Around 4:00 p.m. last Sunday I was liking our chances at a plus week when it became apparent that Broncos rookie QB Paxton Lynch was not ready to lead an offense and that Devontae Booker’s increased usage means that C.J. Anderson probably can’t be counted on for bellcow-type workloads. It’s like the start of the 2015 season all over again.
Fortunately in the early games, Sammie Coates didn’t make us wait long on the 57.5 yards over as Ben Roethlisberger nailed the rookie wideout for a 72-yard bomb less than five minutes into the game. Overall it was a 2-3 week, taking the season mark to 16-12. Let’s go hunting for some more, ideally ones that fall in the win column in the first quarter. All lines appearing below are courtesy Bovada.
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Ryan Mathews rushing yards -- OVER 57.5
When you order nearly 50 air strikes against an adversary that’s proven incapable of standing up to tanks, you’re going to get fired. Such was the fate of ousted Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman who got canned this week after dialing up a huge dosage of Joe Flacco against the league’s worst rushing defense in the Washington Redskins. This Sunday the Eagles get a shot to learn from the Ravens’ error and the primary beneficiary should be Ryan Mathews, who saw 11 carries (42 yards) against the Lions last week to Darren Sproles’ 5 totes (45 yards). Mathews is the Eagles’ best rusher and this is the week to let him loose. We’re not asking for 100 yards, just 58.
Drew Brees passing yards -- OVER 290.5
All Brees does in the Superdome is throw for over 300 yards. It’s not a new trend but the Saints defense is worse than ever, forcing his hand (or arm) even more. These are his yardage outputs at home beginning last season: 255, 359, 312, 505, 387, 282, 341, 412, 423, 376. This week Brees gets a floundering Panthers team in a game boasting the week’s highest over/under total by far (53.5) in what should be a shootout. And the Panthers are better at defending the run that the pass. If only Trestman were coordinating the Saints offense.
Getty ImagesChris Graythen
Delanie Walker receiving yards -- OVER 57.5
The Browns have been getting absolutely bludgeoned by opposing tight ends this season, allowing more production than the next-worst team by a wide margin. Through five games, the Browns have surrendered 43 receptions, 501 yards and five touchdowns to opposing TEs which, for reference, comprises a statistical body of work better than Steelers WR Antonio Brown. Brown has 37 catches, 447 yards and five scores so far this season.
The Browns have faced some pretty good TEs (most recently Martellus Bennett and Gronk) and Walker is among the upper crust with the size and speed to create problems for linebackers and safeties. Walker is also Marcus Mariota’s best, most reliable target. He’s averaging 14.1 yards per catch, leads Titans pass catchers with six grabs of 20-plus yards and has dominated softer opponents in the Dolphins and Lions. The Browns certainly fit in that category.
Matt Ryan passing yards -- UNDER 265.5
Last week in Denver, the Falcons found and exploited a Broncos weakness: lackluster coverage against running backs by the inside linebackers. Julio Jones caught just two passes for 29 yards but Ryan racked up 180 of his 267 yards throwing to running backs Tevin Coleman, Devonta Freeman and fullback Patrick DiMarco. Smart game plan by Kyle Shanahan but the Seahawks got to watch that game on their bye week and they’re less likely to get exploited in that way with MLB Bobby Wagner in the middle and relying more on zone schemes. Some team, eventually, is going to slow down Matt Ryan and Seattle in Seattle is the best bet.
Travis Kelce receiving yards -- OVER 57.5
Per Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar, the Raiders are allowing 10.1 yards per target to opposing tight ends, the worst/most in the league. And as far as totals, Oakland has allowed 74 yards per game to opposing tight ends. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Kelce is averaging 55 yards per outing and remains one of Alex Smith’s favorite targets and consistently gets opportunities. This is a good week to bank on Kelce and to never, ever watch his dating show “Catching Kelce.”