NFL wild-card weekend betting tips - Five props that pop

Despite my worst showing of the season in Week 18, this column is getting extended throughout the postseason. Thank you to everyone for reading each week and engaging on social. I'm looking forward to a few more weeks of popping these props with y'all.

As of right now, I've hit on 49 of 94 props. Thanks to an intense Virgo moon placement, I'm more than motivated to hit a winning percentage above 55. That starts now! Utilizing ESPN's metrics database and some assistance from stats ace Kyle Soppe, we're kicking off the New Year with some extra spending money.

Los Angeles Chargers (-1.5, 47.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, Florida

Pick: Austin Ekeler OVER 51.5 rushing yards (-119)

Fantasy's RB1 overall, the bulk of Ekeler's FF production has come via the air. But let's not pretend he hasn't been a star on the ground. Averaging 53.8 rushing yards (which is 2.3 yards more than the above line), Ek's legs have accounted for 66.5% of the Chargers' total rushing yards. Per that math, the Bolts would need to run for 78 yards in order for Austin to hit the over. Meanwhile, Jacksonville allowed 83.2 rushing yards to opposing RBs over the season.

With a spread of just 1.5 points, a close game is expected. That doesn't mean, though, that Los Angeles can't or won't establish the run. Not when the team's RB1 is averaging 4.89 YPC in the first half of contests (ahead of Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry) since the beginning of 2021. Leaning on Austin early is critical to the Chargers' game plan. And with a surplus of field stretchers and aerial weapons, he can be that more efficient. In fact, Ek has faced a stacked front on just 6.9% (RB47) of his carries while running against a light front on 64.7% (RB6) of his carries.

The Chargers' run-blocking efficiency has improved over the course of the season, earning a top-three score for this weekend's matchup. While the Jaguars have thrived as a better-than-average run-stopping unit on balance, Jacksonville has slipped down the stretch, managing a defensive efficiency rank of 32 (per LBM™) from Weeks 13-18. That bodes well for an elusive back, who posted 1,214 yards created (71.4 per game) after the first evaded tackle.

Watch the Dallas Cowboys take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers only on "Monday Night Football" to cap off wild-card Weekend. Only on ESPN/ABC/ESPN+

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (-9.5, 40.5)
Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET, Paycor Stadium, Cincinnati

Pick: Joe Mixon OVER 54.5 rushing yards (-127)

After last week, you'd think I'd learn my lesson, but I'm back on Mixon overs. The Bengals are 9.5-point favorites, setting up a positive game script for Mixon. When Cincy has led, Mixon has averaged 4.29 YPC. When the team has led by three or more points, that average jumps to 4.48 YPC. If Lamar Jackson were a sure thing, I'd be less bullish about a Bengals victory. That's not the case, though.

Furthermore, Mixon is averaging 14.1 carries. Even if he manages 12 totes in this outing, he's still good for over 50 rushing yards. In fact, in games in which he's carried the ball at least 12 times, he has averaged 81.3 rushing yards -- and he has posted at least 57 rushing yards in every one of those contests.

Calais Campbell is a bad man and the Ravens are a stout run-stopping unit, having allowed a YPC of 3.9 to opposing rushers. But Mixon is benefiting from a top-10 light front carry rate (58.5%) and an improved run-blocking unit (74.6 rating, RB14). He's also clutch in the postseason, having gone over the above line in all four playoff games last season. Mixon may not be in for a 100-yard effort, but he does figure to clear 50 rushing yards.

New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings (-3, 48)
Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

Pick: Isaiah Hodgins OVER 44.5 receiving yards (-115)

Y'all know I love a sleeper by now. Hodgins emerged as one of my favorite dart throws over the winter. Largely playing opposite Darius Slayton, the former Bill showed off his ball skills, recording a catch on 15.7% of his routes from Weeks 13-18. For context, that placed him just below Stefon Diggs (16.3%) and A.J. Brown (15.8%) and ahead of Davante Adams (15.3%) and Terry McLaurin (15.1%).

The son of retired NFL fullback James Hodgins, Isaiah proved to be a balm for Daniel Jones, recording zero drops and a 78.7% catch rate. Ironically, his best game of the year came at Minnesota just three weeks ago. He smoked the Vikings to the tune of an 8-89-1 stat line in Week 16. It's possible that Minnesota adjusts to account for the Oregon State product, but the Vikings secondary has been nothing but generous to opposing passing games, allowing the third-most yards per pass attempt (7.7) and the fifth-most yards per completion (11.7).

Relying on the Giants receiving corps is a dicey endeavor. As 3-point underdogs in a game with the highest projected total for the entire slate (48), however, there should be points available to bettors. Rather than leaning hard on Justin Jefferson and Saquon Barkley props, I'd rather speculate on a player who is not as widely known to the masses.

Dallas Cowboys (-2.5, 45.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN/ABC/ESPN+, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

Pick: Ezekiel Elliott OVER 59.5 total yards (-119)

The spring in Elliot's step appears to have sprung, but that doesn't mean he won't eat. Zeke may slow down, but he does not stop. In fact, four of his six games with 20+ yard touches occurred after Thanksgiving, resulting in five consecutive double-digit fantasy efforts (all of which went over 60 total yards).

Conversely, Tampa's vaunted run-defense faltered down the back half of 2022. The Bucs run-stopping unit gave up at least 5.0 YPC to opposing rushers in three of five efforts from Weeks 14-18 (at SF, at Arizona, at Atlanta). The team additionally struggled to defend running backs via the air, allowing the highest on-target rate to opposing QBs when targeting the RB position (95.1%).

That lack of defensive consistency, sets up well for Zeke's undeniably consistent workload. Elliott has touched the ball at least 17 times in six of his past seven games (excluding Week 18). The fact that Dallas owns the sixth-highest rush rate only ensures a healthy number of opportunities for the team's backfield. Additionally, his role as a blocker figures to keep him on the field and handling dump-offs from an oft-pressured Dak Prescott.

Just 16 touches at his 3.9 yards per touch average gets him over 62 scrimmage yards. I like those odds.

Pick: Rachaad White OVER 53.5 total yards (-109)

The Buccaneers offense ranks first in pass attempts as well as rushing attempts. White does both things. His over/under is also more achievable than Leonard Fournette's (which opened at 71.5 total yards).

White drew 25 fewer targets than Fournette over the course of the regular season. The gap narrowed during the winter, however, with Fournette averaging just 1.2 looks per game more than White from Weeks 9-17. White also posted eight games with double-digit touches during that span. Additionally, the rookie managed more targets and catches per route throughout the entire year.

White may not be as involved as Fournette. He is, however, the ascending player with fresher legs, as evidenced by the fact that he gained yardage on 80.6% of his carries this season. His explosiveness in tandem with his versatility lays the groundwork for 55 total yards without requiring a massive touch-total. Given that Dallas is among the five most generous defenses in terms of completion percentage on RB targets (82.4%) as well as yards after catch per reception to RBs (8.3) further makes the case for White to hit the over.

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