Week 1 Player Props Preview

The best player prop picks for Week 1!

All season, the staff at QB List are going to be picking out some of their favorite player prop bets for each game of the NFL season. Check in each week before games start to see our picks and (hopefully) see some solid advice! We’ll be keeping score as the season goes to check the accuracy of our bets. 

Adam’s Betting Record: 3-0 (Check out my picks from TNF!)

Week 1, the week when hope springs eternal! Everyone is 0-0, except for the Cowboys and Bucs after Thursday’s matchup. Unless you’re a Texans fan (sorry), there’s still a possibility your team is going to win the Super Bowl this year. It may not be a big possibility, but it’s still there!

Now that Week 1 is upon us, there are many, many player prop bets to take a look at. Lucky for you, reader, I’ve taken the liberty of compiling some of my favorite player props from the games this week so that you don’t have to. Feel free to pick some of your favorites. Just note that these bets are taken strictly from DraftKings Sportsbook (DK) and FanDuel Sportsbook (FD), so if you use another service, check to make sure the bet is similar before putting anything down.

If you have any player prop suggestions or comments, please don’t be afraid to reach out on Twitter (@MrAdster99)! I’m happy to talk betting, football, or pretty much anything else.

 

Joe Burrow OVER 7.5 Rushing Yards (FD/DK)

 

I think Joe Burrow is going to top 7.5 rushing yards this week because the Bengals’ offensive line will be leaky, which will require Burrow to extend plays with his legs.

Before suffering a season-ending knee injury, Joe Burrow was attempting to singlehandedly elevate the Bengals’ offense into mediocrity. I say singlehandedly because the offensive line was among the worst in football. Cincinnati quarterbacks took 48 sacks last season, 6th-worst in the league. The offensive line ranked 29th in Pass Block Win Rate and 11th (I’ll be honest, 11th was completely unexpected) in Run Block Win Rate. So, even though Cincinnati had put all their eggs in the Burrow basket, they still neglected to protect their No.1 draft pick. As such, he had to do some running to avoid some sacks:

Joe Burrow’s Rushing Game Log, 2020

Burrow surpassed that 7.5 rushing yard mark in 7 out of the 10 games he played last season. So, with all the running he had to do and all the sacks he had to take, Cincinnati should have invested in some pass protection to prevent more season-ending injuries, right? Well, apparently, the powers that be in Cincinnati thought not and instead spent their 5th overall pick on WR Ja’Marr Chase when premier OT Penei Sewell was available. While I have nothing against Chase, this line returns 3 starters from last year’s unit (remember, 29th in Pass Block Win Rate) and the team’s only major addition on the line was OT Riley Reiff. The Bengals instead decided to add G Jackson Carman in the second round; Carman is expected to slot into the starting lineup immediately. Reiff is an instant upgrade but Carman is an unknown commodity early on, so, in all likelihood, this offensive line will be, uh, suspect. That means Burrow will still be doing some running to avoid sacks.

That rushing aspect of his game is not completely new, either. As a senior at LSU, Burrow rushed for 368 yards across 15 games, which is an average of 24.5 yards per game. Even in Burrow’s non-bonkers statistical season (2018) — seriously, can we just stop to appreciate that Burrow threw for 5600 yards and 60 touchdowns in 15 games?!? — he still racked up 399 rushing yards in 13 games. So, rushing is clearly a part of his game as a passer and I would expect that to continue as long as Burrow is healthy.

The phrase “as long as Burrow is healthy” is the only issue I have with this prop. While I haven’t suffered season-ending knee injuries before, I can imagine that players who suffer them are not quite as eager to put those knees to the test right away during a game. Burrow may want to play the game from behind his offensive line as much as he can, which will heavily limit his opportunities to rack up rushing yards.

Also consider: Joe Burrow OVER 275.5 Pass + Rush Yards

Ben Roethlisberger UNDER 267.5 Passing Yards

 

I think Big Ben is going to struggle in this game because the Steelers’ offensive line is poised to struggle once again and will face a talented defense that is poised to take advantage of that porous offensive line, which should lead to plenty of difficult throws and very short passes.

The Steelers finished 2020 with the lowest amount of sacks (and lowest adjusted sack rate) in the NFL. However, the reason Roethlisberger barely took any sacks was that he made it a point to get rid of the ball very quickly. Roethlisberger took an average of just 2.3 seconds to throw the ball, which made it difficult to get any pressure on him.

A deeper look at this pass protection indicates a very weak offensive line that was bailed out by Roethlisberger’s quick releases. The Steelers ranked 28th in Pass Block Win Rate and 24th in Rush Block Win Rate, which means that the Steelers’ line simply could not protect anyone behind the line of scrimmage. Even the Cincinnati Bengals, known for their notoriously leaky offensive line in 2020, were able to block better for their rushing attack (11th in Run Block Win Rate).

Needing to address this weakness in their offense, Steelers made a handful of changes to their offensive line… except, by all accounts, they got even worse in pass protection! Four of their five starters were jettisoned, including longtime C Maurkice Pouncey. The only starter returning is OT Chukwuma Okorafor, who was ranked as the 70th OT out of 79 eligible players (according to Pro Football Focus). Pittsburgh will be starting two rookies this week, their center and left tackle. They brought in 5-time Pro Bowler Trai Turner to try to bolster their inexperienced (some might even say ‘inept’) line, but Turner ranked an ugly 79th out of 80 OGs in 2020. OG Kevin Dotson was rated favorably by PFF (28th out of 80 guards) but has played in only 8 games in his career, which could spell trouble against a solid Bills’ pass rush. So, to recap: the Steelers have one very bad right tackle, one very bad guard, two rookies, and an inexperienced but promising guard starting this coming Sunday. I think that’s pretty bad, no?

Reader, you might be saying, “So what? Big Ben got rid of the ball quick last year, why can’t he do it again?”

Well, you’re absolutely right there. I don’t really have an answer for that.

However, I think that strategy can fall apart quickly, especially when the wide receivers drop the ball quite often (the Steelers WR corps led the league in drops), the opposing secondary knows how to make tackles (I’m pretty sure the Bills do), and the Steelers receiving corps has enough time to get beyond the line of scrimmage and get open in 2.3 seconds. Buffalo’s defense was ranked 12th against the pass and returns nearly every starter, including top corner Tre’Davious White, which should enhance the cohesiveness of the defense and allow their Defensive Coordinator to have the full use of his playbook.

Does Big Ben have the potential to put together a really solid passing game? I think so, especially because he topped 267.5 passing yards 8 times last season. But this defense stifled Roethlisberger in December of last year, holding him to 187 passing yards and a completion rate of just 52.6%. But, I don’t see him blowing up against a strong Bills defense, with an incredibly weak and inexperienced offensive line to protect him and give him time to throw.

Also consider: Najee Harris UNDER 59.5 rushing yards

Carson Wentz OVER 0.5 Interceptions (FD/DK)

 

This prop is available on FanDuel as well.

Hmm…the QB with 16 TDs and 15 INTs in 12 games last season? Okay!

I think the Seahawks are going to force Wentz to throw. It may be that the Colts fall behind the Seahawks when Russ inevitably ‘cooks,’ which forces Wentz to throw in order for the Colts to stay in the game. It may be that the Seahawks ‘stack the box’ and prevent the Colts from handing the ball off to RB Jonathan Taylor or RB Nyheim Hines. Either way, when the ball is in Wentz’s hands, good things are bound to happen for this Seahawks defense.

Now, you may be thinking: “Wentz had a bad 2020. The Eagles didn’t give him any support or protection. He was sacked 50 times and his best receiver was Travis Fulgham or Jalen Reagor! On a team with a solid line, like the Colts, Wentz should be better.” And, I can’t fault you for thinking that! 2020 was a tough year for everyone, including our favorite Prince Harry lookalike QB.Wentz had never thrown 15 interceptions in a single season until 2020. But, Wentz has never been particularly great at protecting the ball, either. Take a look at his TD/INT ratio by year:

Carson Wentz TD to INT Ratio

Even in his best seasons, Wentz was still tossing an interception nearly every other game, which bodes well for the Seahawks. And, the Seahawks were no slouches on defense last year, picking off 14 passes from opposing QBs (12th in the league), which gives me a little more confidence in the potential for a Wentz INT.

Regardless of your opinions on Wentz post-Philadelphia, I think we can all agree that expecting him to suddenly become a great caretaker with the ball is a little unrealistic, especially when he could be forced to throw the ball a lot to keep up with the Seahawks. There’s no reason that Wentz can’t get started on his “comeback tour” and throw a pick or two in the same game. Both are possible!

 

Matt Ryan UNDER 294.5 Pass Yards (DK)

 

This prop is not available on FanDuel.

I think Matt Ryan is going to pass for fewer than 294.5 yards because the offensive line will struggle to protect him against a strong Philadelphia pass rush and I don’t trust the Falcons’ overall offense in its first week of real game action under a brand new offensive coordinator. Neither of those qualities gives me much confidence in the 14-year veteran.

The offensive line was very, very mediocre last season, ranking 18th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Sack Rate, 16th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate, and 28th in Rush Block Win Rate. For quarterbacks like Ryan, who don’t add any sort of rushing threat to the offense, pass protection is key to making big things happen. Ryan cannot extend plays and avoid sacks like a dual-threat quarterback would, which is why keeping defenders away from Ryan as much as possible is the way to success for the Falcons’ offense. Unfortunately, the Falcons don’t have the benefit of facing a mediocre pass rush. Philadelphia ranked 8th last season in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate and 5th in Run Stop Win Rate, indicating that the Eagles have a strong defensive presence up front. A mediocre offensive line against a strong defensive line does not mix well; Ryan will probably face a good amount of pressure as a result of this disadvantage.

The Falcons also made a few key offensive personnel changes heading into the season. They replaced RB Todd Gurley with RB Mike Davis, traded away longtime WR Julio Jones, added ‘unicorn’ TE Kyle Pitts in the draft, and replaced their Offensive Coordinator. That is a lot of moving parts for an offense that ended being exactly average last season (16th in FootballOutsiders’ DVOA). That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in this offense early in the season, as the Falcons will need time to fit together under new OC Dave Ragone. I think Ryan and Co. will be just fine as the season progresses, but it’s tough to see Ryan playing too well without Julio Jones, while adding in several new offensive pieces, right away.

Although the offense looks quite different heading into 2021, let’s see how Ryan performed without Jones in 2020:

Matt Ryan without Julio Jones, 2020

Ryan started to pick it up towards the end of the season, but he only crossed that 294.5 threshold twice in the six games without Jones. Ryan had some inspiring performances against some quality defenses (Tampa Bay, Chicago), but also put up some stinkers against some mediocre ones (LAC, Las Vegas).

Of course, Ryan still has his chemistry with star wideout Calvin Ridley and the rest of the WR corps. The WR room — while missing Julio  — remains roughly the same as 2020.  So, it’s not as if all around Ryan there are unfamiliar faces. And, Matt Ryan is a 14-year veteran! He should be geared up to start Week 1 with a great performance, as he did in Week 1 of the 2020 season (450 passing yards, 2 TDs). But, the rest of the offense may not be quite as up-to-speed as Ryan is.

In summary, the matchup against a strong Eagles defensive line (and a slightly improved secondary!) and the need to develop chemistry in game action with several fresh faces (and the absence of one longtime face) makes me think that Ryan will come in under 294 passing yards for this matchup.

Also consider: Matt Ryan UNDER 301.5 Passing + Rushing Yards

Damien Harris OVER 3.5 Receiving Yards (FD/DK)

Look, this is just a pitifully low bet. Harris could trip his way into 3.5 receiving yards.

Upon second look, though, this is a lot closer than you might think. Harris only had 5 receptions for 52 receiving yards in all of 2020. It doesn’t seem like Bill Belichick really believes in Harris’ receiving acumen. Plus, James White is often used as the receiving back in Belichick’s offense, so there’s usually not much need for Harris to act as a receiving threat. However, I think Belichick is going to want to make Mac Jones’ life as easy as possible in his first NFL start. So, that could mean a handful of easy completions to White and even to Harris.

On the other hand, Damien Harris saw only 7 targets across 10 games last year. There were 5 games last season where Harris had no targets at all. He could very well see zero targets this week. But, I think some of that was that Harris was essentially a rookie in 2020 and the Patriots had Cam Newton under center. Newton’s style of play is quite a bit different than Mac Jones, as Newton was asked to rush quite often, while Jones appears to be more of an upright passer (Jones had a grand total of 42 rushing yards in his collegiate career), which I think should encourage a couple of extra short throws to RBs.

Also consider: Damien Harris OVER 74.5 Rushing + Receiving Yards

Jalen Hurts OVER 281.5 Pass + Rush Yards (DK)

 

This prop is not available on FanDuel.

I think Jalen Hurts will be able to surpass 281.5 passing and rushing yards because he will have strong offensive line protection, which should elevate his production. Also, this prop just feels criminally low.

Before we go any further, let’s take a look at Hurts’ game log from last season:

Jalen Hurts as a Starter, 2020

*Hurts was removed from the game in the 3rd quarter for Nate Sudfeld. 

We are looking at an incredibly small sample size here, so all the according caveats apply. However, I can’t help but notice that Hurts easily surpasses 282 passing and rushing yards against Arizona and Dallas and nearly passes that number against the top rushing defense (by DVOA) of 2020, New Orleans.

Yes, the completion percentage is ugly. Yes, the game against Washington is a stinker. Yes, I am high on Jalen Hurts. All of these things can be true and yet Hurts could still easily rack up 282 passing and rushing yards!

The Eagles suffered a rash of injuries to their offensive line in 2020. All-Pro OG Brandon Brooks was on the PUP list for the entire season. OT Lane Johnson was on the IR for the final six games of the season (Interestingly enough, the Eagles are 59-40-1 with Johnson in the lineup and 10-16 without him). In total, the Eagles were forced to start 11 different offensive linemen and their projected starters missed a total of 40 games. And yet, they still ranked 11th in Pass Block Win Rate. Curious.

At any rate, their offensive line should be fully healthy to open the season, with Brooks and Johnson fully healed from their injuries. When fully healthy, the Eagles offensive line unit ranks among the best in the sport, which should be a boon for Jalen Hurts‘ offensive production. It’s a lot easier to pick apart defenses when you’re not running away from monstrous defensive tackles and ends. Hurts still has the ability to make big plays with his rushing ability, but with a fully healthy line, he won’t be forced to run to extend every play. He can pick and choose his spots to gash the Falcons.

There are some things that make me pause before smashing the “Bet” button on this one. For one thing, Hurts has a tiny sample size of 4 games, so he still has a lot of things to learn as an NFL quarterback before he can regularly cross the 300 total yard mark. Those “learning moments” could come at any time, especially against an Atlanta defense that is no pushover. Atlanta’s defense finished 12th in FootballOutsiders’ Weighted DVOA and returns a handful of talented players from last season’s unit, including Grady Jarrett and Deion Jones. The Falcons also brought in new defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who helped coordinate the Ravens’ defense to four top-10 DVOA finishes in six seasons and lifted the Titans defense into mediocrity (they slipped to 29th without him in 2020).

The other issue is that Hurts is a little lacking in offensive support. He has Devonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and an aging Zach Ertz… and that’s about it. And, Devonta Smith hasn’t played a single down of real NFL football. So, there are certainly going to be growing pains for this offensive unit, with Smith, Jalen Reagor, and Quez Watkins all learning how to play WR in the NFL, while Hurts needs more NFL experience and is going to continue to make some puzzling decisions with the ball in his hands.

Regardless, I think Hurts’ upside in this spot is too good to pass up. Neither of these defenses are good enough to shut down opposing offenses and Hurts should have plenty of opportunities to create behind a stout offensive line. As long as he gets the opportunity to do so, Hurts should be able to use his legs to open up the offensive playbook for new Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen.

Also consider: Jalen Hurts OVER 232.5 Passing Yards

 

James Robinson OVER 66.5 Rushing Yards (DK)

On FanDuel, you can take James Robinson OVER 68.5 rushing yards.

It’s time for the inevitable “pick on the Texans” bet.

RB James Robinson is going to rush for well over 66.5 rushing yards because the game script will heavily favor the Jaguars, which should lead to plenty of rushing opportunities to run down the clock, and because the Texans’ run defense can be easily exploited.

The Texans are expected to be quite bad at just about everything, now that QB Deshaun Watson will be sitting out this week. Last season, with Watson under center, the Texans posted a passing DVOA that ranked 8th in the NFL. Offenses with new Texans QB Tyrod Taylor under center have finished 17th, 9th, and 26th. He’s never accumulated more than 3,600 passing and rushing yards in a single season. So, while Taylor has shown that he is an NFL-caliber QB, he hasn’t shown the same ability as Watson to elevate an offense by himself. He needs some support around him and the Texans are lacking that. Let’s take a quick look at the Texans’ offensive depth chart, according to ESPN:

QB: Tyrod Taylor

RB1: Mark Ingram II

RB2: Phillip Lindsay

WR1: Brandin Cooks

WR2: Chris Conley

WR3: Anthony Miller 

TE: Pharaoh Brown

Wow. Just…wow. If you looked at this set of names and thought, “They might score ZERO points this season,” I really would not blame you for thinking that. When you score zero points across a season (or zero points across a few games), it gives the opposing team the opportunity to run out the clock however they see fit. For most teams, that means handing the ball off to their running backs and letting them pick up sweet, sweet garbage time TDs. So, the Jaguars should be able to give James Robinson more than his fair share of carries.

Now, when Robinson gets his carries, how are they going to go? Well, Houston’s run defense looks like it will be quite bad, too. In 2020, Houston’s defense against the run ranked 29th. But, their Run Stop Win Rate was surprisingly adequate, finishing 11th in 2020. Of course, that Run Stop Win Rate was buoyed by longtime Texan J.J. Watt, who is now on the Arizona Cardinals. Watt was one of the top 10 DE/ILB run stoppers in the NFL last season. Now, the Texans will have to chart a new defensive path without their franchise icon, and the early returns are not encouraging. This Watt-less Texans defense looks very weak up front, with each of their returning defensive linemen ranking 108th, 122nd, and 102nd (out of 126 qualified defensive linemen). Their LB group looks a little better, but James Robinson should not face much opposition from the defensive line, which should help him rack up the rushing yardage.

Robinson, as long as he gets the carries that come with being an RB1, should easily rack up enough rushing yards to beat both the DK and FanDuel props.

Also consider: James Robinson OVER 90.5 Rushing + Receiving Yards

Ryan Fitzpatrick OVER 260.5 Passing Yards (DK)

On FanDuel, you can take Fitzpatrick OVER 263.5 Passing Yards.

I think I’m going to get a little weird here and say that this game is a lot higher scoring than you think. The over is set at 44.5, according to Oddsshark, which would seem appropriate if you think that Washington’s defense will stifle the Chargers’ offense and the Washington offense will do just enough to win. I really think this game has sneaky shootout potential, with the Chargers’ high-powered offense facing what should be an improved Washington offense. I say improved in that the Football Team ended up with virtually zero production from Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, and Taylor Heinecke, so there’s really nowhere else to go but up for them.

There is a lot of talent surrounding Ryan Fitzpatrick this season. WR Terry McLaurin, RB Antonio Gibson, and TE Logan Thomas form a strong trio that will support whoever is standing under center. I can confidently say that because despite the rotating cast of QBs last season, McLaurin, Gibson, and Thomas all had very strong seasons. That talented group should make Fitzpatrick’s job a little easier; they’ll find ways to get open or HC Ron Rivera will find ways to get them open for Fitzpatrick.

I hesitate to talk too much about the matchup with the Chargers’ defense because Fitzpatrick’s big passing games seem to pop up at random. There’s a reason he’s acquired the moniker “Fitzmagic,” and it’s because he finds ways to have incredible games against good defenses without any rhyme or reason to it. So, I’m happy to throw a dart on this game, which features two offenses with a lot of talent.

I have Fitzpatrick’s over as the headline, but Justin Herbert should be able to surpass 266.5 passing yards (DK, 257.5 on FanDuel) if the game goes as I think it will.

Good luck with your prop betting today, and don’t forget to enjoy the actual football!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.