I can’t tell you how excited I am that football is almost back (preseason doesn't count). The air, general moods, food — it’s all just … better during college football Saturdays and NFL Sundays. As part of my first dive into the 2022 NFL season, I’m starting with the AFC East because I’ve seen no player talked about more in the last few weeks than Josh Allen. So, here’s what I’m thinking for some of the teams in the AFC East.
Josh Allen under 550.5 rushing yards (-112)
Allen hit 763 rushing yards last season, so 550.5 seems low, right? One huge thing for me is I’m not quite convinced that Allen will be the same player without offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Allen has had Daboll by his side for all four seasons of his career, molding him, grooming him and building him up from an inaccurate Wyoming quarterback to the elite threat he is now.
The progression we have seen from Allen during his time with the Buffalo Bills is outstanding. In the last two years, Allen has seen his biggest jump in completion percentage and his second-biggest jump in passing yards per game — with Daboll as his play-caller. The person calling the plays matters — just ask the Chicago Bears. Daboll is now the head coach of the New York Giants, and Allen is left with Sean McDermott, a defense-minded head coach.
What do defensive-minded coaches like to do? Control the clock, play stout defense and … run the ball. Allen is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 4,000 yards and rush for more than 750 yards. He’s the first quarterback to have three straight seasons of at least eight rushing scores and last year he led the Bills in rushing yards in the postseason. Yet earlier this year, McDermott said he wanted Allen to run less. “We’re doing right by him by doing right by our team,” McDermott said. When a defense-minded head coach says he wants to run more but run the QB less, I believe him. It seems like he’s taking a page out of the ol' Mike Zimmer playbook.
Besides, the Bills don’t exactly have an easy schedule of rushing defenses. Buffalo faces the Rams, Titans, Dolphins and Ravens — all top 14 against the run — in the first four games of the season. The Bills close the season facing the Patriots twice, Dolphins again and the Bengals. Weeks 5-12 are pretty friendly, but if the Bills' rushing offense can’t get going in the first few weeks, there’s a chance the game plan may shift.
How to play this in-season
If you don’t like season-long props, I’d be looking to take Allen’s under rushing prop in each of the first four games. This is the time McDermott will be trying to prove his point of running Allen less. Allen had 10 games last year rushing for 40 yards or more. Only two of those games were against teams mentioned above.
Miami Dolphins in-season trend I’m looking to wager
I’ll be the first to admit it: I am not entirely convinced Tua Tagovailoa is a franchise quarterback. However, there is optimism surrounding the Dolphins this season, and the opportunity I’m looking to capitalize on: backing the Dolphins ATS, both as underdogs and especially at home.
In the last two seasons, the Dolphins are 12-7 ATS as an underdog and 13-4 ATS at home, the best ATS home record in the NFL in that span. Those marks did occur during COVID times, with quarterback injuries in both 2020 and 2021, and with aging offensive coordinator Chan Gailey at the helm in 2020. Miami also had one of the worst units at protecting the quarterback and didn’t have much of a running game.
This year, Miami could be even better. The Dolphins, ranked 12th in opponent yards per play last year, are looking to be just as good if not stronger defensively. Because Tua was sacked 40 times over the last two seasons, the Dolphins have rebuilt their offensive line with Connor Williams and Terron Armstead, while also dropping WR DeVante Parker and adding Tyreek Hill and Cedrick Wilson. Perhaps the most important factor of all: The team has a new head coach in Mike McDaniel, who learned in Kyle Shanahan's offense.
For two straight years, Parker was the league's worst player in receiver separation. Now Miami has Jaylen Waddle, Hill, and Wilson, who are all top 35 in this category. The 49ers, with McDaniel as offensive coordinator, ranked first in yards after the catch (for four straight seasons), while Miami was dead last in 2021.
The Dolphins have a (currently) healthy quarterback, an improved offensive line, a great head coach, receivers that can produce, and a great ATS home record before all of that. Miami could be the team that adds bucks to your bankroll.
AFC East weekly teaser
As an extra tidbit, the New England Patriots and Dolphins both finished 13-4 ATS last year as six-point teaser legs. That’s 26-8. In the last two seasons, the Dolphins have gone 27-6 on a six-point teaser.
The Patriots have a tougher schedule, but I would definitely trust the Dolphins as a teaser leg throughout the season.