Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL First Touchdown: Expert Picks & Predictions (1/15/24)

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The final game of the NFL’s Super Wild Card Weekend features the NFC’s No. 4 seed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-8) hosting the No. 5 seed the Philadelphia Eagles (11-6). This article analyzes the first touchdown odds for this Eagles vs. Buccaneers matchup and recommends betting on Jalen Hurts, Rachaad White and Cade Otton.

The first touchdown prop bet is just like an anytime touchdown prop bet, but the goal here is to identify which player will score the first touchdown of the game. It typically offers very good odds, but that is because it can be a very difficult bet to get right. Typically you want to pick a few different players in the same game to spread out your exposure, as long as one winning bet still pays enough to turn a profit on all the bets combined.

You can also bet on the first player from either team to score a touchdown, the first player to score a touchdown in each half, or the last player to score a touchdown. But in this article, we are specifically focused on the first touchdown scorer. Here are our favorite picks to score the first touchdown in this Eagles vs. Buccaneers wild card playoff game.

Jalen Hurts First Touchdown Scorer (+500 at BetMGM)

Let’s start with the player who is easily the most likely player in this game to score a touchdown, which is Eagles QB Jalen Hurts. Hurts’ anytime touchdown odds are -140, which implies greater than a 58% chance of Hurts scoring a touchdown in this game. Naturally it follows that he would be the most likely player to score the first touchdown of the game.

If we start by betting one unit on Hurts, then we can bet up to four units on other players with better odds. If the Hurts bet hits at +500 odds, then the worst we would do is break even. So this is a bit of a hedge on all the other players on whom we could bet. Of course there is no guarantee we pick the right player, even when spreading out our bets to multiple picks, so we have to be willing to lose up to five units if we follow this strategy.

Hurts has been unbelievably consistent at getting into the end zone with his legs over the last two seasons. Last year, he scored 13 rushing touchdowns in 15 games, and this season he did even better with 15 rushing touchdowns. He now holds the record (tied with Josh Allen) for the most rushing TDs by a quarterback in a single season, passing Cam Newton’s record of 14 set in 2011. Hurts also holds the record for the most rushing TDs in a two-season span (28) and in a three-season span (38). That doesn’t even include the five TDs he scored in three games in the playoffs last season.

Last season, Hurts scored a touchdown in 12 of his 18 games (including the playoffs), which is a 66% scoring rate. This season he scored touchdowns in 11 of his 17 games. That is a 64.7% scoring rate, and if you remove the last game of the season when he played less than half the game, it would be a rate of 68.8%. That level of consistency is truly unprecedented for any player, let alone a QB. He has scored all 15 of his TDs from inside the red zone, and 13 of them from inside the five-yard line. He has gotten 40.7% of the Eagles’ red zone rushing attempts (44-of-108) and 47% of their attempts inside the five (16-of-34).

When the Eagles get into the red zone, they almost always run the ball. They have run the ball inside the red zone twice as many times as they have thrown it (108 rushes vs. 54 pass attempts). They have scored 22 of their 35 red zone touchdowns this season on the ground.

Our biggest hesitation with this pick is that the Buccaneers have both a stout run defense and an excellent red zone defense. They have allowed just 11 rushing touchdowns this season, tied for 8th-fewest in the league. They also have allowed the third-fewest red zone touchdowns (23) and have the third-best red zone conversation rate (42.6%). However, they have also allowed six rushing TDs by quarterbacks this season, tied for 2nd most in the league.

If there is one thing we can be confident in when it comes to the struggling Eagles right now, it’s their unstoppable “Brotherly Shove” play. If they get into the red zone, and especially if they get down to the goal line, then the overwhelming likelihood is that Hurts pushes the ball over the goal line.

Rachaad White First Touchdown (+700 at BetMGM)

While we like Hurts as the best bet to score the first touchdown of the game, we are going to look at the Buccaneers’ offense for our next two picks. The main reason for that is how bad the Eagles’ defense has been lately, which is also why we’re picking the Bucs in an upset in this game.

Over their last six games of the regular season, the Eagles’ defense allowed the 2nd most points (30.3 per game) and was 31st in defensive EPA and 30th in success rate. They were awful both against the run (31st in EPA and SR) and against the pass (30th and 28th), so let’s go with one runner and one pass catcher for our TD picks.

Actually we are kind of cheating, since Rachaad White counts for both, making him a solid choice for a first TD. His best odds as of this writing are at BetMGM at +700, where he has the 3rd lowest odds. Over at DraftKings and FanDuel, his odds are +500 and +550, respectively, and he has the 2nd lowest odds. That alone creates some value on this pick when you place it at BetMGM.

White was second on the Bucs with nine touchdowns this season (behind Mike Evans’ 13). Six of those nine touchdowns came inside the red zone, which was the most on the team. He did that despite the Bucs throwing the ball more frequently than they ran it in the red zone (65 passes vs. 49 rush attempts).

The Eagles had one of the worst red zone defenses in the league this season, allowing 39 red zone touchdowns (2nd most in the league) and yielding a touchdown on 66.1% of red zone trips (3rd worst). If the Bucs get into the red zone early in this game, which seems like a good possibility given the state of the Eagles’ defense, then the most likely outcome is that White is the player that crosses the goal line.

Cade Otton First Touchdown (+2200 at FanDuel)

The next most logical choice for a first TD would be Mike Evans, the touchdown machine who has the 2nd or 3rd lowest odds for an anytime TD and for the first TD at most major sportsbooks. His best first TD odds are +650 at FanDuel. But that would be a bit too chalky without enough upside for our final pick, so instead we’re looking at Bucs tight end Cade Otton.

The Eagles have historically struggled against tight ends because they usually do not have the best linebackers and safeties, choosing instead to invest heavily in other positions like the defensive line and cornerbacks. That is the case this year, and they are also banged up at safety. They lost rookie Sydney Brown last week (ACL) and they could also be missing starter Reed Blankenship.

Otton was third on the Bucs with four TDs this season, all of which came in the red zone, where he had a 16.9% target share this season. As noted above, the Bucs throw it more than they pass it in the red zone, and the Eagles have one of the worst red zone defenses in the league. That makes Otton a very nice value as a long shot play at +2200 at FanDuel.

It’s also worth noting that Otton is as low as +1400 at other sportsbooks like BetMGM, so you are also getting some nice value on the odds if you tail this pick at FanDuel.

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Noah hails from Philadelphia and is a diehard Philly sports fan. He graduated from Penn where he was a sports writer and editor for the student newspaper and also spent a summer covering the Baltimore Orioles for MLB.com. He has been playing fantasy sports since before live stats were a thing, and he has enjoyed learning the nuances of DFS in recent years. As a current resident of Florida, he is hoping the wave of sports betting legalization will eventually reach his home state.

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