The NFL regular season starts in less than three weeks, and sportsbooks are already booking action on Week 1 games. They are also offering a multitude of regular season prop bets. And while futures bets are usually a long-term loser, if you're looking in the right places, you can find some good value, especially on medium- and long-shots.
Here are my top-10 2013 NFL regular season prop and futures bets.
10. Will a team have a 16-0 regular season record?
William Hill Sportsbook & Racebook offers this bet at 25/1 odds and doesn't offer the "no" side of the bet. While it is a long shot, there have been two teams in the Super Bowl era that have finished the regular season with a perfect record: The 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 2007 New England Patriots.
No team is expected to dominate this year the way those two teams did, but I still believe there is a slightly better than 4 percent chance that a team goes undefeated in the regular season this year, so I'll take the "yes" side of this bet and hope for the long shot to come through.
9. Will any team have an 0-16 record?
Also offered by William Hill, this bet carries with it a 40/1 payout. In the 47 seasons of the Super Bowl era, two teams have compiled a record of complete incompetence -- the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 2008 Detroit Lions. Both those teams came into the year expecting to stink it up, and they managed to underperform expectations. Once again, there aren't any teams that are expected to compete with these teams for futility, but I still think there has to be close to a 3 percent chance that a team manages to join the ranks of historic losers.
8. New Orleans Saints to score the most points
The Saints ranked third in scoring last year (461 points) behind the prolific New England Patriots (557) and the Denver Broncos (481). This year I think the Saints will continue to be at or near the top of the league in scoring, and the 13/2 odds offered by William Hill are the best value on the board. Look for Drew Brees to have an improved season this year after a disappointing 19-interception performance last year. And with one of the worst defenses in the league last year, the Saints will likely need to score a lot of points again this year to be competitive. Look for lots of shootouts from the Saints this year.
7. New York Giants to make the playoffs
It wouldn't be an NFL column by me if I didn't have some sort of Giants prediction. To be honest, the nay-sayer in me wants to say no, but I do think there's better than a 50-50 shot that the Giants make the playoffs this year, so I'm taking up William Hill on its 6/5 offer on the Giants to make the playoffs. The Giants are in the very competitive NFC East, so they'll likely have to win because the wild cards are harder to come by when all the division games are tough battles. But I still think the Giants are favorites to make it back to the playoffs after missing by a hair last year.
6. Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC East
This is the part of the column where I hedge my bets. Other than the Giants, I think the Cowboys are the most likely team to capture the NFC East title. I know, Washington won last year, but who knows how healthy Robert Griffin III is going to be. I think the Cowboys have a pretty good shot at winning the division in spite of Tony Romo. Yes, my inner Giants fan may be coming out a bit too much here in the commentary, but I do think the Cowboys have better than a 30 percent chance to win the division. If that's the case, this is a good value bet at bet365 Sportsbook and Racebook, with a 12/5 payout.
5. AFC to win the Super Bowl
I love this bet, offered by Bovada Sportsbook & Racebook/Bodog Sportsbook and Racebook. Simply put, will the AFC or the NFC team win the Super Bowl? I'm taking the AFC. While the NFC has won three of the last four, the AFC has some high-powered teams that are going to be tough to stop. In reality this bet is a crap shoot, because who knows who will represent each conference and how good those teams will be so far out from now. But since both sides offer a 10/11 payout, it seems like a fun one to have a flier on.
It's at least as valid as betting on the coin flip in the Super Bowl, which you can already do at Bovada and Bodog for the same 10/11 odds on both heads and tails.
4. Minnesota Vikings to make the playoffs
William Hill is offering the Vikings, a playoff team last year, at a 4/1 payout to make the playoffs again this year. I can't believe this bet is available. Christian Ponder isn't a world-beater, but he had a perfectly adequate season in 2012. Yes, Adrian Peterson is getting old, but did people forget he put up 2,097 yards rushing last year? The defense was about average for the league – and near the bottom of the barrel for playoff teams – but the Vikings were 10-6 last year. They do compete in a tough division, but I expect at least one wild card to come out of the NFC North, and I see no reason why it couldn't be the Vikings. I think this bet is a steal, especially when you can get it at 4/1.
3. Atlanta Falcons to win the NFC South
The 7/5 payout on this bet, offered by both William Hill and Bovada/Bodog, isn't very good, but there's good reason for that. The reigning NFC South champions are easily the best team in the division; they won it last year by six games. That's a huge win in baseball, which features 10 times as many games as the NFL's 16-game regular season.
The only team that has a chance to compete with the Falcons are the Saints, but given the Saints' struggles on defense last year, I'm expecting the Falcons to start running away with the division title 10-11 games into the season.
2. Andre Johnson to lead NFL in receiving yards
Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson finished the 2012 season ranked second in the league in receiving yards with 1,598, just two yards shy of an average of 100 per game. But he is listed at 18/1 to lead the league in receiving in 2013 by Bovada/Bodog. I think this is a huge value bet opportunity. Johnson is Matt Schaub's primary target, and I'm betting that the pair is even better together this year, after Johnson struggled with injuries a bit in the previous season. While Johnson's value on fantasy teams may dip a bit compared to receivers who gain similar yardage because he doesn't get targeted as much in the red zone, 5-yard touchdown passes don't add much in the way of yardage; hit a few 20-yard sideline routes and crossing patterns, however, and you'll be at or near the league lead in receiving yards. At 18/1, I think this is a no-brainer.
1. Matt Ryan to win the NFL MVP Award
As I stated earlier, I think this is going to be a big year for the Atlanta Falcons, and as a result, I like Matt Ryan's chances to win the NFL's MVP Award. With Julio Jones and the ageless Tony Gonzalez as targets, as well as support from the running game provided by newly-acquired Steven Jackson, Ryan has a chance to lead the Falcons a long way this year. While there are certainly bigger favorites to win the award, I like the 16/1 odds being offered by William Hill as the best value.
Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi. Follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.