Player props at sportsbooks are one of the most enjoyable ways to go about betting on the NFL. However, contextualizing these props can also be telling about how betting markets expect the games to go. Each week, we’ll take a look at player props in the NFL and what they are hinting at for the game as a whole. This week’s focus will be on Cowboys – Buccaneers prop bets in the NFL season opener.
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Cowboys – Buccaneers Prop Bets
DraftKings Sportsbook lists Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott at 39.5 pass attempts for this game (O -125). Coming off his season-ending injury and battling a shoulder strain during camp, this is a high mark for Prescott. In his career, Prescott is 4-10 outright when throwing 40 or more passes and Dallas scores an average 25.9 points per game in those outings.
Connected, running back Ezekiel Elliott is listed for just 13.5 rush attempts at DraftKings Sportsbook (O -130). Sportsbooks give Elliott a 56.5% probability of going over the 13.5 attempts mark– a number he exceeded in 10 out of 15 games a season ago.
When Elliott touches the ball fewer than 13.5 times, the Cowboys and their opponents combine for 52 points or more 66.7% of the time (six out of nine games). The Cowboys are 3-8 outright in those games.
Cowboys-Buccaneers Game Script
“Game script” refers to how a game plays out– not necessarily who wins or loses, but in terms of pace of play, run or pass heavy, high or low scoring, etc. Understanding game scripts is useful when betting nearly any figure on the game itself. For example, a high-tempo, pass-heavy game script from one or both teams typically ends up in a higher-scoring affair.
Betting markets lean the over on Prescott’s 39.5 attempts (indicated by -125). They lean over on Elliott’s 13.5 attempts, but this is a low mark for what Elliott’s shown throughout his career.
The market is also foreseeing roughly 600 combined passing yards between Prescott (293.5) and Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady (304.5). Tampa Bay and its opponents went over the 600-passing yard mark five times in the 2020 regular season, where the Bucs went 4-1 outright and went over 52 points four times.
The Buccaneers have risen from -7.5 favorites to . Markets indicate that this game will be a higher-scoring affair in terms of NFL point totals (), that both teams will be pass-heavy, and that Tampa Bay will control the line of scrimmage (indicated by Elliott’s low rushing total).
NFL Week 1 betting guide: Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Applying the Cowboys-Buccaneers Game Script
Past trends aren’t necessarily indicative of outcomes year-over-year as teams and philosophies change. However, the Buccaneers became the first-ever Super Bowl champion to return all 22 starters on both sides of the football and retain the entire coaching staff. Coming off that championship, we can expect the Bucs to continue much of the same of what we saw last year.
The Cowboys also haven’t seen a high turnover rate with players and staff, and are battling many of the same issues seen last season. Injuries to key offensive linemen and a doubt cast over Elliott were two major red flags for the team a season ago. Of course, the major difference is the return of Dak Prescott.
Dallas’ point spread, , implies that the Cowboys will be trailing much of the game– a sound expectation for a team that struggled defensively a season ago. When teams are down, they resort to throwing the football. Should the Bucs control the offensive line (again, as expected due to Elliott’s low rushing props), Dallas may abandon the run early in the game and resort to airing it out.