NFL Player Props and Picks: Sidney Rice and Matt Hasselbeck
by Alan Matthews - 8/6/2011
In quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s 10-year career in Seattle, it seemed he rarely had an elite receiver to throw to. Just look at the Seahawks’ top receiving threats the past three seasons, for example: retread Mike Williams in 2010: 65 catches 751 yards, 2 TDs; a past-his-prime T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2009: 79 catches, 911 yards, 3 TDs; a tight end who isn’t exactly Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez in John Carlson in 2008: 55 catches, 627 yards and 5 TDs.
You have to go back to 2007 when the Seahawks had a receiver with a big season: Bobby Engram, whom no one would accuse of being a true No. 1, had 94 catches for 1,147 yards and six touchdowns. That also happened to be Hasselbeck’s best statistical season.
I bring this up because if Hasselbeck had signed the two-year, $14 million contract that the Seahawks offered him before the NFL lockout back in March, he might finally have had a guy who can be a No. 1 receiver. That would be former Vikings Pro Bowler Sidney Rice, who recently signed a five-year, $41 million deal to head to the Pacific Northwest. That’s the biggest deal a receiver who has left his former team has gotten during this free-agent frenzy (Santonio Holmes got more, but stayed with the Jets).
Hasselbeck wasn’t really welcomed back by Seattle following the lockout, and he eventually signed a multiyear deal to be Jake Locker’s mentor with the Tennessee Titans. But if you are wondering why I paired Rice and Hasselbeck in this story, well, there’s that what-could-have-been in Seattle.
It’s actually fairly surprising the Seahawks didn’t bring Hasselbeck back. Back in January, Coach Pete Carroll pronounced that re-signing Hasselbeck was Seattle's No. 1 priority. But something obviously changed because the Seahawks instead went with former Viking Tarvaris Jackson, who seems like a major downgrade. Last season Hasselbeck led Seattle to the NFC West title (despite a 7-9 record) and a playoff upset of the New Orleans Saints. He played in 14 games in the regular season, throwing for 3,001 yards, 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions while completing 59.9 percent of his passes.
Bodog has a few props out on Hasselbeck’s 2011 season with the Titans. They are: ‘over/under’ 3,000 yards passing, 15.5 TD passes and 15.5 interceptions (all options at -115). Obviously if you go by last year’s numbers he went ‘over’ on two of those three. But he’s in a very different offense now. Tennessee is about giving the ball to Chris Johnson first and second. Yes, I know the Titans have a new coach in Mike Munchak, but he’s off Jeff Fisher’s staff so it’s not like things will change much. Last year the Titans ranked 30th in passing attempts. To be fair, they had lousy passers in Kerry Collins, Vince Young and Rusty Smith. Plus the Titans’ receivers leave a lot to be desired. And their best one, Kenny Britt, could be suspended for a few games by Roger Goodell. I also find it hard to believe Hasselbeck makes it through the year injury-free. And if the Titans struggle, they may just put Locker in there around midseason and let him learn on the fly. Thus, I would go ‘under’ on all three Hasselbeck props.
As for Rice, his ‘over/under’ options are: 875 receiving yards, 57.5 catches and 5.5 TDs. Rice is immensely hard to read. He was one of the NFL’s best receivers in 2009 when Brett Favre played at an MVP-level, with Rice catching 83 balls for 1,312 yards and 8 TDs. Last year, he played in only six games due to hip surgery and had 17-280-2. Supposedly that hip is fine now, but are you really confident in either Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst throwing to Rice? Those numbers are pretty low for Rice, however. Just by comparison, with Favre struggling last year and Joe Webb in for a few games, the leading Vikings receiver was Percy Harvin with 71-868-5. I would take Rice for ‘over’ the catches and touchdowns but ‘under’ the yards.
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