NFL Predictions: Offensive Player Props
by Dave Schwab - 8/2/2011
All 32 NFL teams are back to work in preparation for the start of the 2011 regular season. The future odds have been updated after a flurry of player movement to reflect each team’s chances to win its division, conference, and Super Bowl XLVI, as well as projected NFL season win totals.
Also released are the odds for individual player props for passing, rushing, and receiving yards. Now that we have a pretty good handle on who is playing where this season, let’s take a look at each category in an effort to mine some solid value from the numbers with some NFL predictions.
Most Passing Yards
It’s little wonder that San Diego signal-caller Philip Rivers is the current favorite to pass for most yards this season at +275. Rivers led the league last year with 4,710 yards, and his favorite receiver Vincent Jackson is back in the fold after holding out a good portion of last year in a contract dispute. The two main things that add value to Rivers’ odds is 1) the Chargers remain a pass-first team, having finished ranked second in the league with an average of 396 yards a game, and 2) he knows how to spread the ball around, completing at least 20 passes to 10 different players not named Jackson in 2010.
Odds for some of the other players include the usual cast of characters such as Peyton Manning at +300, Aaron Rodgers at +350, and Tom Brady and Drew Brees at +400, but my value pick for this prop is Houston QB Matt Schaub, who directed the third-best passing attack in the league last season. He ranked fourth last season with 4,370 yards, but took top honors in 2009 with a total of 4,770 passing yards. The Texans also just lost FB Vonta Leach, who did most of the heavy lifting for RB Arian Foster last season. This could point to an even heavier dependence on the pass this season.
Most Rushing Yards
The two names at the top of this list are Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson at +300. Of the two, the Vikings’ Peterson has the better of the value. He has played in the league for four seasons and has not rushed for less than 1,300 yards in any one year. His best year was in 2008, when he led the NFL with 1,760 yards. Minnesota may look to him more than ever this year with the departure of WR Sidney Rice. This will be a run-first offense, with new starting QB Donovan McNabb being asked to manage the game with his head, not win it with his arm.
Johnson had a phenomenal year in 2009, when he became just the sixth back in NFL history to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark. Last year his numbers dropped off dramatically, but were more than respectable at 1,364 total yards. He carried the ball close to 700 times in the last two seasons and you have to expect another season of 300+ attempts, which could very well end up running Johnson into the ground.
There is a trio of backs at +450: Michael Turner, Arian Foster, and Jamaal Charles. The value in this group lies with Charles, who rushed for 1,467 yards last season for Kansas City, which was second only to Foster’s 1,616. The key to Charles’ success was the fact he only carried the ball 230 times last season, while averaging 6.4 yards a pop. That is also key to longevity as a running back in this league; more yards on less carries.
Most Receiving Yards
If your team has one of the top passing quarterbacks in the league, chances are it also has one of the top receivers which is exactly why Houston’s Andre Johnson is the favorite at +350. Johnson has been a machine the past three seasons with 302 receptions for 4,360 yards. There was a bit of a drop-off last season with the emergence of Foster and the running game. However, for reasons mentioned earlier, Johnson could see a lot more balls coming his way this year.
Reggie Wayne and Roddy White are listed next at +400, but my value pick in this category is Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald at +500. Fitzgerald has been one of the best receivers in the league since coming in as a rookie in 2004. He has not had less than 90 receptions the past four seasons and was still eighth in the league last season in receiving yards (1,137) with a very sketchy situation at quarterback. With the trade for big-arm QB Kevin Kolb, the pass-happy Cardinals will look to return to their old ways, which probably means that Fitzgerald will be back in the 110+ reception range just like he was when Kurt Warner was throwing him the ball.
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