Don't play NFL player props? You should.
Player props offer a change of pace from standard spreads and totals and provide plenty of opportunities to find softer numbers in a less efficient market. As the NFL regular season nears, here are some tips to keep in mind before dipping your toes.
One of the most prevalent mistakes in the player prop market is getting too general. Just because a player is facing a poor defense doesn't necessarily mean it's an ideal matchup.
Last season, the Arizona Cardinals, typically a defense-first franchise, ranked 26th in points allowed per game. Yet they were one of the best teams at limiting passing yards and one of the toughest matchups for both quarterbacks and wide receivers. Offenses were generally licking their chops against a team giving up 26.6 points a game, but it wasn't a great spot to back a WR1 facing a star cornerback like Patrick Peterson.
The Philadelphia Eagles, on the other hand, were a top-10 scoring defense in 2018, but it didn't take a rocket scientist to notice a decimated secondary getting sliced up on a weekly basis. Still, not every opposing receiver was in an ideal situation - the Eagles were one of the best teams at limiting yards to slot receivers and one of the worst against receivers lined up wide.
Filter as much as possible until you're at the core of a matchup. What specifically is resulting in a last-place ranking in a certain defensive category? How does a team fare against wide receivers in the slot compared to outside receivers? Which side of the field is a quarterback having the most success throwing to, and which cornerback will he draw that week?
The deeper you dig, the clearer your answers become. They call it an "individual" player prop for a reason.
Play Drew Brees at home and fade him on the road, right? Not necessarily. Brees, like almost every quarterback, has night-and-day splits when throwing the ball inside a dome as opposed to outdoors. This is adjusted for in the market, so you're not exactly finding a gold mine by playing splits. It's important to understand how to weigh different quarterbacks and gauge the significance of individual drop-off in home/road splits.
Someone like Brees or Andrew Luck might see a smaller number on a yard total when playing outdoors, but you can often play the matchup game instead of the overall conditions and buy low. (Also, did you know Russell Wilson has a better quarterback rating playing outdoors than he does in domes? Odd.)
When it comes to skill players' home/road splits, there's significant variance. For example, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's struggles on the road in 2017 also affected Antonio Brown's numbers. Saints receiver Michael Thomas, meanwhile, was better on the road despite his quarterback's relative dip in production. That same year, Aaron Rodgers was above average on the road, but his top three wide receivers all saw declines in production compared to their numbers at home. Wrap your brain around all that.
Understand who needs adjustment for home/road splits and, more importantly, by how much - if at all.
The market's pretty concrete when it comes to spreads and totals. In the player prop market, it's a different story.
Searching for the best number is a given for every bettor, no matter the sport, but player prop numbers see particularly significant fluctuation between shops. If you're dealing with bigger totals such as quarterback yards, you can find some good off-market numbers. It might take an extra five seconds to grab Matt Ryan Over 303.5 passing yards at one shop instead of Over 316.5 at another, but remember who gave you this tip when Calvin Ridley drops a 15-yard crossing route on the final possession of the game.
Alex Kolodziej is a betting writer for theScore. He's a graduate of Eastern Illinois who has been involved in the sports betting industry for 12 years. He can quote every line from "Rounders" and appreciates franchises that regularly wear alternate jerseys. Find him on Twitter @AlexKoIodziej.