2014 NFL Season Eve – Player and Team Props
As time goes by and I get older, I get further away from a time when the biggest days on my calendar were snow days, the last day of school, Christmas, my birthday, or release day for a brand new video game. Priorities change, people change, that’s life.
As far as I’m concerned, today is Christmas Eve and tomorrow is Christmas Day, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m up to my neck in spreadsheets, gambling slips and fantasy teams preparing for the opening of the 2014 NFL season, like cramming for a test despite having the better part of 6 months to prepare. After weeks of research, I think I’ve finally settled on my best team and player props for the upcoming season, and what better time to share them than NFL Season Eve. Your sportsbook should allow you to make these bets through tonight at least, if not right up until kickoff tomorrow morning.
If you follow my columns, you’ll know I’m on New England OVER 11 wins, Green Bay OVER 10.5 wins (not a great start Thursday but that will be the toughest game they’ll have all year), New Orleans OVER 10.5 wins, Buffalo UNDER 6.5 wins, and Philadelphia UNDER 9 wins.
If you want to look into my reasoning for those bets, check out my last article here.
As always, these are bets that I have made at my online sportsbook myself.
Emmanuel Sanders – OVER 900.5 Receiving Yards (-115)
There’s a few things to know about this bet. This was the line before AND after Wes Welker’s 5 game suspension. Feel free to accuse me of betting a trap in the comments section, but I think it’s simple math. If you think Peyton Manning gets to at least 4,500 yards this year, I think it’s safe to allot 1,200 to Demaryius Thomas, 700 to Wes Welker (assuming health in 12 games), 800 to Julius Thomas, 900 to all other receivers other than Sanders, and the Running Backs, that leaves 900 yards for Emmanuel Sanders. Those numbers are if Peyton Manning loses a full 1,000 yards of production this year, which seems unlikely. If he comes anywhere close to last year’s freakish numbers, this will be a win before Thanksgiving. Eric Decker finished with 1,288 yards as the second target in this offense last year.
Shane Vereen – OVER 1,050.5 Rushing AND Receiving Yards (-115)
This has moved to 1,100 since I made the bet. There are few certainties on the New England Patriots. It’s Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the rest of the team based on who’s healthy. Gronkowski figures to be the main target if he stays healthy, but to borrow a gimmick from Bill Simmons, his full name should be Rob Gronkowski If He Stays Healthy. In an offense without a bellcow Running Back and a shift toward an offense that has become much more conservative over the last couple years, Shane Vereen has a great opportunity this year.
Vereen played half the season last year and finished with 208 yards on 44 carries, along with 427 receiving yards on 47 catches/69 targets, for a total of 635 yards. Projected to a full year, that’s 1,270 all purpose yards. Last year, Danny Amendola and rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson each played 12 games , Rob Gronkowski played 7. None of those players are the picture of health. If Vereen plays the whole year, 1,050 yards will be easy. Go OVER.
Jamaal Charles – UNDER 1,200.5 rushing yards (-115)
People are lining up around the block to project the Chiefs for a regression in 2014. The defense was great in the first half of last year and kept them in games, but from an offensive standpoint, Charles makes this team go. As good as he is, you can’t run behind a bunch of turnstiles on the offensive line. Branden Albert, now in Miami. Jon Asamoah, now in Atlanta. Geoff Schwartz, now in New York. Donald Stephenson, 4-game suspension. Eric Fisher, was one of the worse tackles in the league last year and is now moving to Albert’s old spot at Left Tackle.
They’re going to give him the ball, that’s for sure. But he barely cleared this line last year, in his best season as a pro. The Andy Reid offense makes use of Running Backs in space, and Charles had a great year receiving, with 693 of his 1,980 yards from scrimmage coming through the air. It would not surprise me in the least if the middle of the field is clogged up and Charles is forced to make his money on screen passes and checkdowns.
Reggie Wayne – OVER 850.5 Receiving Yards (-115)
This one is simple. You either believe in the elder statesman of the Colts offense or you don’t. He was on pace for 1,150 yards last year, and he’s still Andrew Luck’s #1 guy. T.Y. Hilton is the counter-argument here, and for that I say Hilton was the guy after Wayne went down last year, and he wasn’t that impressive then. Short of exploiting some bad pass defenses, Hilton went 6 games in a row without an 80 yard game as the “#1” receiver. With Hilton and Wayne together, Hilton never had more than 6 catches in a game. All reports out of Colts camp have been glowing regarding Wayne’s comeback from a torn ACL. The Colts defense hasn’t really gotten better, and they were constantly playing from behind last year. In today’s NFL, 850 yards is pedestrian, that’s 53 yards per game.
Cincinnati Bengals – WIN AFC North (+180)
This bet is just as much about the value as it is my confidence in the Bengals. I don’t believe in the Ravens or the Steelers this year, and I think the Bengals have improved. Geno Atkins is healthy, and I like their Running Back situation with a run-first OC in Hue Jackson. I think the other teams in the division have too many distractions, whether it’s domestic violence, DUI, or whatever the hell Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon have gotten themselves into. The Bengals are a very even-keel team that really isn’t terribly exciting to watch despite having an elite receiver and an elite defense. The wild card here is Andy Dalton. They’ll get to play the AFC South, but the NFC South has some good defenses and could give the offense trouble. I’m still not worried, +180 is a great price.
San Diego Chargers – OVER 8 wins (-155)
Horrendous juice, I understand. But look at their first 12 games: @ Arizona, Seattle, @ Buffalo, Jacksonville, NY Jets, at Oakland, Kansas City, at Denver, at Miami, BYE, Oakland, St. Louis. I count 8 wins in those games alone. They finish the year home to New England and Denver, then at San Francisco and at Kansas City, but if the first 12 weeks go reasonably well, you shouldn’t have to sweat a loss here.
The offense is the same at worst, and more than likely better with Ladarius Green in his second year, Malcom Floyd returning, and Donald Brown forming the third part of a 3-headed committee. On defense, Brandon Flowers should shore up a leaky secondary that allowed the 4th most passing yards in 2013. San Diego has won 8 or more games every year since 2004, excluding 2012 where they went 7-9. That was the year of Ray Rice’s 4th-and-29 conversion to send the game to OT.
That’s not happening again.
Happy gambling everyone. I’ll be back weekly for Eliminator pool write-ups, and we’ll check in with the fantasy season from time to time as well. Merry Christmas in September!