NFL Betting 101: An introductory guide to prop bets

What are prop bets and how can they enhance the experience of your NFL viewing? Let's take a look in our introductory guide to the world of prop bets

Why place prop bets?

The introduction of prop bets on a large scale at bookmakers over the past 20 or so years has revolutionized the way we watch games. Gone are the days of nervously watching an entire game of football to see if you won money. Now you can have the knowledge of your winnings in your back pocket as early as the first play of the game in some cases.

Additionally, prop bets add further excitement to games that may appear to lack excitement. It is not often we see wild mismatches in the NFL, but when we do betting on big spread numbers can generally be seen as a risky business. The same goes for close games, where getting a point or two in either direction is not convincing for bettors. Prop bets allow you to find that edge add that sports betting excitement to those games that previously you may not have been willing to place your hard-earned cash on.

A third reason why prop bets are prevalent in NFL games is the ability to make money through careful research. NFL games can often be a lottery when it comes to the spreads, totals, and results, with underdogs coming out on top in surprising situations. Prop bets give bettors who are willing to put in the time the opportunity to identify an edge to exploit. Whether that is a cornerback who struggles against a particular type of receiver or a team that always struggles defensively in the first half of games before tightening up in the second half. With research, those edges can be found and exploited to the benefit of people who are dedicated to making money on sports betting.

Of course, there are risks to any sports betting. Things happen, be it injuries or a player having the game of their life. So while research can generally give you an edge in betting props, there is always a risk of something happening to derail that research. Additionally, some prop bets can also prove to be a lottery. Touchdown scorers, for example, are very hard to predict, and it can be easy to get carried away if you get on a run picking players at big odds, which can lead to potentially significant losses down the line.

One of the most enjoyable things about prop bets in the NFL and sports, in general, is the variety. While some books are light on props, a good range of options can be found at many. That range of options can allow even someone who bets on sports casually to increase the enjoyment of a game through a combination of wagers. Maybe you start with a couple of first touchdown scorers, but then also bet on how many field goals will be scored in the first half, as well as a wager on how many points will be scored in the first half. With the expansion of online betting, you can often bet all of those options, or a variety of other props, again for the second half, giving you the chance to increase the enjoyment of any game in many ways.

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What are the dangers?

With this ability to increase enjoyment through variety needs to be paired with responsible gambling. With this many options available, it can be easy to get carried away and find yourself making several bets on a game that you would not usually. While you can mitigate the risk with research, bad days do happen. If you have invested a large amount of money in numerous prop bets, be they player or team specific, then you can quickly find yourself losing more money on one game than you initially planned for.

Therefore, the seemingly ever-increasing prop bet options mean it is imperative that people betting on NFL games to be careful in the way they manage their budget. For each game, a cautious maximum should be set and stuck to, and if it is not your day, then do the responsible thing and step back. It can be very easy to get invested in thinking that the luck has to change and throw good money after bad with so many options available to place wagers on.

The Super Bowl

The most likely place you will have seen prop bets is the Super Bowl. On Super Bowl Sunday, the world of social media is ablaze with talk of the length of the National Anthem, the result of the coin toss, the first half time song, and the color of the Gatorade shower for the winning coach. No single game or event in the world of sports seems to have more prop bets associated with it than the Super Bowl.

With friends and family gathering to watch the game, it can be a great way to add some friendly rivalry into an already enjoyable Sunday watching football. Even if you are not someone who places bets on sports, it can be a day to win some bragging rights with very little work for yourself. The world of sports is buzzing with talk of many prop bets in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, and just an hour of reading can give you a chance to look extremely knowledgable all afternoon!

Are prop bets on NFL games worth it?

The answer here is simple: absolutely. With the right research and knowledge of what to look for, making money on prop bets is often the way the most seasoned gamblers when it comes to sports betting boost their bankroll. The key? Bet on skill-based outcomes and not luck-based, and you can have real success. Avoid bets such as the result of a coin toss and the length of the National Anthem, and instead, focus on what you can research. While the world of the NFL means you are never entirely in control of your prop bets, you can mitigate the risks significantly by sticking to what you either know or can easily learn.

Ben Rolfe is a betting analyst at the Pro Football Network (@PFN365). Follow the betting group @PFNBets and Ben @benrolfe15

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.

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