It feels like every player at a skill position on either side of the ball is listed as questionable on the injury report this week. We’ve seen a ton of injuries already and a lot of guys going out there at less than 100%.
We’ve also seen the major decrease in scoring that I talked about last week, as defenses are actively looking to slow down the passing game with a lot of zone and a lot less man coverage.
Offensive coordinators and quarterbacks will make their adjustments and we should see scoring pick up at some point, but so far, the defensive schemes have created more opportunities for running backs.
Hopefully you’ve taken note of some of the league-wide trends we’ve seen. Let’s see if any of them factor into this week’s prop selections.
All props are using DraftKings odds, but shop around for the best lines.
Donovan Peoples-Jones (CLE) Over 28.5 Receiving Yards (-115)
The Browns are going to come at the Falcons with a steady dose of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, but this feels like a week in which they’ll look to take some shots downfield as well. Cleveland’s rushing attack will keep them on schedule and ahead of the chains, which should open up chances for lower-percentage throws on second-and-short or first-and-10.
Peoples-Jones only has 15 targets and seven catches this season, even though he’s played at least 78% of the offensive snaps in each game. He had six catches on 11 targets in Week 1 but has been invisible since. In the last two games, the Browns were playing with leads and really focused on Amari Cooper. This week, in what projects to be a higher-scoring game, it would behoove the Browns to look DPJ’s way for some chunk plays.
He may only need one or two catches to get Over this number, but with David Njoku popping up on the injury report with a barking knee, more targets may very well come his way. The Falcons have allowed the highest completion percentage against and have the third-lowest Pressure% per Pro-Football-Reference, which should allow Jacoby Brissett to make some plays.
Chargers/Texans Over 6.5 Punts (-140)
Texans punter Cameron Johnston has been busy this season, as he entered Week 4 tied for the league lead in punts with 17. Chargers punter JK Scott has probably been busier than he expected with 14 punts, and he might be called on a fair amount again Sunday.
In his long and very successful career, Keenan Allen has 734 catches, and 454 of those have accounted for a first down. Allen left practice Thursday, as his lingering injury continues to be a big problem. Justin Herbert is also battling an injury, and the Chargers haven’t really utilized Austin Ekeler to the fullest this season. The Chargers rank just 14th in plays per drive and 16th in third-down conversion rate, which is not what we expected.
On the flip side, what we’ve seen from the Texans is exactly what we thought we’d see. They rank last in the NFL in third-down conversion rate at 25% and have had the fifth-fewest plays per drive. They’ve been helped out by the third-most first downs by penalty with eight but rank 29th in non-penalty first downs.
Houston’s defense has actually performed admirably against the pass, holding the opposition to just a 55.1% completion rate with 10 sacks. The special teams units may be hard at work in this one.
James Cook (BUF) Anytime TD (9-1)
We’ll see if Bills-Ravens lives up to the billing and the lofty total — the only one in the 50s this week. Regardless, the usage for Cook has been an interesting storyline so far. He only saw three snaps in a Week 1 win against the Rams but has seen 29 snaps over the last two weeks. In those 29 snaps, he has 12 carries, four receptions and six targets. The Bills are trying to use him whenever he’s on the field.
Compare that with Zack Moss, who only had seven carries, one catch and two targets in his 29 snaps over the last two weeks. It seems Moss has been passed on the “touches” depth chart. Devin Singletary continues to play the bulk of the snaps, but he only has 39 touches on 139 snaps.
The Bills appear to be grooming Cook as their X factor, and a game against the Ravens that projects to be high-scoring might be the perfect time to show him off. It’s a low-risk, high-reward bet, and First Touchdown at 50-1 isn’t a bad bet for pizza money, either.