Handicapping Bovada's Interesting NFL Passing Record Prop
by Trevor Whenham - 8/19/2014
Last year Peyton Manning rewrote the record books with his 5,477 passing yards. The new league record was obviously impressive. We live in a very pass-happy time, though, so it is not impossible to imagine that that record will be broken again. It's certainly not in the realm of untouchable marks like Dimaggio's 56-game hitting streak or Gretzky's 92 goals in a season. In fact, Bovada has odds posted for breaking the record this year, and the "yes" side is at just +300 (the "no" side is favored at -400).
So, is it going to happen this year? And who has the best shot at it? Let's take a look:
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos (co-favorite at 11/4 to lead the league in passing at Bovada): Manning is great. There is no doubt about that. He also has a largely familiar cast of characters to work with - Eric Decker is the only big piece gone, but they have some options to replace him. Could Manning break his own record? Absolutely. There are a couple of reasons for concern, though. First, Manning is 38 and isn't going to be able to stay healthy and at the top of his game forever. Sooner or later even the greats look mortal. Second, the Seahawks in the Super Bowl did a great job of disrupting and confounding Manning. Defensive learning spreads very quickly in this league, so if more teams pick up on what they did, and Manning can't react fast enough, it could lead to a problematic game or two. On the plus side, though, the defense has been significantly upgraded in Denver, so Manning should get more opportunities with the ball. He's a contender.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (11/4): Brees is Brees, and we know he can and will sling it. For reasons I can't entirely put my finger on, though, I just can't help feeling like the window has closed slightly for Brees and the Saints. I still expect a strong passing performance - Brees has had over 5,000 yards passing in each of the last three years, and Manning only broke his single-season record by a yard. Still, I don't think Brees is climbing towards his peak anymore, and I would be very surprised if it was Brees who broke this record.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (7/1): Rodgers is healthy, and he plays on a loaded team. He is absolutely a contender here. His record is only 4,643 yards in a season, though, so he has a long way to go. He also plays in perhaps the least hospitable climate in the league, so weather could have a negative impact in several games. Plus, he is coming off an injury last year, so we can't entirely trust his health. I obviously have nothing but respect for Rodgers as one of the greats in the league, but I don't see this record as his to take.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (15/2): Here is the guy I like when it comes to a record-breaker. He has broken the 5,000-yard barrier before, and he has the luxury of tossing it to the best receiver on the planet. His attitude and focus have been a concern the last couple of years, but that should change this year. He has had a much-needed change in coach, and with it has come a much better all-round offensive staff. Notably, he will now be working with Drew Brees' long-time QB coach. The Lions should be much-improved, and Stafford has the talent to do some real damage if he gets on track and cuts down on the mistakes that have plagued him. Accuracy, though, is the biggest reason I am confident in Stafford. He was third in the league in passing yards last year behind only Manning and Brees, yet his completion percentage was 10 points lower than either of those two. If and when the coaching staff can get his accuracy back on track - and he is capable of it, because his percentage was five points better in 2011 than it was last year - then his passing effectiveness will improve accordingly. He's also only 26 years old, so he is just entering his prime as a quarterback. He is a major contender here - and incidentally provides nice value in the passing leader prop as well.
The bottom line: With Manning and Brees always finding success, Stafford poised for a huge year, and no shortage of other strong quarterbacks who could have another breakout year, the record isn't safe. The other factor to consider is that if the officials keep calling defensive backs so harshly when there is contact then receivers could find more room to breathe than normal, and that could really positively impact passing yardage. Add is all up, and though there is not really much value in betting yes on this prop, I certainly wouldn't bet the no at this price.
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