NFL Wild Card Round Props: Joe Mixon Pick in Bengals vs. Ravens
Cooper Neill/Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Mixon
It's early, but it's one the best times of the year with NFL playoff football underway.
If the 2022 NFL regular season was any indication of how the Wild Card round will unfold, we should be in for an awesome slate of Sunday games, starting with Dolphins vs. Bills, followed by Giants vs. Vikings and wrapping up with the Ravens vs. Bengals.
I used the Action Labs Player Prop tool to compare our NFL projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks. Each bet is then graded on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the best possible grade.
Below, I have laid out five player props I am playing, the case for each pick and the best books to find odds on each of them.
After two terribly disappointing seasons marred by injuries, it feels appropriate to say Saquon Barkley is officially back.
Barkley logged career highs in both rushing attempts and rushing yards, and saw decent usage in the passing game as the only elite weapon at Daniel Jones’ disposal over the regular season. He caught 57 passes for 338 yards and averaged 3.6 catches over 16 games.
Barkley should be spry and fresh after a week of rest. The matchup is enviable against the Vikings, who ranked 27th in overall defensive DVOA in the regular season.
Minnesota allowed the ninth-most receptions per game to running backs (5.3) and Barkley shined when these squads met in Week 16. He racked up 14 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown, hauled in 8-of-10 targets for 49 yards and posted season highs in every receiving category.
Barkley would have cleared the over on this wager in 12 of 16 games (75%). This is an encouraging historical trend that stacks up well – even against the juiced up 56.5% implied odds. This pick has strong backing by the data in Action Labs’ props tool, which rates this bet a solid 8 out of 10 based on Koerner and Raybon’s consensus projection of 4.6.
What is QuickSlip?
QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.
It feels borderline sacrilegious to not mention a random tight end’s receiving prop. In today’s iteration, it will be Irv Smith Jr. to record fewer than 16.5 yards against the Giants.
Smith fell off my radar completely after he suffered an ankle injury back in Week 8 and spent nine weeks on injured reserve. He was designated for return ahead of the Vikings’ Week 18 matchup against the Bears and caught all three of his targets for 14 yards. He was unremarkable in eight games this year and will, in all likelihood, take a backseat to T.J. Hockenson, who was acquired from the Lions at the trade deadline.
Hockenson was barely involved in Week 18 and split snaps with Smith evenly (33 to 32), though I suspect that had more to do with the Vikings resting some of their studs in preparation for the playoffs.
In Weeks 9 through 17, Hockenson averaged 9.4 targets per game and saw no fewer than a 77% snap participation rate. He carved up the Giants’ defense in Week 16, when he caught 13-of-16 targets for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
Smith would have hit the under in just three of eight games this season (37.5%), though I think it would be misleading to include seven of those games that he played without competition from Hockenson. Come Sunday, Smith could be Kirk Cousins’ sixth option, vying for targets alongside Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Hockenson and even Dalvin Cook.
This pick has strong backing from Action Labs’ data in the player props tool. The tool rates this bet a perfect 10 out of 10, with one of the highest ratings in this contest. Koerner and Raybon’s combined projection for Smith is a mere 7.6 receiving yards, which gives us a very comfortable cushion.
It should come as little surprise that I like a few of the overs in the game with the highest point total of the slate (48) – one of which is Dalvin Cook to log more than 15.5 rushing attempts.
Cook has been on a bit of a cold streak of late, recording just 64 total rushing yards on 20 attempts over the final two games of the season. I suspect, however, that facing the Giants could be just what the doctor ordered.
The G-Men were last in rush DVOA during the regular season and allowed the 13th-most rushing attempts to running backs per game (22.7). In Week 16 against New York, Cook did not hit the over, rushing 14 times for 64 yards.
I do have hope that he (and the Vikings offense), which has struggled as a whole, can bounce back in a game that is thankfully not being played in primetime.
Cook has had his struggles this year, but he would have cleared the over on this bet in 9 of 17 games (52.9%). This is decent compared to the implied 54.6% odds of this particular wager.
Action Labs’ data in the player props tool firmly reinforces this pick and rates this bet a perfect 10 out of 10 based on Koerner and Raybon’s consensus projection for Cook to record 18.5 rushing attempts.
Mixon was okay – not great – in the 2022 regular season. He recorded career highs in receiving with 60 catches for 441 yards, but took a step back from a rushing perspective, tallying nearly 400 fewer yards on the ground compared to the previous season.
He exploded for 211 scrimmage yards and five touchdowns back in Week 9 against a porous Panthers defense, but has cooled off considerably due in part to injury. Since the five touchdown field day, Mixon is averaging just 40.2 rushing yards per game
In addition to waning production, the matchup against their AFC North rivals should be sufficient to scare you off of the Bengals’ run game. The Ravens ranked seventh in rush DVOA during the regular season and allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game to running backs (78.3), behind only the 49ers, Titans and Dolphins.
Mixon was a mixed bag in these teams’ prior two meetings. In Week 5 on the road, he rushed 14 times for 73 yards. In Week 18 at home, however, he rushed 11 times for 27 yards. In 11 career meetings to date, Mixon has averaged 55.9 rush yards per game, with a modest 3.5 yards per carry.
This year, Mixon would have gone under this rushing total in eight of 14 games (57.1%) and four of the last six (66.7%). These are good historical percentages in comparison to the implied 53.3% odds of this wager.
Huntley is on track to get his first playoff start with star quarterback Lamar Jackson officially ruled out. This is terrible news for the Ravens, who now enter as 9.5-point underdogs with the lowest point total of the slate (40.5).
It almost goes without saying that there is a night-and-day difference between the duo. The Baltimore offense has averaged just 12.3 points per game in Huntley’s four starts, and unlike Jackson, Huntley has made little to no impact on the ground.
Jackson averaged 63.7 rushing yards per game in his 12 starts, compared to Huntley’s modest 24 rushing yards per game.
Huntley did not play against the Bengals this season, so we have no head-to-head data to use (Anthony Brown got the start in Week 18).
The matchup is more difficult than it would appear at a cursory glance. The Bengals rank 12th in pass DVOA, 14th in rush DVOA and have allowed the seventh-fewest rushing yards per game this year (106.6). They have been particularly tough against quarterbacks on the ground, having allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game to the position (12.1).
Huntley would need to perform nearly three times better than the average quarterback the Bengals faced this season to clear this lofty total.
In Weeks 14 to 17, Huntley tallied 31, 15, 26 and 24 rushing yards, meaning he would have hit the under on this wager in 100% of his starts this year. This is an excellent sign, especially against the implied 54.6% odds.
Bet this prop with the utmost confidence knowing Action Labs rates this a perfect 10 out of 10 based on our consensus projection of just 15 rushing yards, making this a top-rated prop on the board for this game.