This is a great matchup of quarterbacks for Super Bowl LI. It would be tough not to be excited about it. The same can't be said necessarily, though, about the showdown between running games. It's not horrible by any means - both teams have a 1,000-yard rusher and some running back depth. This just doesn't have the feeling of a game that is going to be decided by who can grind out the yards on the ground.
The total is set at 58.5 , and it certainly wouldn't be that high if anyone was expecting the running games to be featured. Or, more correctly, I don't think too many people are hoping for the running game to be featured. Still, there are plenty of running game props on offer , and some of them are interesting. Let's take a look ( odds are from BetOnline ):
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Total rushing yards LeGarrette Blount "over/under" 54.5: It's funny how past actions stick to people - it's almost three years since he had his issues in Pittsburgh, but I still subconsciously write Blunt every time I write about him and then have to correct it. Don't do drugs, kids. Blount is the leading rusher in this game, with 1,161 yards on the season. He was an afterthought in the Houston playoff game as Dion Lewis got the attention, but he had 16 carries against the Steelers. He wasn't at peak effectiveness, though - just 47 yards, which is less than three yards a carry. He had just four 100-yard games on the year, and the last came in Week 11, so he hasn't been in prime form of late.
At his season average of 3.9 yards per carry he would need 14 carries in this game. He had at least that many in all but four games this year, including the playoffs. Atlanta is not great against the rush - they ranked 17th in yards allowed, and their 4.5 yards allowed per carry was a dismal 25th. So, Blount should be capable of meeting his per carry average at least.
The obvious concern here is that the total for the game suggests that people are expecting a shootout, and the run game wouldn't be featured in such a game. That concern is probably overstated, though - it's not like the Pats will pass on every down. He carried only 14 times for 40 yards in Super Bowl LIX, but the game before he exploded for 148 yards against the Colts, so he obviously can be part of a playoff game plan. The under is at -130, with the over at even money. Given those prices, I think you can make enough arguments to warrant taking a shot at the over.
Total rushing yards Dion Lewis o/u 37.5: This one is pretty straightforward. Lewis is a dangerous weapon but not primarily because of his rushing. In nine games this year he went over this total four times, so it is certainly possible. He fumbled twice and lost one of them in the Houston game, though. That had an effect on the trust in him the next game and that could linger. Running at and through the defense works as well as anything against the Falcons, and Blount is better at that. Lewis will factor into the game catching passes and on kicks more than on the ground.
The over is -125 here, and I get why people are tempted by that, but I am quite bearish on the run production from Lewis and would happily take the under at -105.
Total rushing yards Devonta Freeman o/u 57.5: Freeman went over this total eight times during the regular season, including two of the last three games. He is averaging only 43.5 yards per game in the playoffs, though, and has only had 14 carries per game. The Pats are decent against the run, and I could see them focusing on shutting it down early to ensure the Falcons keep it in the air. Atlanta won't be too hard to convince on that front - it's working really well for them lately, so why change it?
I just don't see the running game being a big part of the Atlanta game plan, and even if it is I think Freeman could be frustrated early and struggle to produce. Both the over and the under are at -115 here. I like the value on the under.
Total rushing yards Tevin Coleman o/u 37.5: The other factor working against Freeman, and why I like the under for him, is that Coleman is in solid form right now. He was strong against the Seahawks - 57 yards on just 11 carries. He went over this total in five of his last seven games. He is gaining trust, and that is building confidence. I like his chances better of getting something done in this game, so I favor the over here against the smaller number.
The cost of the over is -125, though, so I don't see a lot of value here - the masses are right on this one.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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