On the first play of the game in Week 6 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Aaron Jones ran for no gain on 1st-and-10. It was the first of 10 carries for Jones in the eventual 38-10 loss. He gained 15 on those carries, and even with a 20-yard catch-and-run two plays later (and a one-yard touchdown run on the next drive), it was the fourth-year running back’s worst non-injury-shortened game since his rookie season.
The Bucs’ defense smothered rushing attacks all season, allowing a league-best 3.4 yards per carry and 60 yards per game on a league-low 18 attempts by opposing running backs. That’s why Aaron Jones has his lowest rushing yardage prop total of the season: 59.5 yards on BetMGM online sports betting. It’s not low enough, especially with an over vig of -130. (The under vig of 59.5 rushing yards is +105.)
In that Week 6 loss, Jones’ longest carry was seven yards. It’s his only game all season (of 15 total games) without a rush of at least 10 yards and his only career game without a 10-yard rush when he’s had more than five carries. Three months later, he’s the NFL’s most explosive back, recording one 40-yard carry in five of his last seven games, including a 60-yarder in the Divisional win over the Los Angeles Rams last weekend. And in the only two games without a 40-yard carry over that stretch, Jones has still rushed for 111 yards on 26 carries.
Tampa dominated the Packers with pressure in Week 6 and is expected to employ a similar strategy again in the NFC Championship. I’m betting Matt LaFleur uses Jones to neutralize that pressure, especially when it’s shown pre-snap off the edge, and Jones burns the Bucs for at least one long run of 25 or more yards, making this one of the best NFC Championship prop bets on BetMGM.com and triggering my interest in Jones over 14.5 yards for his longest rush.
Staying with Jones, he is averaging 14.3 carries in 15 games this season and hasn’t recorded more than 14 attempts since gashing the Carolina Panthers for 145 yards on 20 carries in Week 15. Entering this weekend, seven NFL teams are allowing (or allowed) four or fewer yards per carry this season. The Packers played five of those seven teams. Jones in those five games:
Saints: 14 attempts (69 yards)
Bucs: 10 attempts (15 yards)
49ers: 15 attempts (58 yards)
Colts: 10 attempts (41 yards)
Rams: 14 attempts (99 yards)
After flirting with the over on Thursday’s episode of High Motor by BetMGM, I’m reversing course and opting for the under. While I like Jones to hit 60 yards against the Bucs, I think he does it with fewer than 15 carries.
“I thought [running backs coach] Ben Sirmans did an outstanding job in that game rotating [A.J. Dillon, Jamaal Williams, and Jones] through,” LaFleur said of the Rams’ game. “Really, that’s what it comes down to quite a bit. Just our communication through the week, between myself and Ben and the rest of the offensive staff. [Offensive coordinator] Nathaniel Hackett making sure we’re all on the same page in regards to trying to keep the backs fresh, and really giving those guys opportunities. Because they all offer a little bit something different.”
And one more prop for the Packers: Aaron Rodgers under 0.5 interceptions. Rodgers threw two picks in Week 6 but has only three in their other 16 games, throwing an interception in just 23 percent of the Packers’ game this season. At -225, you’ll pay a premium for the under but trust Rodgers to avoid the careless throws and have his 14th interception-free game this season.
Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lines up against the Green Bay Packers during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium on October 18, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
In his first-ever playoff meeting against Tom Brady, Rodgers has a lower passing yardage total than the fellow first-ballot Hall of Famer: 279.5 vs. 288.5. Brady’s under is the right play.
The Packers’ defense is averaging 166.7 passing yards allowed over their last three games, a stretch that included 121 yards on 24 attempts to Ryan Tannehill in a Week 16 blowout. Za’Darius Smith, Rashan Gary, et al. are generating pressure at their highest rates all season, and Brady had a measly 166 yards (on 27 attempts) in Week 6. He’ll top 166 but won’t sniff 300 yards with Jaire Alexander, Adrian Amos, and Darnell Savage patrolling the secondary.
Alexander covered Mike Evans on 76 percent of Evans’ routes in Week 6 and allowed zero catches on one target. It’s unclear if Mike Pettine plans to use a similar strategy on Sunday, but it seems unlikely Alexander would be removed from Evans completely, which should bode well for the Bucs’ other receivers, namely Chris Godwin. Godwin has the highest receptions total prop of any player in the game, but it’s still the best value receptions prop: Over 5.5 (+110). With a potentially hobbled Antonio Brown, Godwin should draw high single-digit targets against Kevin King, a matchup that favors Godwin.
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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM.