Before the NFL season starts, it’s wise to look for any betting edge against the sportsbooks to overcome the house advantage. Identifying their disagreements on player prop totals is one place to find them.
US Bets already provided information this week on longshot season-long bets that could offer better value than what their odds suggest, based on analysis of teams and players. For this article, we’re more focused on the math of the numbers than on whom they’re connected with. We don’t care if it relates to Patrick Mahomes or an obscure running back on a team headed for the cellar — if two of the online sportsbooks available in most legal betting states differ in opinion enough to reduce the investment risk below the standard vig of -110 or more, we’ll consider pouncing on a two-way, season-long futures bet.
Sure, we won’t have access to that money for four months, but it also means we won’t lose it playing some emotional hunch in the interim. And to start 2022, the wallet will hopefully be fatter, providing a cash infusion that can then be used to bet on — what else? — the Super Bowl.
Ah, it’s a vicious cycle, this sports betting, but here are a few ideas on how the 2021 NFL season might produce a profit and avoid costly losses.
Mahomes’ interception total
OK, we said we didn’t care if Patrick Mahomes was involved in any of these recommendations, but actually, he is. Only it’s not the good Mahomes stuff we all normally focus on — it’s his rare picks that have him turning around and scrambling to try to tackle a defender headed the other way.
Not all of the major sports betting sites offer betting on season-long player totals. It’s more common for them to post odds on who will win certain awards, such as MVP or who will lead the league in categories such as TDs thrown, receptions, or rushing yardage. But DraftKings, FanDuel, and the Kambi-backed sites that include BetRivers, Unibet, and Barstool, among others, select players on whom they offer over/under prop wagering on their performance totals. That includes almost every starting quarterback’s passing yardage and TDs.
And for interceptions, DraftKings posts a number over 8.5 for Mahomes at +100 (or even money). BetRivers, meanwhile, offers under 9.5 at -112.
There is a potential two-way bet to be made there — DraftKings on the over and BetRivers on the under — with minimal risk. With 10 or more picks, you get your money back. With eight or fewer, you lose the juice to BetRivers or one of the other Kambi sites.
But nine? Number nine? The Beatles’ favorite number, for gosh sakes? It would be a sweet two-way hit, and you can follow Mahomes’ exploits all season hoping to hit it.
In the past three seasons, he has thrown 6 (2020), 5 (2019), and 12 (2018) interceptions. Keep in mind that there’s an extra game this year with the new 17-game schedule. We’re not saying it’s likely Mahomes will fall on precisely nine in 2021, but for the benefit of the action at minimal risk, we’re happy to consider the wager.
Sam Darnold’s passing yardage
Sam Darnold is in his first year with Carolina after spending three years as an underachiever for the New York Jets. In his most prolific season for passing yardage, he threw for 3,024 in 2019. Last year, he threw for 2,208. In his rookie season in 2018, the number was 2,865. Each year, he’s missed a couple of games due to injury or illness.
BetRivers has posted a prop of over 3800.5 yards for him this year at -112, while DraftKings lists under 3950.5 yards at -115. There is a chance to bet both ways with a 150-yard range in the middle to win both bets. And we’d be happy to invest more money in the under than over — even with this year’s added game — considering Darnold’s yet to come anywhere close to sniffing a 4,000-yard season.
A.J. Brown’s TD receptions
A.J. Brown has proven himself to be one heckuva receiver for the Tennessee Titans in his first two seasons, hauling in 11 touchdown receptions last year and 8 the year before that. There’s been some concern about a knee problem in the preseason, but perhaps cleared he that up by making a certain trade in fantasy football.
@heykayadams I made the trade today and it hurt 😩
Travis kelce and Keenan Allen for Robert Tonyan and AJ Brown.
Week 1 should be a show! Great feeling about this AJ brown kid. 😉
— AJ Brown (@1kalwaysopen_) September 8, 2021
This year, DraftKings posts a prop of over 8.5 TDs for Brown at -110, while FanDuel lists under 9.5 at -112. That’s juice we can live with, considering the possibility of the number falling on nine — there’s that Beatles number again! — for a big win. We’d even be tempted to wager a little more on the “over,” considering the extra game and what he’s done his first two seasons getting acclimated to the NFL.
Ronald Jones’ rushing TD total
Ronald Jones II doesn’t get as much attention in Tampa Bay as some of his teammates, but he’s a solid running back to help complement the passing game of Tom Brady & Co. He scored seven rushing TDs last year, while missing a couple of late season games due to COVID, and ran for six the year before. The biggest uncertainty surrounding his stats this year is the Buccaneers’ projected running back-by-committee approach, with Jones to share time with Leonard Fournette and possibly others.
BetRivers offers +100 on Jones going over 6.5 rushing TDs this year. DraftKings posts under 7 at -130. The latter is a hefty vig, of course, but the only way to lose money betting both ways — and it’s only that juice — is if he scores 6 or fewer in a year with an extra game (and hopefully no COVID sidelining him). Landing on 7 is a nice push on one bet and profit on the other. Anything above 7 and you get your money back.
It’s well short of guaranteeing coming out ahead, but hey, that’s why it’s called gambling.
Kirk Cousins’ passing yardage
Kirk Cousins can easily be called a middling quarterback on a middling team in Minnesota, so we might as well try to “middle” his passing yardage.
FanDuel has Cousins over 4050.5 yards at -112. DraftKings has him under 4200.5 yards at -115. In the past two seasons with Minnesota and three prior as a starter in Washington, Cousins threw (starting backward from 2020) for 4,265, 3,603, 4,298, 4,093, and 4,917 yards.
That’s an average of 4,235 yards per season. That’s a little above the middle that we’re looking for, even without a 17th game. But maybe he bruises a finger and misses a game or two — not that we’d ever hope to win a bet due to someone’s injury (nooooo). Cousins has also been outspoken about avoiding the COVID-19 vaccine, so there’s always that possibility lurking. It’s all fair enough to be tempting.
Tyreek Hill’s TD receptions
This is the other end of the Patrick Mahomes passing equation, the side where he does very well and completes passes to an explosive receiver who takes off for the end zone faster than you can count in your head the money you’ve won through smart gambling.
Tyreek Hill’s touchdown total can be bet over 10.5 at +100 from DraftKings. FanDuel is offering under 11.5 at -126.
The past five years, starting with last year, Hill caught 15, 7, 12, 7, and 6 TD passes. Betting both ways nets a small loss only if he takes 10 or fewer to the house in 2021. Landing on 11, meanwhile, would be a big win to root for all year. As far as we know, the man’s not slowing down, even if Usain Bolt proclaims himself to be faster at 35 than Cheetah at 27, so …
Dallas Cowboys’ wins total
Our last option worth considering switches from a two-way player bet to a two-win team wager on total victories during the year. Many online sites offer a prop on season-long wins for every team, but there’s generally not much variance among them.
For instance, FanDuel, DraftKings, Barstool, FOX Bet, theScore, and Superbook all list the Cleveland Browns’ o/u at 10.5, with the only difference that Barstool’s vig via Kambi is just -108 to bet the over and the Superbook goes up to -120, with the others in between. There’s no edge to be had betting both ways, but if you think the Browns will win 11 again, you’d want to use Barstool instead of the others.
The Dallas Cowboys, however, might be worth an investment, though there’s risk if they fall on their collective face or Dak Prescott has another devastating injury. Though finishing 6-10 last season, they remain favored to win the NFC East this year (+150 at DraftKings).
At DraftKings, you can bet them over nine wins at +100. At Barstool, you can bet under 9.5 at -152. The only loss comes if the Cowboys have a losing season, winning eight or fewer of 17 games. While it’s possible, they still play in what is viewed as the NFL’s weakest division, and based on their opponents’ records last year, they have the 31st easiest schedule of 32 teams.
Dallas looks like a nine-win team to us in 2021. We’d even put money on it. And hopefully, we’d come out ahead, with a nice new stake available to bet on the Super Bowl in February. What could be better?
Photo: Jason Vinlove/USA Today