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Prop Joe’s Favorite NFL Prop Bets

I think I’m one of eight billion people who love “The Wire” and “Breaking Bad.” Those are the two best TV shows I’ve seen and it isn’t particularly close.1 “The Wire” had an amazing volume of unforgettably vivid characters. Below is my list of memorable “Wire” characters. To be a real test of unforgettableness, it’s got to be off the top of my head, so I’m sure I’m going to forget somebody, but here goes and I’ll include the first thought that jumps to mind:

Omar (“man’s gotta have a code”), Bunk (“f***”), McNulty (“f***”), DeAngelo (library), Stringer (mastermind), Avon (winner), Brother Mouzone (bow tie), Cedric (good posture), Garcetti (that’s actually the mayor of LA, I mean the Baltimore mayor), Clay Davis (“sheeeeeet”), Bunny (“New Hamsterdam”), Keisha (car chase scene), Lester (wood carving), Bodie (corner), Prop Joe (large), …

Ah, Prop Joe. Prop Joe was a very large and very reasonable drug kingpin. His name apparently stemmed from saying “I’ve got a proposition for you,” so we could certainly see him getting into prop bets. So, in honor of Prop Joe, I’ll cover some intriguing season prop bets.2 Most of these bets are only available online, which continues to be a legal gray area. Like Prop Joe, I would never directly touch anything slightly questionable, so I will be referring to bets made by my good friend Rawls.3 We’ll start with his favorite prop bet for 2014 and go from there in descending order.

Rawls’s Prop Bet #1: $76 On Any Team To Win at Least 14 Games (Odds: 3/1)

At first glance this bet seems to have a lot of merit. Since the 1987 strike, at least one team won 14 games 15 out of 26 times (57.7%). In the last 15 years, it’s even better, hitting 10 out of 15 times (66.7%). The bet only needs to win 25% of the time to break even, so this looks fantastic.

But Chase brought up a point that Rawls missed: schedule strength. The years without a 14-game winner in the last 15 years include 2012 and 2013. Rawls dismissed that as a blip, but it comes in part from two of the best teams in football playing in the same division. Moreover, the last run of years without a 14-game winner (1993-1997) also happened during a time of NFC dominance, at least until ‘97. The Cowboys played the Packers and Niners every year during that span, for example. This season, the best teams in football may have it even tougher. The Niners and Seahawks have to play each other twice, and each has one of the four hardest schedules in football this year. The Broncos get the NFC West, the Saints have the sixth-hardest schedule, and the Packers have above-average schedule strength. Only the Patriots have an easy schedule amongst the main threats to win 14 games.

But here’s why this bet still seems pretty good. Teams can come out of nowhere to win 14 games, too. The ’98 Falcons, ’99 Jaguars, ’06 Chargers (over/under of 9 before the season), and ’10 Patriots (over/under of 9.5 or 10) fit that bill to varying degrees. Rawls generally prefers the scarce resource (wins) to be distributed equally, but he couldn’t pass up this bet.

Rawls’s Prop Bet #2: $10 On Arizona Cardinals to Have Worst Record in Football (Odds: 40/1)

The odds do not reflect those available now, but those available when Rawls pounced. The Arizona Cardinals are an interesting team, maybe the most interesting team in the NFL this season. Their variance of potential outcomes seems high to me, even though Football Outsiders and Chase’s projections from Vegas spreads do not really agree. Rawls and I are both more bearish on the Cardinals and see a wider range of possible outcomes. On the plus side:

    1) Improvements on the offensive line: They get Jonathan Cooper back for his redshirt season and they now have a competent left tackle in Jared Veldheer.
    2) Potentially good performances at the skill positions: First, there’s Andre Ellington, #1 on Football Outsiders’ Top 25 Prospects list (5.5 yards per carry last year) and a player they liken to Jamaal Charles in terms of potential. Then, there’s buzz around the receiving corps, with Michael Floyd and John Brown in addition to a now perhaps fully-healthy Larry Fitzgerald.

But there’s also the case against the Cardinals:

    1) Low ceiling and low floor at QB: For this season, Rawls prefers 14 out of 15 NFC QBs to Palmer. There’s certainly debate about that, but he would take Palmer ahead of only Shaun Hill and he’s not even totally sure about that. In fairness, FOA projects Palmer to improve on his just below league-average DVOA from last year and Rawls knows less.4
    3) Age: The Cardinals were the oldest team in the league last year. There will eventually be a year when John Abraham stops getting sacks.
    4) Schedule: The biggest reason Rawls offers for this bet. Their schedule is a killer, the hardest in the league at least according to Vegas and close to the hardest by any measure. Rawls actually liked the Cardinals last year and that was because they had the AFC South, against which they went 4-0.
    5) Plexiglas: The Cardinals over/under before last season was 5.5. That was too low because they were replacing historically bad quarterback play in 2012 with close-to-average potential, but the Cardinals may feel the tug of regression pulling them down at least a little.

Anyway, the Cardinals are fascinating. Rawls could go on about them forever.

Rawls’s Prop Bet #3: $15 on Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Make the Playoffs (Odds: 13/2)

Note that Football Outsiders likes this bet, too. They give the Bucs a 28.3% chance of making the playoffs, enough to make this a clear winner. My coach projections really like Lovie Smith, too, since he succeeded both in St. Louis as defensive coordinator and in Chicago as head coach. Rawls didn’t love that Carl Nicks retired after he made this bet, but loved that a compensating transfer quickly brought the Bucs right back to where they were (Logan Mankins).

Rawls’s Prop Bet #4: $20 on Aaron Rodgers to Win MVP (Odds: 13/2)

Rawls rues missing 8/1 on this bet. He doesn’t care for too much treasure accumulating in the hands of a single man and so he bets on Manning fatigue this year. He thinks Rodgers is likely to be basically tied for the best quarterback in football this year, which may be good enough. The division is now much better on offense than on defense, too. The Bears, Lions, and Vikings, had the 17th, 20th, and 30th-ranked pass defenses according to DVOA in 2013, respectively.

Rawls’s Bet #5: $20 on Minnesota to Win Over 6 Games (Odds: -145)

Rawls always wants to elevate the downtrodden. He likes Mike Zimmer and Teddy Bridgewater and that’s enough for him to like the Vikings to bounce back this year.


Prop Joe and Rawls thus have agreed on this set of bets below for the 2014 season. In the table, I’ve also put my Vegas bets from earlier in the summer, along with one additional bet I made with a certain notable Jets fan.

TeamBetOddsAmount BetPotential Win
AllAny team to win 14 games3/176228
ARIWorst team in football by record40/110400
TBMake playoffs13/21597.5
GBAaron Rodgers to win MVP13/220130
MINWin over 6 games-1452016.33
NEWin Super Bowl15/130450
JACWin AFC South30/130900
GBWin NFC North10/133023.08
SEAWin NFC West13/103039
ATLWin over 8 games2/35033.33
ARIWin under 7.5 games3/2100150
NYJPoint differential to worsen from 20137/11/7 of beerFull beer

Note that Rawls also liked Rex Ryan at 25/1 to be first coach fired when those odds were available. It is plausible that Geno Smith could implode and the secondary could be a real problem. But Rawls couldn’t support additional suffering for a fan base that knows so little glory.

  1. “Seinfeld” is all alone in third with a pretty big gap after that, too. []
  2. The actor who played Prop Joe, Robert F. Chew, sadly passed away in January 2013. []
  3. Definitely not this Rawls who is the enemy of all that is good. []
  4. One more point against Palmer, though: Falling off a cliff is possible for a QB of his age and performance profile. []
  • I often feel like I’m the only person who loved “Breaking Bad” and not “The Wire.” I gave up on “The Wire” after one season, because I was bored.* (And because I think Dominic West is one of the worst actors on the planet.) Then again, I wrote 13 posts on “Doctor Who” in 11 days, so I may be a little insane. 🙂

    *Note: Not because it was bad. I just didn’t care about what it wanted to say. My boredom was not a knock on the show artistically.

    I agree about Arizona–they seem to me like they have the potential to completely implode. It’s probably more likely that they are a 6-7 win team, but I could see the wheels coming off of Palmer (and Fitzgerald, for that matter), Ellington being more Jerious Norwood than Jamaal Charles, and the defense regressing heavily, leaving the Cardinals as a bottom feeding team.

    I’m more hoping that the Vikings become more fun with Norv and Bridgewater than hoping that they are good. I spent three years in Minnesota for law school (Brett Favre twice entered the state on the same day I did. I considered self-harm as punishment for apparently bringing him with me repeatedly.), and the worst thing about it from a football standpoint was just how boring the Vikings were. And they always seemed to be built for another time. Before and after Favre, they wanted it to be 1973 and just hand off to Peterson. During Favre’s tenure, they wanted it to be 1988 when the Walsh-style west coast offense reigned supreme and run defense was still important.

  • That is pretty unusual, I think. The BB and Wire fan club do seem to have near complete overlap.

    I do think the Vikings will be more fun. Seems like Zimmer will be a lot more fun than Frazier and Childress, at least in terms of demeanor.

    • Chase Stuart

      You know, I’ve never watched The Wire. I want to, but it just hasn’t happened. Perhaps some day. I did watch I think one episode (maybe the pilot) and well, that was it.

      • Ty

        You’re missing out. Just avoid the last season, and you’re good.

      • Richie

        I watched the pilot 2 or 3 different times and had no interest in going further. Then I tried one more time and have now watched almost the whole series. It took awhile, but I finally got hooked. I just kind of committed myself to watch 3 or 4 episodes no matter what. There’s so much going on, and it burns at a pretty slow pace, so it’s a little tough to get going.

    • How exactly could one be less fun than Frazier and Childress in terms of demeanor? I mean, other than by being Andy Reid.

  • Cody Gras


  • Richie

    I’ve been watching Seinfeld reruns lately, for the first time in 15+ years. I still laugh out loud at the old jokes about once per episode. Not too many comedies (TV. movie or stand up) can hold up like that. Larry David is a genius.