How To Find Value With The First Touchdown Scorer Prop
One of the more popular NFL novelty bets that’s come to light in recent years is the first touchdown scorer prop. After all, we’ve become a society that’s all about instant gratification, so it’s nice that it doesn’t (usually) take too long for this bet to be graded.
While this bet has mostly been associated with casuals just throwing around some recreational money, is there actually value here? We’re taking a closer look at how to handicap this popular prop and discussing the strategy of finding a winner.
What’s The Matchup Looking Like?
When you’re lining up to bet a prop like this, you’re going to want to examine the nitty gritty of the matchup. That is going to provide some clues as to which way you want to go.
When you’re thinking about what way to go with your offensive player – a quarterback, a running back or a wide receiver – you’re going to have to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent’s defense. Are they strong against the run? Are they better against the pass? Are they susceptible to quarterback sneaks?
Taking a look at a number of traditional stat categories like yards-per-carry allowed, rushing yards allowed and red zone defense – just to name a few – can start to paint a picture. If the offense you’re betting on is facing a team that is ranked 31st in run defense and 32nd in yards-per-carry allowed, that might suggest that their best plan of attack is on the ground. Then you might want to take a look at the running backs and see who is a good option. Conversely, if they’re airtight on the ground with two All-Pro defensive tackles, then maybe looking for someone in the passing game makes sense.
Evaluating the opposing defense and discovering any weak points of attack is likely one of the best guides as to who to bet for a first touchdown scorer prop.
What Style Of Offense Are You Betting On?
As important as the last section is, you also have to do the homework on the offense you’re planning to bet on. We know that the NFL has become a pass-oriented league but teams still have their preferences. Some rely more heavily on attacking through the air while others have a much more even run-pass ratio.
When you’re looking at the offense, knowing their priorities will guide you as to whether to bet a running back or quarterback (to sneak it in), or a wide receiver or tight end who’ll catch the first touchdown.
There are many different types of stats you can look at to break this down but to keep it simple, check out the league-wide passing attempts. For example, in the 2022 season, nobody had more attempts than Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At the same time, nobody ran the ball less than the Bucs. Does that tell a story? On the other side, nobody ran more than the Atlanta Falcons last season and they had the second-fewest passing attempts as a team. That also can guide your bet.
Remember that this is just one stat to look at and there isn’t always a correlation. The Bucs had the most passing attempts last season but had the 13th-most passing touchdowns. That doesn’t scream “correlation”. However, as mentioned, they ran the ball the least number of times and rushed for the fewest touchdowns with just five. In that case, there is correlation. These types of stats can’t be the only reason you place a first touchdown prop bet but they are part of what you want to evaluate.
Play Selection, Snaps In The Red Zone
Touchdowns can be scored from any distance but when you’re trying to handicap this prop, you have to inspect what decisions a team makes when they get in red zone. There is less space to work with when a team gets inside the 20-yard line and offenses have specific plays to make things work in there. The good news is that as a handicapper, you can find those trends.
Many of the mainstream sites don’t get into the advanced stats but a site like Sharp Football Stats can show you the trends of decision making in the red zone. What you want to see is what are teams doing when they get within striking distance? Are they going to continue to be pass-oriented and try to fit the ball into tight spaces? Do they target or try to create opportunities for big targets like the tight end? Or are they going to pound the ball on the ground and try to find a way to breakthrough that way. If a team has a tendency, you can lean into that.
The next clue to examine is red zone snaps. While anything can happen, you’re playing the numbers here. That being the case, you want them tilted in your favor. If you see two running backs that are splitting carries on a team overall, it might be tough to decide who to be in the red zone. However, at a closer look, you can usually see who is the alpha in the red zone. Consider the Dallas Cowboys in the 2022 season. Tony Pollard was the far more effective back overall but the team fed Ezekiel Elliott more in the red zone. Elliott had 39 carries in the red zone compared to Pollard’s 23. Which of the two makes more sense to bet on? These are the types of numbers you want to keep an eye on.
Team Success In The Red Zone
While this is an individual player prop that you’re betting on, the team performance is a big factor here. If you’re wagering on a player to score the first touchdown but the team’s offense is anemic, that’s a problem.
Sites like TeamRankings.com will reveal how teams perform in these settings. Looking back to last season, the top three teams in the red zone were the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles. Not surprisingly, picking a player off of one of these teams would probably make sense for a first touchdown scorer prop. Meanwhile, the New England Patriots and New York Jets were among the worst teams in the red zone. They both scored touchdowns on less than 44% of their visits to the red zone. That gives you a clear indication that not only is it tough to pick a player off of these teams, they might end up settling for a field goal if they do get in range.
An element to factor here is the home-away splits too. Neither the Detroit Lions or Minnesota Vikings were mentioned in the last paragraph when we recapped the top three offenses in the red zone overall last season. However, the Lions were the best in converting red zone opportunities when at home and the Vikings were right behind them. Both were over 80%. Meanwhile, a team like the Los Angeles Rams converted at 29.41% of the time when they were on the road. That means that if you were faced with a setup with the Rams visiting the Lions, you should probably be betting someone from the Lions for the first touchdowns scorer prop.
Are There Any Coin Toss Trends To Evaluate?
While they are hard to find, there are places that keep track of coin toss trends. For example, a post on Reddit in the NFL subreddit tracked all of the team’s success in winning or losing, as well as their decisions after they win the coin toss.
What you’re looking for here is to see which teams take possession. If they win the coin toss and get the ball, it doesn’t mean that they’ll score but it does improve your odds. Remember, it’s the ‘first’ touchdown scorer, so any edge that you can get is key here.
Taking a look back to 2022, no team won the coin toss more than the Philadelphia Eagles but they deferred every single time. They didn’t want the ball first. The Denver Broncos won the second-most coin tosses and deferred all 12 times.
While most teams defer nowadays, there were a handful of teams who opted to receive. The Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals opted to receive four times – tied for the most in the NFL – and that’s useful to know if you’re betting a prop like this.
Success On First Possession
Building off of the last point, if the team you’re betting on does opt to get the ball first, what’s their level of success on the first possession? That’s another metric you’ll want to keep a close eye on.
What’s interesting to note is that the Cowboys and Bengals tied for the most times in terms of opting to receive the ball off a won coin toss. Both teams also ranked in the Top 10 in terms of first quarter possession last season. The Bengals led the NFL while the Cowboys were 10th. Those numbers improved even more when the teams were at home as the Bengals still led while the Cowboys were sixth.
Other areas to examine include points on a first possession and also checking in on the league rankings for points in the first quarter. These are all different types of stats that can build a supporting case for which way you want to go with a bet like this.
Is The Risk Worth The Payout?
While this has become a popular bet among casual bettors, you have to ask yourself if you really have good value betting this in terms of bankroll management? A lot of this comes down to chance as who knows how a first touchdown will get scored. You can do all of your homework and come up with a good prediction, and then a random fumble returned for a touchdown spoils your ticket.
You have to take a look at the betting odds on the board and determine whether the juice is worth the squeeze. There was a point in time early in the 2022 season when sharps caught on that Jamaal Williams was a good value play as the Detroit Lions offense was better than expected, the team was doing well in the red zone and Williams was the focal point of success there. Early on in the season, though, he was offering juicy paydays. As it became more evident that the Lions had a strong attack and that Williams was a good bet, his odds would be in the 2/1 to 4/1 range. Is it still worth betting at that point? Given the risk, it might not be.
You want to be early to this party before the crowd piles in. Once that happens, the value gets sucked out of the line and the risk grows. Keep that in mind when considering your options.
Cover All Angles When Betting The First Touchdown Scorer Prop
Admittedly, this is a tough prop to hit but the strategy behind this is about narrowing down the field. With so many players in the menu, it can be a little bit overwhelming. And it’s tough to really quantify one player’s chances of being first to find the end zone.
What you can do is improve your odds by seeing which teams do well in the red zone, what players they rely on when they get there and what way they attack. When you consider those factors – along with some of the others mentioned here – then you’ll improve your chances of connecting on a first touchdown scorer prop.