It may have only been one week of preseason football, but it surely is starting to feel like the NFL is back. Bettors will spend the rest of August trying to find valuable nuggets of insight that can give them a jump on the Week 1 lines. For the most part, preseason games won't provide many answers to our offseason questions, but it does give us a glimpse of players and coaches in new environments. Of course, some teams are careful not to show too much, but bettors can catch some signals before the real show starts in September.
One key takeaway can be a team's offensive philosophy with a new coaching staff. An innovative play-caller can set a quarterback up for success or make his season much more challenging than it needs to be.
Unfortunately for many quarterbacks in the league, the latter tends to happen more frequently. However, there is a silver lining to these quarterbacks failing to meet expectations. Bettors can find decent value on fading these quarterbacks in the prop market. Per Connor Allen of Betsperts, unders on QB passing yards and touchdown props had a 74.07% hit rate last season. Here are two quarterbacks you should be looking to bet against in 2022.
Mayfield played his way out of Cleveland only to find Carolina as his only suitor. Despite being an upgrade for the offense, I have a hard time envisioning Mayfield hitting this touchdown total. Rhule wants to win three yards and a cloud of dust at a time, and the Panthers' play-calling in the red zone reflects his obsession with running the football. Under Rhule in 2021, 53% of their touchdowns were rushing, the highest percentage in the NFL. Their pass rate in the red zone was a league-low 39%. Now with a more talented backfield at his disposal, he will lean even more on Christian McCaffrey, D'onta Foreman, and Chuba Hubbard when the offense gets deep in opponent's territory.
Mayfield threw 27 touchdowns in his rookie year, and despite coming close in 2020, he hasn't reached that mark since. This season he will face much more adversity than he ever did behind Cleveland's offensive line. The downgrade from Kevin Stefanski to Ben McAdoo will be apparent early in the season. Once the losses start piling up, the fingers will start pointing in Mayfield's direction.
Carolina faces the Buccaneers, Rams, Bengals, 49ers, Saints, Cardinals and Browns in the season's first nine games. It's a real possibility they look toward the future by midseason, and Matt Corral takes over earlier than most expect. I question whether Baker can hit his number with a full season, so the volatility in his new home makes this an easy bet for me to make.
You have to feel for Justin Fields. He has so much talent, but watching him play behind this offensive line will be hard. Chicago finished last season with a 9.5% adjusted sack rate and allowed 58 sacks, ranking 32nd in both categories.
In his second season, he is tasked with learning a new offense under first-time play-caller Luke Getsy. Running the football always seems to be the immediate pivot when you can't protect the quarterback, and I have real concerns that this Bears offense will be very conservative.
Not to take too much from one preseason game, but the first-team offense was constantly in third and long. In his four drives under center, Fields faced five third downs with an average distance of seven yards to go. That's the worst possible spot if you are a young quarterback behind the league's weakest offensive line. He was also sacked once for every two completions.
Four drives is a small sample size, but everything points to Fields running for his life every Sunday. The inability to protect their young quarterback increases his risk for injury, discourages Getsy from dialing up pass plays and reduces his probability of reaching this yardage total. To eclipse 3,300 passing yards, Fields has to average over 194 yards over 17 games, almost a 40-yard increase from last season. And that's with fewer playmakers around him. In 2021, only 19 quarterbacks surpassed 3,300 yards. The numbers don't add up for me to back Fields here, making it a sound play to the under.