A player from the AFC North Division has won the NFL's receiving yardage title each of the past two seasons. Might Cincinnati's A.J. Green make it three straight in 2015? He is just the eighth-favorite at +1200 on 5Dimes' NFL odds.
AFC North Domination!
Cleveland's Josh Gordon was the 2013 yardage champion with 1,646 in just 14 games that season; he had no chance of repeating last year because of his lengthy suspension. He won't win it this year, either, because he's suspended all season barring a successful appeal (not happening). Gordon, incidentally, was the first player to win that title without playing all 16 regular-season games since Green Bay's Antonio Freeman in 1998. Last season, Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown was the leader with 1,698 yards. He is your +600 favorite at sportsbooks this year.
I feel confident saying that no Baltimore Raven is going to win the receiving title this season, and ditto with Cleveland, which may have the worst group of receivers in the NFL -- not to mention the worst quarterback situation. So it's either going to be Brown or Green to keep this division streak going. Incidentally, the last Bengal to win the yardage title was also the last time before this stretch that an AFC North player won it: Chad Johnson (or whatever his name is now) with 1,369 yards in 2006. That was not just the lowest total to win the title this century but since 1996. Every player since Johnson has had at least 1,500 yards to win it except for Denver's Brandon Lloyd in 2010 and he was only 52 yards short of 1,500.
Green Ready To Rejoin Elite
At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Green is one of the most physically imposing receivers in the NFL. He has had at least 1,000 yards in every season since being the No. 4 overall pick out of Georgia in 2011. Green's best season was in 2013, when he caught 98 passes for 1,426 yards and 11 touchdowns, all career highs. Last year he struggled through injury, playing 13 games -- very limited in a few others -- and finishing with 69 catches for 1,041 yards and six scores. Green was unable to play in the playoff loss to Indianapolis because of a concussion. So it was a vastly disappointing year, although for what it's worth Green led the NFL in yards per route run, according to Pro Football Focus, and reached his fourth straight Pro Bowl.
Green admits he has somewhat fallen off the radar when it comes to the top receivers in the NFL. In the NFL Network's ranking of the Top 100 players, Green fell from No. 9 in 2014 to No. 37 this year.
"I'm itching to get back this season," he said recently to the Cincinnati media. "I feel like the football world forgot about me. That's the way I approached it the whole offseason."
Green has financial reasons to have a bounce-back season. He is playing the final year of his rookie deal at $10.8 million. He has opted to play out the year instead of threaten a holdout like Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Dallas' Dez Bryant recently did. Those two ended up each signing five-year, $70 million extensions. So that's a baseline for Green for 2016; or the Bengals could franchise him. Green also has the same agent, Tom Condon, that Bryant does.
There are a few things working against Green this season in winning the receiving title, and I'm not going to even include injuries because you can't predict those. First is the fact the Cincinnati Bengals are likely to be running the ball a lot with rising superstar Jeremy Hill. He led the NFL in rushing in the second half of last season. Second is Green's quarterback, Andy Dalton. Guy is a decent regular season player but he's no Ben Roethlisberger (Brown's QB) or Matt Ryan (Julio Jones' QB) or Tony Romo (Bryant's QB) or Matthew Stafford (Calvin Johnson's QB). I could probably list at least 10 more guys here. Lastly, the Bengals play in the rugged AFC North, which means six tough outdoor games against pretty good defenses and often in inclement weather later in the season.
NFL Free Pick: I believe Green has a season more like 2013, but for the reasons listed above I don't like him on this prop at 5Dimes.