In this weekly NFL player props preview, we’ll highlight some bets you should consider for the upcoming week. Since player props typically aren’t posted until closer to game day, this early preview will look at some particularly favorable or unfavorable matchups that could become actionable.
This doesn’t mean we should automatically bet on these props, but these are some of the first players to check when lines are posted. Hopefully, oddsmakers haven’t identified the same trends as us, and we can find favorable value on these player props.
Also, be sure to check out the Sharp Angles Betting Podcast every Thursday for further discussion on these player props and more betting advice for the week ahead.
CONSIDER THE OVER ON PATRICK MAHOMES’s PASSING YARDS PROP BET
Although the Cincinnati Bengals upset Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17, there were some concerning trends from that game to indicate the Bengals’ defense will struggle to slow down Mahomes in Round 2.
Cincinnati generated a 35% pressure rate, but they were unable to generate high-impact pressures. The Bengals failed to sack Mahomes and only hit him on four of his 37 dropbacks.
The Chiefs also appeared to be unafraid of Cincinnati’s pass rush, as Mahomes’s average time to throw of 2.91 seconds was his second-highest of the season, according to TruMedia/PFF.
When giving quarterbacks time to throw, Cincinnati’s defense has struggled this season. On throws occurring after 2.5 seconds, the Bengals rank 25th in completion percentage allowed (60.9%) and 21st in yards per attempt (8.2).
So how did the Bengals hold Mahomes to a relatively modest 259 yards in their last matchup?
The Chiefs may have gotten in their own way, playing uncharacteristically slow. According to TruMedia, Kansas City ran a play once every 32.0 seconds against Cincinnati 一 well below its season average of 27.9. The only other competitive game in which the Chiefs topped the 30-second mark was Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns.
When the game was within seven points, the Chiefs ran a play once every 33 seconds 一 nearly five seconds slower than their season average of 28.3.
It’s hard to pinpoint the reason Kansas City played so slow in the first matchup, but it’s also hard to imagine they’d deviate from their typical pace again, especially considering the result of that first meeting.
Patrick Mahomes’s passing yards prop is available at 290.5 on BetMGM. Since he’s already thrown for 378 and 404 this postseason, and there’s reason to believe the Chiefs will be more aggressive against Cincinnati this time around, the over looks like a strong bet.
CONSIDER THE OVER ON JOE BURROW’S PASS ATTEMPTS PROP BET
Joe Burrow’s pass attempts prop is likely to be available at either 34.5 or 35.5 in the AFC Championship Game. After throwing 39 passes for 446 yards against the Chiefs in early January, the over is the bet to place.
When facing the Chiefs, it’s probably tempting for some coaches to slow the game down and attempt to control the clock with the run game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.
Over the last three seasons, when teams run the ball over 50% of the time in the first half against Kansas City, the Chiefs are 9-1 with an average margin of victory of 8.6 points.
In that same time span, the Chiefs have lost 12 total games. In five of those losses, their opponent ran the ball on less than 40% of their first half plays, including Cincinnati this season (18% first half rush rate).
The Bengals probably won’t repeat their pass-heavy game plan to that extreme, but it’s clear Cincinnati isn’t afraid to challenge Mahomes to a shootout.
It’s also worth noting the Bengals are trending towards becoming an extremely pass-heavy team, after starting the year out leaning on the run.
When Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase are both on the field, Burrow has thrown the ball 60% of the time, compared to 40% when one or both are off the field, according to TruMedia.
Chase has typically played over 90% of the team’s snaps all year, but Higgins’s usage has been climbing to that range as well. Higgins has been on the field for at least 83% of the Bengals’ snaps in five straight games, including 95% last week against Tennessee. Prior to this stretch, Higgins had eclipsed that 83% mark only once in 12 contests.
Cincinnati is also becoming more aggressive throwing on early downs. Burrow’s three highest pass rates on first and second down this season have come in three of his last four games (versus Ravens, Chiefs, and Titans), topping 75% in each game.
CONSIDER THE OVER ON BRANDON AIYUK’S RECEPTIONS PROP
San Francisco 49ers’ wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk’s usage has been inconsistent this season, but there’s reason to believe he could see a spike in usage against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game.
Against everyone other than the Rams, Jimmy Garoppolo used play-action on 30% of his dropbacks. Against the Rams, Garoppolo’s play-action usage of 5.3% and 12.5% were his lowest and third lowest rates of the year (9.8% combined).
Something about the Rams defense forces San Francisco to abandon the play-action pass, and Aiyuk is the most direct beneficiary.
In games where Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Deebo Samuel were all active, play-action usage had minimal impact on targets for Kittle and Samuel. Aiyuk, however, saw a significant spike on non-play-action plays.
Receiver PA Tgt Share No PA Tgt Share Deebo Samuel 22.5% 24.5% George Kittle 24.3% 22.6% Brandon Aiyuk 14.4% 20.4%
Stats via TruMedia
In their last meeting in Week 18, Aiyuk finished with a team-high 107 yards on six receptions, demonstrating his ceiling in a heavy non-play action game.
To be fair, Aiyuk also finished with just three receptions for 26 yards in their Week 10 victory. However, that was a dominant 49ers victory in which Garoppolo attempted just 19 passes 一 four of which (21%) were directed at Aiyuk.
Aiyuk’s receptions prop is typically available at 3.5 or 4.5, and the over looks like the smart bet on either number.
CONSIDER THE UNDER ON MATTEW STAFFORD’S PASSING YARDS PROP
Another week, another win for the passing yards under against the 49ers.
In each of the last two weeks, I’ve recommended the under for Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodgers against San Francisco, both of which were winners. The under for passing yards against San Francisco is now 15-4 on the year, with Matthew Stafford contributing two victories.
The reason for betting the under for Stafford’s passing yards remains the same as previous weeks: San Francisco’s run-heavy, slow-paced offense.
Including the postseason, the 49ers run the ball at the third-highest rate and play at the fourth slowest pace, according to TruMedia.
Don’t expect the game plan to change at all against Los Angeles. When in a one-score game, San Francisco played at their second and fourth slowest rates of the year in their previous meetings with the Rams, including a snail’s pace of 39.1 seconds per play in Week 10.
The 49ers have also had success limiting Stafford’s productivity with their combination of zone coverage without a blitz. In a one-score game, Stafford has faced the no blitz/zone combo on 61% of his dropbacks against everyone other than San Francisco, but 74% against the Niners.
On the year, Stafford ranks 16th (out of 39) in EPA per dropback versus the no blitz/zone combo, and leads the league in EPA per dropback in all other scenarios combined.
Defensive Scheme EPA/Dropback Rank (out of 39) Dropbacks per INT No Blitz/Zone .02 16th 23.4 All Other Combos .35 1st 80.3
Stats via TruMedia/PFF
Obviously, Stafford’s performance has still been respectable against the no blitz/zone scheme, but it’s a steep dropoff from his dominance against other defensive schemes 一 and it also appears to be the path towards forcing turnovers.
Matthew Stafford’s passing yards prop is available at 277.5 yards on BetMGM and, based on these trends, the under looks like an easy decision.