Prop Bets That Don’t Suck: Championship Weekend

Since the model couldn’t find value in either spread this week (and I suspect the same thing will happen for the Super Bowl), I thought I’d take a look at a few prop lines that I believe have value. We don’t have a model for props, so this isn’t anything too official — my process is essentially to look at various projections and other stats to try to find value.

The lines are taken from this site, which has lines from Draftkings, Fanduel, and Bet MGM.

Bet: John Brown under 4.5 receptions -120 (Bet MGM)
John Brown missed weeks 11 – 16 with an ankle injury, only to return for a partial workload week 17. In the wildcard round he returned to his normal, nearly every-down usage. Despite this, he put up goose eggs on the box score with just 4 targets. Last week he was a monster, catching 8 balls for 62 yards. Alas, he must be fully healthy, right?

This way of thinking is far too simplistic. Here’s the reality — Brown has gone over 4 receptions in just 4 of his 11 games this season (including playoffs). He excels in the deep ball — evident by his 12 aDOT (average depth of target), meaning it’s the quality of his targets — rather than the quantity — that make him great. The Chiefs defense may be piss poor, but they actually excel at defending the deep ball. They rank 3rd in the entire NFL in deep passing defense DVOA. 5 targets with 3 catches is a fair projection for Brown. Take the under.

Bet: Tom Brady under 0.5 interceptions +101 (DraftKings)
TB12 is notorious for taking care of the ball, so an even money bet on him not throwing a pick immediately jumped out at me. Some numbers: Brady has thrown 12 picks in 18 games this season. PFF has deemed 1.99% of his passes “turnover worthy,” which is actually lower than Aaron Rodgers’s 2.17% number, but Rodgers’s under is going off at -200. The Packers have a middle of the road pass defense (15th in DVOA) and picked off 11 balls during the regular season, which was tied for 18th in the league.

Bet: Travis Kelce over 7.5 receptions -125 (BetMGM)
Kelce has gone over 7.5 receptions in 8 of his last 9 games. In the one game he didn’t go over — week 16 against the Falcons — he had 7 receptions on 12 targets. The Bills are mediocre against tight ends (13th in DVOA), but give up an average of 61.7 yards to tight ends this season, 5th most in the league. Against the Bills, teams throw 8.3 balls per game to tight ends, which is second highest in the league. The game script (i.e., close game, high total), Kelce’s usage, and the Bills defense all point to this number going over.

Bet: Jamaal Williams over 19.5 rushing yards -118 (FanDuel)
Williams is traditionally the number 2 back in Green Bay behind Aaron Jones, but he’s used more then people realize. Last week, Aaron Jones had 14 carries to Williams’s 12, while rookie AJ Dillon had 6. Dillon injured his quad last week and wasn’t nearly as effective as Jones and Williams, so I’m expecting the rookie not to get a ton of work. The Packers are 3.5 point favorites and should have plenty of opportunities to run the ball.

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