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Touchdown Throwdown: Which Quarterback Will Lead NFL in TDs?

Touchdown Throwdown: Which Quarterback Will Lead NFL in TDs?

Week 1 of the NFL season is finally upon us, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to prognosticate on a few season long prop bets.  We’re going to specifically focus on quarterbacks here and embark on a mission to answer a pair of key questions. Which NFL QB will lead the league in passing? And Which NFL QB will lead the league in TDs?

Which Quarterback Will Throw for the Most Touchdowns in 2019?
Last season saw a true breakout performance from second year player Patrick Mahomes who threw for a staggering 50 TDs in 2018.  While the NFL continues to increase its passing league wide, 50 passing TDs is still one hell of an accomplishment and one we’re unlikely to see matched for some time. There have been only two other players to eclipse 50 in the history of the game, Payton Manning (55) & Tom Brady (50), some lofty company for the youngster from Texas.

So, assuming Mahomes falls back to earth a bit, what can we expect from this year’s QB class and who is your best bet to lead all other in passing TDs in 2019?  Let’s take a gander at all reasonable candidates and find our best bet for this season-long prop.


$1000 Risk Free Bet


But first off, how many TDs will the league leader reasonably have?

Well, as stated above, a repeat performance of a 50 TD season from anybody is highly unlikely. It’s only happened three times in league history and the other two times were by first ballot Hall of Famers.  The league leader in passing TDs over the last five years have tossed 50, 34, 40, 36 & 40 TD passes respectively. It goes a long way to show how unusual a 50 TD season is, when 4 of the last 5 winners couldn’t even break 40.

Over that same period of time we have seen 30 TD seasons on 37 different occasions, with the average being about 7.4 players a year.  We can look at these numbers and make a few educated guesses at how many TDs a QB must throw to come out on top end of the season.

First off, 30 touchdowns just ain’t gonna cut it, with over seven players hitting that mark on average each year, best step up your game.  Thirty-five is a reasonable range to predict the league leader to fall into, its above average but not quite historical.

Forty TDs would more than likely do the trick. Only 9 players have thrown for 40 or more TDs in a season and they’ve all led the league except for in 2011.  Somebody at the anti-doping department in the NFL might have been snoozing that year as an astonishing three different players threw for 40 or more; Drew Brees (46), Aaron Rodgers (45) & Matthew Stafford (41). Worth noting that Tom Brady had 39 that season as well, quite a year for quarterbacks, but I digress.


$1000 Risk Free Bet


The point here is that we’re looking for a guy who is likely to throw between 35-40 touchdown passes.  With that in mind, let’s take a look over our candidates for a league leading season in 2019.

Patrick Mahomes +225
Coming off one of the best seasons by a Quarterback in NFL history, expectations are high for Mahomes in 2019.  Perhaps a little too high however.  See, feats such as Mahomes’ 2018 season are an anomaly, an outlier and one which cannot be expected to happen again.  In fact, if history is any indication, we might not see another campaign like that for a decade.

But Mahomes doesn’t have to repeat his performance to be winners in our books, he just has to outperform the field.  While it is safe to assume there will be a certain amount of regression coming for Mahomes in the upcoming season, but just how much is the real question.  Let’s examine how some other players followed up their big seasons. Peyton Manning threw for a then-record 49 TDs in 2004 and followed that up with a 28 TD campaign the following year. His TD rate dropped by 3.5% and he attempted the fewest passes in his career up to that point.  Not to be outdone, Tom Brady became the first QB in history to throw 50 touchdowns in a season back in 2007 with an 8.7% TD rate on the year.  Now Brady missed most of 2008 with injury but threw just 28 TDs with a 5.% TD rate in 2009.

So what does all this tell us? Well primarily that putting up historical numbers is hard enough to do just once, but has yet to be done two seasons on the trot.  We see that each time a QB threw 50 touchdowns his TD rate was about 3% higher than career averages.  Not a surprise: Players tend to play to their averages even when the exceed them from time to time.


$1000 Risk Free Bet


All this is to say that while Patrick Mahomes is favored for a reason, and deservedly so, his regression is near guaranteed and that leaves the door open for another guy to step up.

Matt Ryan +500
Matt Ryan tossed an impressive 35 TDs last year, which was good enough for third-best behind Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck.  With Luck taking his talents to the golf course, it leaves Ryan as the clear-cut second favorite behind Mahomes to lead the league in TDs.  But when we consider the average regression of TD percentage for players who see a spike in performance and Matt Ryan’s chances start to look a little bleak.  Last season was a near career year for Ryan, posting a second-best TD rate of his career with career averages closer to the 29-31 TD range.  Ryan’s odds at +500 are really a matter of recency bias and we expect him to fall in the low 30s, in the mix but not a reasonable play at 5/1 odds.

Aaron Rodgers +1000
Aaron has a real advantage in this wager specifically and that is his otherworldly career TD rate of 6.2%.  Need some context?  A TD rate of 6.2% is better than either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning’s career best for a season, this is what Aaron Rodgers is averaging.  To call that impressive doesn’t even come close to doing it justice.  A 6.2% touchdown rate is absurd and quite frankly not enough people are talking about this particular statistic.  So why does this give Rodgers an advantage?  Well his baseline Is so much higher than the norm, it would be much easier for him to lead the league in TDs because the spike in production for him could be lower than other players.  Simply put, Aaron Rodgers just has to play a little bit better than his average to put up historical numbers while the rest of the league has to see a huge uptick in production to have a shot at 50 TDs in a season.  Rodgers has already eclipsed 35 TDs on found different occasions.  What makes Rodgers so tempting here is that he is projected to fall in the same range as Mahomes but with odds that are five times as good.

Baker Mayfield +1100
Baker Mayfield wasted zero time making his mark on the NFL after posting a 27 TD effort as a rookie in just 13 games.  Unlike the previous two entries on this list, Mayfield might actually be in line for an uptick in production with a sophomore leap.  Giving him a full offseason as a starter and the ability to be under center for Week 1 are a huge advantage here.  Add to this a pair of top-tier wide receivers and it’s easy to get excited about Mayfield in 2019.  It’s worth noting that Mayfield benefitted from playing in three overtime games last year and also threw for an above average amount of garbage time TDs.  Despite that, it is not hard to imagine a world where Mayfield, with a full season and strong receiving core, can fight his way to a 35+ TD season.

Jared Goff +1500
Goff has been on the fringe of playing like an elite NFL quarterback the last two seasons with 28 and 32 TD campaigns, good for a 5.8% TD rate.  He is somewhat limited by having such an amazing running back on roster in Todd Gurley, but runners break down and it’s time the Rams start pulling back the reins on Gurley and let the receivers pull some more weight. This would be a huge advantage for anyone with Jared Goff futures, but it seems the public has already adjusted their bets and the Goff train might have left the station.  When he opened at +4000 Goff was a great value to lead the league in TD at such a strong price.  Since then, however, Goff has been bet down to a far less attractive +1500 making it hard to find any real value in betting him.  Consider Goff a good bet, but not a anything less than 2/1.

Carson Wentz +1800
When it comes to betting on anything Eagles related the health of Carson Wentz will be one of the stronger considerations. This goes double for any prop bet specifically based on his performance in 2019.  It’s been the story of Wentz’ career up to this point after suffering significant injuries in each of the first 3 season of his young career. He will not be playing in the preseason due to his recover time not being quite on target.  Word is that he’s healthy though and after throwing 33 Touchdowns in 13 games back in ‘17, we are eager to see what a full healthy season from Carson Wentz might look like.  He has a very strong 6.4% TD rate, which ranks him amongst the highest to play the game.  He is also in a system which requires a high amount of throwing plays and is why he averages 579 passes per 16 games over his career. We hesitate to use the word ‘sleeper’ when referring to Wentz, but he is definitely somebody that bettors are sleeping on.

Drew Brees +2000
Drew Brees knows how to throw a football.  He has thrown for 30+ touchdowns 10 times in his last 11 seasons, let that sink in for a second.  He has also won this award 4 times and sports a nifty 55.7% TD rate and averages a strong 615 attempts per NFL season.  Now it’s true, at his age it’s unlikely he will throw 650 times in a season again, but let’s say he throws 550 passes this year.  What can we reasonably expect from him in the TD department?  Calculating TDs based on rate and attempts we can determine that a total of around 38 is optimistic but totally do-able. This does not take into account that spike however and a surge can put him over the 40 TD mark for the first time in his career. At 20/1 odds, you could do a lot worse than betting on Drew Brees.

Ben Roethlisberger +2000
Always in the mix atop the Quarterback stat sheet is Big Ben, and this year should be no different.  Sure the Pittsburgh offense will look vastly different this year with Antonio Brown busy getting suspended in Oakland and Le’Veon Bell read to run for the Jets in 2019.  Despite this, the Steelers seem to have a knack for taking young wideouts and turning them into superstars.  This season’s main project will be JuJu Smith-Schuester, who is talented enough to become the next big name in the NFL.  Ben is much like Tom Brady in the regard that they are able to succeed with a wide range of different receivers.

Big Ben has kept his TD rate above 5% for the past 3 seasons and has maintained a career average of 5.1%.  Another positive is his pass frequency, which ranked #1 in the NFL last season, his first full 16 game season since 2016.  Despite the positives, Roethlisberger is at the age where things start to really fall apart for professional athletes. He has posted a mere trio of 30+ TD seasons and has never thrown more than 34.  A stud QB who is a little past his prime and is injury prone create a combo which is best avoided in season long prop betting.  There is too much that can go wrong for him and at +2000 it’s just not enough value to warrant a play.

Phillip Rivers +2500
Rivers has quietly amassed six seasons with 30+ TDs and actually led the pack in 2008 with 34 passing touchdowns.  His overall career TD rate of 5.3% is very tasty and he tossed 32 TDs last season despite a career low pass attempts.  That is a clean indication that Rivers still has every bit of talent and physicality he’s had for his whole career.  Another reason to get excited is the current running back situation the Chargers currently are facing.  Stud RB Melvin Gordon may either be holding out for a new contract during the first few weeks of the year, the whole year, or may even be traded away.  This creates a huge space in the offense which needs to be filled.  Now the Chargers do have quality backup options at RB but nobody near as talented as Gordon, who is a true top-5 talent at the position.  Every game that Gordon sits out for the Chargers creates more of a need for Rivers to step up and win games with his arm.  He won’t be setting any records in 2019 but is a viable option for a season long prop bet to lead all in TD passes.

Russell Wilson +3500
Wilson fills the slot of our dark horse candidate for 2019, but that doesn’t mean he’s a slouch.  In fact, I really like Russell Wilson in this spot and at these odds.  But why such long odds to begin with?  Wilson has actually tossed 43 TDs in three of his last four campaigns and has a fantastic 6.0% TD rate.  The issue with Wilson is the same as it’s always been the fact that he plays for one of the leagues run-heaviest teams and averages just 466 passes per season.  That doesn’t discount him from considering him as a play in 2019 seeing as how he is so efficient and talented he is.  It’s also worth noting that Seattle is expected to struggle a bit more than usual this season, perhaps requiring Wilson to air it out a bit more often than he usually does. At such deep odds it’s really worth a look for anyone that likes betting a longshot.

Much the same as every other quarterback season prop, this one comes down to either picking Mahomes or fading him with a high odds underdog such as Wilson or Brees.  With the difficulty of repeating such a historic season we suggest leaning toward the latter and settling in on somebody in the field of other quarterbacks.

Matt De Saro is a journalist and media personality specializing in sport, specifically sports betting. He has hosted podcasts and web shows since 2014 which aim to educate and inform sports bettors worldwide. Matt has created content, both written & media, for the likes of Fansided, Forbes, Sportsbook Review & YouWager. With a background in statistical analysis and a love of everything sports, he takes an outside the box approach to reporting on the sports betting industry.

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