By: Scott Brock-Wilson and Justin Lynch
Scott and Justin give their best bets for prop bets this season.
Note: Lines from Bovada
T.Y. Hilton will lead the NFL in receiving yards (+1200)
Why not? He’s got the quarterback who’s the odds-on favorite to lead the league in passing yards, and Hilton’s the number one target. Hilton has enough talent around him that teams won’t be able to load up on him, and he’s a brutal matchup out of the slot. A. J. Green, Calvin, Julio, and Odell Beckham have all missed time with injuries recently. Jordy Nelson is out for the year, and Antonio Brown has one of the toughest schedules to deal with. Dez Bryant is a threat, but Hilton outgained him last season, and Romo is on the downswing. At +1200, it’s definitely a risk worth taking.
Rams will make the playoffs (+250)
Based on pythagorean wins, the Rams should have won seven games in 2014 (they actually won six) in the league’s toughest division with Austin Davis and Shaun Hill at quarterback. This season Nick Foles will be running the show, a huge upgrade over what they threw on the field last season. They drafted Todd Gurley to pair in the backfield with Tre Mason, giving the Rams a potentially lethal, young, one-two punch. Brian Quick returns from injury after having the makings of a breakout season early in his 2014 campaign. The Rams also have promising, young wideout Stedman Bailey and speedster, Tavon Austin, in the slot.
But it all starts on the D-Line in St. Louis where the Rams boast probably the best D-Line in the league. Chris Long and Robert Quinn are among the best defensive end’s in the league, and Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald are joined by Nick Fairley in the middle. There are questions in the secondary, but the Rams are hoping Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins will start to blossom into what the Rams have always hoped they would become.
The Rams are also helped by the fact that the 49ers will be much worse, and nobody expects the Cardinals to win 11 games again this season. The Rams improved enough to jump both of those teams to get to second in the NFC West and be in the Wild Card race. They should be in position to vault themselves into the postseason.
Baltimore Ravens to win AFC (+1100) and Super Bowl (+2000)
Now, this does not mean I’m picking the Ravens do with either the AFC or the Super Bowl, but for a team that had multiple two-touchdown leads in the AFC Championship last year, these are good odds. The Ravens offseason saw the departures of Haloti Ngata, Pernell McPhee, and Torrey Smith, but the Ravens should be able to withstand these blows. They used their first rounder on a man they call “The Burner” (Breshad Perriman), who happens to have sub-4.30 speed. So, yeah, he seems like he could fill that Torrey Smith role.
The Ravens were also able to grab Kyle Arrington from the Patriots to play cornerback. And though I am not a huge Arrington fan, there is no doubt about his effectiveness in the slot (ain’t that right T.Y.?). The Ravens still have Lardarius Webb on the outside and their secondary will be further bolstered by the return of Jimmy Smith, who missed most of the second half of the season due to injury.
Their really is no team in the AFC that stands out, especially considering the Patriots offseason losses. The Colts still seem to be missing key pieces defensively, and no one knows if Peyton Manning will be able to hold up through the entire season. The Ravens have a tough division to go through, but they should be able to at least win a Wild Card spot and I, for one, do not want to bet against Joe Flacco come January.
Jeremy Hill Will Lead the NFL in Rushing Yards (+1100)
Hill was 8th in rushing last year, and that was without being the lead back for a fair amount of the season. Hill is expected to be the workhorse in Cincinnati with Bernard doing most of the catching out of the backfield in 2015. Hill is expected to get around 15-20 carries a game this year. In the seven games where Hill had over 15 carries in 2014, he totaled over 860 yards for an average of about 123 yards per game. When he got the touches, he produced. Over the last nine games when Hill had developed a more important role in the offense, he had 929 yards. If these numbers say anything, he is certainly capable of average 100 yards per game, provided he stays healthy.
Out of the top eight, Hill had the second highest yards per attempt (5.1) only behind Justin Forsett’s 5.7yds/a. Only one player averaged over 100 yards a game, and that was DeMarco Murray, last year’s leader at over 1800 yards, but he will not be able to put up the same numbers without the same volume of carries in a Eagles backfield with Matthews and Sproles. Le’Veon Bell, 2014’s 2nd leading rusher, will miss the first two games of the season due to suspension. Lesean McCoy, 2014’s 3rd leading rusher, has also switched teams and now finds himself dealing with a hamstring injury already. I do not understand why Charles has the second best (tied) odds to lead the league in rushing after he finished 13th last year in what was still considered a good year for him. A rusher that will certainly be in the mix will be Eddie Lacy; he may be leaned upon more now with Jordy Nelson out, and has an opportunity to take the rushing title.
Now, all of the players mentioned above obviously have a shot at getting the rushing title for 2015, but possibly the two biggest competitors are Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch. Peterson has now turned 30, the scary number for running backs, and is still a risk coming off of last year. Minnesota may want to continue to give their young RB, Jerick Mckinnon, touches as a change of pace back.
As far as Lynch, he is one year older (29), and it is possible that the Seahawks try to limit his touches more because he has so many miles on his legs already. They are able to do that now with the newly acquired passing threat of Jimmy Graham.
Now after all of this is said, and before you call me crazy, I am saying this is a good value bet. It is no guarantee that Hill will break out this year and Gio will still be apart of the offense, but at +1100, he is good bet.
Steelers to win the AFC North (+170), AFC Championship (+900) and Super Bowl (+2000)
The Steelers are one of three teams from the AFC North to make the playoffs last year, and this year the division has the chance to do it again. The Steelers are the defending champions of the division and expect to have one of the more potent offenses in the NFL. Pittsburg has last year’s leader in receiving yards, Antonio Brown, and the 2nd leading rusher in Le’Veon Bell. Their receiving corps is rounded out by Martavis Bryant and Marcus Wheaton. Bryant is a deadly red zone weapon and Wheaton is a constant deep threat. However, Pittsburg will have to start off the season without Bell for the first two games and without Bryant for the first four.
So the Steelers will have to get through those four weeks with a respectable record as they face New England, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Baltimore. The easiest of which is for sure the 49ers, but the other three games will all be competitive. They play both the AFC and NFC West, two pretty tough divisions, but both the Ravens and the Bengals have to deal with that, too. I believe their potent offense could carry them into the playoffs and possibly make a deep run. The AFC is relatively weak, so who says the Steelers couldn’t come out of it with Big Ben leading the way, especially if they got hot in the closing stretch. And with their offense, they will always have a shot in the one game Super Bowl with a proven QB leading the way.
Saints will make the Playoffs (+130)
The Saints showcase a team that is changing its attitude. They extended Mark Ingram, signed C.J.Spiller, traded Jimmy Graham for Max Unger and a pick that turned into Stephone Anthony. The Saints want to run more. They have a backfield that now consist of three solid RB’s in Ingram, Spiller, and Khiry Robinson. But just because the Saints intend on running much more, that doesn't meant that Brees will not be slinging the ball around this year. He still has both Cooks and Colston after losing Kenny Stills.
The Saints are in one of the worst divisions and football, and originally it appeared that it would be a three team race between the Saints, Falcons, and Panthers (no offense to the Bucs). But, with Kelvin Benjamin’s torn ACL, the Panther’s road to a division championship has gotten a lot harder with their #1 WR now being Devin Funchess, a rookie out of Michigan. That leaves the Saints and the Falcons left. The Falcons have a loaded passing game led by Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Roddy White, however they will need to count on one of the young RB’s, either Tevin Coleman or Devonta Freeman, to step up as the lead back.
Both defenses will struggle and have their ups and downs, but I believe the Saints can prevail. I have faith in the best coach-QB combination in the division in Sean Payton and Brees. So the Saints can very well come out of the NFC south and earn a playoff spot.