Very few of us are professional linemakers, but many of us have experience setting lines. Here's what I mean: if you see Team X is favored by three points and you say, "This game should be a pick ’em," ... well, you've engaged in a form of line making.
It is one thing to set lines with only your own money at stake, but it's a completely different one when streams of bettors line up on Sunday and pound away at your creations. I've gained a great deal of respect for the challenges professional oddsmakers face, and I am sure I do not know the half of it.
I say all of this as I offer 12 hypothetical proposition wagers — six Over-Unders, six spreads — on various NFL topics. I constructed each of these props with an eye on how I thought bettors would play them. It was part research, part gut feel. I thank colleague Eric Edholm for the idea.
A few quick rules before we start. One, all props encompass the 2012 regular season only. Two, assume normal vigorish (-110) for each side of the wager. Three, though, like Snoop Lion, my dream is to own a fly casino, my limits are low, and a supervisor will come running over, harried look on face, if you try to wager more than the cost of a soda pop.
Regular-season wins, AFC West winner: 9½
My reasoning: So many have said that the West is wide open. A .500 record, after all, won it last season, and only Kansas City has won double-digit games the past two seasons. However, I don't believe this number could be any lower than this.
Broncos QB Peyton Manning’s regular-season starts: 13½
My reasoning: You couldn’t have set a number this low two years ago. Now, I wonder if I’ve set it too high. Remember, there’s no need to worry about a consecutive-starts streak for Manning. His health and strength over a full season are paramount.
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant’s regular-season receiving yards: 1,115
My reasoning: Bryant has never had a 1,000-yard season, but anything below four digits would be pounded Over. This is really a question of whether Bryant plays to his vast potential or whether he continues to mix flashes of brilliance with some inconsistency.
Panthers QB Cam Newton’s rushing TDs: 7½
My reasoning: I originally considered opening this as high as 10, but there’s much sentiment that Newton will run less this season. Also, the Panthers' backfield is loaded with quality, with ex-Charger Mike Tolbert the latest addition. I kept revising this downward until I hit this number, and I still think I’d get more Under money than Over money. My view? Newton is going to continue to be a prolific runner, and he’s going to score a bushel of TDs. Should be interesting.
Jets QB Tim Tebow’s rushing TDs: 6½
My reasoning: This was a tough number to set. Tebow is a backup, but he could play quite a bit in the red zone, and he very well could get a chance to start at some point. There isn't a lack of opinions on Mr. Tebow, making him a wonderful prop-bet subject.
Packers OLB Clay Matthews' sacks: 11
My reasoning: Matthews generated a good deal of pressure a season ago but notched just 6½ sacks. Surely he’s capable of more this season, so a single-digit number was not a consideration. I would guess Packers fans would prefer the Over with everyone else pretty well split on the matter.
Falcons WR Roddy White -40 receiving yards vs. Falcons WR Julio Jones receiving yards
My reasoning: When I ran the numbers, I had White as a slightly bigger favorite, but I shaded the line a little toward Jones, who likely would get a good deal of public support. Were I booking this, I’d probably need White to win.
Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson –160 receiving yards vs. Chargers TE Antonio Gates receiving yards
My reasoning: Here's a proposition that asks bettors to weigh 1) whether Jackson's production will decrease with his new club and 2) whether Gates' production will increase with Jackson gone. Jackson needs to be favored, given his production and the position he plays.
Saints TE Jimmy Graham -250 receiving yards vs. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski receiving yards
My reasoning: Gronkowski had more receiving yards on fewer catches than Graham a season ago, but the Patriots have added WR Brandon Lloyd, and Aaron Hernandez is another outstanding target at the TE position for New England. Graham would have to be favored here.
Falcons QB Matt Ryan passing yards pick ’em vs. Cowboys QB Tony Romo passing yards
My reasoning: Twenty-one feet separated these passers in 2011, with Romo holding a 4,184-4,177 passing yards edge. Romo also held the edge in yards per completion (8.0-7.4). On balance, Romo's résumé is stronger, but does Ryan have more upside?
Texans RB Arian Foster –130 rushing yards vs. Chargers RB Ryan Mathews rushing yards
My reasoning: Foster is a deserving favorite, but Matthews could get more work this season. It's a gamble on whether you believe Mathews is ready to join the game's elite at his position.
Texans -2½ regular-season wins vs. Colts, Jaguars or Titans regular-season wins
My reasoning: Call this a referendum on whether you think the Texans are clearly the best team in the AFC South this season.