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
|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|
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.
|Andrew||Aaron Rodgers (+1000)||Matthew Stafford (+1225)||Andrew Luck (+2000)|
|Bryan||Ben Roethlisberger (+1000)||Matthew Stafford (+1225)||Deshaun Watson (+3100)|
Most Passing Touchdowns
|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.
|Andrew||Aaron Rodgers (+550)||Russell Wilson (+1825)||Patrick Mahomes (+3100)|
|Bryan||Aaron Rodgers (+550)||Tom Brady (+600)||Andrew Luck (+2450)|
Most Rushing Yards
|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|
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.
|Andrew||Ezekiel Elliott (+285)||Kareem Hunt (+1100)||LeSean McCoy (+2250)|
|Bryan||Le'Veon Bell (+485)||Todd Gurley (+600)||LeSean McCoy (+2250)|
Most Rushing Touchdowns
|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|
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.
|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
|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.
|Andrew||Antonio Brown (+255)||DeAndre Hopkins (+900)||T.Y. Hilton (+1750)|
|Bryan||Antonio Brown (+255)||Keenan Allen (+1100)||Rob Gronkowski (+7000)|
Most Receiving Touchdowns
|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.
|Andrew||Rob Gronkowski (+500)||Jimmy Graham (+1600)||Amari Cooper (+4500)|
|Bryan||DeAndre Hopkins (+750)||Davante Adams (+1200)||Mike Evans (+1800)|
Most Valuable Player
|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.
|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
|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.
|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
|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|
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.
|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
|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.
|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
|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.
|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
|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.
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.
|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
|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.
|Andrew||Andrew Luck (+450)||Josh Gordon (+2500)||Josh Gordon (+2500)|
|Bryan||Andrew Luck (+450)||Deshaun Watson (+800)||Ryan Tannehill (+1900)|
Super Bowl Winner
|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.
|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!
Money-Back Guarantee Lock of the Week
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.