NFL Betting Guides

Passing Props: Is There Value With Attempts Versus Completions? 

Sportsbooks have done a great job of upping their offering with football props over the last few years. Nowadays, you can bet on almost every type of stat – including interceptions, rushing yards and even head-to-heads. We used to only see this type of menu for Super Bowl Sunday; now we get it for every game.

The most common props related to quarterbacks are the passing props with yards and touchdowns, but sharp sports bettors do like to dive into the attempts and completions props. We’re going to take a look at those two specifically and see if there’s value one betting one versus the other.

Passing Props: Is There Value With Attempts Versus Completions? 
Passing Props: Is There Value With Attempts Versus Completions? 

Why Bet Attempts/Completions Versus Yards?

Yards is a far more commonly tracked and talked about stat than attempts and completions. Not only is it in football conversations more frequently, it’s far more analyzed than attempts per game or completions per game. However, that’s where the value might actually lie. Since more people are betting the yards props and less chatter happens about attempts and completions, there might be good opportunities if you study up.

The other factor to recognize here is the nuance between yards and completions. Obviously, yards refers to moving the ball. On the other hand, attempts speaks to game flow a little bit more while completions speaks to accuracy. Each have their place and should be used in the right situation.

What’s The Strategy Of Betting On Passing Attempts?

When you’re betting on passing attempts for a quarterback, the mindset is more about what the game flow will be. Attempts speaks to the volume of throws in the game. You want to take a look at the matchup and think about what type of game we’ll be looking at and how will the offense be attacking.

Evaluate Game Flow

One way to think about the over or under for passing attempts is to try and evaluate whether the team you’re betting on will be ahead or behind. Although strategies in the NFL have shifted recently, the general mindset is if a team is behind, they pass the ball more. If they’re ahead more, they run more. If you’re betting on a team that is likely to be trailing, they might need to pass more and that’s where the over for attempts might make sense.

A good example of this is Kirk Cousins in the 2022 NFL season. One of the most talked about aspects of the Minnesota Vikings season last year was the fact that the Vikings had so many fourth quarter comebacks. They were frequently fighting to come from behind. Not surprisingly, that fell on the shoulders of Cousins, who finished fourth in the NFL in passing attempts. In 2021, he was 10th in the category. In 2020, he was 15th. That shows that there was good value with his over on attempts as oddsmakers didn’t expect him to be passing so much based on previous seasons. He was frequently facing lower numbers until everyone caught on. That’s one example of how game flow can really help you with this prop.

Is There A Reliable Running Game?

Another way to look at passing attempts is to evaluate the team’s running game. Do they have a stellar running back that they rely on? Or is there a highly-paid back who the offensive coordinator wants to feed? If the answer is ‘yes’, then that obviously becomes a factor to consider. Teams with bad running games, though, tend to have quarterbacks that rank among the highest for attempts.

Taking a look back to the 2022 season, Tom Brady led the NFL in passing attempts. Part of it was that the Bucs were trailing more than they needed to be. The other factor was that they simply couldn’t move the ball on the ground. The Bucs finished dead-last in the NFL in yards-per-carry at 3.4 yards per tote. As a result, Brady had 733 passing attempts, ending up as the only player in the 700’s. The Los Angeles Chargers were third-worst in that same category. Is it all that surprising that their quarterback, Justin Herbert, finished second in passing attempts?

What’s The Offense’s Plan Of Attack?

When handicapping passing attempts, another aspect to consider is what is the team’s general strategy. Do they focus on the passing game, are they balanced or is the plan to be run-oriented? That can guide you as to which way to look for passing attempts.

When thinking about Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, he’s a pass-first type of strategist. Even dating back to his days with the Philadelphia Eagles, his teams almost always looked more to the passing game than the running game. Now that he has Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback, he’s leaned even more heavily on the passing game. Mahomes has been in the top seven of passing attempts per game over the last five seasons. The one miss he had was when he missed a couple of games due to injury in 2019.

Certain teams and coaches have tendencies to either pass more or run more. Once you get familiar with those, you’ll have an easier time betting the passing attempts prop.

What’s The Strategy Of Betting On Passing Completions?

It feels like completions sits somewhere in between passing attempts and yards, and offers a bit of a happy medium. Attempts is merely just volume while yards relies more on the receivers to get open and make plays. Completions is a little more focused on the quarterback performance and accuracy. Here are a few different ways to think about betting on passing completions.

Facing A Good Defense Or Nah?

One of the first things to look at when handicapping the completions prop is to see what defense they are facing. Taking a quick look back to the 2022 season-long stats, the Cincinnati Bengals defense allowed the lowest competition percentage to opposing quarterbacks at 58.9% while the Arizona Cardinals allowed the highest at 69.8%. Clearly, this is one stat that can guide you to see where betting on completions might have more value than attempts.

The other factor here is just the quality of the defense. If a team has the option to run or pass because they excel in both areas, and they’re facing a strong pass defense, they might be less inclined to have a pass-forward game plan. On the other hand, if they are facing one of the worst secondaries in the NFL, they’re likely to go at them through the air. That’s where betting over on yards, attempts and completions could really line up and make sense.

Check The Receiving Corps

If you’re betting on completions, you have to have some faith in the receiving corps. Teams that have a stellar group of wideouts can probably put your mind at ease with completions. Teams that have a shaky group are less likely to be trusted.

Aaron Rodgers was a popular player to bet on for many passing props in his final season with the Green Bay Packers. However, he was saddled with a subpar group of pass catchers. “Pass catchers” might be a complement for what they were as they led the league in dropped passes at 30. That boils down to almost two drops per game, which directly impacts his completion numbers. As for the Atlanta Falcons, they had the fewest drops with just nine.

And don’t only evaluate a receiving corps based on drops. We know that the Packers had a questionable crew and that should have given you pause betting on Packers’ passing props over based on talent alone. You don’t need to know the drop rate.

The quality of the receiving corps should be directly tied to whether you bet the over or under for this prop.

Go Under With Checkdown Charlies

Another time to think about completions versus attempts might be when you’re dealing with a Checkdown Charlie. A passer that tends to check it down a lot is often either a young quarterback, a quarterback with a bad offensive line or someone who has good weapons out of the backfield. Some young passers – especially rookies – tend to be a bit more conservative right off the bat. They are also often handed conservative game plans to work with too. That could lead to a lot of checkdowns and help you clear an over as a completion is a completion – even if it’s only a couple of yards off of the line of scrimmage.

One quarterback who fit the bill last season was Baker Mayfield. He played for a couple of teams last season but in his time under center, he led the NFL in checkdowns with 40 in 335 passing attempts. Even with those checkdowns, he still only averaged 16.8 passing completions per game.

The reality, though, is that unders tend to be better with Checkdown Charlies. Someone who throws a lot of these types of passes tends to have some sort of issue. They are likely dealing with another underlying problem. Usually, someone who checks down the ball so much either doesn’t have great confidence, doesn’t have great weapons or doesn’t have a great offensive line. Those can all contribute to a quarterback not being able to make the connections. As a result, if you come across these types of passers, you probably want to look under.

Volume Still Matters

Often times, the leaders in passing attempts will be among the leaders in passing completions. The logic is kind of simple: the more passing attempts a quarterback has, the more likely they are to make a completion. Taking a look back to the 2022 season, the top 10 quarterbacks in passing attempts were the exact same quarterbacks who finished in the top 10 for completions.

Although there are some nuances between attempts and completions, the attempts really still matter with completions. There is a clear and obvious correlation here.

Use The Respective Passing Props In The Right Situations

Many bettors will simply look at yards and touchdowns, but there are times that attempts and completions make more sense. If you’re studying the matchups on a weekly basis, understanding the offensive strategies and the game flows, make sure you check in to see if there’s value with the attempts and completions over-unders. There usually is.

Outlier Team
August 4, 2023
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