NFL prop betting: Is it safe to back Saquon Barkley yet?

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As we enter Week 3 of the NFL season, we now have more information about how teams will utilize certain players. Now, we have the opportunity to either apply this to the prop market successfully, or we can overreact to small sample sizes. Either way it goes, it's going to be fun. Here are three of my favorite prop bets this weekend with lines courtesy of BetMGM.

Saquon Barkley

Rushing yards: Over/Under 62.5

Saquon Barkley dominated his rookie season after being picked second overall in the 2018 draft by the Giants. He followed that up with a solid 1,000-yard sophomore season, but he dealt with some injuries. Barkley then missed all but two games last year.

This season, Barkley has played in both games but he hasn't regained his full bell-cow role. Through two games, Barkley has just 23 carries and he's averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. If you take out his 41 yard rush in Week 2, Barkley has 22 carries for just 42 yards. 

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 12: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants looks on during the game against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium on September 12, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants looks on against the Denver Broncos in Week 1. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Despite that, I like Saquon to go over 62.5 yards on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. 

Atlanta currently ranks 27th in the league in terms of defensive rush DVOA. In Week 1, the Falcons allowed the Eagles to rush for 173 yards on the ground. Miles Sanders went for 74 yards and quarterback Jalen Hurts added another 62. In Week 2, the Falcons allowed Leonard Fournette to average nearly five yards per carry. 

The Giants have been working Barkley in slowly and gradually increasing his workload. Eventually, the shackles will come off. New York needs to win this game to keep its season alive, and relying on Barkley is relying on its best weapon. If Saquon can get 15-plus carries, which I expect him to, I don't think there will be much opposition from Atlanta to prevent him from going over 62.5 yards.

Austin Ekeler

Rushing yards: Over/Under 55.5

Kansas City's rush defense has been historically bad. It currently ranks 32nd in terms of defensive rush DVOA. That isn't enough to illustrate how badly the Chiefs have performed. 

In the opener, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and the Browns posted 153 yards on the ground. In Week 2, the Ravens ran for 251 yards. Granted, these might be the two best rushing teams in the league, but the numbers are still staggering. 

Austin Ekeler has posted 57 yards against the Football Team and 54 yards against the Cowboys, meaning he's gone over this total or been within two yards of it in the two games he's played. Those rush defenses grade out much more favorably than the Chiefs' rush defense. 

Unless this game gets away from the Chargers early and they are forced to abandon the run, Ekeler should have a nice game on the ground. I don't think he needs much more than 10 carries to go over this total, which feels low for a game projected to be a shootout. 

T.J. Hockenson

Receiving yards: Over/Under 61.5 yards

Through the first two weeks of the season, the Baltimore Ravens have gone against Darren Waller and Travis Kelce; the two best tight ends in football. Waller posted 10 receptions for 105 yards and then Kelce followed that up by catching 7 balls for 109 yards in Week 2 against the Ravens. 

In Week 3, the Ravens will see arguably the third-best tight end in football when they visit T.J. Hockenson and the Detroit Lions. 

I like Hockenson to go over 61.5 yards for two reasons. 

The Ravens have obviously shown they are vulnerable when defending the tight end. It might be a bit unfair to say that considering their opponents thus far, but again, Hockenson is entering the conversation as an elite tight end. Baltimore is an 8-point favorite on Sunday, meaning game script will likely force the Lions to throw the ball to try and keep up. 

When the Lions throw the ball, they look for Hockenson. Hockenson has 20 targets through two games, catching 16 of them for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Jared Goff is forced to look Hockenson's way because his receiving options include names like Quintez Cephus and Trinity Benson. I'm relatively confident that this target share for Hockenson is here to stay. 

Hockenson has gone over 62 yards in the first two games of the year, and I'd look for him to have another nice day on Sunday. Over 61.5 receiving yards seems good to me as someone is going to have to catch the ball for the Lions. 

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