With all due respect to Andrew Luck, the rookie story of the NFL for the past few weeks has been Tampa Bay Bucs running back Doug Martin, a k a the “Muscle Hamster.”
The Bucs drafted the former Boise State star at No. 31 overall in this year’s draft, and it’s looking like the best pick of them all (I don’t count Luck or Robert Griffin III because they were locked into the top two picks). Martin had a nice opener for the Bucs with 95 yards on 24 carries as Tampa Bay beat Carolina. But the Bucs fell off the radar by losing four of their next five and Martin didn’t do a whole lot, never totaling more than 85 yards rushing.
But on Oct. 25 at Minnesota, Martin stole the show from Adrian Peterson on the Thursday night telecast, rushing for 135 yards and a score on 29 carries and catching three balls for 79 yards and a 64-yard TD. The Bucs crushed the Vikings and fantasy geeks everywhere were quickly picking up or trading Martin while he was at his peak.
But that was hardly Martin’s peak. Last week in Tampa Bay’s 42-32 win at Oakland, he had one of the best days ever by a running back with a franchise-record 251 yards and four scores on 25 carries (also four catches for 21 yards). Three of Martin’s TD runs were for at least 45 yards, the first back to do that since at least 1940.
So to no surprise, there are a handful of Week 10 specials at Bovada on Martin as the Bucs, who have had the NFL’s best offense over the past month, host San Diego. First off, Martin has skyrocketed to No. 2 on the site’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds at 2/1, just behind Luck (even). Former odds-on favorite Robert Griffin III has dropped to 3/1. Martin is also a MVP choice on the site at 50/1 (let’s not get carried away). For this week, the options are whether Martin scores a touchdown (“yes” -175, “no” +145) and “over/under” 89.5 rushing yards (both -115).
The Chargers have a very good run defense, ranking No. 4 in the NFL by allowing 84.0 yards per game. The Titans’ Chris Johnson was held to 17 yards on eight carries. The Falcons’ Michael Turner had 80 yards on 14 carries. The Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles totaled 127 yards in two games vs. San Diego. The Bolts’ issues have come against the pass, so Josh Freeman could have a big day and he’s been red-hot. But I do believe San Diego won’t let Martin beat it. Take under the yards but yes on a TD. Martin is not winning ROY, however. That’s Luck’s.
The struggling Minnesota Vikings, losers of two straight and three of four, would find themselves in the NFC North cellar if they lose at home to Detroit on Sunday. Vikings QB Christian Ponder has been terrible ever since the news came out he’s dating ESPN’s Samantha Steele. Not saying that’s why, but calls are for coach Leslie Frazier to bench Ponder. Frazier says that’s not in the cards. Ponder has thrown four picks and two touchdowns the past three games, is barely completing 50 percent of his throws in that stretch and has passed for 63 yards or less in two of those.
A Bovada prop on Ponder this week is whether he is pulled for non-injury reasons: no at -400 and yes at +250. I do find it hard to believe Frazier would pull the plug at home, because that would immediately make backup Joe Webb the most popular guy in town. Webb hasn’t attempted a pass all season, so it would be throwing him to the wolves/Lions. Take no there.
How about Peterson? The guy might be having the most amazing recovery from a torn ACL in NFL history. Peterson leads the NFL in rushing and has rushed for at least 120 yards and a touchdown in three straight games. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry against Arizona (23 rushes for 153 yards), 8.2 against Tampa Bay (15 carries for 123 yards) and 10.7 against Seattle (17 attempts for 182 yards). Bovada asks whether Peterson will have a fourth straight 120-yard, one-TD game vs. Detroit. No is -180 and yes +140. I say no chance. Peterson had 102 and no TDs in a Week 3 win at Detroit. But now Ponder is struggling mightily and the Vikings also won’t have stud receiver Percy Harvin. The Lions might just play an 11-man front!
Week 10 Sportsbook.ag Leaders
Luck won last week with an NFL rookie-record 433 yards passing, Martin led the rushers with those 251 yards, and Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Atlanta’s Julio Jones tied with 129 receiving yards. The highest-scoring team was Chicago with 51. I didn’t get any of those.
Let’s change that in Week 10. The Sportsbook.ag passing yardage favorite (no Thursday or Monday games) is Drew Brees at +300. Frankly, he’s probably going to be favored just about every week. He is on pace for a third 5,000-yard season but hasn’t topped 239 yards in the past two games. I don’t like him at home vs. a solid Atlanta pass defense. There is some lousy weather in parts of the country, so I’m not going to look much at a cold-weather game on this prop. The pick is San Diego’s Philip Rivers at +800 against Tampa Bay’s No. 32 pass defense.
Peterson is the +375 rushing favorite, but as noted above I absolutely don’t like him this week. I might lean toward Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch (+800) against the No. 29 Jets defense, but Lynch is banged up and New York had two weeks to prepare for Seattle. So it’s Atlanta’s Michael Turner (great value at +1500) at New Orleans, with Turner coming off a 100-yard game against a good Dallas defense. On the receiving yards, go Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson at +1000. He will be fired up big-time to torch a Chargers franchise that he felt disrespected him while there.
The favorite for highest-scoring team is New England at +400. It’s actually supposed to be pretty nice by Sunday in Foxborough, so that’s a wise call. The Pats scored 52 on Buffalo earlier this season.
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