The Conference Championships are behind us. Cincinnati and San Francisco fell by the wayside, and now we’re down to just two. One game left in the next two weeks to last us all offseason and the last thing anyone in the world wants is to go out with just a couple more bets. Which is why bookmakers get creative and have made this the height of NFL props season. If you haven’t gone too deep outside of your side-and-total comfort zone, let’s get into some NFL player props basics.
There’s a reason that prop action in the Super Bowl is well more than half of the total handle. They’re fun, they give players more opportunities to have action during the game and, most importantly for professionals, linemakers can’t possibly be accurate on their release of more than a thousand props.
Pro bettors literally line up to take advantage of lines they think are vulnerable, but even for recreational players there are numerous middling opportunities when comparing lines from book to book.
The higher limits available this time of year 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. And that’s just the ticket writers.
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, Here’s everything you need to know to get started.
Types of NFL Prop Bets
There are five different types of NFL props offered: game, player, index, cross-sport and novelty. For the Super Bowl, professional players have been hard at work since Harrison Butcker’s kick went through the uprights to hand Kansas City the AFC title.
They spend every waking hour figuring out prices on props they expect to see in the coming days. The pros like to be ready to fire once props are released, and usually are. 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.
Professional 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 3.5 field goals made? Will there be a safety? How many third down conversions will be made in the game?
Let’s take a closer look at that field goals prop. 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 more than 1,000 games, the baseline number for going over 3.5 field goals is +170.
The DraftKings line in the Super Bowl is:
Total field goals made
Over 3.5 +140
Under 3.5 -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.
This won’t apply in the retractable roofed confines of State Farm Stadium, but if the game were played in Buffalo with rain and 20 mph winds in the forecast, it would be a solid reason to adjust your baseline figure.
If you do have a sizeable NFL database, you could look at all games in Buffalo with significant winds and see how they played out. You’ll find two or three 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 field goal trends.
Consider All Factors With Props
The quality of kickers also needs to be considered. Justin Tucker Over 3.5 could often be found priced at +125. What about head coach decision making? The Eagles and Browns led the league in fourth-down conversions this year at 22 and 23, respectively. Do all of those bypassed field goals show up in the 3.5 field goal numbers? The answer is in the data.
And speaking of fourth-down conversions, another proposition is the total fourth-down conversions in the game, priced like this:
Total fourth down conversions
Over 1.5 -170
Under 1.5 +130
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. The Eagles, as we mentioned, were aggressive on fourth down. They went for it 32 times in the regular season and cashed in 22. That’s an average of 1.88 fourth down attempts per game at a 68.8 percent success rate. Philadelphia didn’t attempt a fourth down against the Giants, but went 3-for-3 against San Francisco.
Andy Reid was more conservative in Kansas City, going 9-for-12 on fourth, or 0.7 attempts per game at a 75 percent success rate. In the playoffs, the Chiefs only attempted one fourth down, but got it against the Bengals.
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 13 safeties, which is one out of about every 21 games.(The Chiefs had one, the Eagles went 0-fer.)
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. That’s a 6.6 percent rate, and the fair price on it happening is around +1400. Right now at DraftKings the line is:
Will There Be A Safety?
If you look around Vegas during Super Bowl week, you’ll find value on the “No” at practically every sportsbook 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 quarterback 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. When was the last time you saw guys high-fiving each other because a game ended without a safety? But can you handle the loss on a bet-a-lot-to-win-a-little play if one happens, or will you be safety-scarred for life?
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 Chiefs to be playing from behind and Patrick Mahomes to be throwing the ball all over the yard. You want Travis Kelce to go over receiving yards. Here are your options:
Kelce Over 77.5 rec yards -125
Kelce Under 77.5 rec yards -105
Your 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.
Using projections of 8 receptions and 81 receiving yards – Kelce’s median stats including the playoffs – Over 77.5 would be fairly priced at +109. You could conceivably see the Kelce props offered at 10 or more books at different prices. Using the Unabated simulator is critical in identifying the best number.
NFL Index Props
NFL Index props are often lottery-style selections in which you choose selections such as which player will score the first touchdown of the game, who will win the MVP of the Super Bowl, or the range of yards Jalen Hurts 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.
Pros 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 Hurts to throw for 300-319 yards should be +1500. You see odds of +1200 and take a nibble. A pro, on the other hand, after running their simulator, might tell you the true number is +1888, and rightfully pass on the play.
Professionals aren’t 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 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.
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.
Our last category is for the most recreational of rec bettors. Novelty props include things like the color of the Gatorade bath or the duration of the National Anthem. Proceed with caution. Sometimes people get inside information on these plays, sometimes info gets leaked and sometimes they’re just terrible bets. No one’s saying don’t have fun, but know what you’re getting yourself into. For our sake, though, no matter what you do, don’t let your friends and loved ones lay -105 on the coin toss. Flip coins at even money with everyone at your Super Bowl party if you have to; just don’t give the books a layup on the juice.
- 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