The divisional round of the 2013 NFL playoffs is upon us, and while that's good news for the eight teams still in action, bettors are down to a mere three weeks to pad their pockets this season.
And with only four games remaining this weekend to make those wagers, gamblers are going to have to find new ways to print free money. For some, that will mean wading into the always-risky waters of prop bets.
Though oftentimes seen as inane bets for the casual gambler to make on Super Bowl week, NFL diehards find consistent value in prop bets. Whether it's small-odd bets found within individual games or overarching wagers that encapsulate the whole week, there are always a few risks worth taking.
With that in mind, let's take a few of the best prop bets to make during this weekend's slate of games.
(All betting information comes via Sportsbook.)
Most Passing Yards in Divisional Round: Peyton Manning (15/4)
There are only three realistic contenders to hit this bet: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. The other quarterbacks either won't throw enough (Colin Kaepernick, Matt Schaub, Russell Wilson), have exceedingly difficult matchups (Matt Ryan) or are Joe Flacco .
Rodgers takes has to deal with a San Francisco 49ers team that has been great against the pass all season and will get Justin Smith back to wreak havoc in the backfield. Considering the Packers' propensity for giving up sacks, DuJuan Harris should be featured enough to keep Rodgers' passing totals from going through the roof.
Brady, meanwhile, doesn't get much of a better matchup against the Houston Texans. When Houston's pass rush is dominating and Johnathan Joseph is dominating opposing No. 1 wide receivers, the Texans defense is phenomenal. Just ask Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. The unit struggled big down the stretch, but Joseph was hobbled by injuries and seemed truly healthy last week.
Hobbled Joseph or not, Manning doesn't have any of those worries. The Baltimore Ravens' top cornerback, Lardarius Webb, has been out since mid-October with a torn ACL, and their top pass-rusher, Terrell Suggs, has been hampered this season by his Achilles.
The result has been a downtrodden Ravens pass defense that finished 17th in total yards allowed and had the fourth-worst pass coverage unit in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus' advanced measurements.
With Baltimore also ranking 20th against WR1's and 30th against WR2's, per Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, the divisional round should be huge for a Manning, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas.
At nearly 4/1 odds, Manning is definitely the best bet to have a huge passing day this weekend.
Marshawn Lynch: Over 100.5 Rushing Yards (-115)
There's not much you can say for certain in the NFL playoffs, but Marshawn Lynch having success against the Atlanta Falcons' run defense is as close as you can get. The bruising Seahawks running back has continually gotten better as the season goes along and he has five-straight 100-plus yard rushing performances.
Included in those five straight games were performances against the 49ers and Redskins, which ranked fourth and fifth in rushing yards allowed this season.
Well, based on just about every measurement we have available, Lynch should have no problem excelling against the Falcons on Sunday. They finished the regular season 23rd in the NFL, allowing 123.2 yards per contest and don't measure out well metrically, either.
Per Pro Football Focus' advanced stats database, Atlanta finished the regular season 25th in the NFL against the run, and Football Outsiders' DVOA metric places the unit 20th. Using Football Outsiders' premium stats database, we can see that the Falcons became better down the stretch, though.
By that same token, though, the Seahawks have been absolutely dominant on the ground since Week 12 and have only had a below replacement-level game on the ground twice since Week 3. It's the case of a season's worth of data working in Seattle's favor versus only a relatively limited sample size for Atlanta.
From a betting standpoint, that ultimately makes Lynch rushing for 101 yards a no-brainer.
Arian Foster: Over 88.5 Rushing Yards (-115)
In the previous two sections we used advanced metrics to show how our props could come through, but they're rather unnecessary here. Foster is going to run for over 89 yards because Gary Kubiak is going to continually feed him the ball, both to hide the weaknesses of Matt Schaub and exploit the deficiencies of the Patriots defense.
Let's focus on the latter because the former has become rather apparent to those who have watched Schaub play down the stretch. Something, whether it is an injury-related or confidence-related issue, is not right with the Texans signal-caller.
Luckily, Houston should be able to move the ball on the ground against New England. Though it's certainly the biggest defensive strength, the Patriots are a team that gives up consistent rushing gains in small chunks.
That bodes well for Foster, who should get a cabal of carries this weekend. The bruising back received 32 carries and 40 total touches in last week's win over Cincinnati and there's little reason for Kubiak to slow down that workload. That's especially true considering Foster's early-week avatar.
He's motivated, should get a ton of carries and isn't exactly facing the toughest defense in the world. What's more, albeit in a limited sample size, Foster has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his three career playoff games.
He may or may not make it four straight, but getting 89 yards seems like a foregone conclusion.