Look Over The Middle And Find Potential Sweet Spot On NFL QB Prop Bets

It's a good time to be a New Jersey football bettor, finding edges on prop bets on QBs before NFL kicks off.
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Savvy sports bettors shop lines and look for chances to find an edge by taking advantage of oddsmakers’ varying opinions, and no one is better able to do that than a New Jerseyan sitting on his couch on a September weekend.

With so many major online bookmakers operating in the state, it’s possible to find differences among them that greatly enhance chances of profitability. There may be no better example than NFL player prop bets posted now across the sites.

The key operators all have their own versions of season-long over/under totals for quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers, among their myriad futures options.

Sometimes, opinions of a player’s upcoming performance in 2020 have wide consensus, so far as what’s offered to bettors.

For instance, FanDuel, DraftKings, William Hill, and FOX Bet all agree that 27.5 is the right over/under on TD passes to be thrown by the Eagles’ Carson Wentz. You might have a strong sense he’ll be over or under that and be right — he threw exactly 27 last year — but you’re an underdog either way due to the standard -110 vig.

The good news is there’s not always such unanimity, and the differences can be exploited by those who study and are willing to tie up some funds for the duration of the season. There’s no guarantee of profit — what fun would that be? — but there are opportunities to bet both sides, potentially hit a sweet spot in the middle and win both, and at worst just lose on one of the vigs.

Here are some examples just among NFL quarterback props for those who want to act before the season gets underway this week for those signal-callers.

Where will Deshaun Watson’s yardage end up?

The Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson has been right behind Patrick Mahomes throughout their careers. First he was chosen two picks behind the Chiefs star in the 2017 draft, and now he has the second-biggest contract in NFL history behind Mahomes.

So, naturally, the two play against one another to open the NFL’s 2020 season Thursday night, a rematch of a playoff game last year in which the Chiefs came back from a huge deficit in what became a post-season trend for KC.

Watson had his second straight strong season in 2019, and he’s got a nice three-year stat line:

YearPassing yardsTDs
20171,69919
20184,16526
20193,85226

Those number don’t mean the sportsbooks are in agreement on Watson’s 2020. There’s an unusually large 300-yard difference in assessments of his likely yardage total.

SportsbookFanDuelWilliam HillDraftKingsBetMGMCaesarsFOX Bet
Yardage o/u3849.54000.54050.54050.54146.54149.5

If Watson’s numbers finish just like they did in 2019, those who bet FanDuel over 3849.5 and FOX Bet under 4149.5 will walk away happy on both counts at season’s end. The risk for making the attempt seems minimal.

Sam Darnold’s TDs in his third year

For third-year Jets starting QB Sam Darnold, there’s not much contrarianism about his yardage total: Five sites all have him within fewer than 100 yards of one another, between 3549.5 and 3634.5 for the season.

But TDs, that’s another matter worth an investment consideration. For background, the young gunslinger has yet to throw 20-plus TDs in a season, though his first two years suggest he’s on his way there:

YearPassing yardsTDs
20182,86517
20193,02419

If Darnold throws more than 20 TD passes this year, how many more will it be? That’s the big question. That’s where variability comes in, and a potential arbitrage benefit in the middle. Here’s what five of the New Jersey sites offer:

SportsbookCaesarsWilliam HillDraftKingsFanDuelFOX Bet
TD o/u20.521.522.522.523.5

Darnold has more potential weapons this year — second-round draft choice Denzel Mims and free agent signee Brashad Perriman have bolstered the Jets’ receiving corps — to go along with his extra year of experience.

That doesn’t mean Darnold’s suddenly putting up Mahomes-like numbers, but it creates a chance for TD numbers in the low 20s as a step forward. And for someone betting over Caesars’ 20.5 and under FOX Bets’ 23.5, either 21, 22, or 23 would be a number they could take to the bank.

Philip Rivers’ yardage total in Indy

Philip Rivers will be quarterbacking a new team for the first time since 2004, and with it comes some unpredictability.

He and the Los Angeles Chargers mutually separated after a down year for both in 2019, and the Indianapolis Colts were only too happy to sign the eight-time Pro Bowler to a one-year, $25 million deal.

Rivers’ yardage total was actually up last year over the three prior seasons:

YearPassing yardsTDs
20154,79229
20164,38633
20174,51528
20184,30832
20194,61523

Now he has a good group to throw to, led by T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle, but is on a team that relied more last year on a stalwart running game. There’s been no preseason games to help work on timing, and there’s some question over how much Rivers, at age 38, has left in the tank. Thus, some uncertainty about this year’s yardage total:

SportsbookDraftKingsBetMGMCaesarsWilliam HillFOX Bet
Passing yardage o/u3800.53900.53999.54050.54199.5

The variance between DraftKings’ 3800.5 and FOX Bet’s 4199.5 is nearly four times as long as a football field itself, and that’s unique among predictions for quarterbacks in 2020. It leaves plenty of room in the middle to win a two-way bet.

Cam Newton’s a multi-way question

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

Newton, 31, was once one of 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 vs. the Miami Dolphins.

Newton is now five years removed from his best season, when he was league MVP while taking the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015:

YearPassing yardsPassing TDsRushing yards
20153,83735636
20163,50919359
20173,30222754
20183,39524488
20195720-2

But who knows how he’ll fit in with the league’s premier franchise of the millennium? Will the Belechick system elevate him, or will he have difficulties fitting despite much praise he’s received during training camp? Or will injuries return?

No one knows, least of all the oddsmakers, who vary on Newton in three different contexts, starting with passing yards:

SportsbookWilliam HillBetMGMFOX BetDraftKings
Passing yards o/u2999.53150.53249.53250.5

And the same goes for variance on his passing TDs:

SportsbookWilliam HillDraftKingsFOX Bet
Passing TDs o/u18.520.522.5

And likewise for the rushing total of a QB who in the past has been a dominant dual threat:

SportsbookBetMGMFOX Bet
Rushing yards o/u425.5549.5

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 return to Newton’s 2018 performance (488 rushing yards) would be perfect for anyone trying to hit the middle there.

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