The Professor’s 2021 NFL Week 1 Prop Bets

The Professors Week 1 Prop Bets

Please refer to my Week 1 model predictions for skill positions for the data driving these betting suggestions.

Week 1: QB Prop Bets

Matthew Stafford, LAR, DraftKings: 272.5 Passing Yds

Matthew Stafford opens up the season on Sunday Night Football against a Chicago Bears defense that is loaded up-front, but has questions in the back end with the unproven Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley expected to start at outside and slot corner, respectively, in Chicago’s nickel package. 

The weight of the Rams offense was placed on Stafford’s shoulders the moment running back Cam Akers went down for the season, and while Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel will be solid filling in, expect the Rams to rely more on Stafford’s arm and the speed threats they added (DeSean Jackson and Tutu Atwell) to complement primary receivers, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.

The model has Stafford projected for an average game of 279.4 passing yards; I’ll take the over on 272.5 at -115.

Teddy Bridgewater, DEN, DraftKings: 248.5 Passing Yards

Teddy Bridgewater makes his debut for the Denver Broncos on the road against a Giants team that wants to play a similar style to Denver, with both teams looking to rely on the defense to support the offense.

Giants corner James Bradberry followed number one receivers throughout 2020 and will likely lock onto receiver Courtland Sutton, as Bradberry’s skill set is ideal to match Sutton’s physical style. The Giants defense plays the majority of their snaps in big nickel (five DBs with two corners and three safeties) and will also play a four-safety dime, so there will be plenty of speed in the back end to stay on top of receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, as well as tight end Noah Fant, if that trio looks to push the field vertically.

The Giants offense has not had a smooth training camp and the Denver defense is loaded. Look for Bridgewater to avoid mistakes while his offense attempts to establish the run. The model has him at an average game of 241.5 passing yards, so I’ll take the under on 248.5 at -115.

Aaron Rodgers, GB, DraftKings: 2.5 Passing TDs

The recent acquisitions of corners Bradley Roby (suspended Week One) and Desmond Trufant do not speak to the Saints having confidence in their back end, and their top corner, Marshon Lattimore, showed up on Thursday’s injury report with a knee issue that limited him in practice.

It is not an ideal scenario before a matchup with the NFL’s reigning MVP. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense are healthy outside of left tackle David Bakhtiari’s absence as he recovers from last year’s ACL injury, and while Elgton Jenkins has never been tested at the left tackle spot, he’s shown more than enough athleticism while dominating at left guard and center over the past two seasons to make Packers fans confident he’ll hold down the fort on Rodgers’ blindside until Bakhtiari returns.

Rodgers has a cast of weapons, headlined by Davante Adams, that makes up for the lack of a second star with a deep group that features complimentary route-running skill sets, and the Packers get an advantage by playing in Jacksonville rather than New Orleans. The model has Rodgers at 2.2 passing TDs, and the over is at +135, so this only needs to hit 42.5% of the time, which makes it attractive from my perspective.


This article examined three quarterback prop bets for the upcoming week. To get full access to the output of The Professor’s machine learning model, check out this week’s BeerLife Sports article featuring the Professor’s Fantasy Value Predictions, where you can also see his highlighted bets for other positions.

Week 1: RB Prop Bets

Najee Harris, PIT, DraftKings: 59.5 Rushing Yards

Najee Harris’s position on my draft boards meant I didn’t get him in any season-long fantasy leagues, but Pittsburgh’s rookie back slots in favorably for DFS and prop bets in Week 1. Pittsburgh spent the offseason consistently stating the need to establish the run after 2020, and their opening matchup with the Buffalo Bills is an opportunity to show the NFL they were right to select Harris in the first round.

Harris looked terrific throughout the preseason and his track record at Alabama indicates he can carry a heavy load. The model has Harris at an average game of 63.9 rushing yards, and if he gets twenty carries, which seems likely, he only needs three yards per carry to hit the sixty-yard mark. The over at -110 looks good on Harris.

Chase Edmonds, ARI, DraftKings: 38.5 Rushing Yards

Chase Edmonds is explosive enough to collect most or all of this total in a single carry if he gets a lane, but the Titans defense does not appear to have significantly upgraded their talent from last season when their lack of an edge rush and issues at the corner made it easier to throw on Tennessee than to run on them. Edge rusher Bud Dupree may boost the pass rush, but with first-round corner Caleb Farley not ready to go, there may be issues at the corner.

Arizona would prefer to pass than run in any situation, and likely have a high-volume passing plan against Tennessee. With James Conner likely to get in the carry mix, Edmonds may not get enough carry volume to hit this mark and is more likely to make his mark as a receiver this week. The model has Edmonds at 34.3 rushing yards; I’ll take the under at -115.

Miles Sanders, PHI, DraftKings: 67.5 Rushing Yards

Miles Sanders will be working next to quarterback Jalen Hurts in the run game, which is going to open advantageous run lanes. Right guard Brandon Brooks is back on the injury report as a limited participant, but elite right tackle Lane Johnson is back in the lineup, and with the undersized Boston Scott and receiving specialist Kenneth Gainwell behind Sanders on the depth chart at running back, it seems certain Sanders will shoulder a large carry share.

The Atlanta defense does feature a standout inside linebacker pairing in Deion Jones and Foyesade Oluokun, but Grady Jarrett is the only difference-maker in front of them, assuming Dante Fowler does not revert to his rarely-seen peak form. As good as Jones and Oluokun are, the hesitation created by Hurts in the run game and Lane Johnson rejoining the offensive line should allow Sanders to get rolling. The model has Sanders projected for an average game of 70.7 rushing yards; I’ll take the over on 67.5 at -115.


This article examined three running back prop bets for the upcoming week. To get full access to the output of The Professor’s machine learning model, check out this week’s BeerLife Sports article featuring the Professor’s Fantasy Value Predictions, where you can also see his highlighted bets for other positions.

Week 1: WR Prop Bets

AJ Brown Headshot

A.J. Brown, TEN, DraftKings: 65.5 Receiving Yards

A.J. Brown is joined by fellow receiver Julio Jones in Tennessee, but with running back Derrick Henry playing a limited role in the passing game and wide receiver Corey Davis and tight end Jonnu Smith off to other teams, there should be no shortage of targets for either Brown or Jones.

Brown is facing an Arizona defense that will presumably start Byron Murphy, a third-year corner who has shown some promise but has been inconsistent, and Robert Alford, who has not played in two years due to injury. Marco Wilson, a rookie fourth-round pick out of Florida, will presumably be the nickel back, though the Cardinals may elect to go with three safeties in that scenario, as Jalen Thompson and Deionte Thompson both have starting experience alongside Budda Baker. Either way, that nickel group would seem to make 11 an advantageous personnel package, but given the advantages Brown and Jones have over Murphy and Alford, the Titans may not bother moving out of their base offense. Murphy has smooth hips to mirror routes but may lack the physicality to handle Brown and Jones, and Alford would have been overmatched by either at his peak, which came four years ago.

Tennessee’s play-action game has consistently created opportunities for Brown to rack up big yards after catch numbers, and he should have multiple chances to break free in this one. The model has Brown at an average game of 78.0 receiving yards, so the over at -115 looks good.

Diontae Johnson, PIT, DraftKings: 59.5 Receiving Yards 

Diontae Johnson should have opportunities against Levi Wallace, as Tre’Davious White is unlikely to follow any specific Steelers receiver, but the question of whether Johnson can capitalize remains in question. Until Johnson starts catching the ball consistently, I think it’s worth fading him relative to his value in most markets at this time. Pittsburgh has a deep cast of weapons and running back Najee Harris will demand touches as a runner and receiver; if Johnson drops a ball early, the next one may not come his way for some time.

If Johnson does find his rhythm he will be one of the more exciting receivers to watch this season, and I’ll probably take an L here, but NFL history is full of receivers who never figured out their hands. The model has Johnson projected at an average game of 45.8 receiving yards; I’ll take the under at -115.

DeAndre Hopkins, ARI, DraftKings: 83.5 Receiving Yards

The final receiver prop examined will be a second over in the Tennessee-Arizona matchup. DeAndre Hopkins remains the number one target for Kyler Murray, and with first-round corner Caleb Farley not ready to go, Hopkins will likely see a lot of Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins. The Titans may not assign Jenkins to follow Hopkins, but Hopkins lines up on the left side of the Arizona formation the vast majority of the time, so unless the Cardinals break that tendency, the Titans could play Jenkins at right corner (from the defensive perspective) and Kristian Fulton on the left to get the matchup they want on Hopkins in most cases.

Regardless of his matchup, Hopkins has the advantage. Jenkins was solid while slotting in behind fellow corner Marshon Lattimore in an excellent New Orleans defense, but he had struggled following top receivers in a bad Giants defense before that, and his situation in Tennessee bears more similarities to the one in New York than New Orleans. Fulton appears to be the top option behind Jenkins, and he was limited by injuries as a rookie and did not show any remarkable flashes in his time on the field.

The model has Hopkins at an average game of 92.3 receiving yards; I’ll take the over at -115 on 83.5.


This article examined three wide receiver prop bets for the upcoming week. To get full access to the output of The Professor’s machine learning model, check out this week’s BeerLife Sports article featuring the Professor’s Fantasy Value Predictions, where you can also see his highlighted bets for other positions.

Week 1: TE Prop Bets

Travis Kelce Headshot

Travis Kelce, KC, DraftKings: 7.5 Receptions

The model only has Travis Kelce projected for an average game of 6.1 receptions this week, which would seem to make the under, even at the current price of -140, a no-brainer. This is where it is useful to look at the distribution of a player’s production because it turns out Kelce hit or topped the eight reception mark in 12 of 18 games last season.

It’s a small sample size, and the model does consider a three-year history in the training set for the key pieces in the Chiefs offense to make that average projection, but in an opening day matchup against a rising contender in the Cleveland Browns, quarterback Patrick Mahomes is likely to rely heavily on familiar faces in Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill. The over is priced at +110, so this only needs to hit 47.2% of the time, so sign me up for a big night for Kelce.

Jonnu Smith, NE, DraftKings 2.5 Receptions

If Jonnu Smith catches even one ball on a jet-sweep off a motion into the backfield, which is a concept the Patriots are likely to incorporate, the over on 2.5 receptions looks terrific.

The Patriots also brought in tight end Hunter Henry and wide receiver Nelson Agholor in free agency, but I expect that Smith will be the featured target in this offense and that he will see a high volume of touches on short-area targets, which is terrific for an over on a receptions prop bet. Smith is a dynamic player with the ball in his hands, but Tennessee’s offensive line situation after left tackle Taylor Lewan’s injury forced him to contribute to pass protection while receivers A.J. Brown and Corey Davis got the ball. Head coach Bill Belichick spent a lot of money to sign Smith, so expect Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to have a plan to get the ball in Smith’s hands. The price on the over is -140, but the model has Smith at an average game of 3.2 receptions, and there’s a good chance he picks up a reception off of a motion into the backfield, so I’ll take it at -140.

Mark Andrews, BAL, DraftKings: 55.5 Receiving Yards

This bet on the over at -115 was placed just before the news on running back Gus Edwards and cornerback Marcus Peters broke. It’s a devastating development for Baltimore on the heels of running back J.K. Dobbins’ season-ending injury and puts more weight on tight end Mark Andrews to lead the Ravens passing attack as they work out the running back situation. The offense as a whole will also have to step up to compensate for the loss of an elite player on defense.

Andrews is quarterback Lamar Jackson’s top target, and the Ravens have suffered a series of injuries at receiver that makes it likely Andrews will be the focal point in the opener, particularly given the issues/inexperienced players the Raiders have up the middle of their defense. Throw in Andrews’ recently-signed four-year extension, and it’s fair to expect him to put on a show on Monday Night Football. The model has Andrews at an average game of 59.8 receiving yards, a bit over the total of 55.5 at DraftKings. I’ll take the over at -115.


This article examined three tight-end prop bets for the upcoming week. To get full access to the output of The Professor’s machine learning model, check out this week’s BeerLife Sports article featuring the Professor’s Fantasy Value Predictions, where you can also see his highlighted bets for other positions.

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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.