- Sony Michel and Damien Williams led the Divisional Round in rushing yards
- Michel is listed as the favorite to lead the Conference Championships in rushing
- See the odds for all contenders
One week after Damien Williams and Sony Michel led the Divisional Round in rushing (both with 129 yards), Sportsbooks have made Michel the favorite to lead the way in the Conference Championships.
But is he the best bet?
Odds to Record Most Rushing Yards in Conference Championships
Cross Of The Timeshares
To start handicapping this prop, I’m going to remove the four running backs that are in time shares.
— NFL (@NFL) January 13, 2019
Starting with Gurley, who is second in line here behind Michel, I’m going to stay away even though there are some reasons to be optimistic.
The Saints lost run-stuffer Sheldon Rankins in the Divisional Round and their third-ranked run defense could take a big hit without him. He was extremely disruptive in all aspects of the game and many felt he was a Pro Bowl snub.
The challenge with Gurley is three-fold: (1) he doesn’t seem 100% healthy, (2) CJ Anderson is taking a lot of carries, and (3) Gurley was mostly quiet in the first meeting with the Saints.
The fact that Anderson – who wasn’t even on the team six weeks ago – had six more carries than Gurley, including in the red zone and when the game was on the line, says a lot. I actually think Gurley will have a strong game this week but at +300, the value isn’t there.
— NFL (@NFL) January 15, 2019
With Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, it’s the same story from last week: they’re splitting carries. Kamara had 71 rushing yards while Ingram had 53. In the first meeting, Kamara had 82 and Ingram had 33. That timeshare makes it hard to back either player.
What About Williams?
It’s hard to even believe that Williams – essentially a Miami Dolphins cast off – is running this well. We’re talking about a guy who had 129 rushing yards last week against a top-notch defense.
Over the last four games, he’s averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
Since week 11, vs runs from 11 personnel, the Patriots run defense has allowed:
• 61% success rate (NFL worst)
• 6.8 YPC (NFL worst)
I wrote about this last yr before the Super Bowl. The Eagles running from 11 vs NE helped them avg 6.1 YPC & win.https://t.co/2v5W246leB
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) January 11, 2019
What’s more is that he’s got a juicy matchup in front of him.
The Patriots defense is not the same team at home compared to on the road, and one of the main reasons why is their run defense. At home, the Patriots are actually sixth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (89.8).
On the road, that number jumps by nearly 40 yards (126.8) and their ranking tumbles to 22nd. In their last four road games, the Patriots surrendered 142.3 rushing yards per game.
When you factor that in with the attention they will need to give the KC passing attack, it looks like Williams is a decent play here.
Is There Value With Michel?
The Patriots surprised a lot of people by feeding their first-round pick Sony Michel 24 carries in the Divisional Round. He had averaged just 16.4 carries per game in the five before it.
It’s possible the Patriots feed him that many again, but keep in mind that he hasn’t had back-to-back 20+ carry games.
Sony Michel’s first half:
– 16 carries
– 105 yards
– 3 TDs
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 13, 2019
New England will probably try to control the clock and keep the Chiefs offense on the sidelines, but it’s tough to trust Michel as the favorite.
The Patriots have so many backs with James White and Rex Burkhead, and even Cordarelle Patterson, that Michel could be a bell cow again, or he could get 15 carries and 75 yards.
Michel averaged 5.4 yards per carry last week, but has averaged 4.5 YPC or less in five his previous seven
He averaged 5.4 yards per carry last week, but has averaged 4.5 yards per carry or less in five of his last seven before that.
What’s The Pick?
The Patriots will probably ride Michel, and Gurley should have a good game.
But if I’m betting this, I’m going to take a shot with Williams. He’s hot, he’s behind a good offensive line, and given how bad the Patriots run defense has been on the road this year, this looks like a good spot.