First Legal NFL Bets In Colorado Include Chance For Profitable Prop Wagers

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Sports bettors in Colorado have their first opportunity to bet legally on the NFL this weekend, and the savvier among them already know it’s also a chance to find some edges on season-long prop bets.

The major online sportsbooks, nearly all of whom are now part of the mix in Colorado, opened NFL betting well before the season begins Thursday night by offering wide-ranging options for betting on players’ season-long performance.

There are various over/under markets available for how a large number of the league’s quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers will fare in yardage, touchdowns, or other aspects.

The nice thing about that for bettors is the sportsbooks don’t always agree on their predictions. When there are wide variances, those can be exploited by bettors who do their homework. Using two different sportsbooks, opposing sides can be bet with minimal risk involved — just the vig from one bet — while there’s opportunity to hit a sweet spot in the middle and win both wagers.

The downside is your money gets tied up season-long, just as for betting on a team to win the Super Bowl. But if you take advantage of the sportsbooks’ disagreements, your chances of profitability are far greater than from picking one team to win it all.

Here are just a few examples to cite, though studious bettors shopping the many Colorado sites can find many more:

How many TDs for Christian McCaffrey?

There’s no disagreement about Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey being a stud after just three seasons. He defines the term multi-purpose, as just the third running back in history to get 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving in the same year:

YearRushing yardsReceiving yardsTDs
20174356517
20181,09886713
20191,3871,00519

The over/unders on McCaffrey’s rushing yardage in 2020 have a bit of variance, ranging from 1125.5 at BetMGM to 1220.5 at FOX Bet, but the opportunity to “middle” his number of touchdowns is even better for bettors.

SportsbookBetMGMFanDuelFOX Bet
Touchdowns o/u12.5 (-110)13.5 (-110)15.5 (-120)

It seems a lot to expect McCaffrey to have another 19-TD season. Those are rare. But somewhere between BetMGM’s 12.5 and FOX Bet’s 15.5? That’s a pretty studly area itself, and a repeat of McCaffrey’s 13 from 2018 would fall right where needed for bettors taking opposite sides, looking for a big score themselves if the talented back scores either 13, 14, or 15 TDs.

Can Larry Fitzgerald keep amassing yardage?

It’s likely the Arizona Cardinals would have been happy with just half of Larry Fitzgerald’s career if you’d told them what it would amount to when they drafted the wide receiver third overall in 2004.

Seventeen seasons later, he’s second all-time in career receiving yards and receptions and still taking the field. True, the 37-year-old’s production has dropped sharply the last two years, but the numbers are hardly horrible:

YearReceptionsYardsTDs
20151091,2159
20161071,0236
20171091,1566
2018697346
2019758044

Aside from age and decreased productivity in 2018-19, there are some issues sportsbooks are taking into account in appraising Fitzgerald’s 2020 receiving yards total. In addition to Christian Kirk already surpassing him as a favorite of Cardinals QB Kyler Murray, the team signed elite receiver DeAndre Hopkins as a free agent.

That’s all good for Arizona and its fans, but as for Fitzgerald, it raises the question of how close he can come to approaching his recent yardage totals. And there’s some pretty wide disagreement on that between two operators:

SportsbookBetMGMFOX Bet
Yardage o/u525.5 (-110)709.5 (-120)

A gap of 184 yards — even with a vig difference as part of the explanation — is notable enough for a receiver predicted to get over 1,000 yards receiving. When it exists for yardage as small as what Fitzgerald is expected to get, it’s screaming for attention.

He’s a special star and person we hope doesn’t fall off a cliff in performance, but if he’s just a little slower and falls between BetMGM’s 425.5 and FOX Bet’s 549.5, we’ll call that a win-win-win for all involved, especially shrewd bettors.

How much will Sam Darnold improve?

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 various Colorado sites offer:

SportsbookWilliam HillFanDuelDraftKingsFOX Bet
Passing TDs o/u21.522.522.523.5

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 William Hill’s 21.5 and under FOX Bets’ 23.5, either 22 or 23 would be a number they could take to the bank.

Photo provided by Shutterstock

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at [email protected].

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