Week 1 is upon us, which means it’s time to take a closer look at some betting options for the week ahead. In this betting preview, I’ll be taking a look at some player props we should consider for the upcoming slate of games.
Player props typically aren’t posted until closer to game day, so in this article we’ll look at some players with particularly favorable or unfavorable matchups.
This doesn’t mean we should automatically bet on these props, but these are some of the first lines to check when props are posted. Hopefully, oddsmakers haven’t identified the same trends as us, and we can find favorable value on these player props.
Consider the UNDER on Ezekiel Elliott’s Rushing Yards Prop Bet
The Dallas Cowboys should have a strong run game when the offensive line is healthy. Unfortunately, Zach Martin, arguably their most dominant offensive lineman, is expected to miss Week 1 due to a positive COVID test.
As a result, it’s probably best to take the under on these rushing yards prop bets for Ezekiel Elliott against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
- 53.5 rushing yards on BetMGM
- 53.5 rushing yards on DraftKings
- 54.5 rushing yards on FanDuel
Excluding plays inside the 10-yard line, the Cowboys’ offensive line paved the way for just 1.7 yards before contact for its running backs in 2020, according to Sports Info Solutions, the third-worst rate in the league.
In those same scenarios, the Buccaneers allowed a league-best 1.3 yards before contact per attempt.
With Martin out 一 likely replaced by Connor McGovern, who started eight games a season ago 一 we should expect Dallas to struggle to create running room against the Bucs’ defense.
Let’s also take a look at Elliott’s rushing output in Dallas’ three losses prior to Dak Prescott’s injury last season:
- vs. Rams: 22 attempts for 96 yards
- vs. Seahawks: 14 attempts for 34 yards
- vs. Browns: 12 attempts for 54 yards
Against the Rams, Dallas never trailed by more than a touchdown, so the run game remained a factor throughout the contest. Against Cleveland and Seattle, however, the Cowboys were forced to abandon the run early and Elliott’s ground production disappeared.
With Tampa favored by more than a touchdown, we should assume Dallas abandons the run game early, likely forcing Elliott’s rushing total under those prop bets.
Consider the UNDER for Tua Tagovailoa’s Passing Yards Prop Bet
If you followed my offseason prop bets you know I’m expecting a strong year from Tua Tagovailoa. However, this might be a tough matchup for him against an improved New England Patriots defense.
In 2020, Tagovailoa was often at his best when the defense brought extra pressure, allowing him to use his mobility and take advantage of lighter coverage downfield. As a result, he generated +4.3 EPA when the defense brought five or more pass-rushers, compared to -18.3 when facing four or fewer.
According to Sports Info Solutions, the Patriots brought five or more pass-rushers just 27% of the time in 2020, and did so on just six of 23 dropbacks by Tagovailoa in their Week 14 matchup.
With that defensive approach likely a strong factor, Tagovailoa managed just 145 passing yards, despite an efficient day with a 76.9% completion rate.
The addition of rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle (plus Will Fuller, who is suspended for this matchup) has elevated expectations for Tagovailoa, so we may get an unrealistically high number here, especially with Miami as a three-point underdog.
Consider the OVER for Najee Harris’s Rushing Yards Prop Bet
First-round draft choice Najee Harris is going to be the workhorse in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ backfield. However, as 6.5-point underdogs against the Buffalo Bills and much offseason discussion about Pittsburgh’s mess of an offensive line, we might get a favorably low number on his rushing total in this matchup.
Buffalo struggled to stop the run versus 11 personnel in 2020, allowing a 57% success rate, among the worst in the league. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh used 11 personnel on 75% of its rush attempts, the second-highest rate in the league.
Additionally, we’ve seen numerous reports this offseason citing Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Matt Canada discussing a desire to feature a more effective run game. With the rushing attack being an offseason talking point, perhaps we’ll see it featured at an increased rate, at least while the game script allows.
Consider taking Trevor Lawrence as an ANYTIME Touchdown Scorer Prop Bet
Quarterback rushing touchdowns were at an all-time high in 2020, and that’s not a trend likely to go away. NFL teams had been inefficient in short-yardage and goal-line situations for a while, and increasing the use of quarterback sneaks has improved production in that area.
In addition to this being a league-wide trend, Urban Meyer has always leaned on his quarterbacks to run the ball. In Meyer’s final season at Ohio State, the relatively immobile Dwayne Haskins had four rushing touchdowns in 14 games and quarterbacks accounted for 31% of the Buckeyes rush attempts inside the opponents’ five-yard line.
Unlike Haskins, Trevor Lawrence is known for his running ability and finished his college career with 17 scores on the ground.
Against the lowly Houston Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars have an implied total of 23.75 points, likely one of the higher numbers they’ll see this season.
Lawrence’s season-long rushing touchdowns prop bet is set to just 3.5 on BetMGM, so we’re likely to get favorable odds on him as an anytime touchdown scorer this week. In the Jaguars’ easiest matchup of the year, this feels like a great opportunity to take advantage of a likely trend the sportsbooks aren’t anticipating.