Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had a magical 2019 regular season that resulted in a league MVP award for himself and more than a few fantasy championships for others. Jackson was by far the best fantasy quarterback and finished behind only Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey in total PPR scoring.
While his 1,206 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns propelled the Ravens and fantasy managers to success, so did his league-leading 36 passing touchdowns. That latter is the focus of this article.
After throwing 36 touchdowns in 2019, what do oddsmakers predict he'll do as a follow-up? FanDuel Sportsbook set his passing touchdown total at 26.5 with even -112 juice on both sides.
Upon first glance, a nearly 10-touchdown drop in production seems harsh. However, one of the biggest reasons for the modest total is the significant disparity between his success in 2018 starts and last season.
Including the playoffs, Jackson averaged 1.0 passing touchdowns per start as a rookie. Last season that jumped to 2.31 per start, including playoffs. Assuming Jackson plays all 16 games in 2020, this total comes down to whether he averages more or less than 1.69 passing touchdowns per start. FanDuel essentially split the difference between his first two seasons. Toward which side should bettors lean?
Pros for betting OVER; Cons for betting UNDER
Much has been and will continue to be made about Jackson's progression as a passer. One thing that will help him immensely is better weapons around him. That comes in two forms. The first form is additions like wide receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche, both taken by the Ravens in the 2020 NFL Draft. Duvernay, in particular, has the Ravens excited. From Raven Country's Todd Karpovich:
"Duvernay, 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, provides Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson with another sure-handed weapon that can play outside, inside, in motion, with runs, twitch routes, or out of the backfield."
The second is the progression (and health) of last season's first-round pick Marquise Brown, who spent his rookie season recovering from a foot injury. Brown has the skill set to be a game-changer any time the ball is in his hands. That should be on full display this season.
It's tough to ask a pair of rookies—especially a third-rounder and a sixth-rounder—to make a major impact immediately. But when the battle for the No. 2 wide receiver on the roster is between Miles Boykin, Chris Moore, and Willie Snead, they have more than a puncher's chance. At worst, Jackson will have at least a slightly improved cast around him in 2020. Plus, given the NFL's new playoff format, he likely won't be afforded the opportunity to sit out Week 17 again.
Pros for betting UNDER; Cons for betting OVER
Regression is coming. We don't know exactly how much, but keep this in mind:
It's reasonable to expect Jackson's touchdown percentage to regress from his 9.0% mark in 2019. Carson Wentz, who led the NFL in passing touchdown percentage in 2017, dropped from 7.5% to 5.2% in 2018. Mahomes, who led in 2018, dropped from 8.6% to 5.4% in 2019. If Jackson experiences a similar drop but plays 16 games, he'll have about 23 passing touchdowns based on his prorated numbers from this past season. If his prorated rushing and passing totals each take a 10% dip as well and we give him seven rushing touchdowns again in 2020, he'll still have a stat line of around 4,200 total yards and 30 total touchdowns. That'll put him in the MVP conversation.
There's significant precedent for a drop below the posted total set by the last two years' touchdown percentage leaders. Since this bet doesn't include rushing scores, we need to focus on the very reasonable possibility of 23 passing touchdowns. That represents a 3.2% drop in touchdown percentage but includes an additional game played (Jackson played 15 games last season). Even a drop from 9% to 6% with the addition of a 16th start wouldn't be enough to get Jackson to 27 passing touchdowns, assuming he throws the same amount of passes per game as last season. Keep in mind that only four quarterbacks in the entire league had a touchdown percentage above 6% last season.
Betting Advice: Jackson is a sensational talent that I expect to bounce back from another fruitless playoff campaign just like he did last season. However, his touchdown rate will regress, just like it has for everyone else, and unless he's throwing the ball a lot more, he won't get over the posted total. Add in the potential injury factor, and the best bet is to play the under on this prop.
The Play: UNDER 26.5 passing touchdowns (-112)
READ MORE: The Evolution of Lamar Jackson
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