After a long offseason of trades, signings, murder investigations and way too much Tim Tebow talk, it's finally time to kick off the 2013 NFL regular season. Here are four prop picks to click Sunday.
Most passing yards
Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals) vs. Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears)
This matchup features a showdown between two of the most dynamic QB-WR combos in the league as Andy Dalton and A.J. Green square off against Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall.
While Marshall will certainly be the focal point of the Bears offense, I do expect Matt Forte to do a lot of the heavy lifting as well. Marc Trestman is a QB-friendly head coach but I'm not sure he'll have Jay Cutler slinging it around against an opportunistic Bengals defense in Week 1.
Andy Dalton doesn't always get the credit he deserves and I like the way he matches up against a Bears defense that loves to force turnovers, but also gives up a lot of passing yardage. Look for Dalton and Green to have a big day.
Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons) vs. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
The Falcons were able to entice future Hall of Fame TE Tony Gonzalez to return to the field for one more year, and Matt Ryan couldn't be happier. Of course, Gonzalez is really only Ryan's third favorite target behind Julio Jones and Roddy White. This is an offense that can light it up and I expect Matt Ryan to do just that against a mediocre Saints defense Sunday.
Drew Brees will obviously get his, but I have a little more faith in the Falcons secondary to get stops, not to mention in the Atlanta offense to orchestrate long, time-consuming drives that keep Brees and company off the field. Give the edge to Ryan in terms of passing yardage.
Most rushing yards
Eddie Lacy (Green Bay Packers) vs. Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers)
I don't think the 49ers defense is all that worried about the Packers’ supposedly-rejuvenated running game. You can be sure its focus will be on QB Aaron Rodgers. That should open the door for Lacy to have a reasonably strong debut. I'm not sure he'll have to do all that much to outrush Frank Gore, to be honest.
Gore is still a big part of the 49ers offense, but certainly not the focal point that he once was. He'll do just fine for his fantasy owners thanks to his physical running near the goal line. Outside of that, I don't expect him to rack up a ton of yardage - certainly not against a fired up Packers frontline.
Most pass receptions
Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City Chiefs) vs. Cecil Shorts (Jacksonville Jaguars)
With Justin Blackmon suspended, Cecil Shorts becomes Blaine Gabbert's go-to guy. Shorts quietly enjoyed a terrific 2012 campaign and, while I'm not expecting much from the Jags offense, he should once again serve as a bright spot.
We'll find out in due time if Alex Smith can develop solid chemistry with Dwayne Bowe. But for now, I expect Kansas City to rely heavily on its ground attack. The Jags may have some holes on defense, but they're still an extremely physical group and I think we'll see them put plenty of pressure on Smith. The fact that they'll be double-teaming Bowe on a regular basis doesn't hurt our cause either.