On the plus side, you were right about the coverage of Jacksonville and Cincinnati last week. However, I did not anticipate that many unders.
Despite nailing the process on some fixtures, the numbers weren’t there. At least Travis Etienne Jr. got over the posted line and Josh Allen threw a late-game pick. It’s hard to find the “yay” in any of that though.
Luckily, we have two more games to dig into! Both look close, presenting plenty of ping-pong appeal, which bodes well for some overs. Using ESPN’s database of metrics and some help from stats ace Kyle Soppe, we’re working to get 2023 off to a strong start!
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5, 46)
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia
Pick: Deebo Samuel OVER 19.5 rushing yards
I understand that Samuel has ankle pain, and I also understand that the Eagles added veteran talent to bolster the run defense late in the season. But Kyle Shanahan is one game away from the game. The 49ers are loaded on both sides of the ball, but Samuel’s cunning adds an unexpected dimension to the offense. His running ability could be what exploits Philadelphia’s biggest defensive weakness.
The Eagles have the number one passing defense in the league. But the team’s run defense unit falls outside the top 20, allowing the fourth most yards per carry after contact. San Francisco, therefore, plans to attack by land. Obviously Christian McCaffery and Eli Mitchell will be involved, but Samuel ranks third in YPC after contact, which takes advantage of Philly’s defensive deficiency in spectacularly targeted fashion.
Additionally, more than 68% of Samuel’s career carries have come through the perimeter. That sets up nicely against an Eagles defense that has allowed 5.77 yards per carry on perimeter runs this season. Going by the math, then, just four rushing attempts would push Samuel to more than 20 rushing yards. That’s an achievable number, given that he recorded 27 rushing attempts in three playoff appearances last year.
Pick: Jauan Jennings OVER 21.5 receiving yards
The 49ers’ offense is loaded, and the Eagles’ pass defense is ridiculously strong. Sometimes, though, a complementary receiver (or an under-the-radar player like Isaiah Hodgins) gets overlooked and ends up winning on the books.
With so many pieces to focus on, Philadelphia could lose track of Jennings, who sneakily drew a 21.2% target share during the playoffs and also posted multiple receptions in five of his last six games. (By the way, if he’s looking for an extra accessory, maybe consider MORE than 1.5 catches for Jennings.)
Jennings has also benefited from having Brock Purdy under center, as his aDOT jumped from 7.0 yards with Jimmy Garoppolo to 11.6 with the rookie. Noticing that momentum, it makes sense that he’s had a 21-plus receiving yard in three of his last four games. If that trend continued, Jennings could clear the previous line in one play.
Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs (-1, 47.5)
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET, GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
Pick: Joe Burrow OVER 37.5 pass attempts
After taking a big lead and playing in the snow, Burrow threw the ball 36 times last weekend. He believes he’ll do that again at Arrowhead in what projects to be a close game within just one point.
The Bengals are the sixth most passing team in the NFL (65.9% of snapshots). That’s a big part of why Joe Cool has covered pass attempts above 71.4% (QB4) this season. On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs rank third in pass rate. So yes, there should be a lot of back and forth in this game, increasing the number of pass attempts more and more.
Interestingly, opposing offenses have thrown at the Chiefs an average of 36.6 times per game. But the Bengals are more extra than average. I’ll have the over and a bucket of popcorn, please.
Pick: Joe Mixon OVER 23.5 yards receiving
After weeks of volatility, I am on Mixon from a hasty point of view. However, as a receiver, its use has me intrigued. Burrow’s aDOT has steadily declined over the past three years, going from 8.3 yards in 2020 to 6.9 yards in 2022. That’s actually a good thing! It means Joe isn’t just playing the hero. Instead, he’s looking down more often and using his RB1 as a pass catcher.
As a result, Mixon notched 12 more receptions (60, RB5) and drew 26 more looks (74, RB7) despite playing two fewer games in this round than he did last season. Additionally, 22.2% of his touches in 2022 came through the air, which is an increase from 12.6% in 2021. That increase has been reflected in the books, as the Oklahoma product has surpassed receiving yards at a rate of 76.9%. .
The matchup also sets up very well for Mixon. Kansas City allowed the fourth most receiving yards to opposing RBs during the regular season. During the playoffs, the Chiefs have allowed the ninth-most receiving yards per game to the position (7.9) as well as the third-most receiving yards per game (45.1). Given that Mixon has accounted for over 72% of Cincinnati’s RB receiving yards (when Samaje Perine has been active), a total of 30+ receiving yards seems highly likely.
Pick: Patrick Mahomes OVER 273.5 passing yards
Mahomes led the league in passing yards (308.8 per game) and was in the top five in passing yards (285.9 per game) during the regular season. He’s also averaging 8.1 yards per pass (versus 7.4 yards in 2021) and posts his career-best completion percentage (67.4%) through the postseason. Not bad for a guy who lost his primary receiver.
Tyreek Hill has moved to Miami, but there’s still a lot of YAC in Kansas City. In fact, Travis Kelce, Juju Smith-Schuster, Kadarius Toney and Mecole Hardman (who was limited in practice Wednesday but was able to suit up Sunday) averaged between 4.0 and 5.1 yards after receiving per target. That turf-eating prowess could improve Mahomes’ stats, particularly when he faces a Bengals defense that has allowed the 10th-most YACs per catch since Week 7.
Also, as mentioned above, Kansas City exists as the third most passing offense. The Chiefs like to vomit early and often, posting the highest pass rate in the first quarter. The Bengals execute similarly, ranking second in pass rate in the first quarter. With both teams regularly getting the ball in the air (from the jump), the odds of a high-scoring game are obviously increased. The back-and-forth potential suggests regular changes (as does the 1-point difference), paving the way for Mahomes to get to YOLO at 280+ passing yards.
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