the floor, one superstar can have a dramatic impact. Take the 2021 Lakers as a great example. L.A. began the season leading the Western Conference. Injuries took Anthony Davis for two months. He returned only to have LeBron James miss a bunch of games. 

More recently, bettors saw point spread movement in the Milwaukee-Atlanta series. With the Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Hawks Trae Young questionable for games, there was some point spread movement when their status was finally announced.

Can one player move a point spread? Yes, but it depends upon the sport and the player. A quarterback in football will have a greater impact than a kicker. An NBA star will have a greater impact than an average MLB outfielder but yes, one player can move a point spread.


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