By Mike Randle
Yahoo! is partnering with The Action Network during the football season to bring you expert sports betting information and analysis.
NFL player prop bets offer tremendous value on the board every week. They receive less action and money than the traditional bets, so savvy bettors can gain a big edge by reacting to news quicker than the books.
The betting lines for prop bets are often less efficient than NFL sides and totals, opening up attractive opportunities.
One of the best resources to help determine which prop bets to wager is our FantasyLabs Player Props tool.
We leverage the listed prop bets against our player projections from Sean Koerner, the No. 1 in-season fantasy football ranker in three of the past four seasons.
Each prop bet receives a Bet Quality grade between 1 and 10, with 10 being the biggest edge.
Now let's take a look at three props with a Bet Quality of at least seven for the “Sunday Night Football” game between the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns. Since the start of the season, props with a grade of seven or higher have gone 299-215-5 (57.6% win rate).
Rams RB Todd Gurley
THE PICK: Under 2.5 receptions (+116)
Bet Quality: 8/10
This prop bet features the best odds on the “Sunday Night Football” slate.
Sean McVay has delivered on his promise of a reduced workload for Gurley, who has reduced his snap share from 88.8% (third-best) in 2018 to 69% (11th) through the first two games.
The biggest reduction in volume has been as a receiver, where Gurley's targets per game have plummeted from 5.8 per game to five total targets through the first two games. On the season, Gurley has only four receptions for a total of eight receiving yards.
Gurley was also used much less as a pass catcher on the road in 2018. He averaged 1.3 fewer receptions and 28.9 fewer receiving yards in the Rams' eight road games.
Against a strong Cleveland front seven (eight sacks), it is unlikely Gurley will exceed his per-game reception average. The +116 juice makes this 8-rated prop even more enticing.
Rams RB Todd Gurley
THE PICK: Under 70.5 rushing yards (-115)
Bet Quality: 7/10
Same church, different pew.
I'll double down against Gurley for all the stated reasons above, especially the offensive line issues. The Browns have allowed a mediocre total of 4.0 yards per carry in their first two games.
Gurley's low snap share also increases the variance in his rushing result, which places an emphasis on a big play. Teams are focusing their defensive attention on Gurley runs, causing him to face the second-highest amount of defenders in the box (7.4) per attempt (per PlayerProfiler).
I expect a balanced workload with teammate Malcolm Brown (8.5 carries per game) and don't project Gurley to crest the 70 rushing yard total.
I would bet this prop up to -135.
Rams WR Brandin Cooks
THE PICK: Under 69.5 Receiving Yards (-120)
Bet Quality: 7/10
This prop bet is attributed to Cooks' usual feast-or-famine results. Since joining the Rams in 2018, Cooks has exceeded this total in only eight of his 17 games. And his receiving yardage variance has been huge on the road: He's averaged 59.5 away from L.A. compared to 93.4 at home.
Cleveland matches up well against the passing attack of the Rams, as the Browns feature the eighth-best pass defense DVOA (per Football Outsiders). Hopefully, the Browns will have both of their core secondary pieces, as cornerbacks Greedy Williams and Denzel Ward are questionable.
The Browns will also generate pressure as they feature a defensive front that ranked second with eight sacks through two weeks. This will make it difficult for Jared Goff to connect with Cooks on deep passes. Goff is also a much less prolific quarterback on the road, allowing us to bet on his past results.
Our model projects 8% fewer receiving yards than the implied total of 70.4. Last season, 7-graded prop bets still had a record of 754-618-28 (54%).
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