4 NFL Player Props for Divisional Round Sunday
Just because the regular season is over does not mean betting season ended. Player props can be useful in a variety of ways, from taking advantage of them straight up within the betting market to measuring a player's potential to produce in daily fantasy football.
Here we'll focus on utilizing our projections and a slew of other tools and simulations to help make money betting player props. For this article, we are using the odds provided at NBA Finals odds to pinpoint valuable betting lines for Sunday's Divisional Round games.
As of this writing, not all prop lines have been posted, though they should be coming soon with Leonard Fournette being cleared to play. We'll work with the info we have for now and provide any updates as needed.
Note: Betting lines and our player projections may change throughout the day after this article is published.
Mike Evans Over 69.5 Receiving Yards (-110)
We don't have a large sample size of games without one or both of Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin in the lineup this year, and even still, Mike Evans has surpassed this number in 10 of 17 games overall this season (59%). Last week, despite facing coverage from Darius Slay, Evans led Super Wild Card Weekend in receiving yards with 117 and paced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a strong 27.3% target share.
Even still, don't let last week's skewed game script fool you. Tampa Bay led the league in pass rate both overall and in one-score games, per Sharp Football Stats. With Leonard Fournette working his way back from a tricky hamstring injury and the offense clearly centered around the pass, there's no reason to expect the Buccaneers to feature a run-heavy game plan. It doesn't hurt the Los Angeles Rams graded out better against the run than the pass in our schedule-adjusted metrics.
Among pass catchers with at least 80 targets this season, Evans led the league in Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target, showing he's more efficient than his playing style suggests. The combination of high efficiency and a high expected pass rate spells success for Evans this week.
Also, remember that these teams faced off earlier this year. While we certainly can't project the same game script, there are often useful matchup nuggets we can glean. Evans recorded eight catches for 106 yards in that game despite Chris Godwin's presence (Antonio Brown was out) and notably was not shadowed by Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey hasn't shadowed all year, so we should expect the same Sunday for his coverage plan.
Our projections have Evans for six catches and 79.5 receiving yards. There's a lot to like with the over.
Van Jefferson Over 18.5 Longest Reception (-114)
I don't have data to back my theory on this (yet), but I think longest reception markets could be one of the softer lines in props in terms of juice. It's rare to see heavy juice to the over or under; my hypothesis is bettors are simply wary of their ability to predict these and therefore stay away. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
Regardless, this feels like a good line we can attack. Van Jefferson's longest reception has gone over this number in 12 of 17 games this year, hitting an impressive 71% of the time. Jefferson averaged 16 yards per catch this season, sixth-highest among qualifying receivers, and he led the team with a strong 13.5 average depth of target (aDOT).
Jefferson's game pairs beautifully with quarterback Matthew Stafford, who led the NFL in completions of 40-plus yards this year and was third in completions of 20-plus yards.
While the Los Angeles Rams' quarterback has been up and down recently, Stafford still graded out second-best among all quarterbacks in Passing NEP per drop back this season, per our numbers. He's playing at a very high level, as evidenced by his efficient performance in last week's Wild Card game.
In that game, the Rams rode a positive game script and skewed run-heavy. Stafford threw only 17 passes, but despite that, low volume Jefferson still surpassed this number by recording a 41-yard reception. When these teams faced off earlier this year, Jefferson had four catches for 42 yards with a long catch of 22 yards despite a positive game script.
It's tough to project a positive game script again. The Rams enter the week as 3.0-point road underdogs, according to NBA Finals odds. This season, the Rams were ninth in pass rate in one-score games, per Sharp Football Stats. Meanwhile, teams simply don't try to run on the Buccaneers; again, per Sharp Football Stats, no team faced a higher opponent pass rate in one-score games than the Bucs (65%). Despite LA leading most of the game, when these two teams faced off earlier this year, the Rams threw the ball on 63% of their plays (excluding kneel-downs).
Tyler Higbee Under 17.5 Longest Reception (-114)
Noticing a trend here?
Sticking on the longest reception theory, Tyler Higbee's 17.5 line feels too high. And similar to the recommendation above, there isn't heavy juice in either direction, so the -114 odds are pretty comfortable.
Unlike Jefferson, Higbee is not a downfield threat. He averaged just 9.2 yards per catch this year, his lowest average of the past five seasons, while his paltry 5.3 aDOT suggests he's used more as an underneath chain-mover in this offense. His 9.2 yards per catch ranked 31st among qualifying tight ends in 2021.
Higbee has gone over this number in just six of 16 games this season (38%). Our projections have him slated for 10.3 yards per catch, which is actually above his season average. As Rich Hribar of Sharp Football Analysis notes, the Bucs were 12th in yards per target allowed to the position (6.7 yards).
There just aren't many indicators that point to why this number is nearly as high as Jefferson's. The under feels much safer.
Cole Beasley Under 29.5 Receiving Yards (-115)
This could fail on the first drive, but hear me out. Cole Beasley was flat-out demoted last week. Beasley played just 30% of the team's offensive snaps and caught only one pass for 19 yards. He ran a route on just nine of 31 Josh Allen drop backs, fifth among Buffalo Bills receivers. This occurred in the Bills' biggest game of the season to date.
His role was concerningly trending down prior to last week, too. Since playing 81% of the snaps in Week 14, Beasley's snap rates have hovered around 45% to 50% before plummeting to 30% last week.
Is it possible this is a small-sample blip? Sure. Our projections have Beasley for 31.2 yards -- just a hair above this number.
But it doesn't feel like a coincidence that Beasley's role has shrunk right as younger, more dynamic playmakers Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie have begun to shine. McKenzie and Davis have simply earned bigger roles, and the Bills seem to have realized this. And it doesn't help that Emmanuel Sanders is back from his knee issue and caught a touchdown last week.
It's possible that Beasley is just over the hill. Despite setting a career-high in targets (116) this season, Beasley recorded his fewest regular season receiving yards since 2018. He notched his lowest yards per catch and touchdown totals since his 2012 rookie season as an undrafted free agent. His 1.62 yards per route run ranked 63rd this year and was his lowest mark since 2017. Beasley probably deserves to be fifth on the wide receiver totem pole in Buffalo, which doesn't even account for the sizable pass-game roles for Dawson Knox and Devin Singletary.
When these teams played earlier this season in Week 5, Beasley randomly was in on just 39% of the snaps and registered one catch for five yards on two targets. That was despite Davis playing just 25% of the team's offensive snaps while McKenzie logged a 14% snap share.
It's also worth pointing out that Buffalo's pass rate in one-score games has trended downward of late, coinciding with the team's decision to feature Singletary as its bell-cow back. From Week 1 to Week 14, Singletary averaged just 52.2% of the Bills' offensive snaps. Over that span, Buffalo ranked second in pass rate in one-score games (65%), according to Sharp Football Stats.
Since Week 15, however, Singletary has averaged 80.6% of the team's offensive snaps, a marked difference. Over that same span, the Bills' one-score pass rate has dipped down to 61%. It could be small sample size noise, but it could reflect a new identity for a team that is firing on all offensive cylinders right now. Buffalo has scored at least 27 points every game in that stretch and has won all five.
It also plays into the matchup. Kansas City rates out 15th against the pass but 22nd against the run, per our schedule-adjusted metrics. This prediction could make me look pretty dumb, but there are too many factors working against Beasley. I like the under.