The first full slate for NFL football starts on Sunday. We’ll take a look at some personnel groupings and potential game plans that may dictate game flows and give us an edge on a few prop bets.
Raheem Mostert Longest Carry O/U 15.5 Yards
There are a lot of different directions you can go here but for now, I’ll focus on the longest carry prop bet. Raheem Mostert looks to be the starting running back for the 49ers to start the season after a 2020 season plagued by injuries. The presence of rookie Trey Sermon does raise questions as to how many touches Mostert will receive; however, I expect Mostert to be the go-to guy for Kyle Shanahan’s rushing attack. Mostert averages 5.6 yards per carry throughout his career and is one of the most explosive runners in the league, possessing the burst to take one to the next level.
The Lions graded 31 out of 32 teams in run defense last season according to ProFootballFocus, and they did very little to improve the front seven this offseason. Edge rushers Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara are a formidable duo in rushing the passer, but Okwara doesn’t offer much in terms of run-stopping, grading 103 out of 109 edge rushers in terms of run defense according to PFF. Defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand, one of the team’s best run stoppers, is also likely out due to injury. Combine the Lion’s defensive personnel with the 49er’s excellent run-blocking offensive line and Kyle Shanahan’s willingness to run the ball, and I expect the Niners to gash the Lions on the ground all afternoon.
Pick: OVER 15.5 Yard Longest Carry (-105, DraftKings Sportsbook)
Julio Jones O/U 4.5 Receptions
Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis departed Tennessee this offseason, leaving the Titans with a hole at pass catcher. The duo accounted for 158 targets last season that need to be accounted for unless the Titans decide to become even more run-heavy than they were last season (50% run plays, third-most in the league). Look for new addition Julio Jones to fill in that gap and collect several targets against Arizona.
Arizona has major holes in the secondary with the departure of Patrick Peterson. Malcolm Butler was supposed to replace the star cornerback but recently decided to retire for personal reasons. Veteran cornerback Robert Alford returns for the Cardinals after opting out last season. Even if Alford can return to form as a solid coverage corner, Byron Murphy Jr. and fourth-round rookie Marco Wilson will likely struggle to defend star receivers, Julio Jones and A.J. Brown. The line for Julio Jones’ receptions is set at 4.5, a mark he eclipsed in six of his nine appearances with the Falcons last season, with two of the three times he failed to meet that mark coming in games in which he left early due to injury.
Pick: Over 4.5 Receptions (-130, DraftKings Sportsbook)
Miami @ New England O/U 7.5 First Quarter Points
Rookie quarterback Mac Jones is making his debut for New England on Sunday, the first time a rookie quarterback has started Week 1 for the Patriots since Drew Bledsoe in 1993. Tua Tagovailoa will start for the Dolphins after a mediocre rookie campaign where he posted an 87.1 passer rating in ten appearances.
Last season Miami allowed just 3.4 first-quarter points per game while New England allowed 4.3, good for second and ninth in the league, respectively. The Dolphins did have a few departures from that defense including defensive lineman Davon Godchaux and linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who both joined the Patriots this offseason, but should still have a strong defensive unit. The Patriots will be missing star cornerback Stephon Gilmore but are returning most of the defense from last season and added some pieces such as the two former Dolphins.
The Patriots and Dolphins were the 20th and 28th fastest offenses last season in terms of seconds per play, neglecting the hurry up and taking their time to get each play call in and snap the ball. Both teams will likely continue this pace with their young quarterbacks to start off 2021. New England ran the ball 51% of the time in 2020 and invested in the tight end position by bringing in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry and are also carrying an extra offensive lineman on the roster. Wide receiver Will Fuller is out due to suspension for the Dolphins, while Nelson Agholor may miss the contest due to injury. Expect the Patriots to run the ball and start the game with conservative play-calling for their rookie quarterback, burning the clock and limiting the number of possessions early in the game.
Pick: Under 7.5 First Quarter Points (-115, DraftKings Sportsbook)
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