Ezekiel Elliott is no longer the free-wheeling, dual-threat back he used to be. He's not as fleet of foot, nor is he as consistent with his carries as he was during Pro Bowl seasons in 2016 and 2018.
But if you knife into the numbers, you'll see the 28-year-old hasn't lost his knack for doing what he does best: scoring touchdowns. And that's exactly why the Patriots, the NFL's worst red-zone squad a season ago, reportedly signed the running back on Monday to a one-year, $6-million contract.
Here's a deep dive into exactly how Elliott makes the Pats more efficient and why sports bettors would be wise to put plenty of action on the polarizing rusher.
Exactly How Good Is Elliott In The Red Zone?
There's a reason the Cowboys split reps between Elliott and Tony Pollard at an even rate last season. Pollard, the more agile back, took the lead in the open field, while Zeke became the bruiser.
And even as Elliott's total numbers dipped, the Ohio State product remained one of the game's elite red-zone rushers. Last year, he was an especially potent scorer inside the 10-yard line.
|Player||Yards Per Carry||Touchdowns|
|Jamaal Williams (DET)||1.8||15|
|Jalen Hurts (PHI)||1.9||11|
|Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)||2.0||11|
|Austin Ekeler (LAC)||2.4||10|
|Derrick Henry (TEN)||1.6||10|
|Miles Sanders (PHI)||2.4||8|
While Elliott's yards per carry weren't the best on this list, he ranked third in the NFL (second among RBs) with 11 scores inside the 10-yard line.
Why Elliott's Red-Zone Efficiency Is Crucial For New England
The Pats ranked dead last in red-zone efficiency last year, scoring on just 42.22% of opportunities. Conversely, the Cowboys were the best red-zone squad in the league, capitalizing at a 71.43% clip, and Zeke was a big part of that.
But why were the Pats so bad? Rhamondre Stevenson posted solid overall numbers in his sophomore season (1040 yards, 5 TDs, 5.0 YPC) that camouflaged his lack of execution in the red zone.
Here's a side-by-side comparison of Stevenson and Elliott's red-zone numbers:
|Rhamondre Stevenson (NE)||38||53 (1.7 YPC)||3|
|Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)||40||110 (2.9 YPC)||12|
The Patriots ranked 16th with 21.4 points per game last season. With Elliott's gnashing running style complementing Stevenson's open-field dynamicity, New England's offense carries far more upside for the 2023-24 season.
And here's how bettors can take advantage.
How To Bet The Patriots (and Elliott) For 2023-24
Given what we now know about Zeke's potential, here are a few betting markets worth following.
Elliott went on a tear from Weeks 11 to 16, scoring at least one touchdown in all seven games. Ironically, he found paydirt more often when his reps were split more evenly with Pollard, who assumed a bigger role in the second half of the season.
That's great news for prop bettors — and fantasy players — who won't have to worry about Stevenson's touches zapping Elliott of his value.
UNDERs dominated the early portion of last year's NFL slate, resulting in just five teams finishing with OVER-positive records. It's not a burning-hot correlation, but four of those squads had high-scoring rushing attacks.
|Team||O/U/P Record||Rushing TDs Per Game|
|Minnesota Vikings||12-6 (1st)||1.1 (T-6th)|
|Chicago Bears||10-7 (2nd)||1.1 (T-6th)|
|Detroit Lions||10-7 (T-2nd)||1.4 (2nd)|
|Philadelphia Eagles||11-9 (4th)||2.1 (1st)|
|Arizona Cardinals||8-7-2 (5th)||0.9 (T-11th)|
Dallas, while not a successful OVER squad (9-10 O/U), finished third in football with 1.3 rushing touchdowns per game. Again, Elliott did the heavy lifting there, and there's reason to believe his injection into the Pats' run game will help the team score more TDs and cash more OVERs.
|Year||Win Total||OVER||UNDER||Actual Wins|
While Elliott will help the offense succeed in the red zone, it's hard to guarantee he'll win the Pats more games or turn them into a Super Bowl contender. The defense will be key, as will Mac Jones' erratic play at the quarterback position.
Here's what I do know: the Pats' pre-season win total of 7.5 is the lowest it's been since 2000. That's 23 damn years! That alone could compel some bettors to snipe the OVER