The Kansas City Chiefs face the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2023 Super Bowl. It’s a battle between the top two touchdown scoring teams in the league, which sends an electric shock into the First Touchdown Scorer prop. Its popularity has boomed recently, and the long odds make it a potential cash cow. Vital decision-aiding data, predictions, and best bets can be found below.
First Touchdown Prop Data
First, let’s look at broader team trends such as first touchdown rate, first drive touchdown rate, first quarter offensive expected points added per play (EPA/Play), and first quarter defensive EPA/Play. The following table is for the regular season and playoffs combined.
|First TD Rate||63.1%||68.4%|
|First Drive TD Rate||26.3%||52.6%|
|1st Quarter Offensive EPA/Play||1st||2nd|
|1st Quarter Defensive EPA/Play||14th||13th|
The Chiefs and Eagles both scored the first touchdown of the game at an elite rate and own similar first quarter EPA/Play marks. However, the Eagles vastly outperformed the surprisingly poor Chiefs at scoring a touchdown on their first drive of the game. Essentially, Kansas City’s defense is getting stops on their first drive and allowing Patrick Mahomes multiple chances to orchestrate the first touchdown. They cannot count on that against this explosive Philadelphia squad though. Advantage Eagles.
Next, let’s break it down by position to see where defenses are vulnerable. The following table displays touchdowns allowed by position for the regular season and playoffs combined.
|QB TD Allowed||4||2|
|RB TD Allowed||12||17|
|TE TD Allowed||9||3|
|WR TD Allowed||22||16|
Philadelphia heavily limited running quarterbacks and tight ends by allowing a combined five touchdowns all year. They were slightly more vulnerable to running backs than wide receivers, but the advanced stats claim the gap is large. Philadelphia’s defense ranked 1st in dropback EPA/Play and 1st in pass DVOA but 23rd in rush EPA/Play and 21st in rush DVOA.
Meanwhile, opposing wide receivers and tight ends routinely gashed Kansas City for touchdowns. Their defense ranked 16th in dropback and rush EPA/Play though, so there wasn’t a strength difference for the units.
Red zone targets and touches are also excellent indicators for this prop. The image below contains red zone targets for only the regular season.
Travis Kelce easily leads both teams with a massive 28 red zone targets, including 16 inside the ten yard line. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Jerrick McKinnon both have 15 red zone targets, although McKinnon’s are far more valuable because the majority come from inside the ten. For Philadelphia, AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith are the only players with 10+ red zone targets, although Dallas Goedert would have reached the threshold if he played 16 games.
The Eagles lack of red zone targets can be explained by the fact that they scored long touchdowns this season and love to run in the red zone. The following image displays red zone touches for runners.
Miles Sanders and Jalen Hurts dominate in this department with a combined 87 red zone touches. Hurts has more touches inside the ten and inside the five, so his are more valuable. On the other side, McKinnon and Pacheco lead the way for Kansas City at 31 red zone touches each. Mahomes isn’t really involved as a runner; he only has four touches inside the five.
Finally, let’s look at how each player fared in this prop. The chart below displays how frequently a player scored the first touchdown in the game and for his team. The percentages are based on each individual’s games played, and only Toney’s Chiefs games are counted. It contains every player (except the injured Mecole Hardman) for the Chiefs and Eagles who scored first for their respective team at least once this regular season or playoffs.
Kelce absolutely crushes this prop. He scored the game’s first touchdown around 25% of the time and Kansas City’s first touchdown around 40% of the time. Toney didn’t play a full season with the Chiefs, but he has been heavily involved too. Jerrick McKinnon rounds out the top three for Kansas City, which makes sense given the huge red zone volume.
Meanwhile, Hurts paces the Eagles with Sanders and Goedert right behind him. The most surprising result has to be AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith – they are essentially irrelevant.
First Touchdown Prop Predictions & Best Bets
Based on the extensive data above and offered odds, which players resemble the best bets to score the first touchdown?
Travis Kelce (+700)
Sometimes it’s a matter of simple math. Kelce is being offered at +700 currently; therefore, the bet needs to theoretically hit one out of eight times (12.5%) to break even. If this game was simulated 100 times, does Kelce score the first touchdown in 13 of them? I believe so, which makes this a profitable play.
Yes, the Eagles rarely allow tight ends to score. And yes, Kansas City’s first drive touchdown rate is basically half of Philadelphia’s rate. However, Kelce’s monster volume allows him to hit 13% of the time at a minimum. He scores over 40% of the Chiefs’ first touchdowns and scores the game’s first touchdown over 25% of the time.
Kansas City also ranks 31st with a 55% power success rate per Football Outsiders, which is “the percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer.” If they get to the goaline, I expect them to pass instead of going for three yards and a cloud of dust.
Plus, Mahomes leans on him more than ever in the postseason – Kelce scored the first touchdown in both of their playoff games. Don’t overthink this one and take the tremendous amount of value here (I would personally price him in the +450-500 range).
Miles Sanders (+850)
The Eagles have shown that they love to run the ball in the red zone, and their offensive line is absolutely elite. They rank 7th in power success rate, 6th in adjusted line yards, 3rd in PFF’s run blocking, and 1st in rush EPA/Play. Kansas City has allowed far more touchdowns to wide receivers than running backs, but the Eagles run game is too strong for Kansas City to dictate the terms.
The Sanders/Hurts duo is difficult to slice, but I’m taking Sanders. Most of Hurts’ first touchdown success came early in the season, and Philadelphia may not want to risk aggravating his shoulder injury on the first drive when Sanders is perfectly capable of getting the yards. Sanders also averages 2.95 yards after contact per attempt compared to 1.98 for Hurts (per PFF).
Jerrick McKinnon (+1200)
I considered Dallas Goedert as my final best bet, but Jerrick McKinnon narrowly edges him. He ranked second on the Chiefs in team First Touchdown percentage, red zone targets, and inside the ten targets. In addition, McKinnon tied for first in red tone touches with Pacheco and only lost by one touch inside the five to Pacheco. That’s massive volume for a dual-threat player that can be on the field regardless of the play call.
The Eagles defense also ranked 21st in run DVOA and allowed an 80% power success rate, good for dead last in the NFL. McKinnon won’t be the center of attention with Kelce and Toney on the field, and Mahomes loves to dump off passes to running backs in the red zone. Overall, McKinnon’s odds are too good to pass up here.