We continue our look at preseason NFL prop betting options, as we focus on Marshawn Lynch's chances of leading the league in rushing. Sure he has the fame, but can he back it up and cash our NFL picks?
Marshawn Lynch isn't the best running back in the NFL, but might be the most interesting and he's awfully consistent. Might Lynch win the NFL rushing title this season? He is a +600 co-favorite with a few others to do so on 5Dimes NFL odds.
Arguing Lynch's Hall Case
Is Lynch a borderline Hall of Fame candidate? I think not, just Hall of Very Good. He has played nine seasons, the first four with Buffalo and past five with Seattle. Lynch has 8,695 yards, which is 35th all-time and fourth among active players behind Steven Jackson, Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson. Lynch's 71 rushing touchdowns are 27th all-time and behind only Peterson for active players.
Lynch has one Super Bowl ring to his credit and nearly had another. Frankly, it still baffles me the Seahawks didn't go to Lynch on second-and-goal from about the 2-yard-line in the final minute in February against the Patriots. Lynch is arguably the most physical back in the NFL and surely would have punched it in. Instead the Seahawks of course called a slant pass play that was picked off to clinch the win for New England.
A few weeks after the loss, Lynch said this: "To be honest with you, I would be lying if I didn't tell you that I was expecting the ball. Yes, I was expecting the ball. I had no problem with the decision of the play calling. I don't know what went into that call. I mean, maybe it was a good thing that I didn't get the ball. I mean, you know, it cost us the Super Bowl."
I think it was a terrible call. If Lynch wins a second Super Bowl ring, it helps his HOF cause. He has never led the NFL in rushing during a season but has led in rushing touchdowns twice and is a five-time Pro Bowler. Lynch would have to play at least a few more seasons with big numbers, and probably win one more title, to have any shot at Canton.
Lynch > Wilson?
Is there a team in the NFL where the running back is more important than the quarterback? No slight to Seattle's Russell Wilson, but I'd have to at least say Lynch is equally important to that offense as Wilson is. The Seahawks are still an old-school, pound-it-down-your-throat team. Last season, Lynch rushed 280 times for 1,360 yards and 13 touchdowns. It was his fourth straight season with at least 280 carries, 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. That's consistency.
The worry with Lynch is that he's one year away from the magic number where running backs decline steeply -- age 30 -- and that Lynch plays such a punishing style that he's an old 29. The guy is called "Beast Mode" for a reason. Last year, he played through chronic pain due to compressed cartilage in his back. In 2014, Lynch had a league-leading 2.96 yards after contact per carry. His 829 yards after contact were second in the league behind the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray. There are only four running backs in NFL history to carry the ball 275-plus times and rush for more than 1,500 yards and 4.5 yards per carry after the age of 30.
Because of that statistic and the wear on Lynch's tires, this could be his final season. There was talk he might retire after last year, but the Seahawks gave him a new extension through 2017. As we all know, NFL contracts aren't worth the paper they are printed on other than guarantees. So really all that matters is Lynch will earn $12 million in 2015.
Before last season, Seahawks coordinator Darrell Bevell hinted that the team might go more by a running back-by-committee to spare Lynch some wear-and-tear. That didn't really happen, although his 280 carries were his fewest since 2010. I believe those carries will drop a bit this season. The team likes backup running backs Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. Turbin got 74 carries last season and Michael 34. I could see those two maybe combining for 150 this season and limiting Lynch to 260 or so. That obviously would hinder his chances of winning the rushing title. The Seahawks also might pass just a bit more with the addition of tight end Jimmy Graham, who is not a good blocker but great receiver. To get Graham, the team had to give up very good center Max Unger.
NFL Free Pick: Lynch probably gets another 1,200 yards but that's about his ceiling. He is a poor choice for your NFL picks to win the rushing title. The team would likely prefer to keep him fresh for the playoffs as well.