NFL Props : A Primer For Super Bowl Props Season

Logan Fields
NFL
Props
Super Bowl
January 21, 2022

NFL props Rufus Peabody

The football season is winding down. A handful of playoff games remain. Bookmakers are reluctant to let their lucrative NFL season simply whittle away. Knowing the end is near, bookmakers tend to get creative and dramatically increase their proposition offerings. This culminates in a multitude of prop betting options for the Super Bowl. When the Super Bowl rolls around in February, no doubt your favorite sports talk radio host or podcaster will be devoting a significant amount of time to props for the big game. Seems everyone has an opinion on NFL props!

Professional gamblers are especially excited when prop season rolls around. Linemakers can’t possibly be accurate on their release of more than a thousand props. Professional gamblers realize this and take full advantage when linemakers misfire.  There are also numerous middling opportunities to take advantage of when comparing lines from book to book.

Limits on props tend to be rather low during the regular season, but will dramatically increase during the playoffs and Super Bowl. Would you believe that Circa in Vegas had 10k limits on props last year on Super Bowl Sunday? Higher limits and a much broader selection of props are why sportsbook prop releases often resemble feeding frenzies, with normally polite individuals elbowing one another to improve their position in betting window lines. Lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Many professionals will ultimately have hundreds of thousands of dollars riding on Super Bowl props, and it’s not just for the fun of it. Value can be found in these lines, and Unabated will be offering extensive NFL Super Bowl prop coverage over the next few weeks with the goal of helping you find it.

 

Types of NFL Prop Bets

There are basically four different types of NFL props offered:  Game, Player, Index, and Cross-Sport. For the Super Bowl, professional players will work non-stop for days beginning immediately after the final whistle of the Conference Championship games. They spend every waking hour figuring out prices on props they expect to see in the coming days. The pros like tobe ready to fire once props are released, and usually are. They want first crack at those lines they deem to be out of whack.  The menu of NFL Super Bowl prop offerings really doesn’t change a lot year to year. There may be a handful of new props offered which cause tingling up the legs of sharp bettors, but they are few and far between.

Superbook NFL Props BoardProfessional bettors use large databases of NFL plays and statistics to accurately price many of the props on the board. This data can be rather expensive to purchase. Alternatively, you can also find what you need by looking at box scores available online. This will be time-consuming, but certainly doable if you want to research a select few propositions. But if you are attempting to analyze all of the props offered, it will be next to impossible without having accurate data.

 

NFL Game Props

Game props focus on events happening during the game, and do not involve a specific player. For example, will there be Over/Under 3 ½ Field Goal’s made? Will there be a safety? How many 3rd down conversions will be made in the game?

Let’s take a closer look at the O/U 3 ½ Field Goal’s made. How might one arrive at an accurate price for this prop? Every professional will have differing methods on how they arrive at their prop prices, but most are likely pretty similar.  One method is establishing a baseline figure for the prop by looking at every NFL game. Going back four years, which is well over 1000 games, the baseline number for going over 3 ½ Field Goal’s is +170.

Therefore, for most NFL games, the line will likely look something like this:

Total FG’s made:
Over 3 ½       +150
Under 3 ½     -190

If your baseline number falls within the lines offered, it’s probably a no play. But the number is just a baseline, and there is certainly room for tweaking. One factor is weather conditions. Let’s say the game will be played in Buffalo with rain and 20 mph winds expected. These are tough conditions for kickers, and a solid reason to adjust your baseline figure. If you do have a sizeable NFL database, it would be helpful to take a look at all games in Buffalo with significant winds and see how they played out. You’ll find 2 or 3 of these types of games every year in Buffalo when the weather is inclement, so if you go back 10-15 years, you’ll get a decent sample size to look for FG trends.

 

Consider All Factors With Props

The quality of kickers also needs to be considered. A kicker such as Is Justin Tucker can really move the needle. Looking at Ravens games this year, the over for 3 ½ FG is just +125. Should you move the price down all that way from your baseline of +170 for games involving the Ravens? Probably not, as 17 games is a really small sample size, but clearly an adjustment is called for.

What about head coach decision making? The LA Chargers, for example, converted more 4th downs than any other team. Do all of those bypassed field goals show up in the 3 ½ FG numbers? The answer is in the data.

And speaking of 4th down conversions, another proposition seen primarily around playoff time is will a certain team convert a 4th down conversion. Looking at all games during the NFL 2021 season, teams were actually a -119 favorite to convert a 4th down at some point during the game. Given this info, you might expect a line that looks something like this:

Green Bay Packers 4th Down

Will Green Bay convert a 4th down conversion?
Yes      -130
No       Even

You then might consider diving in a little deeper and coming up with a team specific number, even though the sample size will be small. For example, let’s take another look at the Chargers aggression in going for it on 4th downs this year. The Chargers converted in 12 of 17 games, or -240. So even though the league average in converting a 4th down was -119, the Chargers were clearly much more aggressive. The price for an aggressive team might be somewhere between -119 and -240. Again, this is just one methodology to arrive at a price on a prop, and other sharp players may have processes that look totally different.

 

NFL Game Strategy Changes Over Time

While four years of data was used on field goals, only one season was looked at evaluating 4th down conversions. 4th down decision making changed dramatically during the 2021 season. With analytics all the rage, it seems head coaches have finally figured out that its better to be more aggressive on 4th downs, even in their own territory, rather than robotically marching out the punter every time.

To demonstrate how significantly lines have changed, consider the 2016 Super Bowl. Carolina was +165 to convert a 4th down and Denver +140. They would both be favorites to convert today. The changing prices of these props demonstrate how much more aggressive NFL coaches have become in just the last few years. If you are using 10 years of data to analyze 4th down conversion percentages, the game has clearly passed you by.

Value tip: some linemakers send out the same old props, and same old prices,every year. Look for bargains on these types of plays when your book releases props. But be forewarned, these bargains won’t last very long, as savvy sports bettors tend to whip these “off” lines into shape pretty quickly.

 

The Infamous No Safety Prop Bet

This proposition has been around since the dawn of man and generates a lot of interest each Super Bowl. It’s a true “bridge-jumper” play, in which you wager large sums of money to win relatively little. Pricing this prop is pretty simple: just figure out how many games in which a safety occurred. In 2021, there were only 8 safeties, which is a pretty light year. If you work the numbers, you might conclude they happen in 1 out of every 33 games.

To arrive at a more accurate number, you can go much farther back in time when it comes to safeties, as not much has changed in the game that would alter their frequency. Go back all the way to the Bart Starr era and your numbers will still look relatively similar. What you’ll find then and what you’ll find now is that safeties occur in roughly 1 out of every 15 games. Therefore, the line for “will there be a safety” should look something like this:

Will There Be A Safety?
No       -1600
Yes      +1200

Strangely, if you look around Vegas during Super Bowl week, you’ll find value on the No at practically every sports book in town. You may find it as low as -700 if you’re lucky, but typically it will settle somewhere between -800 and -1000. The reason being is there are so many bettors wagering on the YES that it drives down the price of the NO to levels where you’ll enjoy a significant positive expectation.

 

Betting The No Safety Super Bowl Prop

Despite so much obvious value on the NO, it’s not really a play that most bettors will want to make. If you have deep pockets or a diverse Super Bowl betting portfolio, by all means leave some room for a little No Safety action. But for recreational gamblers, it’s basically just not worth the sweat. At least two or three times per game, there will be a play that will cause you to watch in horror as a safety appears to be a distinct possibility. Perhaps a punter momentarily bobbles a snap, or a QB stands in the pocket of his own end zone with a furious pass rush closing in. Fearing safeties is just not a very pleasant way to watch a ballgame.

Bridge-jumper plays usually end well, but you’ll never remember the wins, as when was the last time you saw guys high-fiving each other in celebration of a game ending without a safety. You certainly won’t be making any memories. On the other hand, a loss will be devastating and you just won’t be able to shake that safety from your psyche, possibly for life. I’ve developed a litany of nervous tics resulting from watching too many games over the years with bridge-jumping exposure. You just don’t want to go there.

 

NFL Player Props

NFL Player props are available throughout the season but really kick into high gear come playoff time.  The good news for recreational players is you won’t need to purchase data to arrive at accurate prices, as player game logs are available at countless sites online. Teams change so much from year to year, and to use data from too far in the past is suboptimal.

If you come up with a narrative on how the game will play out, and create projections, The Unabated Props Simulator is an amazing tool to help you find the best price. Let’s say you expect the Rams to be playing from behind and Stafford to be throwing the ball all over the yard. You want Kupp to go over receiving yards. Here are your options:

Kupp over 110 ½ rec yards -120
Kupp over 113 ½ rec yards -115

Cooper Kupp Yards ProjectionYour next step is entering the player’s projection into the simulator. You can use your own projection or enter one from the countless DFS projection sites around the web. The biggest mistake we see at Unabated is bettors using sportsbook lines for their projections. Big mistake! Sportsbooks deal the median. However, the simulator takes in the mean (average) and then computes a median. So as a result, if you use the sportsbook line you are going to get some bad output.

Using projections of 7 receptions and 129 receiving yards, the 110 ½ upper option at -120 is slightly better.  You could conceivably see the Kupp props offered at 10 or more books at different prices. Using the Unabated simulator is critical in identifying the best number. And the importance of getting that best number can never be underestimated. It is critical for long term success.

 

NFL Index Props

NFL Index props are often lottery style selections in which you choose selections such as which player will score the first TD of the game, who will win the MVP of the Super Bowl, or the range of yards Tom Brady will throw for. The odds are long and the payouts big, and it’s very easy to be lulled into the lottery mentality of a longshot win. The holds tend to be much higher on these markets. Additionally, having access to data to properly analyze these multiway markets is not available to recreational gamblers.

NFL Props Simulator OutputPros like these props as many will run simulations very similar to the Unabated Props Simulator to figure out odds for each possibility in the distribution. For example, you might wildly guess that the odds for Tom Brady to throw for 300-319 yards should be +800. You see odds of +500 and take a nibble. A pro, on the other hand, after running their simulator, might tell you the true number is +619, and rightfully pass on the play.

So pros like index props, and they’re not simply taking random pot shots while  crossing their fingers. Each bet they make has a positive expectation no matter how long the odds. When the Patriots beat the Rams 13-3 in 2019, one bettor won $100,000 wagering the Rams would score exactly 3 points at 400-1 odds. Lucky bettor? Actually, no luck involved here. The player determined that the Rams scoring exactly 3 points at 400-1 odds was a positive expectation play. His partner had devised a chart to compute the correct odds of each result. That partner went on to found the website you’re currently reading.

Perhaps you are wondering, how do I find me some of those 400-1 bargains? You’re going to need data or the use of an accurate simulator to find value on index prop plays. For recreational players, betting these props can be fun when done in moderation. Be careful, the holds are usually very high and unless you have reliable data you can trust, they are not recommended.

 

Cross-Sport Props

This might be the best chance for recreational players to win as these lines are often the most vulnerable. There are no secret recipes in beating these markets. However, lines where you can find value stay up longer. This gives recreational bettors a more legitimate shot of finding positive expectation plays.

As mentioned previously, professional bettors have no way to predict what cross-sport props will be offered. It tends to take a bit longer to figure them all out once they are released. The pros generally bypass these at first with the intent to circle back later. Ask a wise guy who will score more goals, Lionel Messi or the Chiefs placekicker, and it’s likely they’ll blabber incoherently for several minutes. It’s rare for pros to be profitable at both football and soccer.

Just because you don’t follow soccer doesn’t mean you can’t handicap a proposition wager. You may not even know what team Messi plays for. The fundamentals are basically the same as evaluating any other prop in any other sport. Provide an astute gambler Messi’s game log, as well as stats on the opposing team, and he’ll come up with a projection. The best way to approach cross-sport props is to treat them as individual props which you then compare against each other. A little bit of extra work but often they aren’t the first ones hammered into shape.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Super Bowl Props can be beaten and are eagerly anticipated by professional players
  • Important to make plays shortly after their release as lines will tend to get sharper with time
  • Consider all the variables that might influence an NFL game prop
  • When wagering on player props, using the Unabated Prop Simulator is crucial in identifying the best price
  • Index props are fun, but be wary of investing too much in them as the hold is usually much higher
  • Cross-sport props may offer best opportunity for recreational players to find value

 

Much more Super Bowl prop betting content to come from Unabated in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl Sunday on February 13th!