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Best of Vin Narayanan
Top-10 NFL prop bets for the 2010 season23 August 2010
10. Raiders 3/1 to reach the playoffs
Last year, the Oakland Raiders were a competitive team in spite of their quarterbacks and coaches. The coaches are still around. But the move to Jason Campbell at quarterback should be enough to transform the Raiders from a five-win team into a potential playoff team.
The Raiders scored 197 points in 2009. That was the second-lowest scoring output in the NFL last year, but they still won five games!
Jamarcus Russell was a monumental bust at quarterback for the Raiders. Bruce Gradkowski was not spectacular, but when Gradkowski was in the game, Oakland played like they had a chance to win. When Russell was in the game, it looked like every Raider on the field knew they were going to lose.
Campbell is a better quarterback than Gradkowski and Russell. And if he can limit turnovers, the team will believe in him.
Michael Bush is a very good running back who averaged 4.8 yards a carry. Darren McFadden, who averaged 3.4 yards a carry last year, will also get some carries.
The real question mark for the Oakland offense is at wide receiver. Darius Heyward-Bey was unimpressive during his rookie season. He tallied just nine catches in 11 games last year and scored one touchdown. If the Raiders can get some production out of Heyward-Bey, the playoffs could be within reach, because Oakland has talent on defense. Oakland was 23rd in points allowed last season, and if the Raiders had held onto the ball better, they wouldn't have put the defense in so many difficult situations.
The Raiders play in the weak NFC West, alongside San Diego (good), Denver (not good) and Kansas City (not good). Throw in winnable games against Tennessee, St. Louis, Arizona, Seattle and Jacksonville and you have the possibility that Oakland could sneak into the playoffs. At 3-1, you're getting good value on the Raiders, so take a flyer and see what happens.
--- Vin Narayanan
9. Schaub leading the league in passing yards
Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans led the league in passing yards last year with 4,770. He had nine games with over 300 yards passing. He throws to one of the best wide receivers in the league (Andre Johnson) and one of the best tight ends (Owen Daniels). In addition, the running back situation in Houston is unclear. At bet365 Sportsbook & Racebook, you can get 13/2 odds that Schaub will lead the league in passing yards. This is behind Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. I think the Texans are right on that playoff bubble, which means they will be playing their starters every game. I like Schaub's chances of leading the league in passing for the second year in a row and I like the value with this bet.
--- Dan Igo
8. Lions as the best "Heisman Hunter"
Intertops Sportsbook has a cool prop bet called "Heisman Hunters." You bet on who will have the most regular season wins out of the following five teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams. The bet is titled "Heisman Hunters" because these five teams presumably will be drafting very high next year. The Lions currently have 4.5/1 odds, and I really like that value. Detroit had a very good draft, picking up an immediate impact player on the defensive side of the ball (Ndamukong Suh) and a potential playmaker on the offensive side (Jahvid Best). Calvin Johnson is one of the top wide receivers in the league, and Matthew Stafford is another year older and wiser. I'm taking the Lions here.
7. Chris Johnson under 14 TDs
In two years, Chris Johnson has gone from minor college star to one of the top-five running backs in the league. In his rookie year (2008), he rushed for 1,228 yards and logged 10 touchdowns. In 2009, he rushed for 2,006 yards and logged 16 touchdowns. Anytime a player rushes for more than 2,000 yards in the NFL, you have to consider it a career season. You combine that with the fact that defenses are going focus on stopping Johnson and making Vince Young be the difference maker, it's hard to see Johnson duplicating his 2000 season. I'll take Johnson to score less than 14 touchdowns at 6/4 on bet365.
6. Detroit Lions over 5.5 wins
For the first time in a decade, the Detroit Lions resemble an NFL team. The Lions have a franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford playing in his second season. And he's surrounded by some talent. Wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson will stretch the field, creating room underneath for tight ends Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew and running lanes for Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith. And on the defensive side of the ball, the Lions finally have a "professional" defensive line with Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams and Ndamukong Suh and a serviceable linebacking crew to cover for a still leaky secondary.
Last year, the Lions won two games with no defensive line, no secondary and key contributors -- including Stafford and Johnson -- missing time on offense due to injuries. But with the additions of Suh, Vanden Bosch and Redding to the defensive line, the Lions will improve dramatically on its league-worst 494 points allowed.
With a year under his belt, Stafford will be much better. And all the double teams that Johnson sees should free up the rest of the Lions offense to improve on the 262 points (27th in the NFL) they scored last year. The suddenly dynamic offense and improved defense should result in more wins.
If the Lions played in the NFC West or the AFC West, they would have a legitimate shot to reach .500. But they play in the NFC Central with three pretty good teams -- the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. As a result, .500 isn't a realistic goal for the Lions. But with St. Louis, Tampa and Buffalo on the schedule, Detroit should be able to win six games. And bet365 is offering a good price on the over at 13/10. Take the over.
5. Chiefs under 6.5 wins
The Kansas City Chiefs made two big personnel moves over the offseason by hiring Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel as offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively. This is also Scott Pioli's second year as general manager of the team and by all accounts the team is improving. The over/under on team wins is 6.5 at Bodog. The Chiefs have had a total of six wins the last two years. I think this is a team on their way up, but seven wins is much too optimistic at this stage, so I will take the under.
4. Andre Johnson between 99-108 receptions
Andre Johnson has quietly become one of the most productive receivers in the NFL. In 2006 and 2008, he led the league in receptions. And last year, he was third in the league with 101 receptions. Johnson has also led the league in receiving yardage the last two years. The Houston offense doesn't have a reliable running attack, so its reliance on Johnson is going to continue. And at 29, Johnson is still in the prime of his career. That means he should crack the 100-catch mark again this season, so throw out the 99 and under bet at bet365. Johnson hit 115 once, but that was a career year, so I'll throw out the over 108 receptions bet and bet between 99-108 receptions, which pays 81/50.
3. Titans under 8.5 wins
The Tennessee Titans finished last season on a roll, winning eight out of their last 10 games. They ended up with a record of 8-8, which is very impressive considering they started the season 0-6. They have one of the top running backs in football in Chris Johnson, who rushed for over 2,000 yards last year and was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year. However, they still have Vince Young as a starting quarterback, someone I just can't trust. They had the fourth worse defense in the league last year. And they are in the same division as the Colts and Texans. The over/under for wins at Bodog Sportsbook and Racebook is 8.5, and that seems too high for a team with so many gaping holes. I'm taking the under.
2. Tampa Bay under 5.5 wins
Tampa Bay won three games last year while averaging just 15.25 points a game, and they didn't do much to improve a woefully lacking offense. The Bucs let Antonio Bryan go and drafted Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams instead. Combine the rookie receivers with quarterback Josh Freeman, who is still trying to prove he's a franchise quarterback, and you get an offense that is going to struggle to put points on the board. And if Freeman's thumb injury leads to a slow start in the regular season, the Tampa offense will be in serious trouble.
Tampa will get some help on the defensive line from Gerald McCoy and Brian Price, who they drafted with their first two picks in the 2010 draft. But the two rookies aren't enough to completely turn around the Buc defense that gave up 400 points -- fourth-worst in the NFL.
The Bucs also play in the tough NFC South, with the Saints, Falcons and Panthers in their division. And with Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, San Francisco and Baltimore also on the schedule, it's hard to see where Tampa is going to find wins. The over/under for Tampa wins at bet365 is 5.5, and the under pays 1/1. Take the under.
1. Patriots over 9.5 wins
I have to be upfront about my biases — I'm a Pats homer. I've predicted the Patriots to win the Super Bowl every season for the last eight years. That said, the Patriots are flying under the radar this year, even in their own division. All the talk has been about the Jets and all the big moves they made over the offseason. However, the Patriots won the AFC East last year. They haven't had fewer than 10 wins since 2001. The over/under at Bodog is at 9.5 wins, and I'm taking the over. I expect at least 11 wins out of the Patriots this year, and a run to the AFC Championship game is certainly not out of the question.
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