I’ve never bet on football before - besides Fantasy Football, the closest I’ve ever gotten to “gambling” is the $5 Super Bowl boxes at my office. Recently, though, I learned all about prop bets and couldn’t resist diving in.
Prop bets, for those unfamiliar, aren’t related to overs and unders or the moneylines of games each week. Instead, they’re wagers that a particular event will happen. And when I say “events”, I mean anything - you can bet on the number of touchdowns Odell Beckham Jr. will score this season, whether any team will go 19-0, and even how many games Mitch Trubisky is going to start for the Bears.
Armed with knowledge of what prop bets are, but without the common sense to not throw my money away, I went to Bovada to place a few bets on the season. I figured I would make a bunch of small bets focusing on a few “sure things” and a couple more wildcards, and think I generally succeeded at making that happen. I was pleasantly surprised that Bovada was offering a 1:1 match on deposits, so I was able to turn my $75 deposit into $150 of entry credit. Who knows if I’ll ever be able to pull that money out, but it was fun to double the amount of bets I expected to make.
So - without any further ado, here are my 2017 NFL prop bets, grouped by level of confidence:
Aaron Rodgers for MVP (+500): $10 - Rodgers at this price feels like a slam dunk to me. I think the Patriots will be careful to manage Brady’s role this season to keep him fresh, and a continued focus on the running game in New England limits his touchdown ceiling. Rodgers, on the other hand, has a wideout playing running back in his backfield, and is on a team that needs to win through the air each week. Plus, any human that can do this shouldn’t be bet against:
Worst Team has Over 13.5 Losses (-140): $15 - Have you seen the Jets roster? They just traded their second best player away so that they wouldn’t accidentally win any games. I’m seeing 2-14 as a best cases scenario for them, and snatched up the under on this bet.
Jets Under 4.5 Wins (-275): $20 - See the above. I’m taking the money here.
Most Passing Yards (Regular Season) - Drew Brees (+325): $15 - Brees has as many 5,000 yard seasons as the rest of the league combined. I think it’s reasonable to expect Matt Ryan to regress slightly without Kyle Shanahan, and Aaron Rodgers has never been a huge yardage maven. Even without Brandin Cooks, I’m buying Brees topping 5,000 yards again and leading the league.
Most Receiving Touchdowns (Regular Season) - Rob Gronkowski (+900): $5 - Nine to one odds seems much too high for the most dominant touchdown scorer of his generation. Assuming Gronk is active for at least a dozen games this season, I like his odds to rack up 12-15 TDs and have a puchers chance at taking this home.
Joe Flacco Under 4200 Passing Yards (Regular Season) (-155): $10 - After seeing Ryan Mallet show off his “skills” this preseason, the Ravens are dying to have Flacco back in the saddle this season. While Flacco led the league in pass attempts last season, I think the Ravens have realized that was a mistake and will look to be more run-heavy this season. Decidedly non-“Elite” talent and a reduced workload? Doesn’t sound like 4,200+ yards to me.
Most Recieving Yards - A.J. Green (+1800): $5 - These odds feel way too high for one of the most dominant pass catchers in the NFL. If he can avoid the injuries that plagued him last season, Green is a lethal deep threat that should rack up yardage in big chunks. Were Andrew Luck healthy, I’d be tempted to go with T.Y. Hilton here, but with Luck out for the time being Hilton is off the table.
Tom Brady under 4,750 Passing Yards (-115): $5 - As mentioned earlier, I think the Patriots lean pretty run-heavy this season and try to limit TB12’s usage late in the year. Surrounded by new weapons, I can see Brady having an incredible season, just not one defined by passing yardage.
Washington Redskins make the Playoffs (+300): $15 - I’m betting here more on blind faith than any sort of reason… I will say this bet will probably make me the happiest if it comes true. From a non-biased perspective, the Redskins have the talent on offensive to pull this off, it will come down to how the defense performs throughout the season. If Jonathan Allen can shore up the interior of the defense and Josh Norman is able to take Dez Bryant/Odell Beckham/Alshon Jeffery out of games, the Skins have a real shot at a Wild Card berth.
Luke Kuechly wins Defensive Player of the Year (+1400): $4 - This should be J.J. Watt’s award to win, assuming he is back to full health. But at such a low price, I’m buying Kuechly stock. If the Panther’s offense can bounce back and help propel them to the playoffs, Kuechly will get a lot of publicity for his dominance stabilizing their defense.
Most Interceptions (Regular Season) - Eli Manning(+550): $3
Most Interceptions (Regular Season)- Drew Brees (+1600): $2
When thinking about who might contend for this award, I tried to combine expected passing volume this season with track record of inaccuracy. Eli fits that bill perfectly, and while Brees may be a hyper-accurate passer, he also gets burned trying to force the ball into windows that are too small.
Most Recieving Touchdowns - Dez Bryant (+1200): $5 - Whenever Zeke finally sits out for his six game suspension, expect the Cowboys offense to run through Dez. Never a huge yardage guy, I expect his biggest contribution this season will be physically dominant play in the red zone. The tough defenses in the NFC East are a concern, but I expect Dez will get enough looks to contend with Gronk and the rest on TDs, especially at +1200.
Russell Wilson wins Most Valuable Player (+1600): $10 - Pete Carroll knows that his patchwork backfield of Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, Prosise, and Carson isn’t enough to anchor his offense as Marshawn Lynch once did. I expect Wilson will take another leap as a creative playmaker and on increased passing volume will record an outstanding statistical season. Combined with the Seahawks' typically fantastic defense (which is excited to get Earl Thomas back), I can see Wilson riding a 4,500 yard, 35 TD season to a first round bye and the MVP award.
Mike Mularkey wins Coach of the Year (+1600): $5
Dirk Koetter wins Coach of the Year (+2000): $5
If this award was given on merit, Belichek and Popovich would win every season. However, we’ve seen the media lean towards giving this to coaches who get their teams to “make the leap”, and as such I’ve targeted two coaches of rising young teams. If either of these squads go 11-5 and make a run in the playoffs, they should get a strong look for Coach of the Year.
DeShaun Waton wins Offensive Rookie of the Year (+1200): $3 - Looking back, this is the only pick I really hate. While I believe in Watson as a player, I’m not sure he’ll get the opportunity to start stacking numbers from day one. If Watson can knock off Tom Savage sooner rather than later, I can see him earning the award as a congratulations for running what is sure to be an improved Texans team. But if Wawtson has to wait, I wouldn’t be shocked to see one of the many young running backs run away with the award.
Most Rushing Yards - Todd Gurley (+2000): $4
Most Rushing Yards - Leonard Fournette (+3300): $4
Most Rushing Yards - Isiah Crowell (+5000): $4
Predicting running back performance is basically impossible at this point, so I’ve bought into 3 young runners that should be big-time bellcows for their teams. Assuming Le’Veon Bell or David Johnson don’t run away with this one, I like the chance of one of these young guys blowing up and stealing the RB yardage belt. Plus, a $132 payout on a $4 on Fournette bet has crazy high upside.
Keenan Allen most Recieving Yards (+5000): $5 - Fifty to one! If Allen has the bounce-back year many are expecting, he should easily be in the top 10 in the league in yardage. Throw in injury potential for other contenders like OBJ, Julio, and Hilton, and I like Allen’s chances at making a splash even as a longshot.