Do not make the mistake of thinking NFL prop betting is just for the fly-by-night gamblers who want to invest in non-football events that have, really, nothing to do with the game itself or the skill incumbent upon other wagers. Sure, prop bets can be that. But they can also be, and generally are, much more serious—not to mention lucrative, provided you're playing them the right way.
What Are NFL Prop Bets?
How long will the National Anthem last at the upcoming Super Bowl? Will the coin toss before the start of the game land on heads or tails? Will there be a streaker across the field at any point during the NFL's broadcast? Which song will be played during the Super Bowl halftime show?
For many, these are the types of examples that will spring to mind when being prompted to discuss prop betting. And they're not entirely wrong. These bets are ones that you will more often than not be able to make. But they are not the full extent of prop bets. Not even close.
Despite the stigma attached to this sector of NFL wagering, prop bets are gambles that have to do with a more nuanced, more specific outcome than that of the moneyline, spread or over/under. Instead of looking at the final score of a game, the winner of that matchup or a season-long line on win totals or Super Bowl odds, you're instead turning your attention to something even more isolated.
Here are some examples that will be available depending on the sportsbook:
- What's the over/under on the number of passing attempts Dak Prescott will attempt for the Dallas Cowboys in their game against the Philadelphia Eagles?
- Will the Eagles defense have interception in the second half of that game?
- Which player will score the first touchdown of the game?
- Will either team score a touchdown or field goal in the final two minutes of a half?
- Who will have the most receptions or running attempts during this Cowboys-Eagles tilt.
Prop-bet examples do not stop there. Not even a little bit. The list of examples is seemingly infinite. That's the beauty of prop bets. They compartmentalize the game of football. They are, quite simply, a chance to play and bet on the games taking place within a game. And not only do they offer some respite from the grind of regular moneyline, spread and over/under betting, but they allow the smart sports gamblers to play to their greatest strengths.
Profiting Off Prop Bets, Part 1: Wagers To Avoid
Most of us enjoy a good laugh. Even when we're taking our NFL betting seriously, we understand that this is also supposed to be fun. There is nothing wrong, then, with throwing the occasional wager at coin-toss, National Anthem and halftime-show props, along with any other lighthearted examples that might be available.
Still, if your goal is to make NFL betting a consistent source of profit, then these luck-driven props are not for you. There is no material value to them. They are impossible to predict. Trends do not matter. They are telltale of nothing.
Take the coins toss. People love to bet on the outcome of this pregame ritual just before the Super Bowl. Sportsbooks will even deliver ready-made stats to help bettors decide, noting something along the lines of "Almost 65 percent of all Super Bowl coin tosses have turned up tails."
Stats such as the one above are worthless. That 65-percent figure does not highlight an actual pattern. Every coin toss happens independent of every previous coin toss. They are unrelated. That a majority of them might be coming up tails (again, this is purely a hypothetical) is meaningless. It's a coincidence, not something to be treated as valuable insight.
Figuring out the results to other happy-go-lucky props is equally futile. You cannot predict with a shred of certainty whether the broken-up boy band NSYNC is going to reunite at a Super Bowl halftime show unless you are best friends with one of the members or one of their tried-and-true confidants.
Once more: The occasional, infrequent, just-for-kicks prop investment is fine. Just make sure you know what you are getting yourself into—a form of betting that has zero to do with skill and everything and anything to do with pure, unadulterated, unquantifiable dumb luck.
Profiting Off Prop Bets, Part 2: Picking The Right Gambles
Like we alluded to before, prop bets afford you the chance to really enter your wheelhouse by getting into the nitty gritty of the game. They aren't just demanding blanketed knowledge on play styles that impact the over/under or team performances that inform the outcome to the spread and moneyline. They let you zoom in on specific players and play calls and time management.
Finding your specialty within all the available niche departments will help you turn a profit off prop bets.
For instance, let's say you followed the Cincinnati Bengals all year long. You know that they like to put the ball in quarterback Andy Dalton's hands. You also know his favorite target on first down has statistically been wide receiver A.J. Green. This uniquely equips you to place a Week 10 prop bet on which Bengals player will make the first catch of a game. If you know that Green is Dalton's overall favorite target, then you also have the knowledge necessary to predict that he will be the receiver from either participating team who finishes a given game with the most pass catches.
Identical logic can and should be applied to other positions. If you have a feel for how often the Bengals throw the ball, consider placing an investment in the over/under on the number of times Dalton will air it out in a game. If you have a hold on how often they run the ball, you can do the same for the number of potential carries for running back Joe Mixon.
Name the over/under bet, and it will pertain to a specialty. Even wagers like "Will the Bengals have an interception in the second half?" come down to how well you know their defensive skill level and strategy.
Profiting Off Prop Bets, Part 3: Sticking With Teams You Know
Stepping on the toes of the aforementioned point, it's always best to not just focus on the aspect of the game you know most, but the teams you understand best. A majority of bettors have rooting interests. The ones who don't count themselves as a fan of a given squad invariably end up catching more games for one team than they do others.
Those outfits are the ones you should be betting on. This would hold true even if you were placing final-outcome wagers, but it's especially valuable when you're being tasked with a prop that puts a team's play style further under the microscope.
Some gamblers like to steer clear of teams they root for. You don't need to do that. Not for props. You are not betting on whether the team you're emotionally invested in is going to win or lose. You're trying to predict a different outcome. Your emotions are less likely to cloud your judgment on the over/under of passing yards that Dalton finishes with compared to betting on whether the Bengals, your favorite team, are going to cover the given spread.
Last but certainly not least, do not confine yourself to prop betting on major events alone. Sportsbooks tend to expand their prop-betting portfolio for the playoffs and Super Bowl. That's great. Take advantage of the extra options that will sometimes be at your disposal. But there will always be props available in some form. Do not ignore them.
Certain sportsbooks even offer mid-game props. If you're paying attention to the Bengals-Denver Broncos game, you might have the opportunity to bet live on the over/under on the number of catches Demaryius Thomas will have in the fourth quarter.
Some websites will even have play-by-play betting. For example, let's say the Bengals are approaching a 3rd-and-3 at their own 37-yard line. Because the NFL has an extensive play clock set in between downs, along with many commercial breaks, you may have the option, depending on the sportsbook, of betting on the outcome of the upcoming third down. Will it be a pass or a run? Will they complete it or miss it? Who will the pass go to? Those are options you're looking at.
These situations are underappreciated, in large parts because they can be semi-hard to find during the regular season. Not all sportsbooks offer live props for every game.
We strongly encourage you to find one that does. Most of the top ones do, even if it's not for every contest. It's always better to make a bet when you have a sample size to work off, and what better way to bet on an event within a game than by making your decision after watching part of said affair unfold?
Lessons Learned About NFL Prop Betting
- NFL prop betting includes more than just coin tosses and jazzed up non-football events
- In fact, NFL prop betting predominantly refers to singular aspects of the game, such as passing attempts, rush yards, the number of receptions, etc.
- Live prop betting can be profitable as well if you find a sportsbook that offers it
- Avoid investing in purely luck-driven props like coin-toss wagers, halftime-show predictions and even the prospective outcomes to coaching challenges
- Make prop betting a part of your full NFL-wagering repertoire, not just something you whip out for the playoffs and Super Bowl