2020 NFL Running Back Prop Bets
New York Jets RB Le’Veon Bell
THE BET: Under 1,299.5 Rushing + Receiving Yards (-112)
Le’Veon Bell’s rushing and receiving yardage prop is currently 1,299.5 total yards at FanDuel. I think this is too high.
First, head coach Adam Gase brought in running back Frank Gore, who has worked with Gase in Miami before. He seems to be the bane of running back production for the “main” running back wherever he’s gone the last few years. The team also spent a fourth-round pick on Florida running back La’Michael Perine, who figures to be a change of pace back.
Gore should be stealing six-to-seven carries per game from Bell with a couple from Perine as well. Bell’s style of running that he employs, patiently waiting for holes to open up, worked in Pittsburgh where they had a top-5 offensive line most years — this won’t work with the Jets, as their offensive line is still a work in progress.
Second, the Jets schedule is brutal this year: They don’t project to be up in many games, and their over/under is currently 6.5 as a team. With heavy vigorish on the under, the team projects to be losing in most games, which will limit running back carries in the second half of games. The Jets faced a bottom-10 rushing and passing defensive schedule last year, and Bell was still averaging 3.1 yards per carry.
Last, stylistically, Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains didn’t want Gase from the start last year: He was signed by former general manager Mike McCagnan against Gase’s wishes.
Bell was also used considerably less in the passing game last year than he was in his time in Pittsburgh: He was effectively used as a Legarrette Blount clone. Unless there is a massive change in how Gase calls plays, it just seems exceedingly difficult to justify taking the over on 1,299.5 total yards.
Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey
THE BET: Under 13.5 Rushing and Receiving Touchdowns (-128)
First, the outlier number: The Carolina Panthers were the only team in the NFL last year to have more rushing touchdowns than passing touchdowns. McCaffrey finding the end zone 15 times on rushing attempts alone is coming down this year just based on how much of an outlier last year was.
Only he, Aaron Jones, and Derrick Henry topped 15 total touchdowns last year. It’s hard to score that many rushing touchdowns even with the ridiculous workload C-Mac had. Carolina’s rushing touchdowns should naturally regress because every other team threw more passing touchdowns than rushing ones, and the Panthers will likely be no different this coming year.
Second, the Panthers gutted their entire defense. Linebacker Luke Kuechly, safety Eric Reid, cornerback James Bradberry, and defensive linemen Gerald McCoy and Mario Addison, and linebacker Bruce Irvin, are all gone or retired. The team only drafted defensive players in this year’s past draft.
The Panthers are quietly in a rebuilding year, and they will be forced to abandon the run earlier in games because their defense is so bad: I think 9-10 rushing touchdowns are more likely on the high end for McCaffrey: I just don’t know how many rushing touchdowns there will be available in the offense.
Even with McCaffrey’s passing workload, it’s still difficult for a running back to amass many receiving touchdowns. McCaffrey isn’t going to put up seven receiving touchdowns next year all of a sudden — four is likely his ceiling.
I like the under 13.5 touchdowns currently posted on FanDuel.
Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner
THE BET: Over 9.5 Rushing and Receiving Touchdowns (-118)
FanDuel has Conner’s total touchdown prop at 9.5, and I think he’s a good bet to go over.
First, all reports out of Steelers camp are that Ben Roethlisberger looks healthy: Just by virtue of having Roethlisberger commanding the huddle instead of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, Conner will actually have some room to run instead of having to run against stacked boxes. The Steelers field a good defense, allowing them a nice pass/run balance in games.
The offensive line is still largely the same, which is huge in a year with coronavirus concerns for continuity purposes. Conner got hurt and only played 10 games last year, but all accounts from training camp are that he looks great/healthy/good. The Steelers were also third-worst in the league in rushing touchdowns last year, and they only had seven total over the course of last season. This should increase next year by virtue of them being a competent offense again and Conner had 12 rushing touchdowns by himself in 2018.
Their opening schedule is easy, and they’ll have the second-easiest rushing schedule in the first eight weeks of the season.
I like Conner to go over 9.5 rushing + receiving touchdowns.