By Don Best Consensus
Player prop bets used to only be found on the giant Super Bowl prop sheets but today they are quickly making their way to bettors cards every Sunday! Most sportsbooks still offer very limited props on College Football but more and more are expanding their NFL prop offerings on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday Nights.
This article will examine key strategies on placing prop wagers and some of our personal favorite ways to profit when picking single NFL players to bet on.
First, some general strategies to remember when considering a prop wager:
- Know your matchups! The NFL is a matchups league. Moving skill players around and targeting the weakest defenders is how the masterminds, offensive coordinators, and quarterbacks make the big bucks. Knowing which teams play zone defense or have shadow coverage corners are a key starting point of prop wagering.
- Use free online fantasy football tools for research. Betting player props and playing fantasy football (both daily and season-long) have a huge overlap in terms of required knowledge and attempting to predict single game outcomes. The competitive DFS marketplace has produced several websites that have tools and algorithms working on these accurate predictions. Use these tools and projections as a great starting point and then apply your own data and research.
- Do not “chase” the box scores. Lots of bettors fall into this trap as they want to have action on the Monday night game, they look up the stats WR1 on the home team and say “well he has went over X yards in most of the games”. These bets are mostly coin-flips and the sportsbooks lines are for the most part accurate. The best prop bets to target are ones where you feel the line is “off” and you have a very strong +EV.
- When betting props on NFL Sunday, the lines frequently do not arrive until a few hours before the games early Sunday morning. The online betting and fantasy football communities (see #2 above) have specific updates and chatrooms to discuss these fast changing lines and betting numbers. While not as heavily bet as solo game props like Monday Night Football, there is much value to be found in the hectic Sunday morning research that goes into prop betting. The sportsbooks are flooded with regular Sunday morning action on many games and do not have time to produce as sharp of a number as a solo prime-time game.
Here are some specific examples of player props that have provided fantastic winning percentages over the past few NFL seasons:
- The “Long FG” prop, usually written as: “Longest FG made by either team Over/Under X Yards”. This has been a big money maker for us over the years, as kickers banging in 50+ yarders have been more common. The sportsbooks used to set this at around 46 and have pushed it up to 47/48 over the last year or two. Justin Tucker has been automatic from 50 for years. You get both team’s kickers, both two minute drills, and the entire 60 minutes are in play as this one has cashed more than a few times on the last snap of the game.
- Running back receptions by running backs that are normally not considered to be pass catching backs. Sportsbooks will often set lines on backs like Austin Ekeler or James White receptions in a game at 6.5 – 8.5, however running backs that are “not pass catching backs” are often set very low at 1 or 1.5. There are just so many opportunities via screen pass or QB check-down for the back to haul in 2 passes and you can cash a ticket in a very small number of actual football plays. One great target for this type of bet is when a backup or new QB is playing his first game. Once the real pass rush hits new quarterbacks will dump it down to the running backs on a regular basis. Even veteran QBs can have this happen, in Drew Brees first game back from arm trouble last season, Latavius Murray had 9 receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown.
- We saved the best for last: Receptions and/or Yards by the team’s WR 2/3 or TE. Depending on the team, you are ideally targeting the second or third option on the offense while playing against a defense that has a strong CB1/2. The sportsbooks do not adjust the lines very much on team’s second and third options, and you frequently get very low numbers to beat. The NFL has evolved into a pass heavy league over the last decade and you can really punish the sportsbook when you select the right games. One last note to make about these plays is that receptions and receiving yards are correlated meaning that if one thing happens, the other is statistically much more likely. If you really like the teams WR3 to catch over 3.5 passes in a game, you should also be betting the over on his yardage as well. Check your local sportsbook for the rules regarding setting up prop parlay bets. Other sportsbooks will allow you to adjust the numbers of the prop bet (for example a players regular over/under for receptions is 4.5, you could bet over 6.5 for +200)
Player prop bets are an incredible way to add multiple plays to a solo events such as Sunday, Monday, or Thursday Night Football as well as great sources of value on the busy NFL Sunday card. Many of these plays are able to cash in the first quarter or first half. Why sweat out the side all the way into the fourth quarter when you can be in the money much earlier and just enjoy the game.
As you grow in experience placing prop wagers you will find that they can be far more interesting and profitable than betting just sides or totals. Good luck on your wagers.