It’s Saturday night, and all of the regular season player props will be closed by Monday night. Most of them will be closed within 24 hours. Here are some that catch my eye.
Antonio Brown: Season Receiving Touchdowns
Over 11 Touchdowns, +125
Under 11 Touchdowns, -155
Antonio Brown: Season Receiving Yards
Over 1,550 Yards, +130
Under 1,550 Yards, -160
These marks seems high, but Antonio Brown has averaged 1,605.3 yards and 11.67 touchdowns per season over the last three campaigns, and his median in that time is 1,698/12. So what’s going on with these lines? Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell: They’ve both missed significant time since 2014. In some games one played and the other was out and vice versa. And in other games both played — or neither. It’s not enough to evaluate this line by looking at Brown’s splits with and without Bryant or Bell. We need to know how Brown has performed on a per-game basis in a variety of combinations:
- Three-Year Average (15.7 games): 11.2 targets, 7.9 receptions, 102.5 yards, 0.75 touchdowns
- Without Both (5): 12.4, 8.4/126.6/0.80
- Without Bryant (26): 10.2, 7.1/93.7/0.73
- Without Bell (13): 13.7, 9.7/134.5/0.85
- With Bryant Only (8): 14.5, 9.33/124/0.78
- With Bell Only (21): 9.7, 6.8/85.9/0.71
- With Both (13): 11.3, 7.9/97.2/0.69
People are talking about the return of Martavis and how that will help Antonio. It might — but what would really help Antonio is if Bell suffered an injury, declined as a player, or were suspended. The team has done better over the last three years with Bryant (29.29 points per game) than without him (23.81), so it’s not as if his return is meaningless, but in 34 games with Bell — and 13 of those were also with Bryant — Brown has averaged 10.3 targets per game for just 90.2 yards and 0.71 touchdowns.
Here’s Brown’s per-game stat line with Bell and Bryant extrapolated to 16 games: 180.8 targets for 126.4/1,555.2/11.04. The yardage and touchdown numbers are just barely over the lines. Given that Brown in a variety of circumstances has outperformed these lines two out of three years and that with B&B he’s just outperformed them on a per-game basis, I can see why someone would look to exploit the perceived value with the overs, especially since if Bell were to miss time for whatever reason then Brown’s target total would jump — and Bell’s missed 13 games in three years. The basic numbers make the overs tempting.
That said, these lines offer little margin for error: If Ben Roethlisberger misses more than a game, Brown probably will go under. If Martavis misses time and the passing game becomes secondary to Bell, then Brown will go under on the yards and maybe the touchdowns. If Brown misses more than a game, he’ll go under. If you’re taking the over on these props, understand that you’re betting on near-perfect circumstances in a violent, chaotic sport. For more on Brown, see our Steelers fantasy preview.
Ben Roethlisberger: Season Passing Touchdowns
Over 29.5 Touchdowns, -105
Under 29.5 Touchdowns, -125
Ben Roethlisberger: Season Games Played
Over 14.5, +110
Under 14.5, -140
With Bell, Roethlisberger has averaged 1.90 touchdowns per game since 2014; without him, 2.00. With Bryant, 2.11; without him, 1.78. Ben’s yet to play without Brown in the last three years. On a per-game basis, he’s averaged 1.95 touchdowns passing in that time; on a per-year basis, 27.3. Here’s how I see this: If you’re betting the over on the touchdown prop you’re betting that Roethlisberger plays over 14.5 games (and probably that Brown and Bryant both play a large portion of the season). Given that, you might as well shift your action to the over on the games played, since you avoid the juice and don’t have to depend on Brown and/or Bryant for Roethlisberger to hit the over. For more on Roethlisberger and his potential today as a daily fantasy play, see my Week 1 quarterback breakdown.
Christian McCaffrey: Season Rushing and Receiving Touchdowns
Over 7 Touchdowns, +115
Under 7 Touchdowns, -145
Christian McCaffrey: Season Rushing and Receiving Yards
Over 1,000.5 Yards, -170
Under 1,000.5 Yards, +140
In my Panthers fantasy preview, I said that “as long as Stew is healthy Christian McCaffrey is likely to struggle to cobble together enough touches to return value at his average draft position (barring a massive shift in offensive style).” I still believe that — but I now think there’s going to be at least something of a shift in offensive style. McCaffrey’s usage and performance in the preseason were encouraging. NFL draft position and age are important factors in projecting first-year production: They correlate with the opportunity a player is likely to receive. As a 21-year-old selected with the No. 8 overall pick, McCaffrey is rare. Over the last 15 years there have been six other backs selected in the first 15 picks of the draft to play as 21-year-old rookies. On average, they were selected at 7.5 and played 14.3 games, turning 213.8 carries and 44.7 targets into 1,260.2 yards and 9.3 touchdowns from scrimmage. McCaffrey almost certainly won’t get that many carries, but he’ll probably get way more targets. I could see the touchdown prop being a push, but I like the over on both.
Carson Palmer: Season Passing Touchdowns
Over 25.5 Touchdowns, +100
Under 25.5 Touchdowns, -130
In the John Brown era (since 2014), Carson Palmer has averaged 1.95 touchdowns passing per game, which extrapolates to 31.14 touchdowns for a 16-game season. In the David Johnson era, Palmer has averaged 1.97 per game. In 34 games with Brown, he’s averaged 1.94; in three games without, 1.67 — which extrapolates to 26.72. He has 35 and 26 over the last two years. Here’s the problem: In Johnson’s 20 games with at least eight carries, Palmer has averaged 1.50 touchdowns passing (24 touchdowns extrapolated). Still, that’s close to the line, and over the last four years head coach Bruce Arians has overseen an offense that has averaged 27 passing touchdowns per year. Palmer has started 53 games in that span with at least 15 in three of four seasons. Palmer is an injury risk because of his age, but I’m comfortable taking the over. For more on Palmer, see our Cardinals fantasy preview.
Drew Brees: Season Passing Touchdowns
Over 35.5 Touchdowns, +125
Under 35.5 Touchdowns, -155
Drew Brees: Season Passing Yards
Over 5,000, +120
Over 5,000, -150
Over the last six years, Drew Brees has averaged 5,140.8 yards and 38.3 touchdowns passing per year, crossing the 5,000-yard and 35.5-touchdown threshold four times. This year offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael is calling plays, as he did during the 2011-12 and 2016 seasons. Carmichael has been working with Brees in some capacity ever since 2002, when they were both with the Chargers. In his three seasons with Carmichael as the play caller, Brees has led the league in passing with 5,476, 5,177, and 5,208 yards, adding 46, 43, and 37 touchdowns. It’s possible that with the additions of Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara the Saints could employ a run-heavy offense, as they did in the 2009 season, when they won the Super Bowl in Carmichael’s first year as coordinator. That year Brees passed for 4,388 yards (his lowest total in New Orleans) and 34 touchdowns (which actually led the league). Still, when Carmichael (instead of HC Sean Payton) has called plays, he’s historically gifted Brees with league-leading seasons. For more on the Brees/Carmichael relationship, see my Saints fantasy preview.
Kirk Cousins: Season Passing Touchdowns
Over 26.5 Touchdowns, -125
Under 26.5 Touchdowns, -105
Last year Kirk Cousins was 0.5 percentage points below his career touchdown rate of 4.6 percent. He should enjoy some positive regression this year. Nevertheless, in his three seasons in HC Jay Gruden’s offense, Cousins has completed 67.3 percent of his 35.6 pass attempts per game for an average of 1.68 touchdowns, which extrapolates to 26.95 touchdowns for a 16-game season. In his two seasons as the starter, he’s had a 4.7 percent touchdown rate and averaged 27 touchdowns per year. He has almost no margin for error. The 1000-yard duo of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon is now gone, as is OC Sean McVay, and Jordan Reed is always at risk of missing games to injury. I might lean to the under. For more on Cousins, see our Redskins fantasy preview.
Le’Veon Bell: Season Rushing and Receiving Touchdowns
Over 9.5 Touchdowns, -205
Under 9.5 Touchdowns, +165
Le’Veon Bell: Season Rushing and Receiving Touchdowns
Over 11.5 Touchdowns, -110
Under 11.5 Touchdowns, -120
In Bell’s career, he’s averaged 0.66 scrimmage touchdowns per game (10.55 touchdowns extrapolated). Since his 2014 All-Pro season, his average has been 0.68 per game, so he’s been consistent. Last year, he peaked at 0.75 — but he was without Bryant for the entire season. That said, in his 13 games with Bryant, he averaged an even higher 0.77, which comes out to 12.32 extrapolated. Then again, for one reason or another, Bell has surpassed nine touchdowns only once and has never reached 12 touchdowns. If you believe in his recent form and Martavis splits, you’ll probably take the over. If you believe in his long-term history and the knowledge that running backs suffer injuries at a relatively high rate, you might take the under. For more on Bell’s daily fantasy outlook this weekend, see my Week 1 running back breakdown.
LeSean McCoy: Season Rushing Yards
Over 1,999.5 Yards, +1,500
Under 1,999.5 Yards, -4,500
I wouldn’t actually bet on this because there’s little point to doing so — but LeSean McCoy won’t come close to 2,000 yards. As mentioned in the Bills fantasy preview, he’ll be a total workhorse and all five starters on what was a good offensive line last year have returned — but this stretches the imagination.
Matt Ryan: Season Passing Touchdowns
Over 32.5 Touchdowns, -115
Under 32.5 Touchdowns, -115
Matt Ryan has been in the NFL for nine years. Only once has he thrown for more than 32 touchdowns — last year, when he led the league with an outlier 7.1 percent touchdown rate. I like him, but OC Kyle Shanahan is gone and there’s no guarantee that Steve Sarkisian will be able to replace Shanny adequately. As I say in the Falcons fantasy preview, this year regression is spelled “R-Y-A-N.”
Odell Beckham: Season Receiving Yards
Over 1,350 Yards, -125
Under 1,350 Yards, -105
Beckham is dealing with a left ankle injury, but it’s possible that he could play this weekend. Throughout his career he’s averaged 95.9 yards receiving per game. As long as OBJ’s able to maintain his career rate stats (9.02 yards per target, 10.6 targets per game), he could miss a couple of contests and still hit the over. In the first three years of his career, Randy Moss (4,163) is the only player to have more than OBJ’s 4,122 yards receiving. I’m not a fan of going with the crowd (or OBJ), but the over isn’t too juiced and it has some room for regression and/or missed time built into it. For more on OBJ’s daily fantasy outlook this weekend, see my Week 1 wide receiver breakdown.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not making recommendations. I’m providing my thoughts. You should do your own research, because around here we’re basically donkeys.
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