NFL first touchdown scorer targets for Week 18

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It’s official. I’m crowning Ezekiel Elliott as the 2022 King of First Touchdowns. He scored first AGAIN in Week 17 (+350 at DraftKings), upping his totals to eight team-firsts and five game-firsts. Not only that, he’s also scored first for Dallas in three straight and five of their last seven games. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if sportsbooks made him even money to score first this week when the Cowboys take on the Commanders with a lot on the line for Big D. They still have a chance to win the NFC East and should not be taking it easy against a division foe. They gotta feed Zeke!

Unfortunately for us first-TD bettors though, outside of Elliott and a few others, we had lots of longshots scoring first this week. At DraftKings, only four players had odds shorter than +1300 actually find the end zone first. But we did see our system of sticking to the better team at scoring first stay true for the most part. Only five games saw major upsets where the significantly worse team at scoring first did so. I’ll get to some Week 18 mismatches in a moment. 

 

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A few other observations from Week 17:

Despite a somewhat slow start to the season (by his standards), Najee Harris has been coming on strong in the back half of the season. It wasn’t the first of the game this week when the Steelers faced the Ravens, but he scored the first Pittsburgh TD, and he’s now found the end zone first for his team in five of their last seven games, upping his season total to seven team-firsts. I hope they sneak into the playoffs so we can keep betting on Najee.

The Ravens still have not scored their first touchdown with the same person more than twice. This past week, Isaiah Likely (+3000) added his name to their list of two-time scorers as they played the Steelers. As I suggested last week, if you want to bet a Raven, just look at the tracker and pick somebody they haven’t gone to twice before. Although we may be running out of players soon! I was able to cash in on him last week because my book offered “any other Raven,” and luckily, Likely wasn’t among the field of specific player options.

The Patriots also love switching it up. Tyquan Thornton (+1900) scored the game’s first touchdown last week when they played the Dolphins. Ten different players have now scored first for New England. Part of that is because four of those come via their D/ST, but it’s still notable how inconsistent they’ve kept it.

The Chargers are so hot right now. They’ve now scored first in five games in a row and seven of their last eight. Austin Ekeler (+400) scored his second in a row when they faced the Rams last week. LA hasn’t been scoring a ton this season (13th in the league with 22.7 PPG), but they’re managing to do it early, which is all we really care about.

Do. Not. Bet. On. A. Jet! They literally have not found the end zone, at all, in back-to-back games. This ups their total of touchdown-free games this season to four! Gross!

Some spots I like this week:

Browns (12/16) at Steelers (6/16) – Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Despite Nick Chubb consistently being the short-shot for Cleveland, he hasn’t been their first scorer since Week 8. I’ll go with Amari Cooper who scored first for them last week and got the game’s first TD when they played earlier this season. But I’ll also take Najee Harris because with how successful he’s been, how can I not?

Vikings (10/16) at Bears (8/16) – Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
The Bears have absolutely zero motivation to try hard in this game. They will only hurt their draft stock with a win and possibly become even more banged up. They’re going with Nathan Peterman at QB who seems allergic to throwing touchdowns. He has just three in his career to go along with his 13 interceptions. The Vikings, on the other hand, do have motivation to win so I’ll look at Justin Jefferson, who has to feel like he wants to show off after being held to just 15 yards against Dallas, and T.J. Hockenson, who has double-digit targets in back-to-back games.

Cardinals (5/16) at 49ers (11/16) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
The Cardinals are another team limping to the finish. DeAndre Hopkins has already been ruled out for this week, and they’ll start the mediocre David Blough at QB again. The 49ers, like the aforementioned Vikings, are jockeying for position in the NFC and are still in the running for the #1 seed. I like Brandon Aiyuk, Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle in this one.

Texans (5/16) at Colts (4/16) – Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Just kidding. Both teams are desperate to lose this game. In fact, I’d bet “no touchdown” if you can!

Here’s the full Week 18 schedule with their first-TD success rates:

Chiefs (9/16) at Raiders (7/16) – Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET
Titans (10/16) at Jaguars (8/16) – Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Jets (6/16) at Dolphins (6/16) – Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Browns (12/16) at Steelers (6/16) – Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Texans (5/16) at Colts (4/16) – Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Buccaneers (6/16) at Falcons (7/16) – Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Panthers (9/16) at Saints (7/16) – Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Patriots (8/16) at Bills (8/16) – Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Ravens (12/16) at Bengals (9/16) – Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Vikings (10/16) at Bears (8/16) – Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Rams (8/16) at Seahawks (7/16) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Giants (7/16) at Eagles (10/16) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Cardinals (5/16) at 49ers (11/16) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Chargers (10/16) at Broncos (6/16) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Cowboys (11/16) at Commanders (7/16) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Lions (10/16) at Packers (6/16) – Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET

One last full week of NFL games, let’s cash some first-TD tickets!

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Stephanie Kamerschak
Stephanie hails from Massachusetts and has been a die-hard Boston sports fan since she was 10. She attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, so it goes without saying college sports are of no interest to her. She joined VSiN in 2019, producing nearly every show on the network at one point or another. You may have heard hosts refer to her as “Producer Steph” but she refuses to speak on air, which she says is her “literal nightmare.” She became a writer for VSiN.com accidentally, summarizing some thoughts on the NFL First Touchdown market with expectations of a real writer turning it into an article. But look at her now, her own author bio on VSiN.com!