Handicap betting is a way to make a sporting contest a more even event. The provider will give one selection in an event a ‘handicap’ which they must overcome to win. This is especially the case when one team is far superior to the other. To level the playing field, more odds than just win/draw/lose will be available and a handicap bet will be offered on one team having to meet certain criteria for your bet to win.
An example of a sports betting handicap is the following:
The Eagles are favorites to beat the Cowboys - depending on how likely it is odds makers believe the Eagles will beat the Cowboys will determine the "spread". The Eagles may only be 3 point favorites, or they may be 11 point favorites, or anywhere in between. This is represented in sports betting as the following in the case that the Eagles would be 7 point favorites:
Eagles (-7) vs Cowboys (+7)
The above means that if you bet on the Eagles to beat the Cowboys using this spread, they must win by more than 7 points for you to have a winning bet. A win by exactly 7 points would be a "push" and bets would be refunded.
The above spread also means that if you bet on the Cowboys in that instance, they can still lose the game, but if they lose by less than 7 points, that is a winning bet. This is also referred to as the Eagles "giving up 7" against the Cowboys, or the Cowboys "getting 7 points" against the Eagles.