Many say the NFL regular season is a marathon as opposed to a sprint.
Throughout the 17-week season, each of the league’s 32 franchises will play 16 games. That works out to a total of 256 regular-season tilts. While that provides us with more than enough NFL wagering opportunities to consider, the individual games are only the beginning.
There’s also live betting in which you can wager on the action as it happens.
Examples include what’s going to happen in the current quarter, or whether or not a team is going to reach a specific benchmark in the contest.
Futures betting requires a long-term approach, while live betting is more akin to instant gratification or disappointment, for that matter.
In between those two extremes is NFL prop betting, which is wagering on events within the games themselves.
For each game, there will be additional opportunities listed beyond the standard bets.
You might see a prop bet for the team to score first, as well as ones that are tied to the individual performances of players. Prop bets are almost like a game within a game, but it naturally takes some adjusting.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of NFL prop betting. For starters, let’s take a look at what it is and how it works.
What are NFL prop bets?
In a nutshell, NFL prop betting revolves around side wagers within the individual games.
At most online and mobile sportsbooks, simply clicking on a link on the individual game listing that says something like “More Wagers” will take you to a new page that lists all of the betting opportunities available.
On that page, you will find plenty of other ways to bet on the game outside of the traditional bets, such as point spreads, moneyline and totals.
Some of the more popular prop bets include the first touchdown scorer, players who may or may not score a touchdown, and passing yard totals for the two starting quarterbacks.
Prop Bet odds
As with all other bets, there are odds with each selection.
For a bet such as a touchdown scorer, the favorite will be listed first, followed by the player(s) with the next best chance of scoring in the eyes of the oddsmakers and so on.
When it’s a bet such as total passing yards for a quarterback, the odds will be similar to what you would see on an over/under or totals bet.
Generally, you will see these wagers as yes or no questions as opposed to the over or under format.
If you think the quarterback will go over a specific benchmark, you select yes. For calls on the quarterback to miss the benchmark, you choose no.
Odds for these wagers can vary depending on the book, but ranges from -105 to -120 are pretty standard.
On other prop bets, such as touchdowns, the odds can be much higher. It’s important to remember that scoring events can be somewhat random. Players who are higher up on the depth chart in the offensive rotation will naturally see more snaps. As a result, they have a greater chance of scoring.
However, the same player may prove to be a focal point of the other team’s defensive strategy for the contest. As such, that can open up more scoring opportunities for the other players on the team.
For NFL prop betting, the goal is to assess the likelihood of a particular event happening or not. You then place your wager accordingly.
Examples of NFL prop bets
Let’s take a look at some of the more popular NFL prop bet types and walk through a few examples.
NFL prop betting example 1: First touchdown scorer
As we mentioned, the first touchdown scorer for a contest is a prop bet that can see a decent amount of action.
For the first game of this year’s NFL regular season between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, there were numerous players and options available on who may score first.
Here are the odds for some of the top choices and the rest of the field:
- Aaron Jones: +700
- Davante Adams: +700
- David Montgomery: +800
- Tarik Cohen: +1000
- Other players in the field: Odds ranging from +1100 to +10,000
- No touchdown scored in the game: +10,000
Beyond the top four players on the odds board, there were dozens of others listed. We’ll stick with the favorites for our example.
Let’s say that you decided the oddsmakers were on the money. As you saw it, Jones had the best chance of scoring the game’s first touchdown.
Here’s what the math on that bet looks like:
• $100 bet on Jones at odds of +700 equals a total potential return of $800.
As you can see, there’s a potential for an outstanding return with NFL prop bets. However, keep in mind that the returns can be great, but the risk on these wagers can be as well.
For other wagers of this ilk, the odds are more in line with what you would see on other betting opportunities.
NFL prop betting example 2: Passing yards
Here’s where the benchmark was set for the passing yards of Aaron Rodgers in the contest:
- Over: 267.5, -108
- Under: 267.5, -118
The odds are pretty close here, but you will see a more favorable return if you are correct on over bets.
After you take some time to examine the possibilities, you decide that the under is the wiser call. Here’s the math on that:
• $100 bet on the under at odds of -118 equals a total potential return of $184.70.
There are several other prop bets typically available that are tied to the performance of the team as opposed to individual player outputs. Wagers in this category can include the total points scored by a team in the game, the winning margin and even the winner of the first quarter.
NFL prop betting example 3: Team to score more first quarter points
Let’s take a look at the last one for our example. Here is the way the oddsmakers have laid out the chances for each side to score more points in the first quarter of the game:
- Green Bay Packers: +116
- Chicago Bears: -116
After doing your research, you decide you like the Packers to score more points in the quarter. Here’s what you can expect on that bet if your call is correct:
- $100 bet on the Packers at odds of +116 equals a total potential return of $216.
NFL prop bets offer you even more ways to get in the game.
NFL prop bet odds and line movement
The odds for NFL prop bets will be clearly listed out for you on the sportsbook of your choice. However, there’s no centralized location for NFL prop bets, which can vary from book to book.
Many of the prop bets are standard and available for each contest, such as first touchdown scorer, winner of a quarter, etc. However, some books will have exclusive prop bet offerings.
When you are considering game lines, such as the spread or total, you can be confident that you’ll find odds that are in the same range at most sportsbooks. That’s not always the case with prop bets.
Additionally, prop bets aren’t necessarily released immediately with the game lines. Therefore, it can be tough to track any line movements through the week.
For point spreads and totals, it’s not too challenging to research what the opening line was in comparison to the current odds and lines available.
One last note: As you can see by the odds listed for the touchdown-specific wagers, these bets carry a good amount of risk.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth devoting time and effort into breaking down. But it does mean that you should choose your spots wisely and have a full understanding of the potential outcome on the risk-to-reward scale.
On other prop bets that resemble totals bets, the odds are more in line with other standard bets.
How to handicap NFL prop bets
Handicapping prop bets is another area that can vary in comparison to traditional wagers.
When the wagers are tied to a specific team event, such as total points scored in the game, standard handicapping rules will apply. You’ll want to consider the overall matchup of the two teams, as well as varying strengths and weaknesses.
For prop bets that are tied to the specific performance of a player, the handicapping process will become more akin to how one would approach fantasy football.
On these bets, you’re trying to determine if a player can reach a specific benchmark in some cases, and whether or not he will score in other cases.
Fantasy football revolves around similar concepts.
As you make decisions on your weekly and daily lineups, you are naturally looking for players who may be in line to exceed or underperform their usual output.
Essential questions to ask about NFL prop betting
For prop bets, you’re essentially trying to decide the same things as you would for a fantasy football contest. Some of the questions that may come up include the following:
- Will the quarterback be throwing for a lot of yards, or does this game look like one which will be more run-oriented?
- Which players on both sides have the best chance of reaching the end zone?
- What kind of game are the best players from each side going to have?
The answers to those questions can help you decide which prop bets on the game in question make sense for this week. This is also similar to setting a fantasy football lineup.
There will be weeks when it makes sense to have a specific player in your lineup, as well as times when it makes sense to keep the player on the bench.
For prop bets, you’re making the same decisions. You can wager on the player or outcome you believe is likely to happen. You can also take a pass on the ones that leave you feeling unsure.
The bottom line on NFL prop betting
NFL prop bets are basically side wagers on the individual games.
At most sportsbooks, you can find these wagers by clicking on the individual game listings. From there, the book will display all of the opportunities available.
These wagers can be tied to the performance of a player, as well as to team-specific benchmarks. On the individual player side, popular prop bets include first touchdown scorer of the game and passing yardage for the starting quarterbacks.
On the team side, the more popular wagers include the total number of points scored for each team, and which side will score more points in the first quarter of the game.
Specific prop bets will have odds that resemble traditional bets, while others will have odds that scale up based on the likelihood of an event happening.
Handicapping NFL prop bets can vary on the wager chosen.
For the player-specific wagers, the process is similar to how one would prepare for a fantasy contest. On team-related prop bets, the process will more closely remember what you would go through while breaking down a standard bet type, such as point spreads or totals.
NFL prop betting can be a great way to make the games more interesting.
Additionally, for weeks in which you find yourself drawn to only a handful of games, prop bets can provide you with at least a few additional opportunities to explore.