Not a great Week 3 in terms of my running back choices on the NFL special props. I put the kibosh on Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller as he left the Bills’ win over Cleveland early with sprained left shoulder. Unfortunately, he exited after carrying four times for 16 yards, thus missing the total of “over/under” 5.0 yards per carry that Bovada had set. I recommended over and still have no doubt Spiller would have done so if he stayed in the game. That result should help to keep Spiller under 5.2 ypc for the season, which I recommended. The former Clemson star was originally thought to miss a few weeks but could play Sunday.
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I am also officially off Tennessee’s Chris Johnson for good. Last week there were three Johnson props: over/under 3.5 yards per carry and longest rush of 14.5 yards vs. Detroit, and an average of 3.8 yards per carry for the season. I took over on all. Johnson averaged 1.7 ypc vs. the Lions with a long of 13. He is averaging an unthinkable 1.4 ypc this season. Johnson will be a cap casualty after this season, mark it down.
I also missed on the Week 3 rushing leader. Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew was the favorite and rushed for 177 yards vs. the Colts. Normally that would do the trick. But Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles put up 233 in an upset vs. the Saints. I liked Ray Rice and he had a solid 101 vs. New England.
Speaking of Charles’ 233 yards, there is a Week 4 Bovada prop on whether that is the highest rushing total of the 2012 season, with “no” at -150 and “yes” at +110. There have been 23 occurrences in NFL history where a back topped 233 yards. It has happened each of the past three seasons: the Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray with 253 last season, Charles himself with 259 in 2010 and former Browns back Jerome Harrison with 286 in 2009. I would still take yes here, however, as teams are throwing more and more. I would expect another 500-yard passing game (a prop I addressed last week) more than another 233-plus rushing game. It wouldn’t surprise me if we don’t see another back even hit two bills.
As for this week’s leading rusher, Sportsbook.ag lists Houston’s Arian Foster as the +300 favorite. Foster has put up back-to-back 100-yard efforts and faces a Tennessee defense that is 29th in the NFL in allowing 150.3 rushing yards per game. As always, my concern with Foster is that Ben Tate will vulture some carries, although he was yanked last week after a costly fumble vs. Denver. Coach Gary Kubiak says he still has full confidence in Tate, who probably gets 8-10 carries Sunday while Foster will get around 25.
My pick is Oakland’s Darren McFadden at Denver, which is middle-of-the-pack in rush defense. McFadden finally found his groove last week with 113 yards on 18 carries vs. Pittsburgh (albeit 64 on one carry). McFadden has rushed for at least 150 yards in two of his past three games vs. Denver. He does have a minor shoulder injury but is fully expected to start Sunday.
Another running back option this week on the most rushing yards prop is the Giants’ Ahmad Bradshaw at +1500 against the Eagles. Don’t like Bradshaw there at all, but it leads me to another Bovada special: Which Giants running back finishes with the most rushing yards this season: Bradshaw (-300) or Andre Brown (+200).
Brown was the third-stringer to start the season behind Bradshaw and rookie David Wilson. But when Bradshaw went down with an injury in Week 2 vs. the Bucs, Coach Tom Coughlin went to Brown because Wilson is in his doghouse for rookie mistakes. Brown carried 13 times for 71 yards and a touchdown vs. Tampa Bay. And then with Bradshaw sidelined last week vs. Carolina, Brown had 20 rushes for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
Bradshaw will be back this week from an inflamed disc in his neck, but obviously Brown has earned some carries. In addition, a disc problem can definitely re-surface at any time (ask Peyton Manning), and Bradshaw has been injury-prone in his career. He also has a tendency to fumble. Thus, I would roll the dice on Brown here – plus, you already have a 90-yard cushion.
A big story early this week was that Eagles coach Andy Reid hinted that he might have to bench Michael Vick if Vick keeps giving the ball away. Vick has turned the ball over a whopping nine times, as much as any team other than the Chiefs (also nine). And it’s not like Vick has been that good when he holds onto the ball, ranking No. 29 in passer rating. Bovada offers a Week 4 special on whether Vick is pulled from a game when losing or not start a game this season outside of injury reasons. Yes is the -250 favorite and no at +170.
Certainly Reid made this statement on purpose, a shot across the bow to motivate Vick. But I find it hard to believe that Reid goes to untested rookie backup Nick Foles when Reid knows his job is on the line this season. Take no on this prop. In fact, I like over on two Vick props on Sportsbook.ag vs. the Giants: 254.5 yards passing and 1.5 touchdowns. New York hasn’t been very good against the pass this season and Vick is averaging 302 ypg.
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