Let's go to the NFC East clash between the Cowboys and Redskins to see how Dez Bryant may fare
Here we go again, ladies, gentlemen and other creatures. This is Week 2 of 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. We got off to a nice start last week with a 4-2 performance. Let’s dig in and find some more winners. (And go here if you’re looking for some survivor pool insight.)
Dez Bryant -- UNDER receptions (5) and receiving yards (67.5)
Last week against the Giants, Bryant had only five targets in a game in which Dak Prescott attempted 45 passes. Bryant caught one for just eight yards (and had a would-be touchdown catch get overturned because he dropped it). Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott said this past week, “I’m going to continue to run our offense. If Dez is the read, Dez is the read.” In other words, they’re not going to force the ball to Dez and the Cowboys’ coaching staff to this point has given no indication otherwise.
Bryant just hasn’t fared that well in non-Tony Romo games (most of 2015): Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar points out that Bryant hasn’t reeled in more than five receptions in a game since Week 15 of 2014. I think we’re going to see a ticked-off Cowboys offensive line look to restore its reputation at Washington after New York’s running defense humbled the unit and poured cold water on the Ezekiel Elliott hype train that’s attempting to reach the Eric Dickerson rookie rushing record station (1,808 yards). The Redskins got torched by Antonio Brown last week (in a game plan Bryant thought was humorous) but Bryant is no Brown and Prescott is no Ben Roethlisberger, and they probably don’t want Prescott attempting more than 25-30 passes at this point.
Andrew Luck -- OVER passing yards (265.5)
This is a bet premised most on anticipated passing volume, and the expectation that Denver will be effective at shutting down the Colts’ running game and the Colts won't even try to run that much. The Colts haven’t had a 100-yard rusher since Vick Ballard in 2012 (seriously). Also importantly, the Colts’ defense might soon be approaching offensively bad, dumpster fire territory; it was rough to begin with and will be missing three starters in the secondary on Sunday with cornerback Vontae Davis (ankle) still out, cornerback Patrick Robinson out with a concussion and safety T.J. Green -- filling in for the injured Clayton Geathers (foot) -- still mending from an MCL sprain.
The Colts handed Luck a megacontract in June and won’t hesitate to let him air it out 45-50 times per game. With the shifty T.Y. Hilton, the larger Donte Moncrief (6-foot-2, 222 pounds), speedster Phillip Dorsett, and tight end Dwyane Allen free to run more routes with the line improved, I think we’ll see Luck crack the number. In fact 265 is exactly the amount of yards Luck accumulated when the Colts shocked the Broncos in Denver in the 2015 postseason in a 24-13 victory, and their offense is better now than then. Garbage time stats count the same as first half numbers, so let’s go dumpster diving.
A.J. Green OVER receptions (6) and receiving yards (87.5)
Green looks like a lock for “matchup-proof” territory occupied by about three to four wide receivers per season. The 28-year-old wideout was modest after humiliating the Jets and Darrelle Revis in Week 1, turning 13 targets into 12 catches for 180 yards and a score, calling Revis a first-ballot Hall of Famer (true).
Green’s last six performances against the Steelers resulted in these lines (targets-catches-yards-TDs): 9-6-132-1, 17-11-118-1, 13-8-82-0, 15-11-224-1 18-9-93-0, 14-6-41-0. Big numbers there. Pittsburgh is much better at defending the run than the pass (5th in run defense DVOA in 2015) and as evidenced by that target and reception volume, Andy Dalton will force-feed Green and do it successfully, even moreso now that Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones are wearing new uniforms.
Josh McCown -- OVER passing yards (225.5)
On one hand, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson has said that he’s going to FEED THE CROW (running back Isaiah Crowell). "We just have to hand it to him enough times," Jackson said. "If you have a runner you believe in, you have to give him the ball.” Fair enough but that sounds a lot like coachspeak, and what happens if the Ravens mount a 10-14 point lead in the second quarter?
The Browns defense is quite inexperienced and is probably going to help opposing QBs add some juice to their passing stats all season. Meaning Jackson may have no choice but to let McCown (taking over for the injured Robert Griffin III) drop back and air it out 40 times; in 2015, McCown averaged 26 completions, 41 attempts and 294 yards in the seven games he started. Against the Ravens it was a tale of two games as the 37-year-old torched them for 457 yards the first time and for a more modest 212 yards the second. This Ravens defense is healthier and better with Eric Weddle at strong safety and Lardarius Webb moving to free safety, but I think a combination of an extended catch-up mode, volume, and running back Duke Johnson’s prowess as a receiver should get McCown past to 226 and beyond.
Adrian Peterson -- UNDER rushing yards (79.5)
At age 31, after 2,400 career carries, Adrian Peterson may finally be reaching the “Well, this guy is mortal after all” stage of his career. Probably not yet but 80 yards against a solid Green Bay defense may be asking a bit too much this week (although historically they are better against the pass than run). It would help (the Vikings, not us) if Minnesota's slightly revamped offensive line began to coalesce, but that wasn’t the case in Week 1 against the Titans when it couldn’t get a push. ProFootballFocus’ ratings gave both guards (Brandon Fusco, Alex Boone) extremely poor run blocking grades as Peterson rushed 19 times for just 31 yards (1.6 average).
Peterson’s last two turns against the Packers haven’t gone well, either. In 2015, Peterson took 19 carries for 67 yards in Week 17 and 13 rushes for just 45 yards in Week 11. Meanwhile, change-of-pace Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon, an adept receiver who averaged 5.2 yards per carry last season, returns to health for this divisional battle and may cut into Peterson’s carries. Quarterback Sam Bradford will take the reins in Minnesota for the first time on Sunday night and should have absorbed enough of the playbook at this point that they don’t go too conservative with him. As always, Peterson can make this wager look silly on one play but at least the Packers has a free safety (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix) capable of making open field tackles.