The 10-3 Cincinnati Bengals were barreling their way towards the AFC North title and a possible first-round bye for the playoffs, but that all changed in last Sunday's 33-20 loss to rival Pittsburgh as one-point home favorites. This is mainly because quarterback Andy Dalton went down with a serious hand injury.
Heading into this Sunday's matchup against San Francisco as six-point road favorites, the Bengals will go with former Alabama standout AJ McCarron a their new starter, and Bovada has jumped all over the situation with a pair of special NFL player props for his performance in this game. The following are my best-bet picks for both of these special player props.
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AJ McCarron- Total Passing Yards Week 15
Bovada has set the "over/under" for McCarron's total passing yards in Sunday's game against the 49ers at 225.5, with the moneyline odds set at -120 for both the "over" and the "under".
With Dalton as the starter, Cincinnati was ranked ninth in the NFL in passing with an average of 262.8 yards a game. AJ Green has been the leading receiver with 76 catches for 1,169 yards, and the offense as a whole has five players with at least 25 receptions this year.
This obviously gives McCarron a number of solid targets to throw the ball to, but it still comes down to how much Marvin Lewis (head coach) will rely on a very dependable rushing attack to take some pressure off a very young quarterback making his first NFL start. That may not be the case after offensive coordinator Hue Jackson went on record as saying via The Enquirer "If you guys think he's going to turn around and hand it off 70 times to win a game, then you guys are mistaken."
There is definitely some truth in that statement after McCarron completed 22-of-32 attempts for 280 yards against the Steelers while playing in relief of Dalton. Keep in mind that this was when his team was down big, so they had to throw the ball to try and get back in the game. He also tossed two interceptions that resulted in 14 points for the opposing team, so Jackson was more than willing to let McCarron throw the ball all over the field, despite his complete lack of NFL experience, in a big game.
Taking everything into consideration, including an injury to tight end Tyler Eifert, I still think there is quite a bit of value in the "over" play in this prop given who the Bengals are playing in this game. The 49ers are ranked 27th against the pass this season in allowing an average of 268.5 yards a game. Look for Lewis and Jackson to turn McCarron loose in an ideal situation to see just how well he can move this offense through the air.
AJ McCarron- Total Touchdown Passes Week 15
The over/under for this NFL player prop is 1.5 touchdown passes with an even 100 moneyline for over and -140 betting odds for a play on the under.
Going back to Dalton as Cincinnati's starter, he has tossed 25 touchdowns on the year. Breaking things down even further, he had two or more scoring strikes in nine of 12 games heading into last Sunday's contest.
This compares with 14 touchdowns on the ground, so there is a built-in mentality with this offense to get the ball into the end zone through the air as much as possible. The loss of Eifert could change things this Sunday given that he has caught 12 of those 25 touchdown throws. However, Green is next on the list with eight touchdowns, and Marvin Jones has four touchdown catches this year.
Despite the loss of Eifert, I would also go with the over in this prop in light of the added value in the betting odds. I see McCarron getting the opportunity to throw the ball into the end zone on Sunday quite a few times, with at least two of those passes finding their way into the hands of a Bengals' receiver.
Bonus Player Prop Pick: Khalil Mack's Total Sacks in Week 15
Oakland defensive end Khalil Mack leads the NFL in sacks this season with 14, and Bovada has set the over/under for his total sacks in this Sunday's home game against Green Bay at one. The moneyline odds for the over are set at -150 and the odds he is shut out are set at +110.
Mack has recorded two or more sacks in four games this season, but he has been turning up the heat in the stretch run of the regular season with nine sacks in his last three games, including five in last Sunday's 15-12 upset over Denver.
The Packers have allowed a total of 31 sacks through their first 13 games. Looking back at Aaron Rodgers' stats for the year, he has endured all 31 of these take downs, with two or more coming in 10 of Green Bay's 13 games. You would have to go all the way back to Week 3 to find the last time that Rodgers was sacked only once in a game.
When you add it all up, this scenario sets up a golden opportunity to go big on the over in this prop with Mack adding at least two more sacks to his season total on Sunday.
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Read more articles by Dave Schwab
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