Let's go to the NFC East clash between the Cowboys and Giants for the the first of this six-pack
Here we go, ladies, gentlemen and other creatures. We’re about to embark on a new journey, examining the best proposition bet opportunities (props) in NFL games. For the uninitiated, props typically look at players’ yardage totals, receptions and completions -- basically, the figures posted in a box score.
In the space below, we’re going to identify players who might outperform expectations or fail to meet them. All prop lines appearing below are courtesy Bovada. Let’s dig in and find some winners. (And go here if you’re looking for some survivor pool insight.)
Eli Manning passing yards -- under 272.5
This has nothing to do with Eli Manning’s passing abilities and the Giants offense, and everything to do with the Dallas Cowboys' veryyyyyyy sllllooooowwwww pace of play. With a talented offensive line and a mediocre, suspension-riddled defense it wishes to keep off the field, the Cowboys take their sweet time and play a keepaway style of offense. The Cowboys have led the league two years in a row in slow pace with an average 29.95 seconds per play on offense last year.
Put another way, Manning probably won’t have enough opportunities to abuse the Cowboys’ defense and hit that near-300 mark. In last year’s season opener between the Giants and Cowboys, the Giants ran 60 plays and Eli completed 20 of 36 passes for 193 yards. In the second meeting in October, the Giants ran only 49 plays as Manning completed 13 of 24 passes for just 170 yards. Dallas faced the second-fewest pass attempts in 2015 with 506 and allowed 227 passing yards against (fifth fewest). Even with an improved Giants defense (it can’t be worse than last year), I don’t see Manning cracking the high 270’s.
Ryan Matthews rushing yards -- over 67.5
I’m afraid that we’re headed toward one of those seasons where people start suggesting that the Alabama Crimson Tide could beat the Browns. That would be false but still means that Browns fans might be wearing bags on their heads by Week 6.
This relates to Philadelphia Eagles running back Ryan Mathews because he’s got first dibs at the Browns’ rushing defense, which ranked 26th against the run last season in DVOA, allowing 2,055 yards against for a 128.4 average. And this is a defense that got worse and less experienced with the departures of linebackers Paul Kruger and Karlos Dansby, and free safety Tashaun Gipson. The youth movement is here and the youngsters may get schooled.
Speaking of youngsters, Eagles QB Carson Wentz will be making his first career NFL start despite missing much of the preseason with cracked ribs. The Eagles will lean heavily on the running game in Wentz’s debut and they’ll have right tackle Lane Johnson to help the cause as he awaits word on a possible 10-game PED violation. Mathews has been productive when healthy (a recurring theme) and should get enough opportunities against an inexperienced unit to shatter that 67.5 mark.
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images
Gio Bernard receiving yards -- over 22.5
Even with a solid offensive line, the Bengals are in for a long day trying to move the ball against last year’s top-ranked rushing defense in the New York Jets. Disruptive tackle Damon Harrison took his snacks to the Giants but the Jets are still stacked on the defensive line. That said, the Jets don’t have great coverage linebackers (David Harrison, Erin Henderson) and so I think this shapes up -- especially in the absence of chain-moving tight end Tyler Eifert (ankle) -- as a game where the shifty Bernard sees a big number of targets in the passing game. Last year he caught 49 passes on 66 targets and broke 22.5 yards eight times.
Getty ImagesRob Tringali
Charles Sims receiving yards -- over 27.5
The Falcons are starting not one but two rookie linebackers in their opener -- second-round pick Deion Jones at MLB and fourth-rounder De’Vondre Campbell on the weak side. This is because the rookie duo can’t be any worse in coverage than last year’s crew, which ranked dead last against against opposing running backs in the passing game. The Buccaneers’ Doug Martin should feast in the run game while Sims, more active on third downs and in the passing game (70 targets, 51 receptions in 2015) should get a handful of opportunities to crack that 28-yard barrier.
Getty ImagesJoel Auerbach
Michael Crabtree receiving yards -- over 52.5
Much has been written about the New Orleans Saints’ 2015 defense -- absolutely none of it good. It allowed a league-worst 8.7 yards per pass attempt, a 116.2 opponent passer rating, and didn’t fare any better even after Rob Ryan got axed. The better of the Saints cornerbacks, Delvin Breaux, will probably match up with Raiders’ top wideout Amari Cooper while Crabtree who should do battle against second-year cornerback P.J. Williams and could do some work in the slot as well. In a game with shootout potential (the total is 51.5) Derek Carr should have ample time to throw behind a solid offensive line against a soft pass rush. Crabtree should get a healthy number of targets and exceed his 57.5 average yards per game from 2015.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
Alex Smith passing yards -- under 229.5
In regular season games that the Chiefs won last season, Alex Smith averaged 26 pass attempts and 196 passing yards. He’s your quintessential don’t-throw-interceptions game manager. The Chiefs are built to run the football and added one of the league’s best right tackles with Mitchell Schwartz from Cleveland. With Jamaal Charles recovering from a knee injury, backups Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West and Knile Davis should all feast on San Diego’s 31st ranked rushing defense (from 2015). Even Smith himself may spend some time scrambling up the field. The Chiefs ran the second-slowest offense last season and they’ll continue to keep things in a low gear this season. Captain Checkdown, deliver us to glory!