NFL Propositions

NFL propositions called “props” by bettors and online sportsbooks alike have exploded in popularity in recent years and have now become one of the most popular markets for NFL gamblers. NFL props were originally created as a sort of novelty wager by Las Vegas sportsbooks for the Super Bowl but caught on quickly with sports gamblers.

Today, the bets have become some of the most wagered markets. They have expanded rapidly in scope, and now each week online sportsbooks offer dozens of player and team props for every NFL game.

What also makes NFL prop betting especially notable is how beatable some props can be compared to other markets. For small time but still savvy sports bettors, props are where it’s at. There’re fewer high volume or sharp bettors who wager on props due to the semi-low limits, but there are tons of square bettors betting them regularly.

Types of Prop Bets

Props are split into two categories, player and team props. Obviously, team props are based around team objectives, and player props are more individualized. Here’s a basic example of a team typical NFL team prop:

Who will score a touchdown first?
New England Patriots -160
Buffalo Bills +155

The “who will score first” market has become especially popular in recent years and is one of the most widely available team props. This bet is simple to understand, whichever team scores first wins the bet. This is just one of the many available team props on any given Sunday at an NFL sportsbook.

One of the most popular team prop bets is actually mostly bet during the offseason. Season win totals are now a hotly anticipated part of the offseason betting, along with NFL futures. Although these are proposition bets, we get in depth with these markets in another article.

Individual player props markets seem to grow every year and are the bread and butter for bookmakers during the season. Player props are usually focused around well known offensive players, but defensive players are now getting plenty of markets now, as well.

Calvin Johnson Total Receiving Yards 90.5
Over 90.5 (-110) / Under 90.5 (-110)

Above is a prop on Detroit Lions wide out Calvin Johnson. Bettors can wager on either side of Tron’s expected yardage in an upcoming game. If Calvin goes over 90.5 yards bettors will cash on the over, and if he fails to reach this match, under bettors will win big. With a 90.5 line, it is impossible to push this wager, but if the line were 90, pushes would be in play. All online sportsbooks refund a bettor’s stakes and grade pushes on prop bets as no action.

Another type of prop is one that pits two players against each other.

Total Rushing Yards
Chris Johnson +140
Adrian Peterson -150

This wager pits two of the league’s top running backs against each other for yardage. There are dozens of bets similar to this across the board for all NFL contests. Some may involve QB rating or yardage, total number of sacks and tackles for defensive players and the list goes on and on.

I’ve only given you two examples of NFL proposition bets, but there are many more. NFL props are one of the hottest markets in recent years and things seem to have no signs of slowing down.

Are NFL Proposition Bets Profitable?

In my opinion, they are the most profitable markets for small to mid-stakes sports bettors. Flooded with recreational bettors and not many sharps, the lines are perfect for picking your spots and maximizing your edge against the bookies.

Also, since there is a variety of props on a number of different sites, keeping track of the markets is tough for the bookies. Some sites offer hundreds of props for the games each Sunday and dozens for Monday Night Football. Keeping tabs and moving these numbers is tough and often automated without human oversight. Keep in mind, this is in addition to the already heavy load of bets coming into the book on sides and totals, at the busiest time of the year for sportsbooks – the NFL season.

Furthermore, prop bets offer the largest variation between odds amongst the sportsbooks. While most lines on sides and totals will not be too far apart, the landscape is different for props. Bettors who line shop relentlessly may be able to find some pretty drastic differences in pricing and will be able to take advantage of these differences to get the best price on their side.

However, with all the positives listed for prop betting, there are some drawbacks. Since sportsbooks are not able to keep an eye on all these markets or heavily research them like they do with sides and totals – in most cases – the betting limits are much smaller than NFL sides and totals. Propositions usually have max betting limits of $500-$1000, but these can be even lower, such as $200 and even as low as $50, although this latter limit is rare.

While some books will not specifically cut your limits, they will move the line 15-20 cents after you reach their max bet amount and force you to pay a higher price to put more on the game. This increase in price makes the bet much tougher to beat, so it is just about as effective outright cutting limits and helps reduced exposure for the sportsbook.

Still, there is plenty of money to made betting these amounts throughout a season, especially if you can line shop effectively. If you find identical lines at several sportsbooks, it is then possible to get more money on a particular bet than if you using just one sportsbooks. Many sportsbooks may actually lose money on their prop markets if they get hit with a wave of sharp bettors. Props are not one their most profitable markets (depending on their clients), and I think that is decent enough of a reason to target them.

Analyzing a NFL Prop

There are many angles to look at when betting props and a wealth of information that we can look at to determine if a selection has value. One of the key things to look before analyzing the game day implications of the prop is the bookmaker’s vig on the bet.

Like any wager we make, the price difference between the favorite and the underdog is vitally important. We explain this more in our implied probability article and stress that bettors should look for the smallest different possible between the two options on their wager. With that said, even a 15-20 cent difference in the line can be still profitable depending on how significant you feel your edge is on the bet.

Gameplan/Blowout Potential
This is especially valuable for the offensive side of the ball, but can be applied to defense as well if bettors find an edge. I like to look for potential blowout opportunities when betting props because it can drastically alter how much a wide receiver is targeted or how many carries a running back may receive.

For instance, a team that has the potential to be blown out may be forced to throw more later in the game, giving a receiving prop bet or quarterback prop bet, such as the over on a player’s reception yards or QB’s total passing yards more value.

The same can be said for a running back on a team that you think is likely to have a solid lead for much of the game. They will run more often later in the game with a lead, bringing increased carries and hopefully yardage.

Of course, these situations can be used the other way round if you feel a player or team’s performance will be subpar. Betting the under may actually be something that bettors lean towards due to the large number of recreational bettors in prop markets because they tend to bet the over more than sharp bettors.

Individual Matchups

We need to go further than saying this team is undisciplined against the run or against the pass, and begin looking at individual matchups is vital to finding success with NFL props.

Which cornerback will most likely be matched up with the wide out we are betting on? Has he been solid in coverage or has he been getting burned? How does this team match up against slot receivers? These are just some of the questions we need to ask ourselves when looking at a player props.

Individual matchup information can be hard to find in some cases, but there is so much coverage on every aspect of the NFL, nearly everything is available closer to game time. Team blogs, fantasy football sites and other outlets will have loads of information on each individual player. Prop betting is one of the few betting markets where being a fantasy football player can actually help you evaluate markets and gather information.

Injuries, News

Keeping up to date with recent injury news or any NFL related news in general is not only key in prop betting but for all NFL wagering opportunities. Speaking strictly prop wise, an injury or announcement that a player will miss the game can be especially noteworthy and have an impact on the matchup as we discussed in the above section.

Finding news about individual players is easy with all the resources available, but there’s a surefire way to find out late breaking news via Google. Simply type your player or team’s name into the Google News search box and you will instantly be given a list of recent news stories. For late breaking news, you can even specify your search parameters for the last few hours to get last updates just before kickoff. Also, don’t forget about Twitter and other social media platforms as a source for up-to-the-minute news.

Line Shopping

Finding the best price is of upmost importance for any wager but is especially critical for props. As I mentioned above, sites offer tons of variations on the same types of bets, and there can occasionally be rather large differences in odds for the same or similar bets. Always look around for the best price before betting.

Best Sportsbooks for NFL Props

Players from the US will not be able to use Pinnacle Sports, which is renowned as one of the best sportsbook in the world. They have a large list of NFL props and offer excellent -108 pricing for the most part, best of all Pinnacle allows $1,000 per ticket bets on all prop bets, which is among the largest online.

For US-based bettors, we recommend 5Dimes Sportsbook which always seems be at the top of the list for all types of betting markets. They have the most prop offers out of any US facing sportsbook. However, 5Dimes’ betting limits can be rather low for prop bets per betting ticket ($100-$250). The good news is that the betting ticket will reset (with updated odds) after a max ticket bet. Bovada and Bet Online also offer a rather large selection of player and team props, and have limits similar to 5Dimes but seem quick to limit or restrict bettors as soon as they start getting beat.

About the author:

Joseph Falchetti is a professional handicapper. He bets the NFL and NCAA as part of his job. Read Joe's insights and betting strategy guides at our site or else catch up with him on Twitter and Google +