NFL Week 18 contract incentives and player milestones: Which NFL player props have value
For the third year in a row, I will dive deep into the various contract incentives and player milestones to find situations that offer value in the betting markets. Last year we cleaned up with this strategy, netting over 20 units in a single day. I can’t promise those types of returns again this season, but be ready to fire if the opportunity presents itself. Last year I risked almost 14 units on these props alone in Week 18, my biggest single-day risk of the entire regular season.
Gave a little bit back with Gronk TDs and Green yards but we finish the day up 20.58 units as contract incentive props are a massive success for the 2nd year in a row @Pickswise 🤑 https://t.co/XYfqWgMBrN pic.twitter.com/K5fBXL1U6K
— Jared Smith (@jaredleesmith) January 10, 2022
This strategy was hatched 2 seasons ago when the NFL prop market was still in its infancy, along with the gambling media ecosystem. Both have evolved significantly since, which usually correlates with an erosion of betting value, but as always I will do my best to evolve with it and continue to find value with this strategy.
#NFL Week 17 can be more about stats than wins in some cases. This analysis highlights 4 players who have a lot more than just pride on the line today, and money for them could also mean money for you 💰
Promise this is worth your time ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/KCxQQRPiLK
— Jared Smith (@jaredleesmith) January 3, 2021
The most important thing to keep in mind this week is not every contract incentive offers value in the betting market. In certain situations, the goal is so low that it does not align to what the prop number will be. In other instances the matchups don’t fully align. Just like every other trend or data point that we use to handicap games every week, context must be added before placing a bet.
Here are my best efforts to provide that context and keep this strategy successful for a 3rd straight year!
Please also keep in mind that not all prop numbers are available at the time of publication. I will update this column periodically throughout the week as more bets are confirmed. At the the very end I also included all of my research for this season, including several players not listed in the column who don’t offer any significant betting value.
Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders
Patrick Mahomes needs 430 yards to pass Peyton Manning’s NFL single season passing record (5,477)
Mahomes averages 323 passing yards per game against the Raiders in his career and I can absolutely see him gunning for this record, especially in a standalone game that will likely be the cherry on top of his MVP campaign. He also gets a juicy matchup against a Raiders defense that finished dead last in EPA/play last week against Brock Purdy. Get ready for a show in Sin City.
One afterthought in this game is Juju Smith-Schuster needed 2 receiving yards to reach 900 and unlock another hefty $1.5 million bonus in his contract. However this is a prime example of not all contract incentives offering betting value since his prop number will be significantly higher than that. It’s also worth noting that Smith-Schuster has already unlocked $2.5 million in bonus money for other reception and receiving yard milestones earlier this season.
Be sure to check out our full Chiefs vs Raiders predictions
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Evan Engram needs 61 receiving yards for $200k
Zay Jones needs 98 receiving yards for $250k, 2 receptions for $250k
Christian Kirk needs 91 receiving yards for $500k, 2 receptions for $500k
I’ve seen plenty of reports about Jones and Kirk with various incentives pending in this game, some of which have already been earned. I think those players also offer some value, but to me Engram is the real hidden gem of this game because he is the only one of that trio who has an expiring contract.
The reason why an expiring contract is vital here is it puts a greater sense of urgency for Engram to get paid. With Jones and Kirk both set to return next season, there is the possibility any missed bonus money could be rolled over into roster or workout bonuses this offseason. That option is not available for Engram, who bet on himself last offseason and signed a one-year deal. Adding even more value to this is the Titans defense, which allows the most targets per game (8.5) and 2nd most yards (65.9) to tight ends this season.
It’s also worth noting that Engram has already earned $600,000 for hitting 700 receiving yards earlier this season. Kirk has already earned $1.5million for hitting 80, 90, and 100 receptions plus another $500k for hitting 1,000 receiving yards. Jones has also already earned $500k for hitting 900 receiving yards and another $500k for reaching 80 and 90 receptions earlier this season.
Be sure to check out our full Titans vs Jaguars predictions
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
DeAndre Carter needs 2 receptions for $100k, 55 yards for $100k, 2 TDs for $100k
Gerald Everett needs 5 receptions for $250k
Carter is another candidate this week on an expiring contract, which adds urgency and betting value to his situation. I also thought it was intriguing that Chargers beat reporter Lindsay Thiry chose this week to write a feature on his interesting back story which includes his time spent as a substitute teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Hayward, California.
He saw 3 targets last week against the Rams, the most he’s had in 5 weeks, which is an encouraging sign for his continued involvement in the offense. His production has taken a dip in recent weeks with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams returning from injury, but a unique wrinkle in the schedule could set up nicely for Carter to see some extended run this week.
If the Bengals beat the Ravens in the early window on Sunday, and they’re currently favored by a touchdown to do so, then the Chargers will have clinched the top Wild Card spot in the AFC and will have nothing to play for when this game kicks off in the late window. If that scenario plays out, I can see Allen and Williams sitting out or getting very limited reps as the Chargers rest up for the playoffs. That would set up an amazing opportunity for Carter to potentially earn some extra lunch money.
The better bet in this game from a matchup standpoint is Gerald Everett, who faces a Broncos defense that allows the 3rd most receiving yards per game to TEs this season (63.8) and 7th most targets (7.6). Everett has recorded at least 5 catches in 7 of 14 games this season and I think he’s a very good bet to exceed that number in this game.
It’s also worth noting that Carter has already earned $200k for hitting 25 and 35 receptions and another $200k for hitting 350 and 450 receiving yards while Everett has already pocketed $250k for hitting the 50-reception mark earlier this season.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Kalif Raymond needs 50 receiving yards for $250k, 7 receptions for $250k
Raymond has hit 50 receiving yards just 4 times all season, but 2 of those instances have come in the past 3 weeks as Jared Goff and OC Ben Johnson have gotten him more involved with the offense. That includes a 56-yard reception against the Panthers 2 weeks ago where Raymond ran a deep arrow route from the slot, connecting with Goff on a perfect throw off play-action.
He has not recorded 7 receptions in any game this season or throughout his entire career which dates back to 2016, so it’s hard to fathom him reaching that milestone here, but considering the Lions are an underdog and game script might dictate they will need to throw the ball, I can absolutely see him reaching his yardage bonus.
Another factor to consider here is Packers star CB Jaire Alexander likely matching up against Lions top WR Amon-Ra St. Brown. Alexander completely shut down Justin Jefferson last week, shadowing him on 21 of 33 reps with Jefferson only recording 1 catch for 15 yards. If that happens again I can see Raymond and the other Lions receivers getting more targets than usual this week.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Isaiah McKenzie needs 46 receiving yards for $100k
McKenzie has only hit 46 receiving yards twice all season, but the last time he faced the Patriots four weeks ago he recorded 5 catches for 44 yards, so I feel very comfortable he will get similar usage this week in the return matchup.
Even if the Chiefs clinch the top-seed on Saturday night, Buffalo still needs a win in this game to hold off Cincinnati for the 2-seed, which would secure home field in a potential divisional round matchup down the road. I expect this to be a very emotional game for the Bills, especially after receiving positive news about the recovery of teammate Damar Hamlin earlier this week.
It’s also worth noting McKenzie has already earned $150k bonus for reaching 250 and 350 receiving yards earlier this season.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Hayden Hurst needs 100 receiving yards for $250k, 2 receptions for $250k, 3 TDs for $125k
Samaje Perine needs 124 rush yards for $100k
Both of these guys were on my radar Monday, and Hurst started off the game strong with a long reception on the opening drive. From my understanding, none of the stats in that postponed game count for their official tally since the game was never finished, which means both players have a lot of work to do in order to cash in this week.
I think Hurst offers more betting value this week. First of all he’s just returning from injury after missing the last month so I can see Zac Taylor wanting to get him back up to speed quickly with the offense. I don’t think he will reach the touchdowns plateau, and unless you can find a 1.5 receptions prop to bet over, the only option here is to bet his yardage prop. Check the portfolio below for how I’m playing it.
It’s also worth noting Hurst has already earned $125k for hitting 500 receiving yards and another $125k for reaching 50 receptions earlier this season.
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
Deebo Samuel needs 152 rush yards for $650k
This is another situation where I don’t necessarily see Samuel reaching this milestone, but with Christian McCaffrey missing practice with an injured ankle and knee, I can see Samuel getting more rushing reps than usual if he does indeed return to the lineup. He was a full participant in practice on Wednesday for the first time since injuring his ankle against the Bucs in Week 14, which is a very encouraging sign.
Samuel has only eclipsed the 50-yard rushing plateau twice all season all the way back in Weeks 1 and 2, but he should be relatively fresh after rehabbing for the past month. Obviously this is a wait-and-see scenario with Samuel not even 100% confirmed to play this week, but if he is in the starting lineup I would strongly consider betting his rushing yards prop over.
It’s also worth nothing Samuel has already earned $150k for reaching 3 rushing TDs earlier this season.
Lock in our NFL Best Bets — we’re 48-38 this season!
NFL Week 18 Prop Card
Evan Engram o46.5 Receiving Yards -110 (risk 5.5u at BetMGM)
Zay Jones o53.5 Receiving Yards -115 (risk 2.3u at DraftKings)
Christian Kirk o58.5 Receiving Yards -115 (risk 2.3u at DraftKings)
Patrick Mahomes o319.5 Passing Yards -114 (risk 2.28u at Fanduel)
Hayden Hurst o25.5 Rec Yds -114 (risk 2.28u at Fanduel)
Hayden Hurst o39.5 Rec Yds +194 (risk 1.0u at Fanduel)
Hayden Hurst o49.5 Rec Yds +290 (risk 0.75u at Fanduel)
Hayden Hurst o59.5 Rec Yds +450 (risk 0.5u at Fanduel)
Hayden Hurst o69.5 Rec Yds +700 (risk 0.25u at Fanduel)
Isaiah McKenzie o30.5 Rec Yds -115 (risk 2.3u at DraftKings)
DeAndre Carter Anytime TD +410 (risk 2.0u at Fanduel)
DeAndre Carter 2+ TDs +5000 (risk 1.0u at Betway)
Kaliff Raymond o25.5 Rec Yds -110 (risk 2.2u at Fanduel)
**check back this week for more additions once prop numbers become available**
2022 NFL Contract Incentive Data
*Evan Engram Receiving Yards (739)
$600,000 for 700 receiving yards already earned
$200,000 for 800 receiving yards
Needs: 61 receiving yards
Zay Jones Receiving Yards (802)
$500,000 for 900 receiving yards
$250,000 for 1,000 and 1,100 receiving yards
Needs: 98, 198, 298 receiving yards
Zay Jones Receptions (78)
$500,000 for 70 receptions already earned
$250,000 each for 80, 90 receptions
Needs: 2, 12 receptions
Christian Kirk Rec Yards (1,009)
$500,000 for 1,000 receiving yards already earned
$500,000 each for 1,100, 1,200 receiving yards
Needs: 91, 191 receiving yards
Christian Kirk Receptions (78)
$500,000 each for 80, 90, 100 receptions
Needs: 2, 12, 22 receptions
*DeAndre Carter Receptions (43)
$200,000 for 25, 35 receptions already earned
$100,000 each for 45 receptions
Needs: 2 receptions
*DeAndre Carter Receiving Yards (495)
$200,000 for 350, 450 receiving yards already earned
$100,000 for 550 receiving yards
Needs: 55 receiving yards
*DeAndre Carter Receiving TDs (3)
$100,000 each for 5, 7 receiving TDs
Needs: 2, 4 receiving TDs
Gerald Everett Receptions (55)
$250,000 for 50 receptions already earned
$250,000 each for 60, 70 receptions
Needs: 5, 15 receptions
Kalif Raymond Receiving Yards (550)
$250,000 for 600 receiving yards
Needs: 50 receiving yards
Kalif Raymond Receptions (43)
$250,000 for 50 receptions
Needs: 7 receptions
Isaiah McKenzie Receptions (40)
$200,000 for 30 and 40 receptions already earned
$100,000 each for 50, 60 receptions
Needs: 10, 20 receptions
Deebo Samuel Rush Yards (228)
$650,000 for 380 rush yards
Needs: 152 rush yards
Za’Darius Smith Sacks (10)
$500,000 for 8.5 sacks already earned
$750,000 for 10.5 sacks
$1,000,000 for 12.5 sacks
Needs: 0.5, 2.5 sacks
*Dawuane Smoot Sacks (5)
$250,000 for 6 sacks
$500,000 for 8 sacks
$1,000,000 for 10 sacks
Needs: 1, 3, 5 sacks
Preston Smith Sacks (8.5)
$1,000,000 each for 10, 12, 14 sacks
Needs: 1.5, 3.5, 5.5 sacks
Isaiah McKenzie Receiving Yards (404)
$150,000 for 250 and 350 already earned
$100,000 each for 450, 550, 600 receiving yards
Needs: 46, 146, 246 receiving yards
*Samaje Perine Rush Yards (376)
$100,000 for 500 rush yds
Needs: 124 rushing yards
Hayden Hurst Receiving Yards (400)
$125,000 for 500 receiving yards
$250,000 for 600 receiving yards
Needs: 100, 200 receiving yards
Hayden Hurst Receptions (48)
$125,000 for 50 receptions
$250,000 for 60 receptions
Needs: 2, 12 receptions
Hayden Hurst Receiving TDs (2)
$125,000 for 5 receiving TDs
Needs: 3 receiving TDs
*Jamaal Williams Rush Yards (994)
$250,000 for 1,000 rush yards
Needs: 6 rushing yards
Juju Smith-Schuster Receiving Yards (898)
$2,000,000 for 500 and 650 receiving yards already earned
$1,500,000 for 900 receiving yards
Needs: 2 receiving yards
Tyler Higbee Receiving Yards (587)
$375,000 for 300, 400, 500 receiving yards already earned
$500,000 for 600 receiving yards
Needs: 13 receiving yards