Everyone loves a good middle, and with more lines being loaded up every day, it’s time to take a look at three NFL season-long middles to consider.
We’ll break down three disparate lines while drawing on our previous deep-dive work on middling in sports betting — how, when, and why you should do it.
If you want to get more into the nuts and bolts of middles, as well as some of the more nuanced aspects of middling, this is a great place to start:
- Part 1: What are middles and how to calculate their expected value (EV)
- Part 2: When should you middle and when should you avoid them
We’re going to put some of the theory from those pieces into practice as we look at three NFL season-long middles to consider for the 2021 season.
Ravens QB Lamar Jackson
Line 1: O/U 950.5 Rush Yards (-112/-112 @ DraftKings)
Line 2: O/U 850.5 Rush Yards (-125/-105 @ PointsBet)
We’ve found a 100-yard gap on Lamar Jackson’s rushing line. Seems pretty sweet on the surface — after all that’s almost a 12% gap. But is it worth a middle?
The first thing we’re going to do is a couple of quick calculations with a Middle Calculator like the one here at Run the Sims. Let’s assume all bets are sized to win $100.
Now we know exactly how much we stand to win or lose:
- We profit $200 if Jackson lands between 851 and 950 rushing yards
- We lose $25 if he goes under 850
- And we lose $12 if he goes over 951
The next step is to take those numbers and figure out the implied probability — ie, how often do these lines suggest that Jackson will fall in that middle range?
This is a simple calculation: return/risk. Our potential return is $200, and our risk is the average loss of the two other potential outcomes.
So here we get — 200/18.5 (25+12 divided by 2) = 10.8%
So these lines imply that Jackson will finish with between 851 and 950 rushing yards 10.8% of the time. You can convert these to betting odds using an odds calculator like this one, and in this case, it implies odds of +826.
Our job as handicappers is to figure out if his “true odds” of landing in that middle window are greater or less than 10.8%. If we determine that it’s greater, we have a +EV bet; if the true odds are less than that, it’s a -EV bet.
How to Play It
There are a number of other factors that go into deciding whether or not this is a good bet to make, and we go over some of those in the articles linked above.
For the sake of this argument, let’s ignore those extraneous factors and look at this purely in an EV vacuum. Let’s also agree that the projection of 896 yards at Run the Sims is a good baseline.
(By the way, Run the Sims is going to have all sorts of useful tools, stats, projections, and much more for player props and DFS players. Subscribe now and use our exclusive BETTHEPROP promo code to save)
If we assume that 896 rushing yards is a fair median projection, then that means he’s going to land in our middle window more than the 10.8% of the time required.
In a vacuum, that makes this Lamar Jackson middle a +EV bet worth strong consideration.
In practice, however, I would not play this middle. The range of outcomes on QB rushing is just too great, and on top of that, we have to consider the opportunity cost of tying up capital for six months on a middle that isn’t a slam dunk.
Eagles WR DeVonta Smith
Line 1: O/U 750.5 Receiving Yards (-115/-115 @ PointsBet)
Line 2: O/U 950.5 Receiving Yards (-120/-120 @ Bet365)
Here’s a huge 200-yard gap for the 10th-overall pick, even bigger than the one we just looked at, so it’s got to be an easy middle, right?
Let’s run the numbers.
Again using the quick return/risk calculation, we determine that the implied probability of hitting our middle here is 11.4% or +777 odds.
So he’s going to land in that middle zone slightly more often than Jackson, who we just determined is a potentially good middle spot.
How to Play It
I would not middle this one, and here’s why — it breaks the Golden Rule of Middling, and that is…
Do Not Give Away Value!
You should only middle a bet if both sides are +EV. If the over is +EV but the under is -EV, then you are giving away value, and you’re better off taking only the over. Do not middle for the sake of middling.
Of course, the “true odds” of the rookie WR landing in the middle window are up for debate, and you can create your own projections and odds.
For the purposes of this discussion, however, there is a strong consensus across the industry that this line of 750 is too low. Run the Sims is particularly high on Smith at 1,121 yards, but other several projection sites also have him cracking 1,000 yards as well.
Again, whether those are good projections is not the point. But if we do agree that these are solid baseline projections, then all the value here is in over 750.5 yards, and we should not give away our value by trying to middle it with 950.5.
We should just take the most +EV spot, which is the over.
Seahawks WR DK Metcalf
Line 1: O/U 1,190.5 Receiving Yards (-110/-110 @ PointsBet)
Line 2: O/U 1,350.5 Receiving Yards (-130/-110 @ Bet365)
Another solid window of 160 yards here. Running through our calculations again, we determine that the implied odds of Metcalf landing in this middle window are 10%, or +900.
What do we think are the “true odds” of this happening?
How to Play It
RTS is projecting 1,223 yards. I’m seeing other sites more bullish at 1,384.
Another crude calculation we could do is take Metcalf’s career yards/game numbers and multiply them by 17 games to get 1,170 yards (68.9 * 17).
There are a number of ways to calculate your own “true odds.” None of these are perfect, but they give us a solid idea of his range of outcomes.
In this case, Metcalf has a relatively tight range of outcomes and should land in this 160-yard window slightly more than the 10% required.
Like Lamar, this is a decent middle in a vacuum but by no means a must-play. There are a number of other factors beyond pure monetary +EV that go into betting middles, and we get into some of those in the article above.
In this case, it’s an easy pass for me. I don’t see a screaming value on either side for Metcalf and would move on to the next bet.