NFL Playoff Picks: Breaking Down Best Prop Bets of Wild-Card Weekend
While everyone is concerned about which teams will win during the NFL's Wild Card Weekend, bettors are looking at which individual matchups are most likely to pad their pockets.
During most of the regular season, those individual bets are mostly your standard spreads and over/unders. However, once the regular season ends and betting opportunities become slimmer, prop bets begin taking an increasing priority in the gambling community.
Even for the common fan, prop bets can oftentimes be titillating. Most have nothing to do with the outcome of the game, so even if your favorite team is getting destroyed, you may still be able to take solace in your squad's quarterback hitting the "over" for his yardage total.
It may seem like a hollow victory, but at least it will pay for a case of Pepsi to drown your sorrows in.
Which are the best prop bets on tap for Wild Card Weekend? Here's a look at a few that stick out above the rest as great values.
(All betting information comes courtesy of Bovada.)
Andrew Luck Total Passing Yards: Over 260.5 (-115)
Regardless of the game's ultimate result, Luck will hit the over on this figure pretty easily. There is only one way the Indianapolis Colts are winning this contest, and it's not by feeding Vick Ballard up the middle against a hungry Ray Lewis.
Luck is going to throw early, he's going to throw often and he should have some success against a Baltimore secondary that's been held together by a combination of Ed Reed and Elmer's glue. During the regular season, the Ravens allowed 228.1 yards per game, which ranked 17th in the NFL.
Baltimore also ranks right around the middle of the pack in terms of completion percentage against (60.0), yards per attempt allowed (7.0) and opposing quarterback rating (80.6). Though the Ravens actually improve to 13th in Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings, the secondary is still considered 3.4 percent below replacement-level using those measurements.
Where Luck may struggle is in scoring touchdowns. Baltimore allowed only 15 scores through the air during the regular season, which ranked second-best in the league. Luckily, that doesn't matter for this prop bet.
Luck averaged 273.4 passing yards per game during the regular season, and when accounting for Baltimore's middling secondary, there's little reason to think he'll be below that number on Sunday.
Most Rushing Yards Wild Card Weekend: Ray Rice (11/2)
Look, I know the risks. Adrian Peterson, who has spent the entire 2012 season astounding onlookers with his brilliance, is playing a team he's already carved up for over 400 rushing yards this season. He's obviously more likely than any other running back to have a huge game, and his 7/4 odds denote that fact.
However, sometimes the oddsmakers simply make a line too high. And though it's not the likeliest outcome, Rice being the leading rusher of Wild Card Weekend being better than 5/1 odds is one of those instances.
Of the running backs playing this weekend, Rice's odds are the second-worst behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Under normal circumstances, that would make sense. Baltimore has continually underused its star back all season to the frustration of fans across the nation. It was Rice's underuse that likely got Cam Cameron fired in the middle of the season, and it's not like Jim Caldwell is going to bring forth any confidence.
Nonetheless, if there is a time where Rice is bound to go off, it's this Sunday. The Colts finished the 2012 regular season 29th in the NFL in run defense and allows a league-high 5.1 yards per carry. In fact, per Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, Indianapolis actually has the league's worst overall run defense.
Obviously, some of those statistics are skewed by the Chiefs' 352-yard skewering of the Colts in Week 16. But Indianapolis' defense has been a season-long exercise in ineptitude, and the Ravens will be remiss if they don't try to take advantage.
With Rice fully rested after playing minimally last Sunday, anything short of a 25-carry effort will only come from horrid play-calling.
Will it be enough to top the weekend? Possibly. Nevertheless, there is enough of a possibility for me to be willing to plop down $100 and hope it turns into $550.
Most Passing Yards Wild Card Weekend: Aaron Rodgers (5/2)
If this seems like the easiest bet of the weekend, that's because it is. There are eight quarterbacks competing on Saturday or Sunday, but only three of those players threw for over 4,000 yards this season.
One is Rodgers; another is a rookie quarterback playing his first playoff game on the road (Luck); and the final one is a guy who has looked like a rookie quarterback lately playing in his first playoff game (Matt Schaub).
That alone makes Rodgers an even heavier favorite than what he already is. Sure, one of the remaining five quarterbacks could wind up having a career day, but it would be a statistical anomaly.
Need statistical evidence before laying down next month's mortgage payment? Well, Rogers has that going in his favor as well. The Vikings secondary has been a massive problem all season, finishing the year 24th in yardage allowed and DVOA. In last week's thriller, Rodgers eviscerated the Minnesota defense to the tune of 365 yards and four touchdowns.
Though Lambeau Field's conditions play a bit of a factor, remember that the Packers' leading rusher, Alex Green, gained a total of 464 yards this season. Green Bay's offensive fate rests solely in the hands of its quarterback. Other than Indianapolis, there is no other team playing this weekend that can make the same statement.
The prop will likely come down to Luck and Rodgers, but I feel far more comfortable laying money with the veteran.
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