TNF player props: Who answers the call between the Bills and Patriots?
Last season, we rocked and rolled our way to the Super Bowl with music-themed Thursday Night Football player props, joyfully celebrating the start of a new NFL week. This year, we'll use an episode from "Must See TV" cornerstone "Seinfeld" each week to remind us that betting is supposed to be fun, even when an absurd series of events leads to a losing bet.
"Here I meet this guy, this great guy, this ballplayer - best guy I've ever met in my life. Well, that's it, I'm never giving my number out to another guy again."
- Jerry after he gives his number to Keith Hernandez and the former Mets first baseman hasn't called him after three days
The Patriots had their dream quarterback for way longer and with more success than any fan base deserves. Life after Tom Brady has been predictably difficult, but when New England called Mac Jones' name at the 2021 NFL Draft, the Pats faithful were ready to be hurt again.
Season 3 of "Seinfeld" includes a two-part episode that's arguably the best in the show's run, if not sitcom history. So we'll match it up with our player props for Bills-Patriots, Thursday Night Football's best matchup of the season. The main storyline (as the Patriots seem to have been every season for the last two decades) is Keith Hernandez infiltrating the group - befriending Jerry, dating Elaine, and unpacking an old conflict with Kramer (and Newman). However, it's Jason Alexander who steals the show with a commanding performance, the same way Josh Allen and the Bills hope to do as they try to prove they're the element most worth watching in the AFC East.
Jones is the new man who Patriots fans have to figure out if they like. Keith Hernandez drew on winning the 1979 National League MVP to build his confidence while taking Elaine out. Jones needs to remember that he's the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner if the Patriots are going to score.
Since coming back from a high ankle sprain, Jones' production hasn't been great. But in both his struggles and success since returning against the Bears, Jones has accepted Rhamondre Stevenson's application to be his friend for easy yardage, rather than firing aimlessly like a Costanza-esque chucker.
Stevenson has averaged 4.6 receptions this season, which is why his total for this game is 4.5. However, that average has shot up to 6.6 catches in the last five games, with six the fewest targets he's seen. Matt Milano defends the pass as well as any linebacker in the league, so we won't ask Stevenson to gain yards after he catches the ball.
Pick: Rhamondre Stevenson over 4.5 (+105)
A TD that's definitely going to happen
There's no JFK-level conspiracy theory here. Jerry's breakdown of Kramer and Newman's altercation with Hernandez after a midseason Mets loss is a work of art, but sometimes the simplest assessment is the right one. With a touchdown in seven of 11 games, a simple calculation suggests that Stefon Diggs is better than 50-50 to catch a touchdown.
Although Diggs scored just once in three meetings with the Patriots, the sample is spoiled by the high winds of their game in Buffalo and the fact that Bill Belichick had a healthy J.C. Jackson available to shadow Diggs where necessary. A focus on the Bills star didn't work in the playoffs, as seemingly everyone else on Buffalo scored. The "immutable laws of physics" won't need an elaborate explanation like Jerry's "second spitter," and while Allen could look for Roger McDowell-like alternatives, he shouldn't have a problem finding Diggs in the end zone for his "I'm Keith Hernandez" moment.
Pick: Stefon Diggs anytime touchdown (+120)
A TD that probably won't happen ... but maybe it does
George assumes Jerry will answer his own phone when he needs him to say "Vandelay Industries," just as the market assumes Stevenson will get the scoring touches in the Patriots' backfield. However, as Kramer did, J.J. Taylor might surprise by answering an important call.
Damien Harris will be missing his third game this season. In the first game, backup tailbacks Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris got 16 snaps and four carries against the Browns. In Week 9, Taylor was available and saw the field for 17 snaps, touching the ball 11 times. Belichick won't ask Taylor to drive him to the airport, but when Taylor plays, the coach does ask Taylor to help him move - the ball, that is.
Taylor might just be "a guy," but if the Patriots go up-tempo near the goal line with him on the field, or he breaks free on a pass route (maybe back and to the left?), New England's notoriously finicky backfield usage might provide Taylor room to explore on-field space like Jerry's favorite - Ferdinand Magellan. Hopefully we're not caught like Costanza: facedown with Jerry derisively asking, "You wanna be my latex salesman?"
Pick: J.J. Taylor anytime touchdown (+600)
How to bet: The first two bets should be single-unit wagers to win a unit on minus prices and more than a unit on a plus-money bet. The last wager should be smaller, trying to win back your standard unit size.
Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.