Ezekiel Elliott will have a tough time repeating as the NFL’s rushing yards champion this season. Expect Le'Veon Bell and David Johnson to duke it out for the honors.
While the six-game suspension for running back Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys will not start until at least Week 2, the 2016 rushing champion will be hard-pressed to repeat that feat this season.
Instead, Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers and David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals are listed as the +300 co-favorites (bet $100 to win $300) to win the honor for the first time in their respective careers at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Bell would seem the more likely candidate of the two to win it except for the fact that he sat out the entire preseason due to a contract holdout. He has only practiced for a week heading into the regular season, although last year he was suspended four games and still managed to rank fifth in the NFL in rushing with 1,268 yards.
Meanwhile, Johnson was seventh in the league with 1,239 yards, and he also scored an NFL-high 20 touchdowns between rushing and receiving. The third-year pro out of Northern Iowa had 80 receptions for 879 yards out of the backfield and figures to get the biggest workload of his young career alongside aging quarterback Carson Palmer.
Three other running backs to watch—all listed at +1000—include Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears, DeMarco Murray of the Tennessee Titans and Jay Ajayi of the Miami Dolphins.
Of that group, Murray is the lone previous rushing champ, taking home the title in 2014 when he played for the Cowboys. Howard ranked second in the NFL as a rookie last year, totaling 1,313 rushing yards to go along with six touchdowns. Murray and Ajayi were right behind him with 1,287 and 1,272 yards, respectively.
Going into Thursday night’s NFL season opener, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints was the +300 favorite on the odds to throw for the most passing yards. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots was the second choice at +550, but his odds could take a hit after he had just 267 yards in a 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Alex Smith led the Chiefs to the upset victory with 368 passing yards, and he was listed at +10000 to lead the league in passing yards before that performance. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers was the +700 third choice followed by Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders (+800) and Matt Ryan (+1000) of the Atlanta Falcons.