Are Philip Rivers’ Prop Totals Too Low for His First Year in Indianapolis?
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers is entering his 17th season in the NFL, and it will be his first on a team other than the Los Angeles Chargers. The change of scenery looks to be promising after an inefficient year in 2019.
On the one hand, Rivers' 591 attempts and 4,615 passing yards last year ranked second and third in his career, respectively. On the other hand, his 23 touchdown passes were his third-lowest, and the 20 interceptions were the second-most he's ever thrown in a season.
The Chargers struggled last season, following up a 12-win 2018 season with 5 wins in 2019. The offense as a whole was ineffective, leaving Rivers with the overwhelming responsibility to make plays.
FanDuel Sportsbook has over/unders of 4,099.5 passing yards and 27.5 passing touchdowns for the 38-year-old.
Let’s see how the change of scenery impacts Rivers’ bet totals.
Rivers has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league since he made his first start in his third season. He is yet to miss a season and has consistently delivered big numbers due to his high volume. Since the 2009 season, Rivers has never attempted less than 500 passes. As a result, he has thrown for fewer than 4,100 yards only one time and under 28 touchdowns just three times during that period.
The 2019 season was a surprising one for Rivers. While he attempted the second-most passes and threw for the fourth-most passing yards of his career, he recorded his lowest touchdown total since his second year as a starter.
Rivers is notorious for airing it out, even when he probably shouldn’t. According to PlayerProfiler, he ranked second in interceptable passes (36) and third in pass attempt distance (5,129 yards). The pressure to make plays was one of the factors that led to his efficiency taking a hit. He ranked 5th in danger plays (i.e., plays that could have resulted in a turnover), 24th in true passer rating (83.1), and 27th in deep ball completion percentage (30.7%).
Though he ranked 13th and 6th in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back and Passing Success Rate, the Chargers offense never seemed to catch its stride. Let’s see how his move to Indianapolis will change that.
Change of Scenery
Hopes for Indianapolis are high in 2020. According to Football Outsiders, they have a top-12 offensive line in both run and pass blocking. Additionally, they figure to have a more diverse attack than Rivers had in Los Angeles, including the backfield duo of Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor. In the passing game, the Colts added Michael Pittman Jr. alongside T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell, the latter of whom will be returning from injury to man the slot.
At tight end, Rivers will have Jack Doyle at his disposal. While Doyle might not be as talented as Hunter Henry, he has played 15 games in all but one season in his career, something Henry failed to do.
The Colts finished third in the AFC South in 2019. But the team that finished 24th in Adjusted Passing NEP per play will be going up against a division that is shaping up to be rather weak defensively in 2020. The Jacksonville Jaguars are tanking, the Houston Texans' pass rush has been ineffective since the loss of Jadeveon Clowney, and while the Tennessee Titans should still be good, they did lose Logan Ryan.
The division is wide open, and the Colts should have the offensive firepower to overpower below-average defenses.
The big question here is whether Rivers will have enough volume with the Colts to put up the numbers he did for the Chargers. While the Colts ran more plays in 2019 than the Chargers (1,015 to 997), they attempted less passes (513 to 597). The attack was more balanced, with their pass-to-run ratio of 1.15 being the fifth-lowest in the league,
But all that was with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, and, as we saw before, Rivers tends to deliver when attempting 500-plus passes.
A balanced attack should open the field and take pressure off Rivers to be the playmaker he tried to be in 2019. If he can exceed the volume of Brissett last season, it would be hard to imagine him coming short of the 4,099.5 line, especially considering that he has failed to do so just once in his last 10 seasons.
Overall, the lines for Rivers are extremely tough to judge. The main concern is how effective the duo at running back will be in the 2020 season. If they're very effective, it could lead to Rivers taking a hit on his passing volume.
numberFire’s projections have Rivers throwing for 4,081.15 yards and 25.94 touchdowns, coming up short in both. The touchdown prop is an under pick with the running game Indianapolis is expected to have. While the yardage prop is more of a toss-up, I believe the over is the better bet considering Rivers’ historical production and what seems to be an upgrade in receiving corps.