How to Bet on NFL Games Online

Online sports betting is expected in Ohio, but not live as of yet. This page will be updated with the latest news, odds and promos once Ohio sportsbooks are live. 

The top draw for online sports betting in Ohio is the NFL. Each game is an event throughout the season, playoffs, and, of course the Super Bowl. All along the way, bettors have plenty of chances to wager.

While some in the state may already have NFL betting dialed in, that’s likely not the case for others. For those in the latter camp, or if you just want to expand your knowledge, read on to learn about betting on the NFL.

How to read NFL odds

When you visit an online sportsbook, you’ll see odds for the main bets on each upcoming game. Knowing what the board is telling you is one of the key steps to take toward finding some success with online NFL betting.

  • Moneylines: There will be odds for both possible choices: negative for the favored side, and positive for underdogs. For example, -160/+140.
  • Point spreads: You’ll see the spread that the sportsbook has set and the odds for each side, such as this for a favorite: -3.5 (-110).
  • Over/Under (Totals): Oddsmakers set a benchmark number and place odds on either side, over or under. For instance, over 54.5 (-110)/under 54.5 (-110).

The main points to grasp are the direction of the numbers, the difference between the odds on both sides, and an understanding of what the listed spreads and totals actually mean.

Calculating bet payouts

Before placing a bet, you want to know what’s in it for you. The amount of your payout depends on the online sports betting odds when you placed the bet. When scanning the NFL odds board, keep the following in mind:

  • For negative odds: The number is equal to how much you would have to bet to win $100; i.e., $140 at -140.
  • For positive odds: The number equals how much you’ll win on a successful $100 bet; i.e., $150 at +150.

Let’s put that to the test with a simple moneyline wager. Say you bet on the following game:

  • Minnesota Vikings -190
  • Cincinnati Bengals +160

The Vikings are the favorites. In order to win back $100, you’d have to wager $190 at the listed odds. If you like the underdog Bengals, then a $100 bet has the potential to bring back $160 in winnings.

For spread and totals bets, odds of -110 are the standard starting point at most sportsbooks. With odds like that, to win back $100, you’d have to bet $110. But how do you figure it out when you have a different sized bet? You can use the following formulas, changing any negative odds numbers to positive.

  • Negative odds: Bet amount/(odds/100) = Potential profit
  • Positive odds: Bet amount * (odds/100) = Potential profit

Here’s the math on your average spread or total bet at odds of -110:

  • $100/(110/100)
  • $100/1.1 = $90.91

If the odds were instead +110, here’s how the calculation works:

  • $100 * (110/100)
  • $100 * 1.1 = $110.00

Also, once you plug in your bet amount at Ohio online sportsbooks, the potential return will appear. There also are plenty of handicapping calculators that you can find online or use an app for, but it’s still a good idea to know how to figure it out quickly based on the odds.

Understanding how sportsbooks make money

When you place a bet at a sportsbook, you won’t necessarily double your money or better if you win. Why is that? The odds that you place your wager at dictate the winnings you can expect, and the sportsbook also attaches a vig to wagers.

Vig is short for vigorish and amounts to what the sportsbook charges for facilitating the bet. For moneylines and other bets with positive odds, it may not seem like it’s there, but the book still calculates vig into its thinking when setting these lines.

On spreads and totals that start with the standard odds of -110, the vig is easier to spot. If your bet size is $100, here’s what you can expect:

  • $100 wager at odds of -110.
  • Profit on winnings is $90.91.
  • The difference between that and doubling your money is the vig.
  • It’s $9.09 at odds of -110, or 9.09%.

In order to beat the vig long term at standard odds of -110, you’d have to win 52.38% of your wagers. Sportsbooks are for-profit entities, and the vig helps the bottom line. Understanding the concept is another key step to learning about betting.

Common NFL bets

The NFL is the biggest game in town for sportsbooks, and bettors have plenty of items on the menu to choose from as a result. Each of the main bets has its own specific nuances that you’ll need to grasp in order to place your wagers with more confidence. Here are the top ways to bet on the NFL.

Spread bets

NFL point spreads are a huge driver of action at sportsbooks. The spread refers to a number that the sportsbook sets and that you need to account for in your wager. You can choose the favorite minus that number or the underdog plus the same number. Here is an example of an NFL spread bet you could see at FanDuel sportsbook Ohio:

  • Cleveland Browns +6.5 (-110)
  • Kansas City Chiefs -6.5 (-110)

If you pick the favored Chiefs, that means they have to win by seven points or more to cover the spread. A spread bet of the Browns means that they have to keep the margin to six points or fewer, or win by any score.

In addition to the spread, you’ll see odds for the two possible choices. Most books start at -110 for spread bets and adjust from there in response to betting action.

Based on the standard odds, a winning $100 wager returns $90.91, while a $110 winner would return an even $100. Spread bets are challenging to win consistently, but they do help to provide extra meaning to each game on the schedule.

Moneylines

A moneyline bet is very straightforward. So how does moneyline work? First, you have to do is pick which side you think will win the game. There are odds for both sides — negative for favorites and positive for underdogs — with the range between the numbers indicating how close of a game the sportsbook expects.

In a Minnesota Vikings-Cincinnati Bengals game where the Vikings are favored, you might see a listing that looks something like this at Draftkings Ohio sportsbook:

  • Minnesota Vikings -160
  • Cincinnati Bengals +140

There are no extra points or margins of victory to worry about, just straight winners and losers. If you pick the Bengals and they go on to win, you’re golden, but if the Vikings take it, then you move on to bet another day.

It’s pretty simple to figure out potential returns for moneyline bets. As you gain experience, that will help you to spot value on the board. A bet on a massive favorite won’t be all that lucrative, but wagers on closer games or underdogs can deliver solid returns.

For our example, a $100 bet on the Vikings at -160 would deliver a profit of $62.50, while the same amount on the Bengals moneyline at +140 would return $140. When considering moneyline bets, check the risk to reward and then decide if it’s worth it based on your confidence level.

Over/unders

Also known as a totals bet, you can bet on the total combined points from both teams in a game. Oddsmakers set a benchmark with an estimated number. You then can wager if the actual score will be over or under that line. For instance, at PointsBet Ohio the listing might look like this:

  • Over 54.5 (-110)
  • Under 54.5 (-110)

An over wager on our example means that you’re hoping for 55 points or more in the game. If you bet on the under, you’re looking for 54 points or fewer on the scoreboard.

As with the spread, there are two components to the line: the total and the odds for both choices. The standard starting point for over/under bets is also -110, but it can move in response to betting action.

You could also see a movement of a half-point or more in the total itself in response to betting action or news. For a general rule, games with totals of less than 40 points project to be defensive-minded, while 50 points or more portends a potential shootout.

Parlays

Parlays can be a lot of fun for busy NFL slates. These are wagers in which you tie together multiple picks on a single betting slip. It’s a high-risk, high-reward way to bet, as you have to be right on all of your selections in order to win.

NFL moneyline parlay

  • Cincinnati Bengals +175 over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Cleveland Browns -190 over Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Pittsburgh Steelers -120 over Dallas Cowboys
  • Total parlay odds of +669

A parlay requires a minimum of two selections. Some books cap the number of bets you can include, but the majority allow 10 or more choices on a single slip. The returns can be lucrative, but a single wrong pick means you lose your bet.

You can create parlays from a series of pregame bets, props or some combination of the two. There has been a rise in “same-game parlays” in recent times, which means you make multiple picks from the same game, such as props, totals and moneyline bets.

The lure of great returns makes parlays a popular attraction, but they also make for a large portion of sportsbook profits. When you place parlay bets, have reasonable expectations and don’t go overboard.

Teasers

The teaser bet places more control over the spread in the hands of bettors. You can move the spread on two or more NFL games to a level you’re more comfortable with. Naturally, the odds will shift accordingly.

As an example, let’s say you’re eyeing up the next set of games for the Ohio teams. A few days before game time, the spreads might appear like this on the BetMGM app in Ohio:

  • Cleveland Browns +1.5 at Buffalo Bills
  • Cincinnati Bengals +3.5 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

While you like the Browns and Bengals plus the points at first glance, you would feel better with a little more wiggle room. You decide to use a three-point teaser, which adjusts the spreads on the two games accordingly.

  • Cleveland Browns +4.5 at Buffalo Bills
  • Cincinnati Bengals +6.5 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

In a nutshell, you’ve bought a field goal on both sides. You’re willing to take less of a return for the safety of adjusting the spread.

There are also pleaser bets, which work in the opposite fashion. As opposed to moving the spread to have more cushion, you get to move it in the opposite direction, with the odds adjusted to accommodate for the additional risk you’re taking on.

Futures

Futures betting lets you take a long-term view on how the entire NFL season will play out. Odds for the top options come out early in the offseason, while others come out as the regular season draws near. Some of the top bets include the following:

  • Super Bowl winner odds
  • Division and conference winners
  • Team to make or miss playoffs
  • Over/under on team win totals
  • Player awards — MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, etc.

After the initial release, odds may move in response to betting action or other factors. There are futures with multiple choices — Super Bowl winner, etc. — and others that resemble a simple pregame bet, such as the over/under on team win totals.

Using the winner of the AFC North as an example, you will see odds for all four teams in the division:

  • Baltimore Ravens +115
  • Cleveland Browns +145
  • Pittsburgh Steelers +440
  • Cincinnati Bengals +3300

For futures betting, you not only want to nail the winner, but also find your choices at the best possible prices. As an example, the Browns could appear at +165 or +185 at a different sportsbook, so take the time to shop around and compare prices.

Find the latest Cleveland Browns game lines and Cincinnati Bengals game lines on our dedicated team odds pages.

Props

When you click on the main listing for an NFL game at an online sportsbook, you’ll find all of the props for that contest. A prop is essentially a side wager on something that may or may not happen during a game. Prop bets fall into three main categories: game, player and team. For game props, here’s a potential example:

  • Will overtime be necessary — yes/no?

Player props generally involve scoring or specific statistical accomplishments. If you have fantasy sports experience, these wagers may be a solid starting point for betting. Here’s some examples:

  • How many total touchdowns for Joe Burrow — over/under 3.5?
  • Will Tom Brady have the most passing yards? – +150

Team props can depend on stats for either side, as well as comparisons between the two clubs. For example:

  • Which side will have more passing yards — Browns or Chiefs?

As with any other bet, there will be odds for all potential choices. Our examples are simple two-sided props, but you’ll find plenty available with multiple possible selections, such as the first touchdown scorer in the game.

There’s generally a solid selection of NFL prop bets available for each football game. When it comes time for the Super Bowl, sportsbooks go all out and offer hundreds of props.

NFL betting tips for beginners

There are a lot of schools of thought on the best way to handicap NFL games. For those just starting out, the best advice is to learn all that you can and work toward building a system that works for your approach and available time. As for the seasoned bettors, always be willing to adapt and make adjustments as necessary. Regardless of your experience level, here are three NFL betting tips:

  • Track the lines from the initial release until you’re ready to bet: Odds for NFL games come out well in advance of game time. The benefit is that this provides you some extra time for research, while the downside is that the numbers will move. As part of your routine, get in the habit of tracking the lines from the release to the present time. What may be a good bet at one number can suddenly become less appealing due to line shifts.
  • Tune out the noise and make your own decisions: As the most popular sport in the US, the NFL receives a ton of coverage. Now that sports betting is legal in a growing list of states, there’s even more info to digest. While you should definitely stay on top of the news surrounding the league, be sure to be mindful of when you’re hearing opinion or commentary as opposed to facts. Treat that part as entertainment and form your own opinions.
  • Bet when you find an edge. Pass when you don’t: All season long, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to bet on NFL games. Pro tip: You don’t need to bet on every single game that you want to watch. Instead, break down the games you’re most interested in and take a selective approach. When you can make a selection with confidence, place a bet. If nothing jumps out at you, take a pass and enjoy the game without anything at stake.

Betting on the NFL playoffs

After the regular season is in the books, it’s time for some of the most heavily bet contests of the year. The stakes rise when the NFL playoffs are on tap, and even more bettors come to the window as a result.

Beginning with the 2020 season, the NFL bumped up the number of teams in the postseason from 12 to 14. There are seven qualifiers from each conference. All told, it’s three rounds of single-elimination games.

  • Wild card: Six games
  • Divisional round: Four games
  • Conference championships: Two games

The odds board is active for all NFL games, but that can be even more of the case with the playoffs due to the spike in action. You can rely on the same tactics to break down the games, but pay particularly close attention to the current momentum of the individual teams.

Benefits to betting on the NFL playoffs include fewer games to worry about, so there’s more time to break down the matchups. The winners of the conference title games advance to the biggest betting event of the year.

Betting on the Super Bowl

For NFL fans and bettors, the Super Bowl is the event that puts a big bow on the season. The big game brings even the most casual of fans out of the woodwork to watch the spectacle. Naturally, sportsbooks are ready with a variety of Super Bowl betting options.

The main pregame bets control the conversation at the national level, but that’s not all there is to see. Sportsbook will release hundreds of prop bets for the Super Bowl, including some like the following:

  • Winner of the Super Bowl MVP award
  • Yardage and scoring props for teams and players
  • Bet on the result of the coin flip — heads or tails

You’ll have plenty of time to prepare. Props come out well in advance of the contest, and you can expect to see some movement in the odds in response to betting action and other developments.

When the Super Bowl approaches, many bettors put a budget in place with some funds for pregame wagers and some for props. You can also leave some money aside for live betting.

NFL live betting

Once upon a time, bettors had to have all of their action in before games kicked off. That’s no longer the case. Live betting is now a must-have feature for top sportsbooks.

These are bets you can place in real time as the games play out on the field. It’s a fast-paced way to bet as the odds and offerings will change rapidly. Here are some examples of bets you can place:

  • Updated moneyline, spread and total odds.
  • Player, team and game props.
  • Bet on the results of drives, quarters and halves.

The best sports betting apps have dedicated sections for making these micro bets. Once the game starts, just log in on your device and keep an eye on the options. When something you like comes up, you can jump right in and place a bet.

Live betting has been a game-changer for sportsbooks, and it has also helped to ramp up the enjoyment level for bettors. It’s an exciting way to become even more engaged with NFL games, but remember to always bet with your head and never over it.