2021 Divisional Playoffs: Winning expert Player Prop and Best Bet picks

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2021 Divisional Playoffs: Winning expert Player Prop and Best Bet picks
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Sep 13, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller (83) scores a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half at Allegiant Stadium.

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For the record, I am not an expert in the sports-betting field. I pay attention to pro football year-round for Fantasy Football, and I like taking the information I get and the inclinations I feel and put it into player-prop recommendations to at least give those who are interested something to think about.

I have had terrible weeks and I have had OK weeks. But last week was pretty good. If you had placed a bet of $1 on all of my props and $2 on my best bets, you would have won roughly $12. For the record, I also went 4-2 against the spread and 6-0 straight-up.

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So now that I’ve completely jinxed myself and am set up for a horrible week, I’m here to tell you that the player props we’re looking at for the Divisional Playoffs are equal parts juicy and treacherous. As I mentioned last week, the oddsmakers have a sharp idea of what to expect from those teams remaining. They also know what kind of lines to put out to generate bets from casual bettors. I found two such lines last week — Josh Jacobs’ rush attempts under and Tom Brady’s passing yardage under. Both provided mega-sweats, but both came through. That’s all that matters.

So, here goes nothing. The Divisional Player Props I love are below. Hopefully we don’t win nothing. 

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All lines are from Caesars Sportsbook as of Friday afternoon.

Bengals at Titans

Best Bet: Tyler Boyd over 4.5 receptions +150 Joe Burrow tends to lean on his top slot receiver whenever the Bengals are chasing points, which is what I think we’ll see in the second half of this game. And while the Titans’ track record suggests their defensive pass coverage is unpredictable, a look at how they played potent passing offenses like the Bills, Chiefs and Rams (at least 70% zone coverage against each) meshed with what they’ve been doing over their past five games (at least 64% zone coverage in each) suggests we’ll see a lot of Cover-2 and Cover-3. That helps Boyd, who has caught 78% of his targets against zone coverage this year.

But the real treat is that the Titans happen to be terrible against slot receivers. On the year they’ve seen the fourth-most targets (138), given up the fifth-most receptions (97) and a 70.3% catch rate, which is slightly worse than league average but still very high. Point is, I would expect the Bengals to try exploiting this area quickly and not have Burrow wait until he’s desperate to move the chains in the second half. Tack on the likelihood that Cincinnati’s run game figures to struggle against the Titans’ second-ranked run defense and Boyd stands out as a natural outlet to replace the short-range production that the run game normally does.

Another One: Joe Mixon under 85.5 total yards -110 Mixon’s been under this total in four of his past six including last week against the run-inept Raiders defense. As Burrow becomes a larger part of the Bengals’ game plan, Mixon is getting minimized and his efficiency is suffering. The Titans have ceded over 86 total yards to just four running backs all season (shout-out to Mark Ingram as the last guy to do it in Week 10). Mixon’s clearly the Bengals’ lead guy but he’s still not consistently on the field in pass-obvious situations. I like this bet better than Mixon’s rushing under unless you can get that bet at similar odds.

Touchdown bets: Ryan Tannehill over 1.5 pass touchdowns +115; Tyler Boyd anytime TD +170 Tannehill threw two scores in each of his past two games and should be in line to throttle the Bengals off of play-action in the red zone with Derrick Henry back. I wish Boyd’s odds were a little higher but I’ll take what I can get; the Titans are tied for the most passing touchdowns allowed to slot receivers in the regular season.

Big odds: Titans to win by 1-6 points +295 Half of the Titans’ wins this season are by six or fewer points, including three of six with Henry. I figure they’ll play a close game.

49ers at Packers

Best Bet: Randall Cobb over 25.5 receiving yards -115 Cobb is back in the saddle as the Packers’ primary slot receiver. When he’s played this year he’s had an incredible 86.4% catch rate against zone coverage (compared to 61.5% against man). The 49ers have been one of the most reliable zone-coverage defenses, playing it at a 72% clip (sixth-highest). But San Francisco has also allowed the second-highest catch rate to receivers lined up in the slot (79%). And remember that speedster Marquez Valdes-Scantling isn’t expected to play, meaning the targets he would normally get must go elsewhere.

There’s one other thing, and it’s narrative, but whatever. When Aaron Rodgers settled his differences with Packers management, the one guy he wanted them to acquire was Cobb, which they did. In gotta-have-it games like this, and with the Packers down one receiver and with unsteady tight ends, Cobb figures to be exactly the kind of consistent target Rodgers knows he can rely on whenever Davante Adams isn’t the first read.

Another One: Elijah Mitchell under 19.5 rush attempts -105 If a line looks too good to be true, it probably is. The Niners’ revelation has at least 21 carries in six straight games — anyone with access to a game log would see this and immediately take the over. But I suspect Mitchell’s in for a tough day. For one thing, Green Bay happens to be very good at limiting how much an opponent can reliably run with one guy. Only two running backs have had the chance all season to deliver 20-plus carries against the Packers, and only one since Week 2! Additionally, the Packers have held rival individuals to 19 or fewer carries in every single one of their wins. Need I remind you that they’re 5.5-point favorites? The Niners have been fun to watch, but they’re in a tough spot on the road for the fourth time in five weeks against a rested Green Bay squad whose defense is only getting stronger. Mitchell may have a good game but it won’t be on the strength of 20 carries.

Touchdown bets: Allen Lazard anytime TD +170; Allen Lazard first TD +1000 Lazard has scored in three straight and four of his past five. Rodgers definitely has a habit of looking for him in the red zone.

(Not quite) big odds: Packers -7.5 +120; Aaron Rodgers under 261.5 pass yards and Jimmy Garoppolo over 0.5 interceptions same-game parlay +222 Eight of the Packers’ 13 wins this season have been by eight-plus points. And Rodgers should still be effective without Valdes-Scantling but the passing-yardage upside isn’t as good without that field-stretcher.

Rams at Buccaneers

Best Bet: Tyler Higbee over 43.5 receiving yards -115 Higbee’s had at least 46 yards in four of his past five thanks to at least five targets per game in seven of his last eight. In short, he’s becoming much more involved in the Rams offense, complete with a 22% minimum targets share in each of his past three games. The Buccaneers pass defense is solid but four of the last five tight ends with at least five targets have knocked them over for at least 45 yards. The one who didn’t? Panthers rookie Tommy Tremble. I expect Higbee to continue in his role with the Rams, and I expect the Rams to throw much more than they did last week.

Big odds: Rams -8.5 +400; Higbee over 43.5 receiving yards and Rob Gronkowski under 63.5 receiving yards same-game parlay +270 When the Rams win, they win big — nine of their 13 wins are by nine-plus points, including their Week 3 win against the Bucs, who at that time had Chris Godwin and a healthy offensive line. The Rams have also been solid at taking away opposing tight ends (including Gronkowski, T.J. Hockenson, George Kittle twice and Zach Ertz twice), so parlaying that prop with the Higbee prop feels like a win.

Bills at Chiefs

Best Bet: Devin Singletary over 86.5 total yards -115 There’s a definite twinge of foul play on this line — why would it be so low? I couldn’t come up with an argument for it because Singletary’s been so good and so consistent over the past month-plus. For starters, Singletary has had at least 80 rushing yards in four of his past five games and 87-plus total yards in five of his past six. That’s all thanks to the Bills giving him opportunities he simply wasn’t seeing earlier in the year. Case in point: Singletary has wrangled a minimum of 17 touches in each of the Bills’ past five games, all of them Buffalo victories. You better believe the coaching staff is aware of this.

Kansas City’s defense against running backs has been an issue all year. Not only have they allowed at least 86 total yards to a runner in four of their past five, but also in 14 of 18 games in the 2021 season! Again, something the Bills certainly have to be aware of. I’d be shocked if Singletary doesn’t flirt with 100 total yards.

Another one: Gabriel Davis over 30.5 rec yds -110 The oddsmakers are missing the boat on this one for the second straight week. Davis has 30-plus yards in seven straight games including that blustery windstorm matchup versus the Titans back in Week 13. He’s not an every-down player for the Bills but he’s running enough routes to get noticed by Allen enough. I’d be surprised if the Chiefs deployed a lot of man coverage against Allen (they got burned by it in Week 3), which further helps Davis because he’s more efficient against zone than man.

Touchdown bets: Josh Allen anytime rushing TD +129; Gabriel Davis anytime TD +230 Pretty obvious calls; Davis has five total touchdowns in his past six games.

Big odds: Bills -3.5 +180; Josh Allen over 280.5 pass yards and Patrick Mahomes over 284.5 pass yards same-game parlay +238 All of the Bills’ wins this season have been by 11-plus points, including their 18-point win over the Chiefs in Kansas City back in September. I wouldn’t dare suggest taking Buffalo -10.5 (at a rich +400), but I don’t have a problem believing they have a chance to win by four points. And both quarterbacks are contenders for 300-plus yards, even Mahomes against a tough Bills defense. At these odds, and with the forecast clear, I think this is a value.

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