Prop bets veer into the fantasy football world


Most quarterbacks are judged by wins and losses. Using that measuring stick, Drew Brees came up short for the New Orleans Saints last season.

Surrounded by big-play threats, Brees operates an offense that resembles an amusement park. The new-era NFL is all about the pass, with Brees setting the pace in recent years. Despite his fat stats last year, the team went thin in the win column, finishing 7-9.

But, realistically, the Saints were in disarray during coach Sean Payton’s suspension, and a long shot out of the starting gate.

Full of false hope, Brees drove the family truckster across the country to Walley World, only to arrive and find the park closed for repairs.

The roller-coaster season was a bummer, even though Brees led the league in passing yards for the second straight season.

Brees is favored to make it a three-peat, according to propositions posted at William Hill sports books, where the New Orleans quarterback is at 7-2 odds to top the NFL in regular-season passing yards.

“What it’s becoming is almost an offshoot of fantasy football with all of the props,” said Jimmy Vaccaro, director of public relations at William Hill, which put out a small book of player and team props July 2.

Training camps open soon, and Dallas and Miami kick off the preseason Aug. 4 in the Hall of Fame Game at Canton, Ohio. It’s time to get at least semi-serious about football betting.

The props offered by William Hill are attracting mostly recreational wagers, and there is an obvious fantasy attraction to betting on the individual success of quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.

Brees has been the most popular ticket among the passers, Vaccaro said. Some of the optimism might be due to an anticipated bounce-back year for the Saints, who ranked No. 2 in total offense but last in total defense while Payton was exiled. His best move was hiring Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator.

New Orleans’ regular-season win total is set at 9 or 9½ at Las Vegas books. Brees led the Saints to records of 13-3, 11-5 and 13-3 in 2011, 2010 and 2009. He passed for league highs of 5,177 yards last season and 5,476 two years ago.

“If a guy from Mississippi comes in, he bets the Saints over their win total, bets on Brees to have the most passing yards, and it’s like action every Sunday or making bets for the entire season,” Vaccaro said.

Someone from Detroit might want to wager on the second choice, Matthew Stafford, at 5-1 odds. Stafford finished 210 yards behind Brees last season.

Denver’s Peyton Manning (6-1), New England’s Tom Brady (8-1) and Dallas’ Tony Romo (10-1) round out the top five. There could be value in Manning, based on the Broncos snagging Wes Welker from the Patriots. Brady, working with an almost entirely new group of receivers, would seem to be an unwise wager. In one of 28 head-to-head matchups, I’ll side with Manning as a minus-130 favorite over Brady.

Other options to consider are Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, each at 12-1 odds.

The Lions’ Calvin Johnson is the 3-1 favorite to compile the most receiving yards. Johnson was the runaway leader last year by totaling 1,964 yards, 366 more than Houston’s Andre Johnson, the second choice at 8-1.

Running backs are not yet irrelevant, and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson is the most significant. Peterson, who won last year’s rushing title with 2,097 yards, is the 3-1 favorite. Houston’s Arian Foster and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch are next on the board at 6-1.

The props get more creative, such as, will any player have a 500-yard passing game? Yes is minus-340. The New York Giants’ Eli Manning and Houston’s Matt Schaub each had one last season.

Will any team win 14 or more regular-season games? Yes is plus-300. The Broncos and Falcons shared the league’s best record last year at 13-3.

Odds are offered on Denver’s exact record: 9-7 (15-1 odds), 10-6 (14-5), 11-5 (11-5), 12-4 (3-1), 13-3 (6-1), 14-2 (15-1), any other (4-1). I’ll predict the Broncos go 12-4.

Will any team lose 14 or more games? Yes is plus-425. Jacksonville and Kansas City each finished 2-14 last year.

The Jaguars should be a joke again, and I bet under their win total of 5.

The prop for most touchdown passes by any quarterback is 42½. Brees passed for 43 touchowns last year, 46 in 2011, and he’s due to pile up more big fantasy numbers with Payton back.

But prop betting in July is mostly for amusement. The bottom line is wins, and the prediction here is Brees drives the Saints to 10.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.