Don’t look now, but the NFL season is at its halfway mark. For the remainder of the year, teams will be sorting out who the real contenders are and what the playoff picture looks like. It’s a crucial stretch for teams like Chicago and Cleveland, who are scrambling to prove their legitimacy. For others like Pittsburgh, it’s a chance to inflict their will on the heavier hitters of the AFC. From here on out, it’s a sprint to the finish line.
Below are the picks for this week’s best player prop bets and some of the most intriguing individual matchups of the week.
Sunday’s most intriguing matchups
Kareem Hunt vs Las Vegas’ defense
Two incredibly important stats highlight the opportunity for Kareem Hunt and the Browns’ run game for this week: Hunt is second in the NFL in yards after contact (first, Derrick Henry) and the Las Vegas Raiders are worst in the league in yards allowed after contact. Both of those metrics come out to about three yards after contact. There’s forecasted to be heavy winds in Cleveland, between 20-25 mph with gusts up to 40, meaning Kevin Stefanski’s game plan will be run-driven even more than usual.
The Raiders have allowed the second-most rushing touchdowns (eight) and the second-most receiving yards allowed to running backs this season. Hunt is one of the most capable pass catchers out of the backfield, and designed screens and swings will be surely worked in. The bottom line: Kareem Hunt is in for a massive day against the Raiders this week.
Lamar Jackson vs T.J. Watt
This might have some scratching their heads as to how a quarterback can have an individual matchup with a defensive end, but this matchup is going to determine how this game goes. Jackson’s been quietly disappointing this season, but is leading Baltimore to win after win. His touchdown percentage dropped to 6.2% from 9% and he’s been limited to 50% of the rushing production he had through eight games a year ago. However, the big stars step up in the big games.
This season, T.J. Watt has recorded 5.5 sacks, 16 QB hits, and 12 tackles for loss (on pace for a career-best). Watt will be one of the key factors in limiting Jackson on the ground and keeping him in the pocket. The reigning MVP is also completing just 63% of his passes on the season, so if Pittsburgh can force him into passing situations, it could cause the Ravens’ offense to stall. Should Watt be put away, it’ll be tough for Pittsburgh to keep up.
Player Prop Picks
Patrick Mahomes: UNDER 274.5 passing yards (-112)
We’ll get this out of the way: This game should not, will not, be close. The Jets are sitting around 20-point underdogs and the Chiefs are entirely too talented for this to be a nail biter. However, there’s a threshold crossed with this matchup in which Kansas City will cruise to victory and the foot won’t always be on the gas. If the game shapes up like it’s projected to, Mahomes might not even play the whole game.
The ground game is what’ll get going Sunday for the Chiefs and Mahomes might not see more than 20-22 attempts, limiting what his ceiling for passing yards can be. The Jets also aren’t as bad against quarterbacks as one might think at a first glance– they rank 19th in the league in fantasy points against quarterbacks. Mahomes won’t put up 400 yards in this one, and might struggle to hit 250 because he just won’t be worked that hard.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: OVER 92.5 rushing & receiving yards (-112)
As mentioned, this is going to be a game where Kansas City lines up and shoves the ball right down the Jets’ throats; no gimmicks, just hard-nosed football. Even with Le’Veon Bell playing his “revenge game” against his former employer, CEH is the man in the backfield. Between passing work and carries, he shouldn’t have much trouble eclipsing 92.5 yards.
The Jets are giving up the seventh-most yards to running backs on the ground, and the 10th-most targets and receptions to backs. Those are prime numbers for Andy Reid, who attacks defenses on their weaknesses rather than relying on a steady gameplan. The rookie is going to get plenty of opportunities this week.
Joe Burrow: OVER 1.5 passing touchdowns (-184)
The number from Vegas is a bit conservative, based on the line it’s slated at (-184). Burrow has been productive this year, leading the NFL in passing attempts (note: before Week 8’s Falcons-Panthers game). The over/under for this game is a lofty 52.5, meaning both teams are going to have to pass and score often to keep up with one another.
Three times this year has Joe Burrow been held without a passing touchdown (vs Baltimore, 13th least pass yards allowed; vs Indianapolis, second-least; and vs the L.A. Chargers, his first NFL game). The Titans are tied for the fifth-most passing touchdowns allowed in the NFL despite being 14th in passing attempts against. In short, they give up a high percentage of touchdowns on attempts. Burrow’s going to the air often– especially with Joe Mixon being absent in this one– giving him a prime opportunity to find the end zone more than once.
Tua Tagovailoa: UNDER 230.5 passing yards (-112)
It’s Tua’s first start in the NFL and Miami fans have every right to be excited about him. The matchup, however, is another story. Besides being beaten down play after play by Aaron Donald, the Rams post All-Pro Jalen Ramsey at the corner position, likely tasked with shadowing top-target DaVante Parker. Ramsey hasn’t been kind to opposing receivers, frequently ranking inside PFF’s top-10 for cornerback grades.
Pass rush plus lockdown corner doesn’t look like a great matchup for young Tua. 230 isn’t an incredulous mark, but it is a lofty one, especially for a game with a 46-point over/under. This seems like a pretty safe bet, as Miami will lean on Miles Gaskin and the ground game to get Tua acclimated to the NFL.