Scramble for the Ball

Fantasy football, the Loser League, and general goofiness

Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter

Andrew: Hello and welcome to this, our final Scramble for the Ball of the 2018 preseason. All of our over/unders are on record, ready to embarrass ourselves at a later date, so now it's time to get down and dirty with an article jam-packed full of specific predictions that we're even more likely to get wrong!

Bryan: The over/under articles are a great way to look at every team really quickly, but it means we haven't really looked at which players we think are going to be particularly good. And with gambling rapidly becoming more and more legal across the U.S., we figured it would be only wise and proper of us to give you the benefit of our years of expertise with our individual player prop predictions.

Just ... don't look at our Lock of the Week performance from last season.

Andrew: Though if you would like to take a gander at our performance in last year's Prop Bet Extravaganza, we are considerably happier to facilitate that!

Bryan: That's right! This column is guaranteed to win you lots of money, or we'll refund double the cost of reading this article.

Andrew: Terms and conditions apply. Refund not guaranteed to any person responsible for, connected to, or passingly familiar with our remuneration.

Also, this would be a good place to note that between our over/under series and the annual staff predictions article (to be published on opening night), most of our opinions on teams are either already available or due to be published soon. Instead, we are going to focus very heavily on player props, with the occasional coaching award.

Bryan: For each prop, we'll be picking three names. The first is the player we think is most likely to win the category, regardless of their odds. The second is the player we think is the best bet -- the best value for your money. And the third is our favorite longshot; someone with long odds who could end up surprising people.

All lines are courtesy of 5Dimes and were accurate as of time of writing.

Player Stat Props

Most Passing Yards


Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Tom Brady +400 Drew Brees +500 Philip Rivers +900
Aaron Rodgers +1000 Ben Roethlisberger +1000 Matthew Stafford +1225
Matt Ryan +1350 Jimmy Garoppolo +1450 Kirk Cousins +1750
Patrick Mahomes +1900 Andrew Luck +2000 Jared Goff +2950
Deshaun Watson +3100 Alex Smith +3150 Russell Wilson +4000
Derek Carr +4250 Carson Wentz +4500 Eli Manning +4800
Case Keenum +5250 Ryan Tannehill +6600 Andy Dalton +6750
Cam Newton +7500 Mitchell Trubisky +8000 Sam Bradford +8000
Blake Bortles +8500 Marcus Mariota +8550 Dak Prescott +10000
Jameis Winston +10000 Joe Flacco +12000 Baker Mayfield +17500
Josh Rosen +18500 Tyrod Taylor +18500 AJ McCarron +20000
Josh Allen +20000 Josh McCown +20000 Lamar Jackson +20000
Sam Darnold +20000      

Andrew: What, no Nathan Peterman or Nick Foles? I demand a recount!

Bryan: Tell you what. If Peterman wins this category, I'll owe you a Coke.

Andrew: Your generosity knows no bounds. The safest bet in here looks to be, oddly, something of an outsider. I like Matthew Stafford at 12-1 better than most of the guys above him. Or, indeed, most of the guys below him.

Bryan: See, it's funny that you say that. I full-heartedly agree; 12-1 for Stafford seems like great odds for someone who finished third last season, he's my best value pick as well. He's not the guy I'm predicting to top the table, though -- I'm going with Ben Roethlisberger there. Obviously, Big Ben's availability is always in question, but if he can stay healthy for all 16 games, I think he takes it. The Steelers have a ton of weapons to choose from, they're planning on using more no-huddle and hurry-up, and I like Roethlisberger to have a huge season. I'd rather take Stafford at 12-1 than Big Ben at 10-1, but I think Big Ben takes it when all is said and done.

Andrew: I think the Steelers will be too good for Ben to need all of those passing yards. The same cannot be said for the Lions. The other bet I like there is Aaron Rodgers, because I don't trust either Green Bay's running game or its defense. Rodgers is too good to go down without a fight, and his end-of-season totals will make or break a playoff field's worth of frozen tundra references. Looking at how we're formatting this, I think I would pick Rodgers as my nominated winner with Stafford as my best value. That leaves room for one outsider pick, and I know exactly who I want for that.

Bryan: Is it Deshaun Watson? Because I'm all in on the Deshaun Watson bandwagon here; he was phenomenal in a small sample size, on pace for a 4,200-yard season before he got hurt. I'll take the 31-1 odds and hope his knee holds up to a full season in the NFL.

Andrew: Same division, different returnee. Andrew Luck at 20-1 is tremendous value for a guy who had shown prior to his injury that he could produce that type of volume year-in, year-out -- and that the Colts were the type of franchise who could force him to. Watson has more than one professional-caliber defender as a teammate; Luck will likely be forced to pass, and pass, and pass some more.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Aaron Rodgers (+1000) Matthew Stafford (+1225) Andrew Luck (+2000)
Bryan Ben Roethlisberger (+1000) Matthew Stafford (+1225) Deshaun Watson (+3100)

Most Passing Touchdowns


Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Aaron Rodgers +550 Tom Brady +600 Ben Roethlisberger +650
Drew Brees +1050 Philip Rivers +1050 Carson Wentz +1200
Matthew Stafford +1350 Deshaun Watson +1400 Jared Goff +1750
Russell Wilson +1825 Kirk Cousins +2050 Andrew Luck +2450
Matt Ryan +2600 Jimmy Garoppolo +2750 Derek Carr +3000
Patrick Mahomes +3100 Cam Newton +4375 Eli Manning +4450
Marcus Mariota +4650 Case Keenum +5000 Dak Prescott +5450
Jameis Winston +5600 Mitchell Trubisky +6000 Alex Smith +6700
Blake Bortles +8000 Andy Dalton +8500 Joe Flacco +10000
Ryan Tannehill +11000 Sam Darnold +12000 Sam Bradford +14000
Tyrod Taylor +14000 Josh Rosen +15000 Josh McCown +19000
AJ McCarron +20000 Baker Mayfield +20000 Josh Allen +20000

Andrew: This is a more competitive category, because it's less directly a function of the volume of pass attempts. That said, I like Rodgers again, and for the same reason as before. If Green Bay's season is going to be successful, Rodgers will be the reason.

Bryan: Yeah, I agree. Rodgers was your leader in 2016, when he was fully healthy, and he was throwing touchdowns at a higher rate last season before he went down. Assuming we got a full season from him, he's my pick to lead the league as well. It's close, however, and for my best bet, I'll just slide one rung down the list and go to Tom Brady. I'll admit, Brady's odds aren't the best in the world at 6-1, but I really think the winner will either be Brady or Rodgers. Of the two, Brady's odds are worse, so there you go. A boring favorite as my best bet, but Brady and Rodgers are the two best quarterbacks in the league, and I have to value them accordingly.

Andrew: For me, the best value pick is quite obvious: Russell Wilson led the league in this category last year, yet is only 18-1 to repeat that feat. He has hit 34 touchdown passes in two of his past three seasons, and was badly injured for much of the season in between. I have the square root of zero faith in their rushing offense, so Wilson will probably need to perform wonders for the Seahawks to score many points at all.

Bryan: You have more faith in Brian Schottenheimer than I do. To lead the league in touchdowns, you must first score touchdowns. Yes, Wilson led the league last season, but he also had Jimmy Graham (gone) and Doug Baldwin (injured, won't be at 100 percent all season long) to throw to. I'll take my Tom Terrific, even at relatively terrible odds.

My longshot actually goes back to your earlier pick. Andrew Luck led the league in touchdowns the last time he was fully healthy. Sure, that was four seasons ago, and he has been held together by sticky tape and wire since then, but the Colts swear up and down that he's healthy. No, this time they mean it. For realsies. A healthy Luck is a thing to behold, and at 49-2 odds? Yeah, that sounds like a decent way to waste a little coin.

Andrew: Luck is a very good outsider pick, I agree. For a real outsider though, I like Patrick Mahomes. With Mahomes under center, the Chiefs could be wild to watch. I don't necessarily expect him to be efficient, and he's anything but predictable, but given this supporting cast -- and looking at last season's defense -- I could absolutely see a scenario in which Mahomes led the league in both touchdown passes and interceptions, like some latter-day Favre-ian monstrosity.

Bryan: Yeah, I could definitely see that. If I were to pick a league-leader in interceptions, I'd go with Sam Darnold; a rookie who's going to get to start the entire season barring injury, but Mahomes wouldn't be far behind.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Aaron Rodgers (+550) Russell Wilson (+1825) Patrick Mahomes (+3100)
Bryan Aaron Rodgers (+550) Tom Brady (+600) Andrew Luck (+2450)

Most Rushing Yards


Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Ezekiel Elliott +285 Le'Veon Bell +485 Todd Gurley II +600
Leonard Fournette +900 Kareem Hunt +1100 Jordan Howard +1200
David Johnson +1350 Saquon Barkley +1400 Dalvin Cook +1500
Melvin Gordon +1975 LeSean McCoy +2250 Derrick Henry +3500
Alvin Kamara +4000 Alex Collins +4050 Devonta Freeman +4150
Jay Ajayi +4300 Joe Mixon +5000 Kenyan Drake +5000
Rashaad Penny +5000 Ronald Jones II +5750 Lamar Miller +6000
Royce Freeman +6300 Jerick McKinnon +6500 Marshawn Lynch +7250
Mark Ingram +9000 Sony Michel +10000 Isaiah Crowell +11000
CJ Anderson +11500 Marlon Mack +13500 Christian McCaffrey +14000
Carlos Hyde +15000 Tevin Coleman +16250 Dion Lewis +17500
Jamaal Williams +25000      

Bryan: Has Le'Veon Bell signed his franchise tag yet? How about now. What about now? Maybe now?

Andrew: Put the phone back on the hook, Kevin. You can stop refreshing Twitter now, too.

Bryan: Everyone seems to be confident that he'll show up in time for Week 1, though as of 2:30 p.m. Eastern on Monday, there's still no sign of him. Under the assumption that yes, we will eventually see a Bell sighting, he's my pick to lead the league in rushing. Why, yes, I am really high on the Steelers offense; how could you tell? Even if Bell misses a week or two, or gets off to a slow start as he bangs out all the rust, I think he's still easily the best back in the league, and should have plenty of opportunities.

Andrew: If health were not an issue, I think I'd like Leonard Fournette here. He was bothered all last season by ankle trouble though, which is a lingering concern from college, and I think he's a good bet to miss a game or two for that reason. Looking at the Cowboys receivers, I think the favorite is the favorite for a very good reason. I worry about the Cowboys' interior line, especially since Travis Frederick was diagnosed with the horrendous Guillain-Barré Syndrome -- which will keep him out for at least this season, and may end his career prematurely -- but Ezekiel Elliott has the talent, and the Cowboys have the offense, to ensure that he is as close to the league lead as it is physically possible to be in those circumstances.

Bryan: Elliott is one of the three guys I was deciding between before taking Bell. The third guy was Todd Gurley, and since he has the lowest odds, I'll take him as my best value pick. The Rams are going to have some opportunities to run the clock out late a lot this season, as I expect them to be just about as dominant this year as they were a year ago. Gurley's backup is Malcolm Brown, and that's not exactly ... inspiring. I think Gurley's MVP hype last season was a bit overblown, but I see no reason why he won't be as productive this year as he was last year, when he topped 1,300 yards.

Andrew: I like the value to be found in Kareem Hunt. Yes, I'm high on the Chiefs offense's raw yardage totals this year. I don't think Hunt gets the wind-out-the-clock carries available to some of the other backs, but I don't think that necessarily counts against him. Andy Reid excels at getting his playmakers into space and getting them big yardage. Hunt is easily talented enough to make the most of those opportunities, even if it would be a surprise to see an Andy Reid running back lead the league in rushing.

My outsider pick is a longer shot, but when we get deeper into the plus-four-figure section one name stands out: LeSean McCoy is easily the most talented player on the Bills offense and will certainly be its focal point for as long as he is healthy. The Bills, specifically their pass offense, look set to be bad. McCoy, at least, will give them something on offense while they break in whichever inexperienced quarterback starts next.

Bryan: I'm taking McCoy as well, assuming he's available for the entire season -- something not at all guaranteed, thanks to his legal issues in the offseason. I was strongly thinking about Dalvin Cook, though. Remember how excited we were to see Cook as a rookie last season? Remember how gutted we were when he tore his ACL in October? What a comeback story that would be, if he rolled back into the league and put up a 1,300-yard season. In the end, McCoy's longer odds make him the better long shot for me, but Cook's raw talent was tempting.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Ezekiel Elliott (+285) Kareem Hunt (+1100) LeSean McCoy (+2250)
Bryan Le'Veon Bell (+485) Todd Gurley (+600) LeSean McCoy (+2250)

Most Rushing Touchdowns


Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Ezekiel Elliott +400 Leonard Fournette +600 Todd Gurley +650
Le'Veon Bell +725 Melvin Gordon +1000 David Johnson +1225
Jordan Howard +1400 Saquon Barkley +1600 Kareem Hunt +1700
Dalvin Cook +1800 Alvin Kamara +1900 Devonta Freeman +2300
Derrick Henry +2550 Sony Michel +3500 Mark Ingram +3600
Joe Mixon +3650 Jay Ajayi +3750 Marshawn Lynch +4000
LeSean McCoy +4250 Rashaad Penny +5000 Dion Lewis +6400
Carlos Hyde +7000 Tevin Coleman +7000 Jerick McKinnon +7050
Cam Newton +7750 Isaiah Crowell +10000 Dak Prescott +12500
Tyrod Taylor +15000      

Andrew: My problem with Dalvin Cook, for both the above category and this one, is that I'm not sure I trust the Vikings offensive line to block for him. Cook has value as a receiver, which makes him very exciting, but I'm not sure his most valuable production will come in the ground game. Fournette and Gurley, on the other hand, have the lines in front of them to ensure they have a chance to gain yardage on almost every handoff. In the red zone, that's critical for a runner.

Bryan: Oh, I disagree. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and take Cook -- as my longshot, of course, not my favorite -- but I'm in love with his combination of elusiveness and speed. He scored a lot, and I mean a lot of touchdowns in college; more than you would expect for a back of his size. Obviously, there's a lot of guys ahead of him on the odds table, but for a longshot, you could do worse than 18-1.

Andrew: I like Ezekiel Elliott again, for a similar reason to above. The other red zone weapons for Dallas have largely left the team. That leaves Elliott as the foundational piece of the offense, particularly in close. He will have opportunities, and I think he's my favorite.

Bryan: My best bet and favorite are the same guy, because I don't know how Le'Veon Bell is fourth on this list. I have to think his odds are dropping because he's not technically with the team yet, but he's not going to hold out of the regular season. He'll be there, in Cleveland, in uniform, for Week 1. That's a lock. Now, I know Bell has never had double-digit rushing touchdowns in a season, but he was third a season ago with nine touchdowns. If Pittsburgh's offense is slightly more efficient, or if their defense takes the step up that our projections indicate they will, that could mean a career year for Bell on the ground.

Andrew: For best value, I like the odds given to Saquon Barkley. Sure, Eli Manning is throwing to the best receiver in the game, but the Giants didn't bring Barkley in to not hand him the ball on the goal line. I don't expect the Giants to lead the league in scoring or anything, but Barkley will get as many opportunities as he can handle to provide a return on the Giants' massive investment.

Bryan: Jeez, your best value has almost the same odds as my longshot. What kind of crazy long-odds pick are you going for?

Andrew: Derrick Henry. The Titans are shifting to the type of offense that should keep the running and passing game in sync, creating better opportunities for both. Henry is an experienced zone runner who has almost as many carries in his two seasons as Dion Lewis has in his seven. The outside zone scheme has a proven track record and could be just what Henry needs to really get his professional career going, especially on a team with few technically refined red zone receiving options.

Bryan: I like the Titans a lot in the Shanahan/McVay offense. I just think Henry might be too much of a risk here. But hey, it's a longshot, and I can't criticize you for picking someone with longer odds than my guy.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Ezekiel Elliott (+400) Saquon Barkley (+1600) Derrick Henry (+2550)
Bryan Le'Veon Bell (+725) Le'Veon Bell (+725) Dalvin Cook (+1800)

Most Receiving Yards


Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Antonio Brown +255 Julio Jones +400 DeAndre Hopkins +900
Odell Beckham Jr. +1050 Keenan Allen +1100 Michael Thomas +1500
A.J. Green +1600 Mike Evans +1675 Adam Thielen +1700
T.Y. Hilton +1750 Davante Adams +3000 Tyreek Hill +3000
Doug Baldwin +3500 Josh Gordon +3850 Amari Cooper +4150
Demaryius Thomas +4775 Stefon Diggs +5000 Alshon Jeffery +5500
Robert Woods +6000 Marvin Jones +6550 Brandin Cooks +6900
Rob Gronkowski +7000 Golden Tate +7100 Larry Fitzgerald +7150
Allen Robinson +7500 Marquise Goodwin +8000 Sammy Watkins +8250
Jordy Nelson +10000 JuJu Smith-Schuster +10000 Michael Crabtree +10000
Pierre Garcon +10000 Travis Kelce +10000 Corey Davis +10500
Julian Edelman +11500 Emmanuel Sanders +12500 Jarvis Landry +12500
Chris Hogan +13500 Cooper Kupp +13500 Kenny Stills +15000
Rishard Matthews +15000 Zach Ertz +15000 DeVante Parker +16500
Kelvin Benjamin +18500 Devin Funchess +20000 Randall Cobb +20000
Greg Olsen +21000 Robby Anderson +21500 Calvin Ridley +22500
DJ Moore +22500 Evan Engram +22500 Desean Jackson +27500

Andrew: The clear choice here has to be the guy who's done it before, over and over again, right? Antonio Brown has the shortest odds for good reason, and I expect him to reclaim his crown. It's hard to guess that anybody will overtake him, absent something unexpected like an injury.

Bryan: No team has ever had the leading passer, receiver, and rusher in one season. There have been close calls, most notably in 1999, when Edgerrin James led the league in rushing, Marvin Harrison led the league in receiving and Peyton Manning finished third in passing yards. Even with that knowledge, I'm going three-for-three here, taking Brown to complete my Steelers trifecta at the top of the leaderboards. No, I don't think all three will do it, but I think all three have to be the favorites at their respective positions.

Brown's not my best bet, though. I'm going to take a trip to San Diego -- and then, when I remember the Chargers have moved, I'll take a second, shorter trip to Los Angeles to find Keenan Allen. I'm so glad he came back healthy last season, and he looks locked in to be Philip Rivers' top target this year, too. With Hunter Henry out, that's one fewer person to compete with for receptions, and the AFC West saw a bit of a cornerback talent drain this offseason. I like Allen's chances.

Andrew: Brown is the most likely, but his value is very low: 2-1 odds against a field as large as this is a remarkable testament to his durability and constant production. For both of those qualities and slightly better odds, I look at DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has produced season after season of solid statistics, without the faintest hint of consistency or quality in the players throwing him the ball. I'm not overly enthused by Houston's other receiving options, so a passer of Deshaun Watson's apparent quality feeding the ball to Hopkins sounds like a recipe for another 1,500-plus-yard season and a great shot at the league lead in targets at the very least.

Bryan: Hopkins with a talented quarterback is going to be a sight to see, for sure -- but he averaged slightly more yards per game without Watson last year than with him. Maybe Watson's so good, he can actually find ways to use Houston's other receivers! ... Nah, that's crazy talk.

Speaking of crazy, longshot time. I've been pretty cautious with my longshots so far, so I figure I'd better go a bit deeper for this one. And so… GRONK SMASH PUNY TIGHT END RECEIVING RECORDS. At 70-1, Rob Gronkowski is my longest longshot yet, in part because he hasn't played a full season since 2011. The last time he was healthy all year long, though, he racked up 1,300 yards and set the tight end receiving yards record. New England only kept three wide receivers on their initial 53-man roster; Gronk's their leading target. If he can stay healthy...

Andrew: Gronk is very interesting, as one of the few realistic options who is not a wide receiver. I'm staying nearer the shallow end of the odds pool this time and looking at T.Y. Hilton. The last time Hilton played a majority of the season with Andrew Luck, he put up over 1,400 yards -- and he has surpassed 1,300 yards twice in their past three seasons together. A better offense should be almost guaranteed under Frank Reich instead of Chuck Pagano and, though rumor has it the tight ends will be in part the beneficiaries, Hilton is the wide receiver who stands to benefit most from the return of the Franchise.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Antonio Brown (+255) DeAndre Hopkins (+900) T.Y. Hilton (+1750)
Bryan Antonio Brown (+255) Keenan Allen (+1100) Rob Gronkowski (+7000)

Most Receiving Touchdowns


Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Antonio Brown +500 Rob Gronkowski +500 DeAndre Hopkins +725
Odell Beckham Jr +1100 Davante Adams +1200 Julio Jones +1400
Michael Thomas +1400 A.J. Green +1600 Jimmy Graham +1600
Keenan Allen +1600 Mike Evans +1800 Doug Baldwin +2200
T.Y. Hilton +2400 Zach Ertz +3000 Brandin Cooks +3150
Travis Kelce +3300 Stefon Diggs +4000 Adam Thielen +4500
Amari Cooper +4500 Golden Tate +4500 Devin Funchess +5000
JuJu Smith-Schuster +5000 Marvin Jones +5000 Tyreek Hill +5000
Robert Woods +5500 Larry Fitzgerald +6000 Marquise Goodwin +6000

Andrew: In THIS category, I like the Gronk. He is the finest red zone target in the sport, and Tom Brady is probably the finest red zone passer. Assuming both are healthy, I don't see much reason to doubt that Gronkowski will be at or near the league lead in scoring receptions.

Bryan: Oddly enough, this is the category I like Hopkins to repeat in. I think Watson will do a better job spreading the ball around than his predecessors, who so often defaulted to chucking the ball in Hopkins' direction and praying. When it comes to the red zone, however, I think Watson and Hopkins will be a great tandem and hook up on a regular basis.

Andrew: The value on Hopkins is slightly better than Gronk, but for value I like Jimmy Graham. Have we ever seen Aaron Rodgers with a tight end who has this strong a receiving pedigree? I'm not entirely sure what we'll get from the pair, but it really ought to involve touchdowns. Quite a lot of 'em, too.

Bryan: My best bet comes from Green Bay as well, but it's not Graham. I'm actually going with Davante Adams, who has become an elite red zone receiver the last two seasons. Before he suffered his season-ending concussion, he was tied with Graham with 10 touchdowns, second-most in the league. I think his familiarity with Rodgers will make him the preferred target over Graham, though I suppose both guys could end up spoiling the other's chances.

As for a long shot? A bounce-back year for Mike Evans may be in the cards. He had 12 touchdowns in 2016, but struggled to find the end zone last year. I think those struggles have caused the casual bettor to shy away from him, depressing his odds -- but it's not like he forgot how to catch passes in the end zone or anything. The Jameis Winston suspension could hurt him, but I'll take a guy with a pair of dozen-touchdown seasons under his belt at 18-1.

Andrew: Amari Cooper is my extra-long shot, because who else on the Raiders is going to catch passes? Brandon LaFell? Jared Cook? I'm not buying it. I'm not exactly all-in on Cooper either, but 45-1 is just tempting enough to grab my attention.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Rob Gronkowski (+500) Jimmy Graham (+1600) Amari Cooper (+4500)
Bryan DeAndre Hopkins (+750) Davante Adams (+1200) Mike Evans (+1800)

Award Props

Most Valuable Player


Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Aaron Rodgers +550 Tom Brady +600 Carson Wentz +700
Drew Brees +1250 Deshaun Watson +1500 Jimmy Garoppolo +1650
Russell Wilson +1800 Kirk Cousins +2000 Matt Ryan +2000
Todd Gurley +2000 Cam Newton +2050 Philip Rivers +2500
Matthew Stafford +2700 Ben Roethlisberger +2850 Andrew Luck +3000
Derek Carr +3000 Jared Goff +3000 Le'Veon Bell +3000
Dak Prescott +3500 Patrick Mahomes +3750 Ezekiel Elliott +4000
Marcus Mariota +4000 David Johnson +4250 Mitchell Trubisky +4500
Antonio Brown +4750 Jameis Winston +5000 Alex Smith +5250
Alvin Kamara +5500 Case Keenum +5500 Saquon Barkley +6600
Kareem Hunt +7000 Leonard Fournette +7250 Blake Bortles +7500
Julio Jones +7750 Eli Manning +8500 Odell Beckham Jr +9000
DeAndre Hopkins +10000 Devonta Freeman +10000 Rob Gronkowski +11000
Dalvin Cook +11500 JJ Watt +11500 Joe Flacco +11500
LeSean McCoy +11500 Andy Dalton +12500 Nick Foles +12500
Tyrod Taylor +13500 Sam Bradford +14000 Adam Thielen +15000
Jordan Howard +15000 Tyreek Hill +15000 Keenan Allen +16000
Baker Mayfield +17500 Christian McCaffrey +17500 Josh Allen +17500
Josh Rosen +17500 Aaron Donald +20000 Ryan Tannehill +20000
Von Miller +20000 Jay Ajayi +21500 Lamar Jackson +22500
Rashaad Penny +22500 Carlos Hyde +25000 Joey Bosa +25000
AJ Green +27500 Myles Garrett +28500 Dez Bryant +30000
Jordy Nelson +30000 Frank Gore +40000  

Bryan: To figure out a winner here, you should give the award its proper title of "best quarterback or running back on a 10-win team."

Andrew: Which is itself a long-winded way of saying "Aaron Rodgers when he's fully healthy." Rodgers is my pick for this, because I expect the Packers to win at least ten games. Assuming they do, the biggest difference between this year's playoff squad and last year's third-place finish will be the quarterback. That, in a very tough division, should be enough to make Rodgers the MVP.

Bryan: Rodgers is a fine pick, but I think the AFC is so top-heavy that the best players in that conference are going to be able to rack up more impressive stats than those in the NFC. Even so, who are the top options in the AFC? Tom Brady, who won the award last year? Voters might not want to pick him again. Ben Roethlisberger, in what we've already decided is a loaded offense? I'll take Rodgers returning the Packers to the playoffs as well.

Andrew: The AFC big two are more clearly ahead of the pack (see what I did there?), but it's also difficult to see where any improvement will come from. I think improvement is one of those factors that sways voters on these awards, and both the Steelers and Patriots are more likely to be a pretty good 12-4 than another 14-2 juggernaut, which is part of what leads me toward Rodgers. For value, I look at a similar situation: if the Texans live up to their early-odds status as favorites for the AFC South (since supplanted by the Jaguars in most circles), Deshaun Watson is getting the credit unless the difference is very clearly the result of somebody else. That gives him my best value vote.

Bryan: The Texans have a great chance to see a massive improvement in their win totals, for sure, and voters do like rewarding that. They also, however, like to give them out as sort of a lifetime achievement award. If the Saints run away with the NFC, and it's a tight race at the top, maybe the voters hand Drew Brees the MVP in acknowledgment of what could be his last season.

Andrew: I think the one thing counting against Brees is that any improvement in the Saints' fortunes is clearly the result of the luckiest draft in recent history the defense getting better, and a defensive player even having a shot at this award would be madness. For a more realistic longshot, I look back to a player I've already mentioned here: Andrew Luck. If the Colts get even a sniff of the playoffs this December, never mind just Luck getting the credit, it will be because Luck has stuffed the rest of this roster into a sack, hijacked a gang of reindeer, and hand-delivered a playoff spot down Jim Irsay's chimney.

Bryan: My longshot is basically "oh, right, running backs win this award every now and again." Todd Gurley's odds are too high to really count as a longshot, so I'll go ahead and pick Le'Veon Bell, just in case he does lead the league in both rushing yards and touchdowns. If Big Ben gets hurt and Mason Rudolph helps the Steelers into the playoffs, so much the better for Bell's odds.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Aaron Rodgers (+550) Deshaun Watson (+1500) Andrew Luck (+3000)
Bryan Aaron Rodgers (+550) Drew Brees (+1250) Le'Veon Bell (+3000)

Coach of the Year


Coach Odds   Coach Odds   Coach Odds
Doug Pederson +1000 Matt Nagy +1000 Sean McVay +1200
Anthony Lynn +1300 Bill Belichick +1300 Pat Shurmur +1350
Kyle Shanahan +1400 Mike Zimmer +1400 Jon Gruden +1550
Andy Reid +1600 Bill O'Brien +1600 Dan Quinn +1800
Doug Marrone +1800 Mike McCarthy +1800 Mike Tomlin +1800
Sean Payton +1800 Jason Garrett +2000 Jay Gruden +2000
Ron Rivera +2000 Vance Joseph +2000 Mike Vrabel +2200
Dirk Koetter +2500 John Harbaugh +2500 Frank Reich +2800
Pete Carroll +3300 Steve Wilks +3300 Adam Gase +4000
Hue Jackson +4000 Marvin Lewis +4000 Matt Patricia +4000
Sean McDermott +4500 Todd Bowles +5000  

Bryan: Coach of the Year -- or, again, to give it it's more accurate title, "most unexpected improvement of fortunes, preferably by a first-year coach."

Andrew: I guess part of that depends on whether the Eagles run the table prior to the return of Carson Wentz. If Philadelphia wins the East again, and Foles plays well again, and the transition back to Wentz is managed smoothly and effectively, Doug Pederson has a very good shot even if the Eagles aren't objectively better than they were last year. I don't foresee a similar circumstance for any of the favorites. I think there's too much in the way of Chicago, and McVay's team will find it almost impossible to improve sufficiently to allow him to retain the title. At risk of triggering your fanboy tendencies, the most appealing name near the top of the list is Kyle Shanahan. Rams aside, the rest of that division is falling apart. The 49ers appear to have their quarterback and an offense that works for him. Even a 9-7 season there would be enough, I think, to put a young up-and-comer like him in the conversation. That means I think Pederson is the most likely, as his circumstances lend themselves to it, but Shanahan is quite easily the better value.

Bryan: I don't think 9-7 would be enough; the last coach to win this award with fewer than 10 wins was Jimmy Johnson of the 7-9 Cowboys all the way back in 1990. It's 10 wins or bust for this sort of an award. The problem is, I'm not sure there will be a 10-win season from a team that didn't win 10 games or so last year, and this award often goes to a coach from a team who finally leads their guys back into the playoffs after so-and-so many years in the wilderness. I'll agree with you that Pederson is a deserved favorite, but I'll take Anthony Lynn as my value pick. If the Chargers can overcome all the ancient curses with which they've been inflicted year after year, I could see them getting to 10 wins, winning the AFC West, and giving Lynn some recognition.

Andrew: One of the ironies inherent in this award, when you look at the biases and trends that lend themselves to certain winners, is that I think several of the bottom five have a better chance than most of the top five, simply because their teams have more potential room for improvement. It would disgust me after the past two years, but the talent on the Browns roster could finally be strong enough to overcome Hue Jackson and drag him kicking and screaming to a Coach of the Year gong.

Bryan: Let's not even joke about Jackson's odds.

Andrew: It doesn't bear thinking about.

If Sam Darnold is the guy the Jets hope, that could be enough to elevate the more-competitive-than-expected Jets we saw in 2017 toward the playoff field in a weak conference, at which point Todd Bowles enters the conversation. I think my favorite outsider, though, is Frank Reich. He has everything the voters need: the against-all-odds backstory as the franchise's second-choice appointment (see also: Bruce Arians); a talent-starved roster that has been a mess for years; a franchise quarterback returning from a long-term, at-on- point-rumored-career-threatening injury; and a 4-12 record in a division that sent two teams to the playoffs last year. The Colts are an outsider in the AFC, but at least one outsider is likely to make the playoffs. If it's them, Reich is in the conversation. He's my favorite of the longshot options.

Bryan: For me, my longshot is easy. If the Seahawks are able to navigate the replacement of the Legion of Boom, if they can revitalize an offensive line that has been mired in the mud for years, if they can buck conventional wisdom and create an innovative offensive philosophy centered around the running game, if they can knock the Rams off their perch in the NFC West ... then Pete Carroll will deserve all the accolades in the world.

Andrew: I think I like Andrew Luck's chances of staying healthy better than I like the odds of any of that happening in Seattle.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Doug Pederson (+1000) Kyle Shanahan (+1400) Frank Reich (+2800)
Bryan Doug Pederson (+1000) Anthony Lynn (+1300) Pete Carroll (+3300)

First Coach to Lose Job


Coach Odds   Coach Odds   Coach Odds
Hue Jackson +400 Dirk Koetter +400 Vance Joseph +650
Adam Gase +750 Marvin Lewis +1500 Todd Bowles +1600
Jay Gruden +1800 Bill O'Brien +2350 Jason Garrett +3000
John Harbaugh +3000 Frank Reich +3300 Matt Nagy +3300
Pete Carroll +4000 Mike Vrabel +4000 Mike Tomlin +5000
Anthony Lynn +5000 Dan Quinn +5000 Doug Marrone +5000
Ron Rivera +6000 Jon Gruden +6600 Steve Wilks +6600
Matt Patricia +8000 Mike McCarthy +8000 Mike Zimmer +8000
Bill Belichick +10000 Kyle Shanahan +10000 Sean McVay +10000
Doug Pedersen +12500        

Andrew: Ah, the unpleasant counterpoint to the previous category. We don't particularly like this aspect of the sport, but it probably merits at least a mention.

Bryan: I understand what you're saying, but remember: this is not necessarily first coach to be fired. This could also include a coach resigning or retiring, so that explains why Belichick isn't dead last. He might retire! One day! Eventually! I mean, it's conceivable.

Andrew: I'll try to keep this one reasonably short: I think Tampa Bay's patience with Dirk Koetter is likely to be tested when Jameis Winston returns. Koetter was retained over Lovie Smith because the franchise liked his work with Winston; most people have realized by now that it was not Koetter doing anything special, but merely Winston being Winston. When a lot of investment continues to bring few rewards, the responsibility will fall on Koetter's shoulders.

Bryan: I think Tampa Bay's patience with Koetter will be tested before Jameis Winston returns, to be honest with you. It feels like they're fed up, and as the fourth-best team in the division, I'm not sure I see a way for him to win enough to keep his job. Normally, I'd pick Hue Jackson here, because, I mean, 1-31, but if you don't get fired after an 0-16 season, what exactly are the expectations going forward for you? What constitutes a firing offense in Cleveland?

Andrew: Jay Gruden is the value pick, simply because it's a minor miracle that anybody has lasted this long under Daniel Snyder and I don't expect to see the District-of-Columbians especially close to the playoff picture. My longshot is Mike McCarthy, because it's a long while since we saw any improvement in the Packers that wasn't directly tied to the health of Aaron Rodgers. If Rodgers' return does not correlate with a massive improvement, I would not be surprised to see a coaching change in an attempt to freshen up the cheeseheads.

Bryan: Marvin Lewis is my value pick; he was close to the chopping block this year, and you wonder how many lives the Bengal have used up to this point. My longshot is John Harbaugh; a playoff miss would make it four consecutive seasons sitting at home in January. I don't think the Ravens fire Harbaugh, but they may quietly urge him to head for the exits while they look for a younger, offensive-minded coach to get the most out of Lamar Jackson.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Dirk Koetter (+400) Jay Gruden (+1800) Mike McCarthy (+8000)
Bryan Dirk Koetter (+400) Marvin Lewis (+1500) John Harbaugh (+3000)

Offensive Player of the Year

Andrew: At the time of writing, none of the sites we use had listed odds for the Offensive Player of the Year. That makes this award considerably more awkward to predict! Rather than have a full and lengthy discussion, therefore, we'll simply offer our picks, for nothing more than the joy of being right making them!

Bryan: I'll go with Le'Veon Bell once again, as a running back coming up just short of winning the MVP is the traditional winner here.

Andrew: That, right there, is the least surprising thing you have written all day. I, on the other hand, will take Todd Gurley, for much the same incredibly bland reason as you did. Great running backs don't win MVPs very often, but they do tend to snag this consolation prize.

Defensive Player of the Year


Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
JJ Watt +565 Joey Bosa +585 Aaron Donald +590
Khalil Mack +700 Von Miller +985 Jalen Ramsey +1800
Luke Kuechly +2000 Myles Garrett +2000 Cameron Jordan +2375
Demarcus Lawrence +2425 Chandler Jones +2950 Calais Campbell +3450
Fletcher Cox +3525 Harrison Smith +3625 Bobby Wagner +3650
Earl Thomas +3950 Xavier Rhodes +4325 Tyrann Mathieu +4450
Bradley Chubb +4950 Myles Jack +5000 Marshon Lattimore +5200
Jadeveon Clowney +5500 CJ Mosley +6175 Deion Jones +6525
Eric Berry +7050 Malik Hooker +7050 Telvin Smith +7200
Yannick Ngakoue +7500 Everson Griffen +7750 Marcus Peters +7750
Stephon Tuitt +8000 Roquan Smith +8200 Kwon Alexander +9000
Keanu Neal +9500 Eric Weddle +11000 Malcolm Butler +11250
Lavonte David +12200 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix +12500 Jamal Adams +12500
Micah Hyde +12500 Olivier Vernon +12500 Ziggy Ansah +12500
Patrick Peterson +13500 Richard Sherman +13500 Aqib Talib +13750
Geno Atkins +13750 Jason Pierre-Paul +14500 Donta Hightower +15000
Minkah Fitzpatrick +15000 Vontaze Burfict +15000 TJ Watt +16250
Tremaine Edmunds +16250 Julius Peppers +17500 Terrell Suggs +17500

Bryan: This is a harder award to pick. In the past ten years, we've seen defensive ends (J.J. Watt), defensive tackles (Aaron Donald), pass-rushing linebackers (James Harrison, Terrell Suggs, Khalil Mack), interior linebackers (Luke Kuechly), cornerbacks (Charles Woodson), and safeties (Troy Polamalu) win this award. Like a well-designed blitz, it can come from anywhere.

Andrew: It sure seems like this is going to be a highly team-dependent award this year. If J.J. Watt is back to his best, he's probably a lock to win it, but his recent injury history is deeply concerning. If the Bears make the playoffs on the back of a defensive resurgence, it will probably have much to do with Khalil Mack, and he is highly likely to be acclaimed as the difference-maker. The same is true of Von Miller on the Broncos. Really though, Aaron Donald is the favorite just because there seems to be much more certainty about him than there is about any of the other candidates.

Bryan: Donald might lose a few votes from the idea that the Rams are creating a Super-Defense this year, with Ndamukong Suh and Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters all joining up. I'm really, really, really tempted to pick Mack for Oakland schadenfreude, but I'm going to go with Joey Bosa instead. If the Chargers make the playoffs for the first time since 2013, the writers will want to acknowledge them, and Bosa could end up leading the league in sacks this year.

For a better value, though, maybe consider Chandler Jones. This award is a lot less reliant on a team actually winning games, so if Jones has a great season in the desert, he could bring home some hardware, even if Arizona struggles somewhat.

Andrew:I like the value of Myles Garrett. There is already, deservedly, a lot of hype around Garrett as the kind of potential difference-maker who transcends scheme and situation and can affect every play the other team tries to run. In Cleveland, he will have every opportunity -- indeed, every need -- to transcend his scheme and situation, and the player himself will almost certainly get full credit for every bit of success he might have. Whereas in other places, the coaching might get credit, in Cleveland Garrett should have no such concern.

Bryan: For a real longshot, let's go allllll the way down the list and find Terrell Suggs at 175-1 odds. That's a longshot and a half, there, but it's not out of the question Suggs could get to 12, 13, 14 sacks. A throwback season from the veteran could earn Suggs his second DPOY award.

Andrew: My long shot is not quite so long, but a Chiefs defensive revival could see Eric Berry snag himself a DPOY-CPOY double as he returns from last season's season-ending Achilles rupture. Berry is one of the few players in the league who can consistently match up to Rob Gronkowski, meaning his health could be important for the AFC playoff race as well as for his own team's fortunes.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Aaron Donald (+590) Myles Garrett (+2000) Eric Berry (+7050)
Bryan Joey Bosa (+585) Chandler Jones (+2950) Terrell Suggs (+17500)

Offensive Rookie of the Year


Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Saquon Barkley +155 Baker Mayfield +550 Sam Darnold +750
Josh Rosen +950 Josh Allen +1000 Rashaad Penny +1525
Lamar Jackson +1750 Sony Michel +1925 Ronald Jones II +2125
Nick Chubb +2200 Calvin Ridley +3000 DJ Moore +3000
Royce Freeman +3250 Courtland Sutton +3500 Kerryon Johnson +5000
James Washington +5200 Christian Kirk +5500 Anthony Miller +6000
Braxton Berrios +6500 Dante Pettis +6600 Michael Gallup +6600
DJ Chark +7250 Chase Edmonds +7500 Nyheim Hines +9500
Antonio Callaway +10000 Dallas Goedert +10000 Mark Walton +10000
Kalen Ballage +11000 Mason Rudolph +11000 DaeSean Hamilton +12500
Mike Gesicki +12500 Hayden Hurst +12750 J'Mon Moore +13500
Keke Coutee +13500 Quenton Nelson +16000 Kolton Miller +21250
Kyle Lauletta +21500 Mike McGlinchey +23500 Isaiah Wynn +23750
Frank Ragnow +24500 Billy Price +26250 Ito Smith +31500

Andrew: This is already Saquon Barkley's title to lose, absent an expectedly great season from one of the quarterbacks, right? Even then, only Sam Darnold is expected to actually start the season under center, while the others all begin on the bench. The problem with Barkley, however, is those terrible odds. Who wants to bet on a 3-2 favorite?

Bryan: I'm with you. Barkley's metrics were off the charts, and while we can debate all day about whether any running back is worth the second pick in the draft, he should be an immediate contributor with plenty of opportunities in New York. There's a reason he's the odds-on favorite. Surely we can find better value though, right?

Andrew: Sam Darnold is better value. Any measure of passing success in New York will be savored like a rediscovered can of original recipe Irn-Bru, and as the lone rookie quarterback atop his team's depth chart Darnold is the one genuine competitor for Barkley's title.

Bryan: I'll side with you on Darnold being the most likely quarterback to this this award, and thus the best value -- the Browns are weirdly opposed to Baker Mayfield seeing a football, and Josh Allen is ... Josh Allen. For a longshot, I quite like Kerryon Johnson, whose biggest obstacle is finding opportunities behind LeGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah. He has the potential to be a true three-down back, and while that might not happen in 2018, the Lions got a good one in the second round. If he can emerge from that crowded backfield -- and if Barkley, I dunno, gets hurt or something -- he's got a chance to lead all rookies in yards from scrimmage.

Andrew: One of the receivers could make in instant impact, too. It's unlikely to be DJ Chark, even with Marqise Lee absent for the season, but D.J. Moore and Michael Gallup have an outside chance given that somebody has to catch their team's passes. Calvin Ridley could ascend up Atlanta's target chart rapidly too. We are firmly in "if Barkley gets hurt" territory, however. Still, put me down for D.J. Moore as my rank outsider.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Saquon Barkley (+155) Sam Darnold (+750) DJ Moore (+3000)
Bryan Saquon Barkley (+155) Sam Darnold (+750) Kerryon Johnson (+5000)

Defensive Rookie of the Year


Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Bradley Chubb +375 Roquan Smith +530 Tremaine Edmunds +900
Denzel Ward +1200 Derwin James +1200 Minkah Fitzpatrick +1200
Leighton Vander Esch +1450 Harold Landry +1600 Rashaan Evans +1600
Jaire Alexander +1625 Marcus Davenport +1650 Josh Jackson +1950
Da'Ron Payne +2300 Terrell Edmunds +2500 Vita Vea +2500
Carlton Davis +3050 Darius Leonard +3050 Donte Jackson +3150
Isaiah Oliver +3300 Maurice Hurst +3500 Mike Hughes +3500
MJ Stewart +3500 Uchenna Nwosu +3500 Kemoko Turay +3600
Jessie Bates +3650 Taven Bryan +3800 Breeland Speaks +6600
Tyquan Lewis +7000 PJ Hall +8500  

Andrew: Harold Landry will be in Tennessee's pass rush rotation from Day 1 and ought to be a steal as a second-round draft pick. He is my tip for the best value here, though I like Tremaine Edmunds more than Bradley Chubb to actually win the thing. Roquan Smith may well be overshadowed by the events of the past few days, and had an awkward first offseason in Chicago.

Bryan: Joey Bosa had an awkward first offseason in San Diego, and it didn't end up harming his rookie season; he won DROY.

Andrew: That's true, but Joey Bosa was a pass-rusher having a truly outstanding debut season. Roquan Smith is unlikely to make quite the same immediate impact.

Bryan: I'm going to disagree -- the Bears have, shall we say, plenty of opportunities for young players to assume very large roles on that defense. I think Smith's my favorite to win the award, with Tremaine Edmunds my best value pick -- it's all about opportunities.

Andrew: I have Edmunds as my favorite, with Harold Landry as best value. I don't see much that I like from the list of outsiders. Perhaps Donte Jackson, in an uncertain Panthers backfield. I'm also surprised not to see any mention of Arden Key, the pass-rusher the Raiders apparently liked so much that it softened the blow of losing Khalil Mack. Assuming his odds are similar to the back end of the field, the increased focus on him might work in his favor if he does manage to claw some valuables out of Oakland's defensive dumpster fire.

Bryan: I'll go with Rashaan Evans, assuming he eventually gets onto the field after this mysterious undisclosed injury. The Titans are being so tight-lipped about his status, you'd think their head coach came from the Patriots' organization.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Tremaine Edmunds (+900) Harold Landry (+1600) Arden Key (+8500)
Bryan Roquan Smith (+530) Tremaine Edmunds (+900) Rashaan Evans (+1600)

Comeback Player of the Year


Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Andrew Luck +450 Carson Wentz +450 Odell Beckham +450
Aaron Rodgers +500 JJ Watt +500 David Johnson +600
Deshaun Watson +800 Dalvin Cook +1200 Sam Bradford +1800
Ryan Tannehill +1900 Josh Gordon +2500 Teddy Bridgewater +3300
Allen Robinson +4000 Richard Sherman +6600 Malcolm Butler +12500
Robert Griffin +15000 Tyler Eifert +15000  

Bryan: That's quite the list of talent, there. Man, 2017 sucked when it came to injuries, didn't it?

Andrew: You're asking the guy who writes our weekly injury roundups. Every year sucks when it comes to injuries. Alright, this award is a process of elimination ... er, that's not quite the expression I want here, is it?

I think we can discount Teddy Bridgewater, Robert Griffin, and Carson Wentz immediately because none of them are likely to be back on the field in the immediate future. Clearly, the plan is for Wentz to return eventually, but he is not yet cleared for contact so is not yet actually "back." It seems like we've been here before with Aaron Rodgers and Sam Bradford. We don't really have enough players to do much with our usual favorite/value/longshot approach, but I think Andrew Luck rightly has the shortest odds, and Josh Gordon is the best value assuming he is able to stay on the straight and narrow. A focused Josh Gordon is probably a top-five receiver in the league, and his comeback from substance abuse is a much more distinctive situation than the usual smattering of injury comebacks or poor play. I have no idea what to make of Malcolm Butler's situation, except that I strongly doubt he'll get near it given that he isn't really coming back from anything tangible.

Bryan: I think Rodgers will have the better season than Luck, but his brief return at the end of last season is going to kill his chances at winning this award, so Luck is the favorite. I think that this should end up being a race between quarterbacks in the AFC South, though, and Deshaun Watson could win this award if the Texans beat the Colts to the divisional crown -- he'd be my best value bet of the lot. For a longshot, I'll go ahead and take Ryan Tannehill in Miami. His 2016 season was going fairly strongly, and he was trending positively before missing all of last season. It'd be less of a comeback year and more of a breakout season, but of all the really long odds here, I think he's got the best chance.

Andrew: I'll go ahead and pick Gordon as both my longshot and my best value. It would probably take something truly exceptional for him to win it, but I don't think it's beyond him to produce something truly exceptional.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Andrew Luck (+450) Josh Gordon (+2500) Josh Gordon (+2500)
Bryan Andrew Luck (+450) Deshaun Watson (+800) Ryan Tannehill (+1900)

Super Bowl Winner


Team Odds   Team Odds   Team Odds
New England Patriots +625 Philadelphia Eagles +900 Los Angeles Rams +1100
Pittsburgh Steelers +1100 Minnesota Vikings +1200 Green Bay Packers +1325
New Orleans Saints +1550 Atlanta Falcons +1675 Jacksonville Jaguars +2200
Houston Texans +2250 Los Angeles Chargers +2250 San Francisco 49ers +2700
Kansas City Chiefs +3000 Dallas Cowboys +3300 Carolina Panthers +4000
Tennessee Titans +4000 Oakland Raiders +4250 Baltimore Ravens +4500
Denver Broncos +4500 Detroit Lions +5000 New York Giants +5000
Seattle Seahawks +5500 Cincinnati Bengals +7000 Indianapolis Colts +7000
Washington Redskins +7000 Chicago Bears +7500 Cleveland Browns +10000
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +10000 Arizona Cardinals +15000 Miami Dolphins +15000
New York Jets +15000 Buffalo Bills +20000  

Bryan: Right, here we go. We've looked at the over/under for every team in the league, handed out all the awards, and looked at all the statistical leaders. Andrew, who are your Super Bowl champions, and why are they the Buffalo Bills?

Andrew: My Super Bowl Champions do indeed play in Buffalo this season, but not as the home team. I'm playing the odds here; the NFC could be won by any of approximately ten teams, whereas the AFC has two clear favorites. Of those, I think the Patriots have the better odds of home field advantage, making them my boring, yawn-inducing favorites to win it all. I will say that I like the odds available for the Saints, whom I believe have either the second- or third-most talented roster in the NFC, and are therefore my value pick.

Bryan: ... Darn it, those are exactly my predictions as well. I could be contrary, and point out that the Rams are my choice for NFC champions and that the Steelers are undervalued as the other likely AFC champs, but no. I'm feeling a sixth Patriots title myself, with the Saints right in the mix in the NFC. That's boring.

So, longshots. The homer in me really, really, really, really wants to pick the 49ers, but I think they're still a year and a pass-rusher away. I'm going to go with the Los Angeles Chargers, who could grab a three seed in an underwhelming AFC West. It's a lot easier to make the Super Bowl in the AFC than the NFC -- far less competition at the top -- and maybe, just maybe, the Chargers have been pooling all of their luck for years now, to set up one mad dash to the top.

If a team wins a Super Bowl, and no one in their home city cares, did it really happen?

Andrew: For my outsider pick, I'll stay in that division but not in that time zone: anything resembling a professional defense makes Kansas City a dangerous squad in the AFC. The Chiefs only lost out in the playoffs last year after their best offensive player was knocked out of the game in the first half. They're deeper on offense this year, and can hardly be worse on defense. Quarterback is an obvious question mark, and I strongly doubt they'll win the Super Bowl for that reason, but I very much like Andy Reid to drag this team to the postseason out of a surprisingly down AFC West.


  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew New England (+625) New Orleans (+1550) Kansas City (+3000)
Bryan New England (+625) New Orleans (+1550) LA Chargers (+2250)

Bryan: There you have it! When passing touchdown leader Patrick Mahomes is staving off a rush from Defensive Player of the Year Joey Bosa in the AFC Championship Game, you can say you read it here first!

Weekly Predictions

Money-Back Guarantee Lock of the Week

All picks are made without reference to FO's Premium picks, while all lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing.

Bryan: Week 1's lock is always an issue of deciding which of our strange, against-the-grain predictions we really believe in. Whenever you go out on a limb, there's always the chance you look like an idiot after a week or two. This year, I'm going with the New York Giants (+3) at home against Jacksonville. The Jags' low projection confuses a lot of people, but we know that defense is less consistent from year to year, and we know that Blake Bortles is still their starting quarterback. That's enough for me to at least throw up red flags about the Jags' odds of repeating in 2018. Time to bet against them before Vegas catches on.

Andrew: Similarly, our projections expect the Cardinals to be terrible, and the preseason did little to dispel that notion. Washington may lack elite talent, but they are a formidable outfit who can ruin an inferior team's day. If the Cardinals prove to be the inferior team we suspect, their opening day may well be so ruined. Washington (pick-'em) over Arizona.

Double Survival League

Each week, Bryan and Andrew pick two winners, straight-up. The catch? They can only pick each team once per season. They must pick every team once. The goal? To go 32-0. The winner? The one who screws up the least.

Bryan: This is a new gimmick we're doing this year -- trying to find at least one win for each and every team in the NFL. This would have been impossible last year, thanks to Cleveland's 0-16 season, but we're trying it anyway, dang it! The strategy here is to try to find games where a team is unusually likely to win. Sure, the Patriots might be favored in most of their games, but why waste a team like that on the road in Tennessee rather than at home against the dregs of the AFC East? It's all about strategery.

This week, I'm going with Baltimore (over Buffalo) and New Orleans (over Tampa Bay). The Bills will be starting Nathan Peterman, and that's something I need to take advantage of while I can. I don't expect Josh Allen to be much better, but that's at least something that's potentially in the cards; we've seen what Peterman does against a tough defense. For the Bucs, Jameis Winston is starting his three-game suspension, meaning it's a great time to be picking against Tampa Bay. I probably won't be picking too many Bucs games for this section. I probably will be picking plenty of Baltimore games.

Andrew: As I already mentioned above, a challenging season for Washington gets off to a winnable start in Arizona. The Cardinals look set to be one of the teams who are more commonly picked against than for in this segment. Jay Gruden's squad should have enough to win in the desert.

Similarly, I like the Bengals to triumph in Indianapolis. Andy Dalton would not top Andrew Luck in a one-on-one duel, but the Bengals are more talented than the Colts in just about every other spot. Even Cincinnati's winnable matchups can usually fall either way, so I'll take advantage of what looks like clear superiority while it's available.

Email us with fantasy questions, award suggestions, crazy videos, outlandish conspiracy theories, seats on the Joey Bosa bandwagon, and other assorted flotsam and jetsam at scramble@footballoutsiders.com.

Comments

18 comments, Last at 10 Sep 2018, 4:09pm

1 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 04, 2018 - 11:55pm

LOL @ the notion of Washington firing Jay Gruden! Not because it's unlikely, Snyder might up and do literally anything at all. But JGII seems to be an excellent head coach. Way better than what we have in Denver

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2 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Mr Shush // Sep 05, 2018 - 2:48am

Michel, Freeman and Gallup all strike me as excellent values for OROY.

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3 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Bryan Knowles // Sep 05, 2018 - 3:27am

It's so hard to pick rookie of the year awards; so much of it depends on who fights their way out of a committee and climbs a depth chart quickly enough. That's why Barkley's odds are so, so low -- you know he's The Guy, if for no other reason than a lack of other guys around him.

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17 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Mr Shush // Sep 07, 2018 - 7:22am

The atrocious competition is for sure a big part of the attraction to Freeman and Gallup.

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4 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by William.Smith // Sep 05, 2018 - 9:02am

Good afternoon. The time is thirteen minutes to two. Soon, the Cleveland Browns are going to take their talents to the 0-16 woodshed.
The orgy of pink slips and other dirty laundry will lead to a voluntary nationwide moratorium on punch-lines from every person on every medium. The bots won't care. They are c***s.
Players will file for refugee status, or commit commercial suicide by binging on ethnic slurs. Others will tear up their contracts and offer to play for food or housing. Not even football. Just play.
After the horrors of another royal screw-job and a blown ALDS, city council emergency petitions all conversations to exclusively feature the lyrics of "Wild Thing".

Super Bowl odds are a yearly feature. Bookies have the Browns' at +10000, i.e. a wager of $100 would pay $10,000. Unless 31 teams forfeit or the President declares them the winner, the Browns will not win the Super Bowl.

Another zero-win diet to wager on is a rare opportunity. Is it also enticing enough to know your hundo is a listless Week 1 Big Ben away from implosion?

The Browns' over/under for regular season wins started at 5.5, and has moved up to 6.5 at some places. ESPN quoted Caesars Palace sportsbook manager "The public likes the Browns, and I'm not sure why."
Six wins? In phantasy phootball? Here is the window to light beer, with spreads:

Pit +6, @NO +10, NYJ -2.5, @Oak +7.5, Bal +2.5, LAC +4, @TB +5.5, @Pit +10, KC +3, Atl +3, @Cin +5, @Hou +10, Car +2.5, @Den +5.5, Cin -1, Bal +8.

Let us multiply the money line odds of the Browns' opponents using these spreads.

Pit 1.38, @NO 1.25, NYJ 2.18, @Oak 1.30, Bal 1.74, LAC 1.52, @TB 1.36, @Pit 1.25, KC 1.65, Atl 1.65, @Cin 1.45, @Hou 1.25, Car 1.74, @Den 1.37, Cin 2.03, Bal 1.27.

Payout factor of taking the under on the 0.5 regular season win total: 666.

Regression to the mean is my main counter-argument. Sixteen more parties with better wing men. Fumble luck and one-score losses tend to even out. By DVOA, the defense already was average last season. Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry alone are huge upgrades. Drafting Baker Mayfield has the Browns abandoning their plans to poach Hans Kluber. For now.

Can a billion dollar sports organization continue its dysfunctional ways? Yes they can. To the point of 1-47 infamy?

Not an NFL fan? We are witnessing historical ineptitude similar to Mark Reynolds' 638 strikeouts (2008-10), or James Harden's 1153 turnovers (2015-17). The Cleveland Browns' current 4-44 streak would be an NBA team going 20-226, or an MLB team 40-446 - akin to the September 04 2018 Orioles not winning another game until the end of the 2020 season. Even Prop Joe can't stand the stench of the O's.

When head coach Hue Jackson is not burning through draft picks, he either throws them under the bus or ties a straw-man around their neck, telling ESPN he never lost trust in Josh Gordon while flicking matches. "Don't worry. I have a fire extinguisher with kerosene. Everything's gonna be all right."
Myles Garrett, he of the zero professional wins, blasted two-time finals MVP Kevin Durant for wanting to win.
O-line coach Bob Wylie scoffs at stretching because American troops won two world wars without it.

The time is one forty-seven.

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6 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by LyleNM // Sep 05, 2018 - 10:51am

WTF was that?

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11 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Sep 05, 2018 - 2:03pm

Well, Burning Man happened recently, didn't it? Lots of sports fans go to Burning Man

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16 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by justanothersteve // Sep 05, 2018 - 6:07pm

+1

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5 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Not Jimmy // Sep 05, 2018 - 10:05am

For comeback player - Does Edelman's suspension keep him from being listed? I know he hasn't been at #1 numbers for his career, but I can see him at 60, 750, 10 this season because Kiko Alonso will take out Gronk's knee week 4 and Brady will focus on his best buddy Jules starting week 5 when he comes back with a huge chip on his shoulder.

- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you are talking about.

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8 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Bryan Knowles // Sep 05, 2018 - 12:55pm

I don't know why Edelman's not listed, but the suspension is definitely going to cost him in a very loaded field this year. You'll have to be pretty amazing if you're going to miss a quarter of the season and still beat out everyone else.

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7 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Ryan // Sep 05, 2018 - 11:29am

Just writing to say I love these columns. Bryan and Andrew are great.

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9 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by johonny // Sep 05, 2018 - 1:13pm

The Jets, Dolphins, and Bills on the bottom of the odds gives me the AFC east blues :(

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10 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Led // Sep 05, 2018 - 1:56pm

It's hard for me to imagine a team that is 100% dependent on a 41 year old quarterback can ever be the favorite to win the Super Bowl. Brady may defy Father Time again this year -- he is at his best with the clock winding down. But Father Time is undefeated, and the risk of abrupt age decline and/or injury seems to me too high to make New England the favorite.

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12 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Bryan Knowles // Sep 05, 2018 - 2:21pm

I mean, you're right, age is always going to be a factor, and when Brady goes, he's going to ~go~. The problem is, there hasn't been the slightest sign of him falling off to this point, so predicting it to happen is a bit of a longshot. Injury seems more likely than age decline, I would say -- though the two aren't exactly independent of one another.

I'd also argue they're not 100% dependent on him, but that's another tangent.

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18 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Steve in WI // Sep 10, 2018 - 4:09pm

That logic seems much the same to me as looking at an 110-year-old man and saying "there's no way he's going to die anytime soon, because he's been in great health for his first 110 years." Brady at 41 seems to me to be at about the equivalent point on the age curve - his success at this age is nearly unprecedented.

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13 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Sep 05, 2018 - 4:56pm

New England is 13-5 with their 2nd string QB and 1-1 with their 3rd string QB since 2008. This includes a guy who hadn't played a meaningful snap since high school.

They still win the division even if Guerrero murders Brady tonight.

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14 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by LyleNM // Sep 05, 2018 - 5:19pm

Careful. You don't want to start another irrational The-AFC-East-Is-Not-Lousy, Yes-It-Is thread, do you?

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15 Re: Scramble for the Ball: 2018 Awards and Stat Predictions

by Led // Sep 05, 2018 - 5:30pm

That's 80% 2008. Randy Moss ain't walking through that door. Logan Mankins ain't walking through that door. Rodney Harrison ain't walking through that door..... ;-) We'll see about this year. They'll likely get QB play that is at least somewhere between elite and Hoyer so they're easy favorites for the division. But unless Brady is humming at his usual HOF pace they're not SB contenders. All I'm saying is that eventually the level sands will stretch far away.

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