The last two NFL seasons have seen one defensive player record at least 20 sacks, something that has only happened once in the previous nine years.
Last season, Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt had 20.5 sacks and the year before that Minnesota Vikings DE Jared Allen flirted with Michael Strahan’s all-time mark (22.5 in 2001) by sacking the quarterback 22 times.
William Hill sportsbooks in Nevada are giving NFL fans a chance to wager on the league’s top sack masters, releasing head-to-head season sack props this week:
J.J. Watt, DE Houston Texans (-110) vs. Aldon Smith, LB San Francisco 49ers (-110)
Watt edged Smith by one sack in 2012, breaking out as the premier defensive player in the NFL. A lot of that success was the element of surprise, recording 9.5 sacks in the first six weeks of the schedule. Watt tallied 11 in the final 12 games – a little under a sack a week – as offenses started paying attention.
Smith wouldn’t have been in the conversation if not for a 5.5-sack performance versus the Bears in Week 11. Chicago had backup Jason Campbell under center, protected by an offensive line that allowed 44 sacks on the year – eighth most in the NFL. Teams got wise to Smith and shut him out of the sack column from Week 15 through the postseason.
Von Miller, LB Denver Broncos (-135) vs. Clay Matthews, LB Green Bay Packers (+115)
Miller recorded 18.5 QB kills in 2012 and was part of a Broncos pass rush that led the AFC with 52 totals sacks. His partner in crime, LB Elvis Dumervil, took his talents to Baltimore, leaving offensive coordinators to focus solely on Miller, who is taking on a bigger leadership role with Denver’s defense.
Matthews managed 13 sacks despite missing four games due to injury in 2012. He started the season with a bang, posting six sacks through the first two games before a being slowed by ailments. Not having nose tackle B.J. Raji at full strength was also a burden for Matthews and the Packers linebacker corps. Green Bay opens the schedule against mobile QBs Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III this season.
Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings DE (-120) vs. Julius Peppers, DE Chicago Bears (EVEN)
The youngsters may be the talk of the league, but old sack artists like Allen and Peppers always find their way among the top of the defensive rankings. Allen followed a huge 22-sack 2011 campaign with 12 sacks in 2012. He’s entering the final year of his contact, so prop bettors could get some extra effort out of the Vikings veteran funnyman.
Peppers posted 11.5 sacks last year, his highest total since joining the Bears in 2010. However, the 6-foot-7, 287-pound behemoth is 33 years old. His biggest sacks days of 2012 came against the Packers (2.0) and Cardinals (3.0), who ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of sacks allowed last season. Arizona isn’t on the schedule this year and Green Bay is looking to run a lot more in 2013.
Odds courtesy of William Hill Nevada.