There are certainly no shortage of betting options on the NFL, even with the season two months away. Currently at BetMGM, you can bet on over or under for season long props for plenty of players across the league. You can bet over/under 23.5 touchdown passes for Baker Mayfield, over/under 874.5 rushing yards for DeAndre Swift and over/under 1199.5 receiving yards for Ja'Marr Chase, amongst hundreds of other available props.
Prop betting has become infinitely more popular over the last few years, and season long props add some intrigue that could make it a very fun market to dabble in. There's a lot of overlap between season long props and fantasy football, which we all love. However, it's a tough market to handicap with a lot of unknown variables likely to come into play. Bettors love betting the over, but is that the smart way to play season long props?
Unders were money last year
This is not the first year that BetMGM and other sportsbooks have offered season long props. Therefore, we have data to look back on and see how these markets have played out in the past. Thankfully, Connor Allen of 4for4Football did the work for us and did a deep dive on his Twitter about how these props played out last season.
According to his research, if you bet $100 on every under for every season long prop last season, you would have ended the year up $6800 while winning over 66.6% of your bets. He tracked passing yards and touchdowns, rushing yards and touchdowns as well as receiving yards and touchdowns. All six markets hit the under at a rate of 55.6% or better.
The most profitable under bet was on season-long rushing touchdowns. That makes sense; running backs get banged up and miss games due to injuries. Most teams also have two or three running backs they rotate these days, so vulturing touchdowns from the main back is definitely a factor as well.
Does this mean you should be blindly betting every under? Maybe, but that's not very realistic. That's a lot of money to tie up for an extended period of time. However, it should make you think twice or three times before betting an over. If you like an under, this trend might make you more likely to place that bet.
There's more paths to an under
In order for a season-long prop to have action at BetMGM, all you need is for the player to play in Week 1. So if a player suffers a season-ending injury on the first snap of the season, and you bet the over on his rushing prop, you'd be out of luck. You don't even need a major injury to throw off your bet, even some minor bumps and bruises that cost a player a game or two can make the difference between a winning bet and a losing bet.
The player themselves doesn't even need to get injured. If you bet the over for a wide receiver and the quarterback gets hurt, that will negatively impact the receiver. If you back a running back to go over his totals and the offensive line gets banged up for a few games, you're in trouble.
While injury is the main way an under can hit with ease, there are plenty of factors that could impact how a player performs. Scheme, coaching, playing time, role, efficiency and development are all factors that can change throughout the season. We like to project players at their ceilings, but the reality is very few people reach their ceilings. Even if someone is meeting expectations, an injury can derail everything like we saw with Derrick Henry last season.
Last year, I liked Brandon Aiyuk to take a step forward and go over 899.9 receiving yards. He had 748 receiving yards in his rookie year over just 12 games. If he stayed healthy, he'd have five more games to get just 152 more yards. The former first round pick was primed to take a step forward in his development, it looked like he was going to be the No. 1 target on his offense and there was a good chance he'd get a quarterback upgrade when No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance took over the starting job.
Despite Aiyuk playing in all 17 games, he finished with just 826 yards and went under 899.9 yards. He started the year in Kyle Shanahan's dog house and was held off the field for a large part of the first few weeks, which is something nobody could have predicted. Deebo Samuel emerged as the top receiving option in the offense, posting over 1000 more receiving yards in 2021 than he did in 2020. Trey Lance never took over the job from Jimmy Garoppolo.
This is just one of many examples where everything can line up on paper and make sense in your preseason handicap, but the under still comes through. Overs might seem like an appealing bet, but tread carefully. The numbers don't lie, unders hit at a much higher clip.