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NFL Prop Bets

Football Betting: NFL Prop Bets

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper,

A prop bet is when you wager on whether something will happen during the game that has no tie to the final score of a contest. It might affect the proceedings, but the result has no bearing on a prop bet. You are betting on an event within an event. And the variety on what you can wager on is growing seemingly every year, as these bets become more and more popular.

There are two types of prop bets the way we see it. Those that require actual handicapping and bets where you’re gambling for the sake of gambling. You especially see those type of wagers being offered in the Super Bowl, but some are starting to leak into other games. Such bets include the coin flip, the over-under on the National Anthem, or some other inane part of the game that real handicappers could give a hoot about.

But then there are the prop bets that offer good value, where a sound pick can be made on the basis of good analysis. Avoid the cricket-race type of prop bets and focus on the wagers where your acumen and insight can earn you an edge. The fact that some of these bets can be exploited is the main reason why there are serious betting limits on these wagers.

Some of the more popular prop bets are when you’re betting on a team or player’s performance. Examples include an over-under on how many interceptions a QB will throw. Or which of two running backs will gain the most yards in the next game. Or which of two teams will gain the most total yards.


There might be times where you have an inkling. You can review past performances or form an insight that gives you an edge. If that’s the case--by all means bet. But compare these type of wagers to simple straight bets, where you pick which team will beat the spread. In those bets, you have a big group of players. One might slack off, while another fills the void. Things balance out and are easier to predict. Betting on individual performance can be more difficult to pinpoint and accurately gauge.

In some of these prop bets, there are sucker moves. The rule “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” really applies with proposition wagers. You might see a wide receiver matchup with even odds. One guy is a known entity and a longtime producer, while the other receiver is more anonymous. It’s as if the book is daring you to take the more marquee name. Use discretion in these cases.

A good assumption to operate with is that the book knows more than you. We’re all trying to get to the point where maybe we’re as good as the real sharpies in this game. And in a rare isolated case, one can maybe reach a rarified air where he even surpasses the acumen of a pro. But that’s usually not the case. And in the end, we will feel we got suckered by superior handicapping minds.

A decent tactic is to go opposite field on these wise-guy bookies. You’ll know what to do if you see a prop bet for which receiver will gain more yardage the next week and it reads Calvin Johnson -130/Marques Colston +110. Are they tempting you to take Johnson? You bet they are. What’s the move. That’s right--take Colston. No bookies are giving money away. And none of them thinks Colston is as good as Johnson. If they post a relatively even line, it’s for good reason. Take the side of the bookie in cases like these.

Again, you have to pick your spots. But whenever the book imposes strict betting limits, as they do on proposition wagers--you have to ask yourself “Why?” The reason is that some of these bets are highly exploitable. Bettors can use insight, history, and even inside info that translates better to evaluating bets that focus around one or two players. With a team, there are too many factors to pin down. With individual player performances, however, a sound calculation can be easier to form.

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