Player Props Offer Some Low-Risk, High-Upside Opportunities For NFL Bets

Studious sports bettors in many states can increase their chance of profitability by comparing sportsbooks' player performance options.
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Football fans who like to gamble are salivating over the NFL’s return this week, collectively prepared to risk millions of dollars while making this one of the biggest sports betting weeks in U.S. history.

But what if most of the risk could be taken out of it? What if you could take advantage of varying odds from all the different online sportsbooks available today to greatly enhance your chance of profitability? Wouldn’t that be great?

Yes, potentially, if you’re willing to tie up your funds for the duration of the NFL season on any number of player prop bets.

Studious gamblers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, West Virginia, and Illinois can call up the different sportsbook apps legal in their state, scroll through their markets, take a few notes, and find a good opportunity to hit a sweet spot in the middle by taking opposite sides of a bet with two different operators.

Such possibilities exist year-round, but there may be no better chance for it than with individual NFL players’ season totals. The books offer wide-ranging, season-long futures bets on quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers, and they don’t always agree with one another.

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It creates some arbitrage-style opportunities where it would be hard to lose more than the vig, while decent opportunities exist to win two opposing bets.

The following are among the best examples. They’re not available to everyone, because 1) You have to be in a state where online gambling is legal, and 2) The operators noted both have to be licensed in your state. But with some legwork, you can find other opportunities if these don’t exist for you.

Cam Newton’s yardage and TDs

In an NFL season containing unprecedented unpredictability due to everything connected to COVID-19, the biggest on-field uncertainty may surround Cam Newton’s fit with Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots.

Newton, 31, was once among the league’s top stars with the Carolina Panthers, but after two injury-marred seasons the Panthers let him go at the end of 2019. The Pats, in need of a replacement for Tom Brady, signed Newton to a one-year contract at base pay, and he will start in Sunday’s opener against the Miami Dolphins.

He has appeared healthy in training camp and has received high praise from Belichick and others for his work ethic and leadership, but there have been no preseason games to demonstrate his effectiveness with Julian Edelman and the rest of the Patriots receiving corps.

Newton is now five years removed from his best season, when he was league MVP while taking the Panthers to Super Bowl 50. Here are his key stats since then:

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There’s been a combination of performance dropoff and injuries, and when combined with his new digs, teammates, and coaches, those have created unusually large variances between sportsbook over/under lines on his performance. Here’s how several size Newton up for season passing yardage o/u:

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And there’s another wide range involving his passing touchdowns:

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And more disagreement when it comes to rushing yardage:

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For passing yards, if you are able to bet over William Hill’s 2999.5 and under DraftKings’ 3250.5 (a possibility for residents of New Jersey, Colorado, Iowa, and West Virginia), you could win both bets if Newton’s just a little under his 2016-18 annual totals.

For passing TDs, the gap of four between William Hill’s o/u of 18.5 and FOX Bet’s o/u of 22.5 (both available in New Jersey and Colorado) is unusually large among all QBs. Betting both ways creates a good chance of striking gold if Newton finishes with 19, 20, 21, or 22.

And there’s a similar hole wide enough to drive a Brink’s truck through in the space offered by betting over BetMGM’s 425.5 yards rushing and under FOX Bet’s 549.5 (New Jersey, Colorado). A repeat of Newton’s 2018 season (488 rushing yards) would be perfect for anyone trying to hit the middle there.

Philip Rivers’ yardage total in Indy

Compared to today, people might prefer the more innocent, tranquil world of 2004, when the Montreal Expos were still playing baseball and the quick flash of Janet Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl halftime show was among the year’s biggest news.

It was also the year Philip Rivers joined the NFL, beginning a 16-year run with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers that ended after a down year for both Rivers and the team in 2019. Still, the eight-time Pro Bowler threw for 4,615 yards, and he remained Mr. Reliable in starting every regular season game since 2006.

Here’s how he’s done the past five seasons:

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The track record was good enough for the Indianapolis Colts to sign him to a $25 million, one-year deal. On the other hand, Rivers is 38 and has a new cast to get to know. As with Newton, there were no preseason games to help with the on-field chemistry and preparation.

Hence, there’s some uncertainty showing up in the over/under totals for his passing yardage.

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The variance between DraftKings’ 3800.5 and FOX Bet’s 4199.5 is nearly four times as long as a football field’s yardage, and that’s unique among predictions for quarterbacks in 2020. Bettors in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Colorado all may want to take note, since the chance to bet DraftKings over and FOX Bet under is available to them.

Historically speaking, both over/unders could be considered low. Rivers hasn’t thrown for less than 4199.5 yards since 2012. But the oddsmakers appear to expect the 38-year-old QB who also has to help raise nine kids at home to start slowing down on the field. If this is that year, it could be profitable for bettors squarely in his middle.

Derek Carr’s adjustment to Las Vegas

Derek Carr has been largely unheralded and anything but a fan favorite during his first six seasons, as the Raiders have mostly struggled during his tenure, including last year’s 7-9 record.

But most years, Carr has had weak supporting casts around him, and his second season under coach Jon Gruden in 2019 was solid. Carr completed 70.4% of his passes and had a career-high passer rating while surpassing his passing yardage of prior years.

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Now Carr has talented — but inexperienced — receivers to work with in rookies Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards. His top returning target is tight end Darren Waller, backed up this year by Jason Witten.

The Raiders are beginning a new era in Las Vegas, but in an empty Allegiant Stadium. There’s uncertainty over how that will go, and the sportsbooks have their own uncertainty over Carr’s passing yardage.

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For gamblers in New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana, and West Virginia, there’s a 350-yard gap to potentially exploit by betting over DraftKings’ 3250.5 and under BetMGM’s 3600.5.

Carr’s past two years suggest he could easily go over both numbers, costing just the vig from BetMGM’s under wager. But there’s also the possibility an injury or illness or inexperienced receivers or other factors drag him down, putting his yardage right in the arbitrage bettor’s sweet spot.

Kenny Golladay’s quest for more TDs

In his third season with the Detroit Lions, which included playing with two quarterbacks not named Matthew Stafford after injury ended the longtime starter’s season, Kenny Golladay’s status among NFL wide receivers took a huge jump.

The big wideout had his second straight season with more than 1,000 yards receiving, but more than that, he led the league in touchdown receptions with 11. He was also third-highest in yards-per-catch at 18.3.

The three-year stat line suggests a receiver ready to join the NFL’s elite:

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Now Golladay’s got a healthy Stafford back throwing to him. While there were no preseason games to watch them together, reports out of training camp suggested Golladay was unstoppable. A hamstring tweak was reported this week, keeping him out of practice Wednesday, though its seriousness wasn’t clear. A hamstring injury caused him to miss part of his rookie season in 2017.

While there’s no question that Golladay is good when healthy, TD reception totals can be flukey. Repeating last year’s 11 would be unexpected, and there’s unusually wide disagreement on the right number for him this year:

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That Caesars under of 9.5 carries a high vig (-145), but it’s so far from DraftKings’ over of 7 at -110 (BetRivers and Unibet use the same Kambi-supplied odds as DraftKings, so would also present the same opportunity) that there’s nice profit potential if Golladay’s TDs fall on either 7, 8, or 9. Bettors in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Indiana all have the option of investing to find out.

Zach Ertz’s all-around performance

Zach Ertz has delivered far more than the Philadelphia Eagles could have hoped for since they drafted the tight end in the second round in 2013.

He was a big part of the franchise’s Super Bowl 52 win. He has made three straight Pro Bowls. He set a record for receptions by a tight end in 2018. His 525 catches over his first seven seasons are the most ever by a tight end.

The past five years’ stats show Ertz’s consistently stellar performance:

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And yet, the sportsbooks turn out to be less consistent than Ertz himself when it comes to setting the o/u for both his yards and TDs in 2020.

BetMGM is far lower than FanDuel when it comes to his yardage.

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And DraftKings (in addition to other Kambi sites) is well below FanDuel in predicting Ertz’s TDs.

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How crazy would it be for the Eagles’ tight end to finish with stats that enable bettors in a wide number of states to make money on two different types of over/unders? Well, all he would have to do is repeat last year’s numbers of 916 yards and six TDs.

Doesn’t sound so crazy at all.

Photo by Jeremy Brevard / USA Today Sports

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