Forget Veteran Stars, Go Young With Under Bets on 2019 Passing Yardage Totals

Cameron Smith

There are intriguing possibilities for enormous yardage totals from the likes of Pat Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Baker Mayfield. The safer bets are with a rookie and a different second-year pro.

First off, here are the over/under numbers for the nine most prominent (i.e., most bet on) starting quarterbacks for the 2019 season, as set by MyBookie, along with both their over and under odds.

Aaron Rodgers
Andrew Luck
Baker Mayfield
Carson Wentz
DeShaun Watson
Drew Brees
Kyler Murray
Lamar Jackson
Patrick Mahomes

What do these odds tell us, beyond the fact that only Mayfield and Watson's lines are apparently so tight that the over/under is considered a true push? Among other things, it's projecting: A) A signifcant decline for Mahomes, who finished above 5,000 yards in 2018, B) Almost identical production from Luck (that's an intriuging bet), C) A huge year in Bayer Mayfield's first full season, and D) A whole lot of production from Aaron Rodgers despite an expected shift to an offensive system that will prioritize balance.

Yet the real gems are in unders for a pair of young talents: Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray.

In 2018, Jackson emerged from the Baltimore bench to stabilize the Ravens' season and lead them to the playoffs. Bravo. What he didn't do was light up the passing game, averaging just 75 yards per game through the air. The 3000.5 yardage total he was pegged with in Vegas would equate to 190 yards per game. That's an achievable game-by-game total, but with Jackson's skill set it's hardly a sure thing.

In fact, 190 yards per game through the air would constitute a major stride forward for Jackson, and probably a bridge too far. Yes, the Ravens added offensive weapons in the form of explosive rookie wide receivers Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Myles Boykin, and versatility with running back Justice Hill. That will certainly give Jackson more to work with, but we're not sure whether that's enough to force his game — and the Ravens' offensive system — to adapt to twice the passing attempts.

The safe bet on Jackson is an under, as the odds marginally dictate. The same can be said of the rookie who should be the most exciting player in this class.

Kyler Murray is going to play for the Cardinals. You don't use a top-10 pick to draft a quarterback for the second-straight year — and trade away his predecessor — and sit the new guy on the bench. No, Murray will play, and he's likely to struggle at times.

Forget for a minute all the attention around his diminutive stature and the explosiveness in his legs. Murray is an elite passer, and he's excelled at both the collegiate level — his lone season at Oklahoma yielded a Heisman Trophy — and in high school, where he's arguably the most storied quarterback in Texas state history. He just wins, and he tosses tons of touchdowns to get those wins.

Yet Murray has always been surrounded by elite talent in relation to the talent around it, and that's about to change in Arizona. Here's the Cardinals' depth chart at wide receiver and tight end: 

WR1: Larry Fitzgerald/Kevin White

WR2: Christian Kirk/Hakeem Butler*

WR3: Andy Isabella*/KeeSean Johnson*

TE: Charles Clay/Ricky Seals-Jones/Maxx Williams

That's one aging legend, one young star, three rookies, four journeyman and ... a partridge in a pear tree. It's not the kind of talent that should intimidate most elite defensive back corps around the league.

And that's a big part of the problem facing Murray's inaugural NFL campaign, too: in the NFC West, he'll be going against stacked defenses with very smart defensive gameplans six times. Sure, he plays 10 other games, but two of those other opponents finished with defensive units ranked in the top-10 of our Defensive Passer Rating standings.

The good news for Murray? The Cardinals do have games against Detroit, Carolina, Cincinnati, Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay, all ranked among the bottom eight defenses in the league in our Defensive Passer Rating standings. If he's going to have any realistic shot at hitting the 3,285.5-yard total put out in front of him, he'll have to clean up in those six games.

We're not comfortable betting on that happening. Then again, Murray has made a fool out of those who bet against him in the past. Maybe we'll be his next victim.