Handicapping Sports

2018 NFL Predictions: Statistical Leaders

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Passing Yards
Tom Brady (+550 odds to lead the NFL in passing yards)– Brady is always in the mix, and a team that will focus on him leading the offense means a lot of yards moving the ball down the field.

Drew Brees (+450)– Brees is among the league leaders in this category every year, and in part it has to do with the style of offense Sean Payton likes to run. Expect another 4,000 + yard season.

Aaron Rodgers (+800)– When healthy, this is a category that Rodgers dominates year after year. The team will be forced to spread the ball out quickly because of a lackluster line.

Carson Wentz (+3500)– Assuming he’s healthy this could be another guy who walks into the top 5 of passing yards. The team is trying to stretch the field and that plays into the hands of the third year pro.

Matt Ryan (+1800)– I’m assuming a monster year from Julio Jones, so that means a really good year for Ryan. His new digs should provide a good setting for another year packed with aerial assaults on defenses.

Passing Touchdowns
Tom Brady (+450 odds to lead the NFL in passing touchdowns) – Brady maintains a top spot on this list because of Rob Gronkowski, and the lack of a stellar run game. The team is going to rely on Brady to make tight throws near the end zone rather than handing the ball off.

Aaron Rogers (+350)– Similar to New England, the Packers lack a stellar back, so Rogers will be forced to make the decisions near the goal line. Unlike the Patriots though, Rogers will be looking for the end zone as soon as the team is inside the 25.

Russell Wilson (+1600)– The Seahawks did get a shiny new back, but where they have had the most success is when Wilson gets on the move and buys time. The line isn’t good enough to pound the ball into the end zone, and will need to move the pocket to create time to find open receivers.

Carson Wentz (+3000)– This has more to do with the vertical routes than it does options in the red-zone, because the Eagles have lots. The other factor hear is the defense should generate turnovers, leading to more opportunities for Wentz to put up points.

Matthew Stafford (+1600)– Out of left field, this is an area that Stafford usually does really well in. It helps that outside of the Vikings the Packers and Bears lack quality corners that will allow for easier opportunities throwing, rather than running the ball.

Receiving Yards
Antonio Brown (+250 odds to lead the NFL in receiving yards) Barring issues at QB in Pittsburgh (and even with them), Brown usually ranks among the league leaders here. If Le’Veon Bell is sitting it just means more reps for Brown.

Julio Jones (+500)– Turf field, poor divisional pass defenses, quality QB, it all sets up for another amazing year for Julio.

DeAndre Hopkins (+800)– Assuming DeShaun Watson comes back healthy and they have some chemistry, this could be a monster year for Hopkins. Even without the starting QB, Hopkins still has the speed to get behind teams; it’s an easy game plan to just throw it deep to this guy.

Tyreek Hill (+3000)Patrick Mahomes has a cannon for an arm, and Hill is a speedster. Expect several game stat lines to look something like 3 receptions for 150 yards and a TD. Teams won’t be able to commit safety help because of the run game in KC.

Michael Thomas (+2000)– Brees found Thomas early and often last year, and this year will be no different. The offense goes through the passing game, and Thomas is an integral part.

Receiving Touchdowns
Rob Gronkowski (+700 to lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns)– Gronk is the biggest and best target in the NFL and the Patriots move him around near the goal line. Teams know the ball is going to Gronkowski, and yet can’t stop it.

Davante Adams (+1600)– Rogers has to throw the ball to someone, and Adams emerged as a very reliable receiver, not only near the end zone, but also on deeper patterns.

Alshon Jeffery (+5000)– Big bodied and fleet of foot, there really isn’t anyone else that Wentz is looking for when he has his choice. Jeffery is a target in the red zone and well outside of it, and he has the ability to break tackles and run away from defenders.

Antonio Brown (+800)– The surest hands in the NFL, there is no way Brown doesn’t finish top 10 as he’s always a target and can break away from backs in coverage.

Jimmy Graham (+1500)– Much like Gronk, Graham is a huge target in the red zone. Unlike Gronk (who would run you over) Graham can run by you in the middle of the field. Expect another big year from the TE.

Sacks
Chandler Jones (+1000 odds to lead the NFL in sacks)– He led the league in sacks last year and looks poised to repeat. The team around him isn’t any better or worse, but the offense seems improved, which might mean more opportunities for a pass rusher as teams might need to catch up on the scoreboard more.

Joey Bosa (+1000)– Bosa has looked really impressive each year, and this year I’m expecting the offense to play better, meaning more rest between defensive series. Also if the Chargers are ahead, teams will be forced to pass more and that means more chances for Bosa to accumulate sacks.

Calais Campbell (+1200)– He’s a beast, and among the league leaders every year. There is no reason to think this season would be any different.

Jadeveon Clowney (+2800)– I’m not sure how well J.J. Watt plays when he comes back, but just having him back should mean more 1 on 1 matchups for Clowney. Also the Texans should put more points on the board thanks to Watson, so that should mean more passing downs for the opponents.

Everson Griffen (+1200)– The Vikings are going to likely put up more points thanks to Kirk Cousins. Much like the other players on the list, extra times in passing downs will mean more opportunities and more sacks for Griffen.

Interceptions
Kevin Byard – The INT leader from last year and it’s sort of a funny story. The Titans don’t have a lot of talent on the back end, but they have a good defensive line. That forces teams to throw more, and often with some hands in their face. That hasn’t changed.

A.J. Bouye – As is the case with Byard and the Titans, the Jags front is very strong, which means some balls are thrown when they shouldn’t be, and Bouye is the benefactor.

Marcus Peters – Peters played well with the Chiefs and he picked off his fair share of balls. Now he’s with the Rams with Talib on the other side. Teams can’t pick on a lesser corner, will have constant pressure from a stellar D line.

Harrison Smith – The Vikings have an improved offense, which means more passing downs for the opponents. The Vikings have a good pass rush and rushed throws are primed to be picked off.

Tre Boston – I’m seeing a theme here. The Chargers have a good offense, and a good pass rush. This means far more chances for Boston to grab some picks.

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