Monday, January 24, 2022

2021 Wild Card Weekend: Player Prop and Best Bet expert picks to help you win

The regular season is over, Fantasy Football championships have been won and only 14 NFL teams are left to play in the glorious single-elimination tournament that culminates with a team winning a sterling silver trophy.

They want to win that. You want to win cash.

This is always the best time of the year to check out player props because there’s more time to focus on them without Fantasy Football taking up as much attention. It’s also a challenging time because oddsmakers across the country have extensive data that help them come up with stats and lines to pique your interest. In some cases, the lines are designed to take your dollars. I work hard to find those props and go the other way. 

I found my favorite props from each game along with some fun longshots to help turn Super Wild Card Weekend into a substantially profitable one.

All lines are from Caesars Sportsbook as of Friday afternoon.

Raiders at Bengals

Best Bet: Josh Jacobs under 16.5 rush attempts -120 Jacobs has three games all season with 17-plus carries. All three were wins, two were in Las Vegas. That obviously means he didn’t have this many carries in any of the Raiders’ losses. In fact, he’s been under 17 carries in 17 of the 22 losses he’s been involved in. We’ve come to lean on this win-loss correlation for Jacobs in Fantasy and think it’s worth applying here.

It’s especially notable that the Bengals have allowed just four running backs to hit 17 or more carries against them this year (including D’Ernest Johnson in a throwaway Week 18 game). The Bengals run defense has been particularly underrated all year. If you think the Raiders will keep it close, then don’t take this prop. But the line has Las Vegas as a 5.5-point underdog, and I think the Bengals handle them at home.

Another One: C.J. Uzomah under 25.5 receiving yards -115 Against the Cover-3 style of defense the Raiders insist on playing, Uzomah’s landed a target per route rate of 11.5%, a yards per catch rate of 6.5 and a yards per route rate of 0.64. All three are incredibly low. Uzomah had all of nine receiving yards against the Raiders in Week 11 and could succumb to another low-volume, low-yardage game here.

Touchdown bets: Hunter Renfrow anytime TD +180; Joe Mixon scores the first TD +275 Renfrow has scored in three straight and four of his past five games. He’s clearly a go-to guy for Derek Carr. Mixon is a mortal lock to score on the Raiders but the odds are much better on him scoring the first touchdown rather than an anytime touchdown.

Big odds: Bengals -17.5 +400 Three of the Raiders’ past four losses have been by 19 points and they’re coming off an emotional Sunday night overtime win to play on the road against a well-rested Bengals defense. This could be a butt kicking.

Patriots at Bills

Best Bet: Gabriel Davis over 27.5 receiving yards +105 We’ve seen Davis ascend to the No. 2 receiver role with the Bills, playing on 64% of the snaps over the past six weeks. In those games he’s earned a 21% target per route rate, meaning that two out of every 10 throws from Allen, on average, head his way. He’s also played better against man coverage (24% target per route rate and a 63% catch rate, both better than what he’s done against zone coverage). The Patriots are expected to play most of their snaps in man coverage just like they did against the Bills in Week 16.

But maybe the easiest selling point of all is that Davis has at least 30 yards receiving in six straight games including the wind-addled first matchup between these teams.

Another One: Brandon Bolden over 16.5 receiving yards -120 Bolden’s come through with at least 20 receiving yards in four straight games, including three Patriots losses. Worried about how he does in wins? He’s come through for 20-plus yards in five of the Patriots’ eight wins since Week 7. Bolden is locked in as the Patriots’ passing-downs back regardless of game flow and is a candidate for short throws from Mac Jones on any passing play. The Bills may allow the third-fewest receptions per game to running backs (3.7), but they give up the ninth-highest receiving average (8.5).

Touchdown bets: Josh Allen anytime rushing TD +140; Gabriel Davis anytime TD +245 Allen’s a threat to run for a touchdown regardless of the opponent. All six of Davis’ touchdowns this year have come against man coverage.

Big odds: Bills to win, Devin Singletary over 64.5 rushing yards and Jakobi Meyers over 45.5 receiving yards +400 Singletary has run for over 86 yards in three of his past four games and the Patriots have allowed at least 75 total yards to a back in three of their past four. Meyers sees a higher target rate against man coverage (29%) than zone (20%); the Bills played a ton of man coverage in their most recent meeting and won.

Eagles at Buccaneers

Best Bet: Tom Brady under 274.5 passing yards -130 This is one of the lines designed to fool people into giving their money away. Brady’s thrown for over 300 yards in each of his past two games and had 297 yards against the Eagles earlier this year — why would he throw for less? Well, for starters, the weather seems to not be conducive to passing. The weather forecast says there’s a 90% chance of rain with winds between 20 and 30 miles per hour. Brady’s the GOAT but he is mortal and susceptible to heavy winds. His receiving corps is down to Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski and a couple of question marks in Breshad Perriman and Tyler Johnson. Plus, if Leonard Fournette is back the Bucs may realize it’s for the best to be balanced offensively.

Philadelphia’s pass defense has been on-point for much of the year. Throwing out last week’s game where the Eagles rested several starters, only four quarterbacks threw for over 275 yards against them in 2021. That’s the sign of a capable defense. Tack on shutdown cornerback Darius Slay theoretically doing everything in his power to limit Evans’ effectiveness, and Brady could lead the Bucs to a win with only 250 or 260 yards through the air.

Touchdown bets: Rob Gronkowski anytime TD +124; Jalen Hurts anytime rushing TD +180 Two very popular ways both teams have hit paydirt this season. Hurts has 10 of the Eagles’ 25 rushing touchdowns this year.

Big odds: Rob Gronkowski and Jalen Hurts to score touchdowns +500 Just parlaying the above touchdown bets in hopes of a bigger score.

49ers at Cowboys

Best Bet: Dalton Schultz over 41.5 receiving yards -120 Schultz has topped 42 yards in six of his past eight games, and that includes NOT getting there in the garbage-time Week 18 game against the Eagles where he played just 60% of the snaps. He’s seen a target on 20.4% of his routes against zone coverage this year and averages nearly a full yard more per catch vs zone than man AND has nearly a 20% higher catch rate versus zone than man coverage. The 49ers have played the sixth-most zone coverage on defense (72.1%) this season.

Another One: Ezekiel Elliott under 51.5 rush yards -115 I had a tough time between this under and the Elliott total yards under (72.5) but opted with this one. If you exclude the Cowboys’ meaningless Week 18 game, Elliott has been below 52 rush yards in nine of his past 10 games — and the game he went over was exactly 52 yards (keep this in mind if you see this line at under 52.5). In those 10 games, Elliott’s averaged 11.7 carries per game, so the days of him being a bell-cow seem relatively over. While he struggled to maintain a good rushing average in those games, the 49ers have kept enemy backs to 3.6 yards per carry this season. The only team to average more than even 3.8 yards per rush against the Niners in their past eight games was Seattle, and that was thanks to a 73-yard run by Travis Homer on a fake punt (Seattle averaged 2.5 yards per rush otherwise). And don’t forget, Tony Pollard is expected to play and take touches from Elliott.

Touchdown bets: Schultz anytime TD +185 He’s scored in three of his past four.

Big odds: 49ers -5.5 +270 The Cowboys figure to have a hard time running the ball as it stands. If the passing offense struggles, the 49ers might run away with this one.

Steelers at Chiefs

Best Bet: Pat Freiermuth over 3.5 receptions -125 I might get nervous about this one if JuJu Smith-Schuster winds up playing since he gobbles up plenty of short-range targets like Freiermuth does. If he’s out, I’m loving this one. Freiermuth has at least four receptions in each of his past three and in nine of his past 11. The Chiefs have afforded at least four grabs to a tight end in two of their past three games including four to Zach Gentry when these teams met in Week 16. 

Touchdown bets: Darrel Williams anytime TD +130 Williams has been the Chiefs’ red-zone back for most of the season and certainly whenever Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been sidelined. Pittsburgh’s defense has let up 13 total touchdowns (11 rushing) to running backs over their past nine games. 

Big odds: Chiefs to win by 19-24 points +460 If the Steelers are as bad as they’ve looked recently, there’s definitely blowout potential.

Cardinals at Rams

Best Bet: Cooper Kupp over 105.5 receiving yards -115 I’m riding the Kupp train until the Rams are done playing. He’s been good for a minimum of 109 receiving yards in five of his last six games including a 123-yard output against the Cardinals in Week 14. In that game he earned an insane 50% target share from Matthew Stafford. I’m going to go ahead and say that number won’t be as high this week, but it should still be close to his season average of 31.7%.

Another One: Kyler Murray over 0.5 interceptions +100 I’m definitely counting on Murray throwing plenty in this game. Against the Rams zone-heavy defense, that figures to be a problem. L.A. has seven interceptions in its past five games (including two from Murray) and has 19 on the season (third-most in football). Of Murray’s 10 interceptions, seven have come against zone coverage. I think the odds are better than even money that Murray will turn the ball over through the air. 

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