Bears RB Matt Forte is the best bet to lead the NFL in rushing yards in 2014


(REUTERS/Paul Hackett)

Bovada released odds for running backs to lead the league in rushing yards during the 2014 regular season, and the favorite is Adrian Peterson at 4 to 1. That implies a 20 percent chance of leading the league. Because of the vigorish, the implied probability add up to 131 percent, so if we divide each implied odds by that number, we come up with the following top 10 list for the adjusted chance each running back has to come away with the title.

Peterson ran for 1,266 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry for Minnesota last season, and is one season removed from leading the league with 2,097 yards (six yards per carry) on the ground. But just because Peterson is the favorite doesn’t make him the best bet.

For starters, new offensive coordinator Norv Turner will look to have Peterson more involved in the Vikings’ passing game this season, converting some of his carries into receptions. Secondly, Peterson projects to have the sixth most rushing yards in 2014.

Chase Stuart did a regression on the 600 running backs to finish in the top 40 in each season from 1997 to 2011 and came up with the following formula to project the rushing yards for a running back in the upcoming season:

Projected yards = (3.73 * Rush Attempts) + (180 * Yards/Rush) – 731

Here is the top 10 in 2014 projected rushing yards, along with their Bovada odds. Since no prior NFL stats are available for rookie Bishop Sankey, I used the projection offered by Fantasypros.com:

2014PrjRuYds

LeSean McCoy, after leading the league in rushing last season (1,607 yards), is projected to lead the field again in 2014. However, adding Darren Sproles to the backfield and keeping Chris Polk suggests that after carrying the ball 314 times last season, the Eagles’ coaching staff may look to reduce that slightly.

Chicago’s Matt Forte, on the other hand, was third in rushing yards last season (1,339) and projects to be second this season after McCoy. At 18-to-1 odds, that is a tough overlay to pass up.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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