Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) Over 36.5 Passing Touchdowns (+100)
Asking a 44 year old to step onto an NFL field, let alone throw for 37 touchdowns, is a tall ask. But Tom Brady is up for anything you throw at him. Last year in a shortened offseason, on a new team, a new system, and with limited time to build chemistry with new teammates, Brady still managed to throw for 40 touchdowns en route to a seventh Super Bowl victory.
The whole crew from last year returns. All 22 starters from both sides of the ball return, and that doesn’t include the retention of Antonio Brown and the addition of Giovanni Bernard. Brady has another year to understand the offense better and get his timing down with his receivers. After a turbulent start to the year, Brady rebounded immensely and played smoothly throughout. Before the bye week and through the first 12 games, Brady threw 2.33 touchdowns per game. In the four games after and the additional four games the Buccaneers played in the playoffs, Brady threw for 22 touchdowns and 2.75 touchdown passes per game, good for 46 in a season.
Brady has yet to slow down to the extent that Brett Favre and Peyton Manning did when they crossed the age of 40. He can’t sling it like he used to, but Brady can still put zip on the ball when he needs to and his mind is as sharp as ever. He’s not afraid to throw it downfield either, and he’s got the deep threat in Mike Evans to beat defenses downfield. Last year Brady averaged 9.1 intended air yards per pass attempt, higher than Matthew Stafford, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and just about everyone else.
It should be business as usual for Brady and the Bucs. They’ll excel yet again, and Brady will play his typical integral role.
Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals) Over 4200.5 Passing Yards (-110)
Taking a bet where a player is coming off of a torn ACL is always scary, but if Joe Burrow can stay healthy this will cash in easily. Burrow’s knee injury is progressing normally and all signs point to him playing Week 1 and being ready for training camp. If he can regain form and average his 268 passing yards per game from last year, then Burrow will easily be in the over and get 4,556 yards throughout the 17 game season.
As mentioned above, for Burrow it’s a matter of staying healthy. More should be going for him in that regard this year. The offensive line will be better as Jonah Williams will be back from injury again. The Bengals also signed Riley Reiff, a solid right tackle, and drafted guard Jackson Carman, a player who graded very highly in pass protection.
In the first round of this year’s draft the Bengals selected Burrow’s favorite college target, Ja’Marr Chase. A fantastic all around receiver, Chase shined to the tune of 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. The chemistry should still be there, and Chase will absorb at least the 104 targets that are vacated by A.J. Green’s departure, of which Green only hauled in 45.2% of those as catches. If Chase can be more efficient and be closer to either Tyler Boyd’s 62% catch rate or Tee Higgins’ 71%, then that will mean much more completed balls and opportunities for yards to be racked up.
The defense last year was just about the worst in the league, ranking 29th in points allowed and 29th in yards allowed. Yes they signed a handful of pieces including Trey Hendrickson, but it shouldn’t be enough to make them a top half unit. The Bengals should still fall behind early and often, giving Burrow plenty of chances to catch the team back up and toss the ball. He averaged 40 attempts per game last year, first in the league. That number will probably come down from that high, but he will still attempt 30 or more a game at least.
Zac Taylor might not be the best head coach and the Bengals probably won’t win more than 7 games. However, Burrow and this offense have too much talent to not perform well in some capacity. With a lethal wide receiver trio and a good pass catching back in Joe Mixon, Burrow will have plenty of chances to hit the over.
A.J. Green (Arizona Cardinals) Over 545.5 Receiving Yards (-110)
There’s obvious risk here because of A.J. Green’s injury history, but this number is so low that Green almost has to hit it. Last year was the least amount of receiving yards he ever had in a season at 523. Green’s previous low was 694 yards in 2019, when he only played 9 games. Even still, through a 17 game season, if Green kept his career worst 32.7 yards per game from last year he would have still hit this years’ over by 10 yards.
Keep in mind that Green didn’t have a lot going for him last year. His quarterback, Joe Burrow, got hurt after playing in 10 games. Green then had to catch passes from the all-time duo of Brandon Allen and Ryan Finley. During that stretch of 6 games Green averaged an atrocious 19.67 yards per game, including 3 games with no catches.
It didn’t help that rumors had been flying since the start of the season that Green was highly dissatisfied with the Bengals organization and wanted out. It’s hard to deliver on the field when you’re dreading going into work every day.
The 2021 Arizona Cardinals’ offense has much more competent pieces than the 2020 Cincinnati Bengals had. Kyler Murray has been largely healthy and a great deep ball thrower throughout his NFL career so far. The offensive line acquired Rodney Hudson to man the center position, giving Murray more time to throw.
There also isn’t too much competition for targets. Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore will take some looks away from AJ Green, but the losses of Larry Fitzgerald and Dan Arnold leaves an additional 117 targets from last year to be split. Kirk only had 79 targets last year, which was down from 2019’s 108 targets, indicating that he may be getting phased out. DeAndre Hopkins should draw the double coverage, giving Green plenty of 1 on 1 opportunities.
All A.J. Green needs to average is 32.15 yards per game. Last year’s paltry 32.7 would have cleared it, and Green’s previous low in yards per game was 67.4 back in 2017. Expect him to bounce back somewhere in between. We’re not asking for elite level production: we’re asking for him to be passable as a 4th wide receiver. As long as he can stay largely healthy this should be an easy over.
Julio Jones (Tennessee Titans) Over 999.5 Receiving Yards (-120)
Julio Jones is another player on this list who’s been bitten by injuries. The benefit to Julio though is that he doesn’t actually miss much time. Julio is questionable just about every week, but from 2014-2019 he played at least 14 games every year. 2020 was only the second time in Julio’s decade-long career that he played less than 13 games.
Julio isn’t washed up. He’s still the same yardage machine he’s been every year. This is the all-time leader in receiving yards per game we’re talking about. Julio (95.5 yards) is a full 9 yards above Calvin Johnson (86.1) all-time. Plus, Julio still averaged 85.7 yards per game last year, meaning he would’ve crossed 1,000 yards in 12 games at that pace and finished with 1,467 yards in a 17 game season. In fact, his lowest receiving yards per game in a season was 73.8. 73.8 yards per game would be enough to get Julio to 1,000 yards in 14 games. Additionally, 2020 was his first time not hitting 1,000 yards since 2013, and only the second time since his rookie season.
Julio wanted out of Atlanta, and the Tennessee Titans came to his rescue. In this offense last year with most of the same pieces, wide receiver Corey Davis was able to obtain 984 receiving yards on 92 targets. Davis parlayed that into a 3 year/$37.5 million contract with the New York Jets, meaning that Julio was traded for to fill that hole. Davis is a fine receiver in his own right, but Julio is in a different stratosphere and should easily improve on Davis’ near 1,000 yard season. Tight end Jonnu Smith is also gone for the New England Patriots, and that frees up another 65 targets, giving Julio even more potential for targets.
The Titans also have a better overall offense than Atlanta had last year. They have what Matt Ryan can’t seem to get: one of the league’s top running games. Reigning champ Derrick Henry is back, but they also have the luxury of A.J. Brown to scare defenses as well. The combination of Brown and Julio will terrify defenses like Julio and Calvin Ridley did, albeit with different skill sets. Helping the matter is that Ryan Tannehill is actually one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league, and the Titans should allow him to sling it more. This offense is a three headed monster and Julio can’t just absorb all the attention like he had to do for stretches of his career.
As fantasy football owners know, Julio’s problems aren’t catches and yards: it’s his allergies to the endzone and his inability to stay off the injury report. However, he’ll play at least 14 games despite being questionable all year and will get a minimum of 1,200 yards while getting 5 touchdowns.
Gus Edwards (Baltimore Ravens) Over 600.5 Rushing Yards (-110)
I’m having a hard time figuring out why Gus Edwards has such a low rushing total. Since entering the league in 2018, Edwards has reached at least 700 yards in much more crowded backfields. Throughout 2019-2020 he had to compete with Mark Ingram for carries, and that doesn’t even include the addition of J.K. Dobbins in 2020. In 2018 he was competing with the crowded but ineffective trio of Alex Collins, Kenneth Dixon and Javorious Allen.
This year all Edwards has to compete with is Dobbins. Ingram is gone, Justice Hill barely touches the ball, and the Ravens decided to neither sign nor draft a running back. For his efforts the last 3 years, and to show Edwards confidence for the future, Baltimore decided to reward him with a 2 year, $9 million extension. Baltimore is a savvy organization that isn’t afraid to let players go and only signs players when they have a distinguished role in mind. Edwards has already established that role.
As mentioned earlier, Edwards has rushed for at least 700 yards every year so far. However, he’s also managed to get a minimum of 130 carries and maintain an average of at least 5.0 yards per carry. He’s the bruiser and change of pace back, and he’s only gotten 9.6 attempts per game throughout his career. However, that’s all he’s needed to be efficient and effective, and his workload has an opportunity to increase. Edwards doesn’t need the large workload to surpass the 600.5 rushing yards total, but the chance to get a larger role doesn’t hurt.
The Ravens may have added Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins but this team still wants to identify with the run. Edwards will officially claim his role as the 1B and keep his streak of 700 yards every season played going.
D’Andre Swift (Detroit Lions) Over 375.5 Receiving Yards (-110)
D’Andre Swift has always shown versatility as a receiving back, even going as far back as his Georgia days. Last year he got to prove it was sustainable at the NFL level as well. Throughout last year Swift collected 357 receiving yards in 13 games, giving him an average of 27.5 receiving yards per game. If he can sustain his average of 27.5 yards per game, Swift will clear the over in just 14 games.
New offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn is in town, and he’s known for getting his running backs involved in the passing game. When Melvin Gordon played for Lynn his lowest receiving yards per game was 24.7, and his high was 40.8 despite being an inferior receiving back to D’Andre Swift and splitting time with Austin Ekeler in Anthony Lynn’s offense.
Speaking of Ekeler, Swift’s skillset compares more closely to Ekeler than to Melvin Gordon in terms of receiving ability. Since taking on a more featured role in 2019, Ekeler has averaged 6.6 targets per game and 51.2 receiving yards per game. His low was last year in 2020 where he averaged 40.3 receiving yards per game. If Swift can average Ekeler’s low from last year, he’ll still be able to hit the over in 10 games.
Gone from the Detroit Lions are 3 of their top 4 pass catching options from 2020. Danny Amendola, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay all chose not to resign, and therefore there are 216 targets available for the taking in this offense. TJ Hockenson and new additions Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams will eat some of those targets, but Swift will also have every opportunity to get a few more receptions each game. Ekeler averaged roughly 6.5 targets per game the last two years compared to Swift’s 4.4 targets from last year. That was in an offense with much better talent and more playmakers, such as Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, to get the ball to. The Lions don’t have that kind of talent on offense which means that Swift will definitely get more than his 4.4 targets from last year.
The worries about Jamaal Williams taking some work away from Swift is valid but not enough to worry about. Williams is used to being the 1B in a rotation and Lynn has always preferred a split backfield. When Gordon played he split duties with Ekeler, and when Gordon left Ekeler split time with Joshua Kelley and Justin Jackson.
Swift has stayed mostly healthy throughout college and the NFL. Outside of missing two games due to a concussion last year he hasn’t had to miss any time. He’s reliable, talented, and has the opportunity to make this offense run through him with so many offensive pieces from the 2020 Detroit Lions gone. Expect Swift to prove himself partly through the air this season.