It’s finally here — Week One of the NFL season and we couldn’t be more stoked to be providing insights, not only for fantasy plays but also for sports betting! Brett Ford (@FadeThatMan) and Tyler Gentile (@808Paperboi) have teamed up to bring their favorite weekly player prop bets to the table. Using expert analysis and diligent research, Brett and Tyler have compiled a list of the best places to leverage player performance for profit this week.
Please note: Listed lines and odds are subject to change from sportsbook to sportsbook, and may have moved since being posted.
Justin Fields under 184.5 passing yards (-115)
- The Packers’ run defense last season was arguably the worst in the NFL, ranking 32nd in run defense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), and didn’t do much to improve. The Bears were extremely run-heavy last season, ranking second in the NFL in 2022 with 558 rushing attempts and first in the league with 177.3 rushing yards per game.
- Green Bay’s pass defense was serviceable last season and remains one of the better groups in the league as Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas still make for a very solid starting pair of corners and Darnell Savage is one of the better pass coverage safeties in the league. The Packers’ secondary is likely their strongest defensive unit.
- Fields has yet to demonstrate any improvement as a passer. He ranked 39th in QB DVOA at the end of last season, and 26th in passer rating. However, his prolific rushing ability overshadowed his deficiencies in the passing game, as he nearly broke the single-season quarterback rushing record despite missing two games.
- Fields only hit this total in four games last season, and only once in his last eight contests. However, that one performance did come against the Packers (254 yards, Dec. 4, 2022). Fields hit over 179 passing yards on 25 pass attempts in that game, with a career-high completion percentage of 80.0%, a massive outlier from his career average completion percentage (59.7%).
- The 2022 Chicago Bears ranked in the bottom five in dropbacks over expectation last season, regardless of game script. In close games last season (within 1-3 points), the Bears were fourth-lowest in dropbacks over expectation, meaning they were significantly more likely to run the ball than the average team. That trend shows no signs of changing heading into the 2023 season. As three-point favorites in week one, Chicago will likely be playing a tight game with the Packers throughout.
Chris Godwin over 5.5 receptions (+125)
- Godwin has shown excellent chemistry with new quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was pretty accurate on short and intermediate routes during the preseason. Mayfield went 14-for-15 on pass attempts across a pair of preseason games, connecting with Godwin four times in the one game that they featured together.
- Godwin caught at least six passes in 13 of his 15 games played in 2022, albeit with Tom Brady at quarterback. However, his 21.8% target share was the highest on the team and should likely carry over into this season with Mayfield under center. Shoot, it might even increase.
- Mayfield has shown a tendency to “put the blinders on” when he’s partnered with an elite wide receiver (or two), funneling targets to his elite pass-catchers. In 2018, Mayfield targeted Jarvis Landry (far and away his top receiver) a total of 121 times (42.9% of wide receiver targets). In 2019, Mayfield threw to Landry 138 times (41.9% of WR targets) and Odell Beckham Jr. 133 times (40.4%). The hypothesis here is that with Mayfield under center, the target distribution in Tampa Bay will be much narrower than in previous years.
- The Minnesota Vikings’ defense was below average against the pass in 2022, ranking 26th in pass defense DVOA, and didn’t do much to improve in the offseason. The squad lost Patrick Peterson among several others to free agency while their biggest improvement in the offseason was bringing in Brian Flores as defensive coordinator. With Godwin likely to line up in the slot, he could see a lot of nickel cornerbacks Andrew Booth Jr. and rookie Mekhi Blackmon. The two have started one NFL game combined.
- This game could be a high-scoring affair, with explosive skill players on both sides of the ball and question marks on both defenses, it’s possible that we see a lot of offense (which, in theory, means a lot of passing). Godwin could legitimately reach 10-12 targets if things play out the right way.
Michael Thomas over 3.5 receptions (-120)
- Once upon a time, Michael Thomas was one of the top wide receivers in the entire NFL, partnering with Drew Brees to make an incredibly formidable combination. Now he’s a huge question mark, coming back from what amounts to two full seasons lost to injury. And he’s no longer the top dog in the New Orleans offense as second-year wideout Chris Olave has become the alpha in the bayou. It seems like maybe the sportsbooks don’t necessarily know what to expect from Thomas, and have set his receptions line extremely low at just 3.5 catches.
- Over the course of his entire NFL career, Thomas has only caught less than four passes three times. THREE TIMES. Even in the three games he appeared in last season, Thomas caught at least five passes in each of them. And that was with the ever-wild Jameis Winston at quarterback.
- With pass-catching running back Alvin Kamara suspended and rookie Kendre Miller likely to miss with an injury, the Saints will be somewhat limited in their possession-style pass-catchers, which is where Thomas thrived earlier in his career. The Titans’ defense has previously shown a tendency to sell out to stop the run, leaving openings in the passing game. Formerly one of the best route-runners in the game, Thomas could easily exploit his matchup and get open for Carr on short to intermediate routes relatively frequently.
- Under Mike Vrabel, the Titans have focused their defensive game plan on stopping the run, which has forced opponents to take to the air to beat them. Tennessee’s defense ranked second in the NFL in DVOA against the run last season while ranking just 27th in DVOA against the pass. If the Saints are unsuccessful moving the ball on the ground, they will take to the air, creating more opportunities for Thomas and the rest of the Saints’ receivers.
- Last season with the Raiders, Carr targeted his wide receivers quite a bit. Granted it was a different offensive scheme and coaching staff, but he managed to make Mack Hollins’ fantasy relevant for crying out loud. Hollins averaged more than five targets per game in 2022 as the second wide receiver in the offense behind Davante Adams. If Carr can prop up a middling talent like Hollins, he will definitely be able to feed a receiver who has a proven track record of creating separation and showing consistent hands. Michael Thomas could feast this year.
J.K. Dobbins over 59.5 rushing yards (-115)
- The Baltimore Ravens are listed as one of the largest favorites going into Week One action, hosting the Texans as a 10-point favorite on the spread. The game script should favor the Baltimore running game as Houston likely struggles to find its footing under first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans.
- JK Dobbins did not participate in preseason games for the Ravens this season, but he should be good to go for their week one contest and ready to prove his worth. Seeking a new contract after just two oft-injured seasons, Dobbins will likely do all he can to prove that he’s worthy of a financial investment from his team. He’s rested. He’s motivated. And he gets a Texans run defense that ranked 24th in DVOA a year ago.
- In 2022, the Ravens ranked second in the NFL in adjusted rushing yards before contact (2.38), meaning their offensive line was clearing a ton of space for running backs. With the personnel along the offensive line staying mostly the same, Baltimore should be just as efficient in the run game as they were in seasons past.
- Among running backs with at least 80 carries in 2022, Dobbins ranked fourth in the league with 5.7 yards per carry, one of the most efficient backs in the league. Dobbins topped the 57.5 rushing yard mark in each of his five appearances last season, toting at least 12 carries in each appearance. Though the Ravens still have Gus Edwards and Justice Hill waiting in the wings, Dobbins should still expect a similar workload.
Dameon Pierce under 55.5 rushing yards
- As stated above, the Texans are one of the largest underdogs in Week One, getting 10 points on the spread against the host Ravens. The projected game script leans towards Houston being forced to throw the ball in what could quickly become a lopsided game.
- Three offensive linemen who were projected to start this season have been placed on IR to begin the season with left guard Kenyon Green, second-round draft pick center Juice Scruggs, and right tackle Tytus Howard all starting the year. Veteran center David Quessenberry was also placed on injured reserve earlier this preseason, leaving the Texans with a total of seven offensive linemen on IR to begin the year.
- The offensive line may be lacking in depth, but the running back room has gained significant depth with the addition of Devin Singletary. The former Bills’ starting running back was acquired by the Texans this offseason and has the potential to cut into Pierce’s workload significantly. Singletary carried the ball 177 times for the Bills a season ago and presents far more of a threat to Pierce’s groundwork than either Phillip Lindsay or Rex Burkhead, both more of pass-catching specialists, did a season ago.
- This is not a good matchup for Pierce. Last season the Texans rushing offense ranked 31st in DVOA while the Ravens rushing defense was ranked second in the league. Though Houston may rely on the running game more heavily than usual in order to protect their rookie quarterback, the efficiency that Pierce would need just doesn’t appear to be there.
Mike Gesicki anytime TD (+320)
- There may be no player across the entire NFL who was more in need of a scenery change from last season than Gesicki. As a member of the Miami Dolphins, Gesicki saw a major dip in his production as he was forced to play a much different style of game than he was accustomed to and, frankly, built for.
- In New England, the potential for Gesicki to regain his pass-catching prowess and be used more in the passing game is much higher. The Patriots have a history of running 12 personnel and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has a track record of running offenses that match the skill set of his personnel.
- With talented starting cornerbacks on both sides of the defensive formation, the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense has developed a reputation for forcing offenses to use slot receivers and tight ends more often. The Eagles ranked eighth in the NFL in wide receiver receptions allowed per game last year (10.8) while they ranked 21st in tight end receptions allowed per game (4.8).
- Gesicki has just five games with three or more receptions in 2022 as he slogged through Mike McDaniels’ offense. Even with his reduced usage, Gesicki still caught five touchdowns, leading the Dolphins with 12 red zone targets.
- Wide receiver DeVante Parker was limited in practice on Wednesday with a reported knee injury, making it a possibility that he misses or isn’t fully healthy for Week One on Sunday. The absence of Parker, a big-bodied receiver similar to Gesicki in a lot of ways, could open up even more opportunities for Gesicki to make plays in the red zone.
Jalen Hurts under 41.5 rushing yards (-110)
- Jalen Hurts has been a prolific scorer on the ground but hasn’t been as prolific a rusher (from a yardage standpoint) as he may be perceived by the general public. Hurts only topped 40 yards rushing in eight of 18 games last season (including the postseason), despite the Eagles’ perceived dominance on the ground.
- New England’s defense was gashed on multiple occasions by running quarterbacks a season ago, with Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields each having excellent games on the ground against the Patriots. However, the Pats allowed over 100 yards rushing only six times a season ago.
- Over the offseason, the Eagles replaced Miles Sanders with D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny — two starting-caliber running backs — to join Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott in the Eagles’ backfield. All four running backs were listed as first-teamers on the Eagles’ official depth chart released earlier in the week. Though it doesn’t necessarily imply that they will run less with Hurts, it does demonstrate the embarrassment of riches the team possesses in its RB room. The speculation here is that the Eagles will be less inclined to run with their quarterback with so much depth and skill at the running back position.
- Several times last season, the Eagles jumped out ahead of their opponent in the early stages of the game and just coasted from there. With a significant disparity in offensive skill levels between these two teams, it’s possible that the Eagles could blow out the Patriots, with Hurts and the Eagles’ offense just coasting (and likely not running their quarterback) in the second half.
Rashid Shaheed anytime TD (+475)
- Rashid ‘Need for Speed’ Shaheed is one of my favorite long-shot picks to score a touchdown this week, and a lot of that comes from the defensive matchup that he’ll face. The Saints matchup with a Titans defense that, as stated above, likes to stack the box and works hard to stop the run while leaving their secondary exposed for big plays at times.
- Shaheed could lineup against Cover 1 defenses quite a bit on Sunday, creating more opportunity for him to work open for a deep touchdown. Both of Shaheed’s scores last season came on passes of 50 yards or longer, and those came from Andy Dalton and Taysom Hill. The Titans allowed eight receiving touchdowns of 30 yards or more last season.
- Listed as the starting third wide receiver, Shaheed should be on the field quite a bit. Targeted on 17.5% of his routes last season, Shaheed could receive a major usage uptick this year now that he’s projected in the starting lineup.
- In addition to his work in the offense, Shaheed will also have the opportunity to return kicks and punts. Although the Titans had a pretty solid special teams unit a season ago, having that extra chance at a touchdown on a broken punt return or kick return is always nice.
- Priced at +475, Shaheed is priced similarly to defense and special teams units while he should be priced closer to +300, where most third receivers are.
Raheem Mostert over 12.5 rush attempts (-130)
- With Jeff Wilson on IR, Mostert is the lead-back in Miami Their other options are the rookie Devone Achane and Salvon Ahmed, both of whom have been nursing injuries.
- Once the Chase Edmonds experiment failed, and prior to Jeff Wilson joining the team, Mostert was the bell cow of the Dolphins backfield in 6 games last season.
- He had 14+ attempts in all 6 and had 64+ rush yards in 5/6 averaging 85 yards per game. The Chargers allowed the highest YPC (5.4) and were 29th in rush EPA/play last season.
Alexander Mattison over 54.5 rush yards (-110)
- Similar to the Mostert play, who else is running the ball for the Vikings? All reports from camp have Mattison pegged as a 3-down workhorse. Rookie Ty Chandler and Myles Gaskin sit behind him on the depth chart, but it’s pretty doubtful they see much time on the field in week 1.
- Mattison has dominated carries when he has filled in for Dalvin Cook in the past. In his four starts in 2021, Mattison had carry/yardage lines of 26/122, 25/113. 22/90, and 13/41.
- As favorites at home, the Vikings will likely be playing with a lead throughout the game against Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers. They don’t possess the lockdown interior defensive line used to have and were in the middle of the pack in rush defense last season.
Khalil Herbert over 49.5 rush yards (-120)
- The Packers were a run-funnel all season long last season allowing the 5th highest YPC (5.0) and had the 2nd worst rush defense by EPA’s metrics. The Bears are well aware of this and torched Green Bay on the ground in their two contests last season.
- David Montgomery had 15 carries for 122 rush yards in week 2 and 14/61 in week 13. There were only 2 games last season where an RB failed to eclipse this mark against them.
- Herbert appears to be locked in as the lead-back for the Bears this season. When he saw double-digit carries in 2022, Herbert eclipsed this mark in 6/6 games averaging nearly 84 yards per game. Alternate lines at 75+ yards (+310) and 100+ (10/1) also look great for him.
J.K. Dobbins over 59.5 rush yards (-115)
- As -10 home favorites facing a rookie QB and head coach, the Ravens should dominate the Texans tomorrow.
- John Harbaugh has stated that Dobbins will not have any snap count limitations and is in line for a hefty workload.
- He has a career 5.9 YPC and should feast on the ground in this spot.
- The Texans allowed the 4th highest YPC (5.1) last season and were 24th in rush defense DVOA.
Jahan Dotson over 42.5 receiving yards (-115)
- Dotson looks poised to make the classic second-year WR breakout. He showed flashes of his potential towards the end of last season and cleared this in four of his last five games averaging 69 yards per game.
- Dotson ranked in the 95th percentile in separation against one-on-one coverage last year and was in lockstep with Sam Howell in the preseason. He had 7 grabs on 9 targets resulting in 106 yards receiving.
- The Cardinals graded out as one of the worst pass defenses last season ranking 28th in dropback EPA/play and don’t look any better heading into this season. This is such a low number for Dotson to eclipse and he could do so after the first half.
Calvin Ridley over 63.5 receiving yards -115
- Trevor Lawrence was a top-five QB in the back half of last season and should only continue to grow this season. The Jags will undoubtedly want to get Ridley in a rhythm early and often since this will be his first game since week 6 of 2021.
- The Colts have one of the worst secondaries on paper this year and we all know what Ridley is capable of when he is on the field. He looked great in his limited time with Lawrence during the pre-season connecting on all 5 targets for 71 yards.
CeeDee Lamb over 70.5 receiving yards
- There is no one on the Giants capable of slowing Lamb down and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him be receiving yards leader of the week.
- Wink Martindale, the Giants defensive coordinator, regularly leaves his cornerbacks in one-on-one coverage with his blitz-heavy approach and we saw Lamb go off against this defense last year on multiple occasions. He finished with an 8/87 line with a TD in week 3, and a 6/106 in week 12. Lamb had 70+ yards in 11/17 games last season and should pick up right where he left off on SNF.
In week one, we have the least amount of knowledge as to how teams plan to operate, what roles certain players have, and to what extent they will be used within the team’s game plan. As bettors, we need to tread lightly in the first few weeks and limit our exposure since we admittedly have very little knowledge going in. Once we have a little larger sample size and some actionable data to work with, we can start to gradually (and responsibly) increase bet sizing. Best of luck with your Educated Bets!
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Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Robin Alam / Icon Sportswire