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: 7-6
Welcome to Week 2! After a hot start to the season, I took some tough losses in last week’s props article. Ryan Fitzpatrick went down with an injury (I had the OVER on his passing yards), James Robinson didn’t really do much and the Jaguars fell way behind the Texans, and Carson Wentz actually took care of the ball (I had the OVER on his interceptions). It happens. Ultimately, I still hit on 50% of the suggested props, so I’ll chalk last week up as another W. And, I guess I learned my lesson about betting against Daniel Jones playing WFT. 5-0 as a starter against them is…interesting.
Anyways, a fresh week of football games means a fresh batch of player props. So, let’s get to it!
Christian McCaffrey UNDER 112.5 Rushing + Receiving Yards (DK)
On Fanduel: Christian McCaffrey UNDER 117.5 Rushing + Receiving Yards.
Christian McCaffrey will not reach 66.5 rushing yards against the Saints because the Saints’ rushing defense is too strong for a mild Panthers offense. Even if the Panthers have to play from behind, which means plenty of receiving opportunities for McCaffrey, he still won’t get enough to surpass this rushing and receiving total.
The Saints’ rushing defense ranked 2nd in DVOA last year, holding opponents to an average of 93.2 rushing yards per game, but lost a handful of starters and as a result, sports a weaker unit this year, which works in McCaffrey’s favor. The team returns most of its starters from last year’s defense, but the team lost some depth up front, losing Trey Hendrickson, Sheldon Rankins, and Malcolm Brown. This year, the Saints are counting on some of their inexperienced players to step up. As a result, the only proven player on the defensive line might be Cam Jordan as Marcus Davenport has now been placed on IR. All of this is to say that the Saints, with an inexperienced front group (plus Jordan), may not be able to contain a talented rusher like McCaffrey. They will improve as a unit as the season goes on — the Saints are on a streak of 4 straight top-10 defensive DVOA finishes, so it’s very possible that this is another elite rendition, especially after watching their masterclass last week.
The Saints should be able to key in on McCaffrey, recognizing that he is one of the focal points of the Panthers’ offense. The defensive game plan might be to erase McCaffrey as a threat by whatever means possible and make QB Sam Darnold beat them elsewhere. I wouldn’t fault the Saints for trying to do that; the Panthers are coming off a 19-point performance against the lowly Jets. The Panthers do sport some good receiving weapons (outside of McCaffrey) in DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, and rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. But, until Darnold proves he can hit those options, the Saints may force him to throw the ball and limit McCaffrey’s availability.
The Saints’ defense will hold McCaffrey’s rushing yardage down, but McCaffrey is a receiving weapon, too. He had 9 receptions for 89 yards last week against the Jets and has averaged 53 receiving yards per game for his career. He was performing around that level in 2020 before suffering an injury that kept him out for 13 games. So, I think it’s fair to say that McCaffrey is essentially matchup and game script-proof. If the Panthers fall behind, which I think they might, the Panthers will still find ways to get McCaffrey the ball as a receiver if not as a rusher.
I don’t think Darnold is a strong enough passer yet to force the Saints to lay off of McCaffrey. He will see increased intention and the Saints are talented enough and organized enough to stop him. So, McCaffrey should see his opportunities, whether those come on the ground or more through the air, but it won’t be enough for 112.5 total yards.
Also consider: McCaffrey OVER 41.5 receiving yards.
Cooper Kupp OVER 66.5 Receiving Yards (DK)
On Fanduel: Kupp OVER 67.5 receiving yards.
What a showing for Kupp last week. 10 targets, 7 receptions, 108 yards, and a TD. All for a game that was over about halfway through the 3rd quarter.
I think Kupp is going to easily beat 66.5 receiving yards because he is going to see plenty of high-quality opportunities from QB Matthew Stafford. Stafford and Kupp seem to have a strong rapport (of course, this is only one game) and the Rams’ offense showed a propensity for big, explosive plays, which means Kupp could pass that total with one or two catches.
Of course, the Bears’ defense is a little bit different than the Colts’ defense. Last year, Indianapolis’ pass defense ranked 8th (Chicago was 13th) and only allowed 6 plays of 40+ yards, which was tied for third in the NFL. Interestingly enough, Indianapolis allowed a high amount of 20+ yard plays, ranking 22nd in the league in that regard. So, Indianapolis limited some of those very long plays but still allowed its fair share of long-ish plays. That continued into their game against Seattle last week, as QB Russell Wilson threw for an average of 11 yards per completion. 4 Seahawks receivers averaged over 10 yards per catch. Lockett’s second touchdown was off of an extremely long throw from Wilson:
Russell Wilson finds with Tyler Lockett for their second TD connection of the day
A 69-yard bomb 💣
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 12, 2021
So, Indianapolis allows its fair share of big plays. And, with QB Matthew Stafford under center, the Rams won’t be lacking for arm strength to attack Indianapolis down the field. I think one of those big beneficiaries of the Rams’ big-play offense will be Kupp, who should be able to top that 67-yard mark.
Also consider: Cooper Kupp OVER 5.5 receptions
Tua Tagovailoa UNDER 240.5 Passing Yards (DK)
On Fanduel: Tua Tagovailoa UNDER 232.5 Passing Yards
QB Tua Tagovailoa will struggle to reach 240.5 passing yards this week because he will be facing another strong defense and has a weak supporting cast. Last week, Tagovailoa completed just 59% of his passes, throwing for 202 yards, a TD, and an INT against a strong New England defense. Buffalo’s defense is just as good (12th-ranked pass defense by DVOA in 2020) and has the added benefit of having one more week of film on the young Dolphins QB.
Buffalo is coming off a week in which they held the ghost of QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense to 188 passing yards and 23 points. The defense returned most of its key players from 2020 and is projected to once again have a very solid defense (projected 4th overall in 2021 by FootballOutsiders). That includes a CB group with shutdown corner Tre’Davious White and another PFF favorite, Taron Johnson, who should make Tagovailoa’s day quite a bit harder.
Equally concerning for the Dolphins’ offense is that Buffalo’s pass rush was one of the best in the NFL last season, ranking 2nd as a unit in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate. The Dolphins were among the worst in the NFL in Pass Block Win Rate in 2020 and their offensive line doesn’t seem to have improved much, finishing 15th in PFF’s Week 1 unit ranking. PFF doesn’t seem to approve of this unit’s individual players, either, with OT Jesse Davis the only favorably-rated player on the line.
The Dolphins are also missing WR Will Fuller V, who will be out due to a personal matter this weekend. So, the weapons at Tagovailoa’s disposal this week: WR DeVante Parker and WR Jaylen Waddle, RB Myles Gaskin, and maybe TE Mike Gesicki? That’s not exactly an awe-inspiring group to go up against Buffalo’s defense. Buffalo isn’t the best defense in the league, by any means, but as a QB, it is much easier to keep the chains moving when you have talented receivers to make your life easier. Tagovailoa doesn’t seem to have that right now, even if Waddle is expected to be a WR1 eventually.
As such, I would expect Tagovailoa to struggle to complete passes and throw for less than 240.5 passing yards (and less than 232.5 for my Fanduel friends).
Also consider: Tua Tagovailoa OVER 12.5 rushing yards (Fanduel)
Matt Ryan UNDER 281.5 Passing Yards (DK)
On Fanduel: Matt Ryan UNDER 283.5 passing yards.
Should I just copy and paste from last week’s Props Preview?
“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.”
Gee, am I right or what? You can read some brilliant writer’s recap of the Eagles/Falcons drubbing here for more details on Ryan’s performance.
This week, Ryan has the even more difficult task of trying to pass for 281.5 yards while facing an elite Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, which has an elite pass rush (like Philadelphia!) and an even better secondary than Philadelphia. I’m going to bring this back to remind you just how often Ryan faced pressure from the Eagles’ front last week:
Yup, that’s me, the Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, you’re probably wondering how I got here…. pic.twitter.com/x7R9vSCEDN
— In My Mind (@MeAloneInMyMind) September 12, 2021
This week, Ryan gets the opportunity to look across the line of scrimmage and see Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, and Shaquil Barrett ready to pounce. His best receiver, Calvin Ridley, will likely see blanket coverage from the Bucs’ best corners as they try to force Ryan into throwing short little passes to ‘superb’ receiving options Mike Davis, Russell Gage, and Hayden Hurst. Yikes.
The one thing that worries me is garbage time. I hate to speak ill of the great and powerful garbage time, saver of fantasy matchups, but that’s where Ryan has the chance to make up most of his passing yards. If the Buccaneers take a lead early, the Falcons may choose to make poor Matt Ryan stand behind the line of scrimmage and pass as much as he can to try to even the score. But, garbage time didn’t really save Ryan and the Falcons last week, as Philadelphia continued to hold off Atlanta’s attempted advances down the field. And, it’s always possible that the Falcons will just pull the 36-year-old Ryan from the game to protect him once the deficit becomes insurmountable.
So, I think Ryan is going to really struggle behind the Falcons’ leaky offensive line and should fail to reach the 281.5-yard mark. The Bucs should be able to pressure Ryan quite easily and a Falcons offense somewhat lacking in proven receiving options won’t help very much. Bet against Ryan as you please.
Also consider: Matt Ryan UNDER 288.5 passing + rushing yards
Derek Carr UNDER 271.5 Passing Yards (DK)
On Fanduel: Carr UNDER 263.5 Passing Yards
What, exactly, is the Raiders’ offensive game plan? It may just be “chuck it up to Darren Waller and see what happens,” or at least that’s what it felt like on Monday. Waller had NINETEEN TARGETS (I had to write it out for extra emphasis) against the Ravens. That cannot and will not happen again this week, and Carr’s numbers are going to suffer as a result.
The Ravens and the Steelers are both high-quality defenses, but the Steelers actually graded out as the better unit last year, finishing with the top passing defense in the league by DVOA (Baltimore finished 10th). Pittsburgh is also expected to have a similarly good defense this year. So, the matchup for Carr isn’t looking too promising, to begin with. And, I understand that Waller is a matchup-proof beast. No amount of LB Devin Bush can change the fact that Waller is going to get his targets and his yardage.
It’s the rest of the offense I’m concerned about. I know, they have Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs and Kenyan Drake and all the rest of their weapons. And, they’re going to be missing Josh Jacobs this week, so Carr is probably going to have to throw a lot. I’m just not sold that Carr is going to be able to drive the rest of this offense just using Waller. The Steelers’ pass defense is a different animal than the Ravens and I think the Raiders’ offense (and Derek Carr’s passing yardage) is going to suffer as a result.
Also consider: Darren Waller OVER 77.5 receiving yards (DK) and UNDER 37.5 receiving yards for Henry Ruggs III (DK).
Andy Dalton OVER 218.5 Passing Yards (DK)
On Fanduel: Dalton OVER 213.5 Passing Yards.
Oh, come on, the revenge game had to be one of my picks here. It’s too good to pass up!
Here are some of the reasons Dalton will surpass this 218.5 yard mark:
- Revenge Game
- Cincinnati’s defense is bad (27th in pass DVOA in 2020 and projected to be bad again this year, according to FootballOutsiders)
- He’s not playing the terrifying Rams defense
- This game has sneaky shootout potential
Look, I’m not much of a Dalton guy. I enjoy a good “Red Rocket” meme here and there, but that’s about it. But, this opportunity is too good to pass up. The Bengals are not supposed to be a good defense by any means, finishing 2020 with a subpar Pass Rush Win Rate (29th) and Run Stop Win Rate (27th). They brought in some external improvements to bring them from bad to less bad, but I don’t think it improved them enough to be an average unit.
And, we as a collective fantasy football community should be pumping the brakes on “Andy Dalton is terrible.” Plenty of QBs have struggled against the best defense in the NFL. Your average NFL QB struggles against DT Aaron Donald and CB Jalen Ramsey quite often. So, I’m not ready to say Dalton should be benched just yet. The Bengals are not the Rams, which should help this offense move a little easier up and down the field.
Now, Dalton returns to Cincinnati, where he spent several years as the starting QB. The last time Dalton came to Cincinnati as a member of the opposing team (last year, with the Cowboys), Dalton had a season-high 122.3 passer rating and tossed multiple TDs. Dalton didn’t need to throw much, as the Cowboys easily handled the Bengals’ offense (which was starting QB Brandon Allen with QB Joe Burrow out due to injury). This time, the Bengals will present more of a challenge, as their offense has shown the propensity to put up points with Burrow under center.
Dalton is going to need to throw and I think he’s going to be able to do enough with these opportunities to pass 218.5 passing yards.
Also consider: David Montgomery OVER 16.5 receiving yards
Good luck out there! Win some money!