Injuries add hidden cost in NFL individual prop bets

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

July 28, 2019 12:56 AM

With the NFL season fast approaching, sports books have posted all sorts of futures prices involving individual players. 

  • Who’s going to win the Most Valuable Player award? The Westgate in Las Vegas opened with Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs at the early favorite at 4/1 (risk $100 to win $400).
  • Who will throw for the most passing yards? William Hill has Mahomes and Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons each at 6/1 atop the board.
  • Who will gain the most yards on the ground? Hill has Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys at 5/1, Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants at 6/1 well ahead of the rest of the field.

Are there any smart bets amongst these options, or individual yardage props for star players that will become more widely available soon? For recreational bettors, the short answer is no. These types of bets are designed to exploit squares.

We’ve talked in the past about the hidden vigorish in most futures options (sports books build a universe larger than 100% to create a house edge). With player stats, you’re usually laying 11/10 or a money line variant…and that performer is priced to have a very good season. 

It’s important to remember that these particular NFL options also contain an even deeper layer of hidden vigorish. Injuries. 

Everyone is priced as if they’ll be healthy for the whole season. But this is pro football. A few stars will unfortunately suffer season-ending injuries. Others will miss a few games, which is enough to put their props out of reach. Some may play hurt for a few games, knocking a meaningful percentage off what’s achievable. Some quarterbacks will stay healthy, but see their star receivers go down. 

Squares want to bet on their favorite player or the star of their favorite team to have a great season. They’ll probably need and injury-free campaign to cash those tickets.

Think about the massive advantage sports books have over the casual fan on these offers. For many NFL players, bad injury luck will make reaching a prop threshold or winning an MVP impossible. Nobody can know in advance which stars will suffer injuries. Vig and vagueness.

There are arguably no smart Over bets on yardage props. Sure, some will ultimately cash. Those will be bad bets that won anyway (like hitting on a 14 in blackjack and you happen to catch a seven). Some stars will stay healthy. Somebody will have a career year. That doesn’t mean backing them was smart at the time of the bet. 

Clearly, betting Unders would make a lot more sense on those. Not as fun. But, you do put that injury luck in your favor. And you’re probably getting a few extra yards in your pocket because numbers are stacked against the public.

Sports books don’t offer big betting limits on advance summer bets. They’re simultaneously defending themselves against square tendencies and sharp tactics. Assuming players won’t have everything fall perfectly for them is the best way to make smart “small” bets for value.


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