NFL: The Smartest Prop Picks in Broncos-Steelers Sunday Night Showdown

Joe Rapolla Jr.Featured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2012

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 26:  The Denver Broncos cheerleaders perform during a break in the action against the San Francisco 49ers at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on August 26, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The 49ers defeated the Broncos, 29-24.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Eric Decker is the Vegas-favorite to score the first touchdown in Sunday Night Football's debut this week. 

A bet on the Denver wide receiver, who is not similar to Wes Welker despite some ignorant opinions, will return 6-to-1 if he does find the end zone first on Sunday night. 

It's a reasonable pick considering that Decker has become one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets throughout preseason. It also shows that Vegas is favoring the Broncos to get on the scoreboard first. 

I'm not buying it. I think the first score of the game will go to Antonio Brown, who can emerge this season as a top-five receiver in the league. Ben Roethlisberger has been loving Mr. Brown, and when he catches the first touchdown pass in the game, those brave souls who were smart enough to bet on him will make $7 on every dollar they bet. 

The Vegas prop bets, which are available for every aspect of every NFL game, are largely crapshoots. Among many things, bettors can attempt to predict who will win the coin toss, who will receive the ball first and what the longest touchdown play of the game will be. It's certainly not much more than a guessing game most of the time, but the bets are fun and do offer another level of prediction and preview besides hypothesizing who will win and lose. 

A keen knowledge of both teams can lead to much success with prop bets and serve to impress your friends with your ubiquitous awareness of the game. 

For example, the above-average NFL fan can tell you betting on the longest field goal of the game being longer than 44.5 yards is smart, considering that Denver kicker Matt Prater and Pittsburgh kicker Shaun Suisham are both long booters with above-average accuracy. In addition, both teams often leave their kickers with lofty attempts of 50 yards or more. 

One can also bet on if either Manning or Roethlisberger will throw an interception in the game. The novice fan will say that Manning absolutely will since the Steelers have Troy Polamalu, who has a reputation for being a pass snatcher.

The more expert fan will say, however, that the Steelers had a surprisingly low 11 team picks last season, despite boasting the league's No. 1 passing defense. The Broncos, who are not known for their passing defense, had nine team picks. The safer bet, according to the figures, is neither quarterback will throw an interception. 

That's the really beauty of prop bets. They make you look at the numbers, and numbers never lie. The numbers tell you the Steelers defense, while methodically efficient, is statistically overrated. The Denver defense, while less efficient, is more likely to pile up stats such as picks and sacks. 

What does this all mean? 

This game will be a defensive battle, full of hits, dropped passes and pressured quarterbacks. Take the under on all bets involving yardage, and avoid the bets involving touchdowns scored. 

Finally, the final score. Vegas has set the over/under for the Broncos at 23 and for the Steelers at 21.5. The line for the game is Denver -2. Vegas has a tendency for being suspiciously physic. Take the under on the Steelers, the over on the Broncos and look for the final scoreboard to read Denver 24, Pittsburgh 21.