Scramble for the Ball
Fantasy football, the Loser League, and general goofiness

Scramble for the Ball: 2019 Awards and Stat Predictions

Kyle Shanahan
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

By Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter

Andrew: Hello, and welcome to the final preseason Scramble for the Ball before the 2019 NFL season kicks off on Thursday night. The bloated preseason rosters have all now been pruned, some more savagely than others, and the final pieces of reshuffling -- or, uh, extreme landscape reengineering in the case of Bill O'Brien -- are almost complete.

Bryan: I hope no one paid too much attention to the Texans' preseason games, now that their entire roster has been re-kafoobled with extreme prejudice.

We have one last piece of housekeeping to get through before we're ready for some football, however. We've gone through each division and given you our over/under picks; now it's time to switch our focus to the individual players, giving our picks for the end-of-year awards and statistical leaders along the way. Last year, I put the vast majority of my chips on a dominant Le'Veon Bell campaign so, uh, there's nowhere to go but up from here.

Andrew: We also see the return of last year's Double Survival face-off, as well as our first Lock of the Week picks. We have a lot to get through, so we'll spare the "ados."

Bryan: Just one more reminder: 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 that we think could end up surprising people.


Player Stat Props

Most Passing Yards

Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Patrick Mahomes +300 Derek Carr +4500 Joe Flacco +13500
Matt Ryan +500 Deshaun Watson +4500 Mitch Trubisky +15000
Ben Roethlisberger +725 Jimmy Garoppolo +4500 Marcus Mariota +17500
Aaron Rodgers +800 Kyler Murray +4750 Case Keenum +20000
Jameis Winston +950 Matthew Stafford +5000 Dwayne Haskins +20000
Baker Mayfield +1100 Russell Wilson +7000 Eli Manning +20000
Drew Brees +1800 Andy Dalton +10000 Josh Allen +20000
Philip Rivers +2000 Cam Newton +10000 Lamar Jackson +20000
Jared Goff +2500 Nick Foles +10000 Ryan Fitzpatrick +20000
Tom Brady +2500 Sam Darnold +10000 Josh Rosen +25000
Kirk Cousins +3300 Dak Prescott +12500 Daniel Jones +50000
Carson Wentz +4000        

Andrew: Last year, Tom Brady was the favorite for this category, whereas Patrick Mahomes was down at +1900. My, how times change. Given the atrocity that was the Chiefs defense in 2018, it's easy to see why the reigning MVP is the favorite. I won't disagree with that assessment. The really interesting name in the top five is Jameis Winston though. I drafted Winston in my fantasy league because KUBIAK really liked him, and he also has an atrocious defense helping necessitate the gaudy yardage totals.

Bryan: Oh no, don't let our lack of disagreement end up coming down to the player props, too. I also have Mahomes as my favorite, because yeah, betting against Patrick Mahomes on anything passing-related is folly based on what we saw last season. But I, too, have Winston as my best bet. I really like the pairing of Bruce Arians and Winston; Arians coached Carson Palmer to a 4,600-yard season and a pair of 4,200-yarders, and was half-coach for Andrew Luck on a 4,300-yard season. None of those would really stand a chance of topping the league in 2019's passing environment, but Arians knows how to get the most out of a big-armed quarterback. There's a chance Winston collapses and is on a new team next year, but 19/2 odds aren't too shabby for someone with Winston's arm strength and a very good receiving corps.

As for a longshot, part of me was tempted to grab Eli Manning (+20000) just in a "hah, counter-narrative!" pick.

Andrew: Honestly, I'll just be impressed if Manning is still starting in Week 17.

Bryan: You're likely right, but that's why he's a longshot. However, common sense did prevail in the end, so I'm going to look elsewhere in the division instead and say Carson Wentz takes a step forward in Year 3. Wentz hasn't played a full season since his rookie year and has never even topped 4,000 yards passing, so his odds are appropriately slim. However, he has seen his yards per game increase every season; he was on pace for nearly 4,500 yards last year. A healthy season in a division that does not impress me defensively, with another step forward, could see Wentz on top here.

Andrew: For my longshot, I'm repeating my pick from 2018. Matthew Stafford's value has lengthened massively, from 12-1 to 50-1, following a fairly pedestrian 2018, but he is often one of the league's high-volume passers and I like the look of his offense. I'm not sure the divisional environment is conducive to a league-leading total, but that is also why he is a longshot. And yes, I drafted Stafford because KUBIAK liked him, too. So if these picks bomb, you know how my fantasy season went.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Patrick Mahomes (+300) Jameis Winston (+950) Matthew Stafford (+5000)
Bryan Patrick Mahomes (+300) Jameis Winston (+950) Carson Wentz (+4000)

Most Passing Touchdowns

Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Patrick Mahomes +325 Kirk Cousins +3300 Eli Manning +15000
Matt Ryan +400 Jimmy Garoppolo +3500 Marcus Mariota +15000
Aaron Rodgers +900 Kyler Murray +4500 Ryan Fitzpatrick +15000
Baker Mayfield +1200 Derek Carr +6000 Ryan Tannehill +15000
Jared Goff +1500 Mitchell Trubisky +7500 Case Keenum +20000
Ben Roethlisberger +1800 Sam Darnold +7500 Josh Allen +20000
Philip Rivers +1800 Dak Prescott +8500 Josh Rosen +20000
Carson Wentz +2000 Nick Foles +8500 Lamar Jackson +22500
Drew Brees +2000 Andy Dalton +10000 Drew Lock +35000
Tom Brady +2000 Cam Newton +10000 Colt McCoy +50000
Deshaun Watson +2500 Matthew Stafford +10000 Daniel Jones +50000
Jameis Winston +2500 Joe Flacco +12500 Will Grier +50000
Russell Wilson +3000 Dwayne Haskins +15000    

Bryan: Last year, you made a few waves by calling Patrick Mahomes your longshot to lead the league in passing touchdowns -- a real outsider, who might be able to lead the league in both touchdowns and interceptions as he slung the ball around the field with reckless abandon. Uh, yeah, good pick there. Mahomes is my favorite, again, and it's not even particularly close.

Andrew: For the record, Mahomes did not lead the league interceptions -- but he did lead the league in adjusted interceptions. If only those defenders could catch. Mahomes is likewise my clear favorite, but +325 is terrible value. My value pick here is also Jameis Winston, who still has absolutely no running game to speak of and no fewer than four viable big red-zone targets, plus a team that will offer him more garbage-time scoring opportunities than most other quarterbacks with big numbers.

Bryan: All in on Tampa Bay, huh? I can see it, but my best value pick instead goes to Baker Mayfield. Our projections aren't as high on the Browns as common wisdom is, but that's not because we doubt Mayfield's ability; that's more on his defense perhaps not being as good as expected. But that's great for Mayfield's touchdown opportunities! Mayfield tossed 27 touchdowns a year ago despite not starting for the first month of the season and not getting any first-team reps in training camp and having to deal with Hue Jackson and Todd Haley for half the year. And now he has OBJ to throw to, as well. The Browns are going to lose a lot of high-scoring games this year, and Mayfield will throw plenty of touchdowns.

Andrew: It's actually the opposite of all-in on Tampa Bay. I'm all the way out on them as a team. They're so bad that Winston is their only hope. That is ... not a lot of hope, admittedly, but it could mean big numbers.

My longshot's another NFC South guy: Cam Newton had a debatable MVP campaign in 2015, tossing a career-high 35 touchdowns. If the Panthers can recapture last year's pre-injury magic, given the quality of his receivers now, that number could well be even higher in 2019. I'm really surprised to see his odds as long as they are, too.

Bryan: Newton's an interesting pick! I think he's hurt by how good he is with his legs, and they were sixth in the league in rushing touchdowns a year ago, but I liked what we saw out of Newton in Norv Turner's offense a year ago. If I were to pick someone that far down the order, I might go with Andy Dalton in Zac Taylor's new offense, but instead I'm going with Russell Wilson. I know the Seahawks regard the passing game as something to be used only when absolutely necessary, but they've also made noise about throwing the ball to running backs more. If those throws replace runs by the running backs, that could end up with a few more goal line dump-off touchdowns. Russ did lead the league in passing touchdowns the year before the Brian Schottenheimer era began, so he has the talent. His receiving corps was wrecked this offseason, but hey, that's why they're longshots.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Patrick Mahomes (+325) Jameis Winston (+2500) Cam Newton (+10000)
Bryan Patrick Mahomes (+325) Baker Mayfield (+1200) Russell Wilson (+3000)

Most Rushing Yards

Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Ezekiel Elliott +300 Miles Sanders +4000 Peyton Barber +10000
Saquon Barkley +325 Phillip Lindsay +4000 Rashaad Penny +11500
Derrick Henry +1300 David Montgomery +4500 Carlos Hyde +15000
Todd Gurley +1400 Derrius Guice +4500 Dion Lewis +15000
Dalvin Cook +1500 Alvin Kamara +5000 DOnta Foreman +15000
LeVeon Bell +1600 Devonta Freeman +5000 James White +15000
Nick Chubb +1600 Jordan Howard +5000 Royce Freeman +15000
Leonard Fournette +1750 Josh Jacobs +5000 Austin Ekeler +17500
Chris Carson +1800 Lamar Jackson +5000 Frank Gore +17500
James Connner +2000 Mark Ingram +5250 C.J. Anderson +20000
Joe Mixon +2000 Damien Williams +5500 Chris Thompson +20000
Marlon Mack +2000 Adrian Peterson +6600 Duke Johnson Jr. +20000
Melvin Gordon +2000 LeSean McCoy +6600 Giovani Bernard +20000
Christian McCaffrey +3300 Latavius Murray +7500 Ito Smith +20000
David Johnson +3300 Ronald Jones +7500 Jalen Richard +20000
Kerryon Johnson +3300 Matt Breida +8000 Nyheim Hines +20000
Sony Michel +3500 Tevin Coleman +8000 Tarik Cohen +20000
Aaron Jones +4000 Jerick McKinnon +8500 Theo Riddick +20000
Kenyan Drake +4000        

Andrew: A rational man might surmise that to be the favorite to lead the league in rushing, a back might need to be the favorite to start his team's opening game. Every day that passes without a contract makes the latter of those less likely, and I won't be the one getting hit by this year's tolling Bell. Put me down for the other favorite, Saquon Barkley, and be done with it.

Bryan: I got slammed by Bell's holdout in multiple categories, so you think I would have learned my lesson, too. As of Monday afternoon, reports have Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys both close to a deal and as far apart as they were when they started, in a Schrödinger's contract standoff. So, I should go elsewhere on the board…

... except the last time a Cowboys star running back sat out all of preseason and into the regular season, back in 1993, he missed two games. The Cowboys lost both of those games, and Jerry Jones opened up his wallet and made Emmitt Smith the highest-paid running back in football. Smith then led the league in rushing, even missing those first two games. I think Jones blinks again, and while Elliott is no Smith, he could pull off the same trick.

Andrew: If the Cowboys lose at home to the Skins this weekend, it will be more than Jones' wallet that he's opening. My value pick's the rather interesting Marlon Mack. The Colts aren't likely to completely cave the way they did the last time twice their expected starter missed the season, and if they're any way decent I expect that offensive line will be a big chunk of the reason why. They'll play plenty of teams whose pass defense is better, relatively speaking, than run defense, making Mack a more appealing choice with Jacoby Brissett as the starter than he was with Andrew Luck.

Bryan: I can't call someone as low as Mack a value pick, because value picks have to have a decent shot at winning. Last season, only three players topped 1,200 yards rushing. One was Elliott. One was Todd Gurley, whose knees appear to be actively disintegrating as we speak. I'm left with Barkley as my best value pick, despite being nearly co-favorites with Elliott. Finding a team willing to ride one running back all year long is tough, and those are the guys you have to look towards for this category.

For a longshot, I was briefly tempted by Sony Michel, totally contradicting everything I just said, but I'll instead lean on James Conner. To lead the league, you need to run for about 90 or 95 yards per game; Conner was at 75 last season. With Antonio Brown out of town, the Steelers are likely to shift back towards the run a little bit -- not a ton, but maybe not the widest pass-run ratio split in the NFL. A couple of extra carries for Conner a game could give him those extra 15 yards.

Andrew: I like Conner's odds, but not as much as those of the man just below him. Christian McCaffrey is unlikely to replicate last season: only three players have ever rushed for 1,000 yards and had 100 catches in the same season, and neither LaDainian Tomlinson nor Matt Forte could repeat the feat. If something's going to give, it will be the receptions, but McCaffrey is the workhorse back in Carolina as the only established back on the roster. He should, in theory, have a good shot at a career-best tally even if his quarterback's health remains a question mark.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Saquon Barkley (+325) Marlon Mack (+2000) Christian McCaffrey (+3300)
Bryan Ezekiel Elliott (+300) Saquon Barkley (+325) James Conner (+2000)

Most Rushing Touchdowns

Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Saquon Barkley +710 Leonard Fournette +2500 Peyton Barber +6500
Ezekiel Elliott +800 Aaron Jones +3000 Ronald Jones +6500
Chris Carson +1000 Devonta Freeman +3000 Deshaun Watson +6600
Derrick Henry +1000 Kyler Murray +3300 Jerick McKinnon +7500
Todd Gurley +1000 Kerryon Johnson +3500 Adrian Peterson +10000
Nick Chubb +1400 Dalvin Cook +4000 Carlos Hyde +10000
Alvin Kamara +1500 Latavius Murray +4500 Dak Prescott +10000
Damien Williams +1500 Phillip Lindsay +4500 LeSean McCoy +10000
James Conner +1800 Josh Allen +5000 Matt Breida +10000
Christian McCaffrey +2000 Josh Jacobs +5000 Rashaad Penny +10000
LeVeon Bell +2000 Lamar Jackson +5000 Tarik Cohen +10000
Marlon Mack +2000 Mark Ingram +5000 Tevin Coleman +10000
Melvin Gordon +2000 Cam Newton +5500 Chris Thompson +15000
Sony Michel +2200 Miles Sanders +6000 DOnta Foreman +15000
Darrell Henderson +2500 Derrius Guice +6500 Royce Freeman +15000
David Johnson +2500 Frank Gore +6500 Dion Lewis +25000
David Montgomery +2500 Jordan Howard +6500 Mitchell Trubisky +25000
Joe Mixon +2500 Kenyan Drake +6500    

Andrew: I love the number of quarterbacks I see on this list. I'm not going to pick any of them, but just seeing Ravens starting quarterback Lamar Jackson with the same odds as starting running back Mark Ingram makes me giddy. And Jackson's odds aren't even the shortest among the quarterbacks!

Bryan: Crazy times we live in. The quarterbacks might be fun for a longshot pick, but I still have to imagine a running back will lead the league in rushing touchdowns, no matter how much that's becoming a role by committee. In fact, my favorite and best value bet are the same guy -- Todd Gurley. I know the Rams are likely to spell him more this season in an attempt to prevent last year's collapse, but surely, that won't extend to the goal line. They swear up and down that Gurley's healthy and looking fantastic, and I am apparently a sucker for Sean McVay's smile, so I'll grab the two-time defending champ Gurley not once, but twice.

Andrew: Once again, we are close but not quite in accord. My value pick is Derrick Henry, because I think the Titans will continue to be adequate and he will once again be the mainly adequate beneficiary of their adequacy. My favorite is Saquon Barkley though, because the Giants will not be adequate and Barkley will be the only thing keeping them semi-competitive.

In this field, I posit that the base requirement to truly be considered a longshot should be longer odds than Kyler Murray. That's a "me" rule, not a "we" rule, but it does lead me into the waiting arms of Dalvin Cook as my longshot pick. Cook has only four career touchdowns in 14 career starts, but all of the players who would have vultured those scores in years past have now moved on. Cook is the clear No. 1 in that backfield, and should be due a significant upturn in production ... if he can stay healthy, which is the major reason for only 14 games played in two years since he turned professional.

Bryan: If I was going for a longshot that long, I'd probably take Kerryon Johnson, who only had three rushing touchdowns as a rookie but looks to be a good fit, when healthy, in Detroit's attack. Instead, I'm going to try to see inside Bill Belichick's head -- always a frightening task -- and pick Sony Michel to not only start as the Patriots' top running back, but actually keep that role throughout the season. He had six touchdowns in the playoffs last year, after all. Maybe that momentum keeps up into the regular season.

Andrew: I really like Michel's odds too, but to me he just doesn't seem good enough value to be value or long enough odds to be longshot. Consider him my grey-area "mandatory agreement with Bryan" pick.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Saquon Barkley (+710) Derrick Henry (+1000) Dalvin Cook (+4000)
Bryan Todd Gurley (+1000) Todd Gurley (+1000) Sony Michel (+2200)

Most Receiving Yards

Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Julio Jones +375 Zach Ertz +7500 A.J. Brown +20000
DeAndre Hopkins +700 N'Keal Harry +8000 Courtland Sutton +20000
Odell Beckham Jr +750 Allen Robinson +10000 Emmanuel Sanders +20000
Michael Thomas +1000 Christian Kirk +10000 Geronimo Allison +20000
Mike Evans +1000 Demaryius Thomas +10000 Hakeem Butler +20000
Tyreek Hill +1300 Keke Coutee +10000 James Washington +20000
Antonio Brown +1600 Sammy Watkins +10000 Jamison Crowder +20000
JuJu Smith-Schuster +1600 D.K. Metcalf +10500 Jared Cook +20000
Adam Thielen +2000 D.J. Moore +12500 Larry Fitzgerald +20000
Davante Adams +2000 Dante Pettis +12500 Marvin Jones Jr +20000
T.Y. Hilton +2000 Jarvis Landry +12500 Tyrell Williams +20000
Keenan Allen +2500 Sterling Shepard +12500 Will Fuller +20000
A.J. Green +3300 Tyler Lockett +12500 Christian McCaffrey +22500
Travis Kelce +3300 Alshon Jeffery +15000 Curtis Samuel +22500
Amari Cooper +4000 Antonio Callaway +15000 Austin Hooper +25000
Chris Godwin +5000 Calvin Ridley +15000 David Njoku +25000
George Kittle +5000 Cooper Kupp +15000 Evan Engram +25000
Josh Gordon +5000 Dede Westbrook +15000 Mike Williams +25000
Kenny Golladay +5000 Golden Tate +15000 Mohamed Sanu +25000
Tyler Boyd +5000 Kenny Stills +15000 O.J. Howard +25000
Brandin Cooks +6000 Marquise Brown +15000 Tarik Cohen +25000
DeSean Jackson +7500 Robby Anderson +15000 Corey Davis +30000
Julian Edelman +7500 Saquon Barkley +15000 Eric Ebron +30000
Robert Woods +7500 Michael Gallup +17500 Hunter Henry +30000
Stefon Diggs +7500 Todd Gurley +17500 Alvin Kamara +35000

Andrew: This is Odell Beckham's to lose already, right? Jarvis Landry's going to eat up catches, but it will be Beckham who actually gains, ya know, yards for the Browns. Now that Beckham has a viable quarterback again, he looks tremendous value as the third member of the top three.

Bryan: No, I'm going for both of the other members of the top three over Beckham, as I'd like to see OBJ top 1,500 yards in a season before declaring him the runaway favorite. Only one player has even gone over 1,600 yards in the last three years, so I'm saying this is still Julio Jones' title to lose. Maybe Beckham will be really good with Baker Mayfield, but we already know Jones is really good with Matt Ryan; he has led this category in two of the past four seasons. My best value, then is DeAndre Hopkins, who was at the top of essentially every DVOA by route we looked at last year; he's the most versatile receiver in the game. And maybe Deshaun Watson will have a second to hold the ball now! And maybe teams will score ten million points against the Texans with Jadeveon Clowney out of town, and they'll be forced to throw the ball more!

Andrew: Value for me is No. 4 on the list. The No. 2 receiver position remains less than clear in New Orleans, and Michael Thomas has proven that he can bear basically the entire load himself. It's tough to see how his usage could get any higher than it was last year, but a slight reduction in volume could be paired with an upward regression in yards per reception and still come out as a league-leading season. That four-figure value is enticing.

Bryan: For a longshot, I'm tempted to go with an ex-Saint in Brandin Cooks; any deep threat is a tough buy here because of their boom/bust nature, but when Cooks booms, he booms. But instead, I'll go across town and take Keenan Allen, whose value is being a bit depressed by his ankle injury. I am still quite heavily on board the Chargers' train this season, even as their customary patina of bad luck begins to form. The return of Hunter Henry might cut down on Allen's targets, but it might also open additional room in the secondary for him, and the ongoing Melvin Gordon contract dispute might entice Los Angeles to throw more often. Air it out, Phil!

Andrew: There are a lot of appealing longshots, with all manner of reasons for their long odds. These include the likes of A.J. Green and Josh Gordon -- two players who might, in a slightly different timeline, be among the favorites. The longshot I really like is Travis Kelce, because I'm still not sure Tyreek Hill is completely in the clear off the field and I've long considered Kelce the most important piece of the Chiefs offense regardless (now surpassed, of course, by Patrick Mahomes). Not many tight ends have the speed and ability after the catch that Kelce does, and though it would be a surprise for him to win this, it also isn't completely out of the question

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Odell Beckham Jr (+750) Michael Thomas (+1000) Travis Kelce (+3300)
Bryan Julio Jones (+375) DeAndre Hopkins (+700) Keenan Allen (+2500)

Most Receiving Touchdowns

Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Davante Adams +600 Jimmy Graham +5000 Geronimo Allison +10000
DeAndre Hopkins +850 Kenny Stills +5000 Golden Tate +10000
Travis Kelce +1200 Mecole Hardman +5000 Jack Doyle +10000
Mike Evans +1250 O.J. Howard +5000 James White +10000
Antonio Brown +1600 Julian Edelman +5500 Jarvis Landry +10000
JuJu Smith-Schuster +1600 Sammy Watkins +5500 Larry Fitzgerald +10000
Julio Jones +1600 D.J. Moore +6000 Marquise Brown +10000
Odell Beckham Jr +1600 Marvin Jones Jr +6000 Marquise Goodwin +10000
Tyreek Hill +1750 N'Keal Harry +6000 Saquon Barkley +10000
Michael Thomas +1800 Robby Anderson +6000 Sterling Shepard +10000
Eric Ebron +2500 Will Fuller +6000 Trey Burton +10000
A.J. Green +2800 Hunter Henry +6500 Tyler Boyd +10000
Amari Cooper +2800 Kenny Golladay +6500 Dede Westbrook +12500
Adam Thielen +3000 Robert Woods +6500 DeVante Parker +12500
Tyler Lockett +3000 Vance McDonald +6600 Mohamed Sanu +12500
Alshon Jeffery +3300 Allen Robinson +7500 Quincy Enunwa +12500
Calvin Ridley +3300 David Njoku +7500 Adam Humphries +15000
Keenan Allen +3300 Tyrell Williams +7500 Christian Kirk +15000
T.Y. Hilton +3300 Christian McCaffrey +8000 Corey Davis +15000
Stefon Diggs +4000 Demaryius Thomas +8000 Greg Olsen +15000
Zach Ertz +4000 Devin Funchess +8000 John Brown +15000
Austin Hooper +4500 Courtland Sutton +8500 Jordan Reed +15000
Mike Williams +4750 Albert Wilson +10000 Paul Richardson +15000
Brandin Cooks +5000 D.K. Metcalf +10000 Robert Foster +15000
Chris Godwin +5000 Dante Pettis +10000 Travis Benjamin +15000
Cooper Kupp +5000 DeSean Jackson +10000 Zay Jones +15000
George Kittle +5000 Emmanuel Sanders +10000 Josh Doctson +20000
Jared Cook +5000 Evan Engram +10000    

Andrew: This is where I think Hopkins comes into the frame. He is, as you point out, the most versatile No. 1 receiver in the sport, and that versatility is exceptionally valuable as an end zone target. Hopkins is my favorite to lead the league in receiving scores.

Bryan: Hopkins is one of only two players to have double-digit receiving touchdowns in each of the last two seasons, so he's a great pick for a favorite. The only problem is, Davante Adams is the other guy to do it, and he has had double-digit scores in each of the last three seasons. As three is a larger number than two, I shall take Adams.

Andrew: Fie on you and your new-fangled mathemathicals! For best value, look to none other than Antonio Brown's replacement as the No. 1 receiver in Pittsburgh. Juju Smith-Schuster picked up seven touchdowns in each of his first two seasons, while Ben Roethlisberger was still trying to placate Mr. Brown. Brown had double-digit scores in four of his six seasons -- including a league-leading 15 last year -- in the role now occupied by Smith-Schuster.

Bryan: My best bets have, so far, all been fairly high up the list -- it turns out, good players get low odds? Whoda thunk it? -- but I'll stretch further down than I have to this point to pick out Tyreek Hill as my best bet. He was splashy hit-and-miss last season, being held without a touchdown in over half of his games, but he tended to grab them in bunches when he did end up finding the end zone. He was fourth in the league with 12 receiving touchdowns a year ago, and the Chiefs probably won't throw 13 touchdown passes to their running backs again in 2019. Give me Hill to take up the lion's share of that work.

Andrew: My favorite longshot is the result of some offseason attrition affecting one of the teams we both like to be involved in the playoff hunt. Tyler Lockett is the best receiver remaining in Seattle with Doug Baldwin having retired, and his value gets a further boost with the uncertainty over the immediate health of DK Metcalf. Russell Wilson is the best quarterback in that division, and Lockett is by far his best target.

Bryan: Jinx! Lockett's my longshot, too, for all the reasons you stated and more. It seems highly unlikely Lockett can repeat his efficiency numbers from last season, but his volume should go up, up, up, assuming Seattle remembers the forward pass is legal. If I had to make a unique pick, I might go with Mike Williams and his newfound WR2 role. There's no sense disagreeing for just disagreement's sake, however; I like Lockett to top last season's career-high 10 touchdowns.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew DeAndre Hopkins (+850) JuJu Smith-Schuster (+1600) Tyler Lockett (+3000)
Bryan Davante Adams (+600) Tyreek Hill (+1750) Tyler Lockett (+3000)

Award Props

Most Valuable Player

Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Patrick Mahomes +500 Sam Darnold +10000 Joe Mixon +22500
Baker Mayfield +1150 Josh Allen (BUF) +12500 Adam Thielen +25000
Aaron Rodgers +1200 Michael Thomas +12500 Andy Dalton +25000
Carson Wentz +1300 Dalvin Cook +15000 Antonio Brown +25000
Philip Rivers +1500 Khalil Mack +15000 Brandin Cooks +25000
Tom Brady +1500 Leonard Fournette +15000 Cooper Kupp +25000
Deshaun Watson +1800 Matthew Stafford +15000 Corey Davis +25000
Drew Brees +1800 Mike Evans +15000 Davante Adams +25000
Cam Newton +2500 Nick Bosa +15000 Demaryius Thomas +25000
Matt Ryan +2500 Nick Chubb +15000 Desean Jackson +25000
Ben Roethlisberger +3250 Sony Michel +15000 Drew Lock +25000
Russell Wilson +3300 Kerryon Johnson +17500 Eli Manning +25000
Kirk Cousins +3500 Jacoby Brissett +17500 Josh Jacobs +25000
Jared Goff +4000 A.J. Green +20000 Josh Rosen +25000
Jimmy Garoppolo +4000 Allen Robinson +20000 Kenny Golladay +25000
Lamar Jackson +4000 Alshon Jeffrey +20000 Marcus Mariota +25000
Amari Cooper +5000 DeAndre Hopkins +20000 Mark Ingram +25000
Mitchell Trubisky +5000 Derrick Henry +20000 Marvin Jones +25000
Dak Prescott +6000 Devonta Freeman +20000 Phillip Lindsay +25000
Alvin Kamara +6600 Dwayne Haskins +20000 Stefon Diggs +25000
Christian McCaffrey +6600 Emmanuel Sanders +20000 Tarik Cohen +25000
LeVeon Bell +6600 Jarvis Landry +20000 Tevin Coleman +25000
Saquon Barkley +6600 JJ Watt +20000 Von Miller +25000
Jameis Winston +7500 Juju Smith-Schuster +20000 Courtland Sutton +30000
Todd Gurley +7500 Julio Jones +20000 Joe Flacco +30000
Aaron Donald +8000 Keenan Allen +20000 Joey Bosa +30000
Kyler Murray +8000 LeSean McCoy +20000 John Brown +30000
Nick Foles +8000 Marlon Mack +20000 Julian Edelman +30000
Ezekiel Elliot +8500 Melvin Gordon +20000 Travis Kelce +30000
James Conner +8500 Odell Beckham Jr +20000 Zach Ertz +30000
David Johnson +10000 T.Y. Hilton +20000 Daniel Jones +75000
Derek Carr +10000 Tyreek Hill +20000    

Andrew: Patrick Mahomes is the favorite here, but my oh my is that unlikely. Mahomes would, if triumphant, be only the second player since 1996 to win back-to-back MVP crowns. Only four people have ever done it: Earl Campbell, Joe Montana, Brett Favre, and Peyton Manning. We'd basically be certifying him as a first-ballot Hall of Fame player in his second year as a starter. That's not impossible, but it is wild.

Bryan: Unlikely, yes, but Mahomes ran away with the award last year -- 41 out of the 50 votes went to him. It wasn't a close race, and it's not like he only won it because another superstar was out with an injury or something of that nature. I think Mahomes remains the favorite until proven otherwise.

Andrew: Mahomes' success was down to some other factors too though, including the dreadful Chiefs defense and a relatively down year for some of the other usual contenders. I agree that he's justifiably the favorite, but it would be truly astonishing for him to repeat.

This is another occasion in which I'm not really sure of what constitutes a longshot. I don't really see a non-quarterback winning it, but every quarterback I think has a chance is in the top 12 of the table. Given that, I think my value pick is Drew Brees -- he was a distant second to Mahomes last year, and quarterbacks our Super Bowl favorites. Brees may well get the lifetime achievement award if the Saints are as good as advertised. That leaves probably Russell Wilson as my longshot, because Seattle could easily contend for that division and if they do a lot of the credit will go Wilson's way. I like Newton too as an outsider, but his odds are just too short for me to really consider him a longshot.

Bryan: I'm with you with Brees as the value pick. With Mahomes winning last year, he probably has a disadvantage in a close race, and if Brees and the Saints dominate the NFC South on the way to the top seed in the conference, he's going to have a very strong argument (especially if there are hints that 2019 might be his last year, which is always a possibility for the aging quarterback elite). For a longshot, I'm tempted to go with Ezekiel Elliott under that "miss two games, come back, lead the league in rushing" scenario mentioned all the way back up in the rushing leader section, but I think if I proclaimed a running back the most valuable player in football, I'd have to turn in my analytics card. Instead, I'll go with Ben Roethlisberger as my longshot. If he can continue to produce his normal kind of numbers, now with both Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell out of the picture, and if he can hold off the expected Cleveland Browns resurgence (and that is STILL an odd sentence to type), he might get some consideration here.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Patrick Mahomes (+500) Drew Brees (+1800) Russell Wilson (+3300)
Bryan Patrick Mahomes (+500) Drew Brees (+1800) Ben Roethlisberger (+3250)

Coach of the Year

Coach Odds   Coach Odds   Coach Odds
Bruce Arians +950 Dan Quinn +2000 Jason Garrett +3000
Kyle Shanahan +1000 Matt LaFleur +2000 Kliff Kingsbury +3300
Freddie Kitchens +1100 Matt Nagy +2000 Mike Vrabel +3300
Andy Reid +1400 Vic Fangio +2000 Ron Rivera +3300
Bill Belichick +1400 Pete Carroll +2200 Brian Flores +3500
Frank Reich +1400 Sean McDermott +2500 Jon Gruden +4000
Sean McVay +1400 Adam Gase +2800 Zac Taylor +4000
Sean Payton +1400 Bill O'Brien +2800 Jay Gruden +5000
Doug Marrone +1500 John Harbaugh +2800 Matt Patricia +5000
Doug Pederson +1600 Mike Tomlin +2800 Pat Shurmur +5000
Anthony Lynn +2000 Mike Zimmer +2800    

Andrew: I freely admit, I have absolutely no idea why Bruce Arians is the bookies' favorite here. Sure, if the Buccaneers shock the world and win the NFC South, he'll win it, but I don't see a non-playoff coach winning this thing and I don't see this Buccaneers team sniffing the playoffs. Is he really going to win Coach of the Year for the Buccaneers going 7-9 instead of 5-11? Really bizarre odds.

Bryan: I think it's in part that everyone kind of likes Bruce Arians; he's a really cool guy, coming out of retirement, and I think a lot of voters would like to give him this award. But as a favorite? No, I can't see it; the last coach to win this without double-digit victories was Jimmy Johnson of the 7-9 Dallas Cowboys in 1990, the only coach ever to win this award with a losing record. And last year's Bucs weren't as bad as the 1989 Dallas Cowboys.

Andrew: Now if a non-playoff coach were to win this award, then there's only one case I could see, and that is Frank Reich making a competitive stab at the division in the wake of Andrew Luck's retirement. I actually have Reich as my value pick for that reason: he has the widest available criteria for a successful season, as anything from 8-8 up will see people making the argument for him. My favorite, however, is Sean Payton, for the same reason we just discussed above for Drew Brees.

Bryan: Wait, your favorite and best bet have the same odds?

Andrew: I know. It's just one of the many things I find weird about you guys' gambling system in general and this list of odds in particular.

Bryan: I'm just proud you're continuing Scramble's history of questionable mathematics.

Andrew: I believe the technical term is "hedging my bets."

Bryan: I am going to slip into homerism mode here, and call Kyle Shanahan my favorite for this award. I think the media has been looking to crown him an offensive genius for the last couple years, but the 49ers' ongoing struggles at the quarterback position have prevented a coronation. If a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo helps lead the 49ers from a 4-12 record to a playoff berth -- or maybe, maybe even an 8-8 record -- I think Shanahan takes it. NFL writers love reward teams that shoot up the rankings, and few teams have more room to shoot up than the 49ers do.

For the same reason, my value pick is Doug Pederson. The Eagles' off-year in 2018 was more due to injuries than a loss of talent, and the return of everyone all healthy-like could provide a significant boost to Philadelphia's record. If the Eagles run away with the NFC East and earn a first-round bye, I could see the voters giving Pederson the award, almost as a mea culpa for not giving him it during Philly's Super Bowl run.

But if you want a longshot? I'll give you a longshot. Go all the way down to the bottom of the table ... wait, no, that's one too far. Come back up, there you go, to Matt. Freaking. Patricia. 50-to-1 underdog! But we give the Lions the second-best chance of winning the NFC North, something most of the media world doesn't believe has a chance in hell of happening. If the Lions do take home a division crown, the sheer shock of it could give Patricia votes.

Andrew: If the Panthers are anywhere close to as good as I really believe they could be, then Ron Rivera will get strong consideration. I can hardly believe that he's in the bottom third of this table. It's a longshot due to a wide variety of factors, but to me Rivera would be the least surprising win from that end of the table.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Sean Payton (+1400) Frank Reich (+1400) Ron Rivera (+3300)
Bryan Kyle Shanahan (+1000) Doug Pederson (+1600) Matt Patricia (+5000)

First Coach to Lose Job

Coach Odds   Coach Odds   Coach Odds
Jay Gruden +333 Ron Rivera +2000 John Harbaugh +5000
Pat Shurmur +850 Kliff Kingsbury +2500 Jon Gruden +5000
Matt Patricia +900 Sean McDermott +2500 Zac Taylor +5000
Bill O'Brien +1200 Anthony Lynn +3000 Frank Reich +7500
Dan Quinn +1200 Freddie Kitchens +3000 Matt Nagy +7500
Doug Marrone +1200 Mike Vrabel +3000 Sean Payton +10000
Jason Garrett +1500 Kyle Shanahan +3500 Andy Reid +10000
Mike Zimmer +1500 Matt LaFleur +3500 Doug Pederson +10000
Adam Gase +2000 Pete Carroll +4000 Sean McVay +10000
Brian Flores +2000 Vic Fangio +5000 Bill Belichick +15000
Mike Tomlin +2000 Bruce Arians +5000    

Andrew: I thought Jay Gruden was a solid value pick last year, but in the end he was probably spared by a catastrophic injury situation. This year, he's the favorite for good reason. Nobody lasts this long under Daniel Snyder, and certainly not after the sort of season I expect Washington to have this year. Sorry, Jay.

Bryan: Yeah, I'm with you on Gruden. Washington might only be topped by Miami for worst team in the league this year, and Miami's at least intentionally tanking ... err, "rebuilding." It's going to get ugly early in Washington, and Snyder is not a patient man.

Andrew: For a value pick, it pains me to say it, but I look back at what we wrote about the Jaguars last week and wince. If Jacksonville does get off to a 1-5 start, which is far from impossible, not even a relative revival in the second half will be enough for Doug Marrone. That early schedule is brutal, and there's every chance the London game continues its tradition of costing coaches jobs.

Bryan: Once again, I defer to my honorable friend from across the sea. The Jaguars are expecting Nick Foles to get them back into playoff contention; if that doesn't happen, Marrone is going to shoulder a fair percentage of the blame. Shahid Khan is less likely to cut ties with his new expensive Super Bowl MVP quarterback than he is with a coach who currently has a 31-35 record.

Now, it should be noted that the bet specifically here is "first coach to leave his post." That could be a mid-season firing or a Black Monday casualty, but it could also be a retirement. With that in mind, my longshot, the longest of longshots, is Jon Gruden. Coaching a losing team can't be fun. If this year's Raiders are as dysfunctional as last year's group, I could imagine ESPN whispering to him that the color commentary position on Monday Night Football is still open for him, if he wanted to return. Maybe, just maybe, Gruden takes a bow. After all, he said that if he "couldn't get it done,'' he wouldn't take the Raiders' money.

... OK, it's a longshot for a reason, right?

Andrew: You aren't going to like my longshot pick.

Bryan: I'm not, but it's fair.

Andrew: The time is now for San Francisco. They've invested too much in the ongoing rebuild, and should finally have the pieces in place to contend this year. Except they don't. Not really. If Jimmy Garoppolo can finally play more than five games in a season and is actually good, that could cover for a lot of deficiencies elsewhere -- but it will need to, because there are a lot of deficiencies elsewhere. If Garoppolo does not live up to his billing, then it's tough to see where real progress will come from on the current roster. The 49ers, for all the building, really don't look that great, and another disappointment -- even a 7-9 disappointment -- could be enough to persuade ownership that Kyle Shanahan, while a terrific offensive coordinator, isn't going to get the job done as a head coach. I'm not saying it's likely, but it's not entirely unlikely either, unlike most of the other people in the bottom half of the table.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Jay Gruden (+333) Doug Marrone (+1200) Kyle Shanahan (+3500)
Bryan Jay Gruden (+333) Doug Marrone (+1200) Jon Gruden (+5000)

Offensive Player of the Year

Bryan: No odds are available for this award, as it doesn't make any sense. As the MVP award has become, essentially, the award for the best quarterback (or possibly running back) in the NFL, shouldn't that person also be the offensive player of the year? They did vote for Mahomes for both awards last season, but they often split the two up, in a vote that makes no sense. As such, no one dares offer odds on this strange, strange award.

I'll pick Mahomes to win it again, however, either doubling it up or in an MVP split with Brees, and I'll leave it at that.

Andrew: This, to me, is better thought of as the "Most Valuable Non-Quarterback" Award, Offense Edition. They really ought to formally split it.

Bryan: Quarterbacks have won six of the last 10 OPOY awards, in what observers are calling "some bullshit."

Andrew: So yeah, let's formally make this a non-QB award to avoid rendering it utterly pointless. In that vein, I'll pick Saquon Barkley, even though the Giants suck.

Defensive Player of the Year

Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Aaron Donald +150 Calais Campbell +6600 TJ Watt +10000
Khalil Mack +300 Danielle Hunter +6600 Tre'Davious White +10000
JJ Watt +700 Chris Jones +6600 Tyrann Mathieu +10000
Myles Garrett +1000 Deion Jones +6600 Akiem Hicks +12500
Von Miller +1000 Earl Thomas +6600 Blake Martinez +12500
Joey Bosa +2000 Jalen Ramsey +6600 Casey Hayward +12500
Demarcus Lawrence +2500 Kwon Alexander +6600 Denzel Ward +12500
Chandler Jones +3300 Landon Collins +7500 Devin Bush +12500
Darius Leonard +3300 CJ Mosley +8000 Devin White +12500
Leighton Vander Esch +3300 Eddie Jackson +8000 Geno Atkins +12500
Bobby Wagner +4000 Harrison Smith +8000 Marshon Lattimore +12500
Cameron Jordan +4000 Jadeveon Clowney +8000 Myles Jack +12500
Jaylon Smith +4000 Jamal Adams +8000 Patrick Peterson +12500
Luke Kuechly +4000 Lavonte David +8000 Telvin Smith +12500
Melvin Ingram +4000 Roquan Smith +8000 Trey Flowers +12500
Bradley Chubb +4500 Stephon Gilmore +8000 Anthony Barr +15000
Brandon Graham +5000 Cameron Heyward +10000 Nick Bosa +15000
Fletcher Cox +5000 Dee Ford +10000 Sheldon Richardson +15000
Frank Clark +5000 DeForest Buckner +10000 Yannick Ngakoue +15000
Jurrell Casey +5000 Everson Griffen +10000 Quinnen Williams +20000
Justin Houston +5000 Leonard Williams +10000 Richard Sherman +20000
Derwin James +5500        

Andrew: This one, at least, is interesting. Or would be, if Aaron Donald wasn't the consensus best defender in the league. Donald's the prohibitive favorite, even if his odds are so absurdly short as to completely rule out any prospect of ever betting on him.

Bryan: Donald is the favorite. Donald is my best value pick. Donald will be on the All-Decade team. Assuming the league does an All-Century team, Donald may have already done enough in his career to be on that. You say his odds are so short to rule out the prospect of ever betting on him; +150 implies he wins this award 40 percent of the time. That seems low to me. Anyone else winning this award would be at least a minor shock.

Andrew: There is another ... I mean ... there has to be ... och. There is no value pick. There is only Aaron Donald, and a league's worth of longshots. Of those longshots, give me Myles Garrett despite his short odds, but it's Donald all the way.

Bryan: I can slide a little further down the table to find my longshot. Cameron Jordan has had back-to-back years of double-digit sacks, and has routinely been one of the most under-appreciated players in the NFL Only Donald had more pass pressures than Jordan did a year ago; if Donald gets hurt or otherwise slows down, I'd have Jordan as the most likely to take his crown.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Aaron Donald (+150) Aaron Donald (+150) Myles Garrett (+1000)
Bryan Aaron Donald (+150) Aaron Donald (+150) Cameron Jordan (+4000)

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Kyler Murray +150 Drew Lock +3500 Ryan Finley +7500
Josh Jacobs +650 Noah Fant +3500 Bryce Love +8000
Dwayne Haskins +750 Hakeem Butler +4000 Dawson Knox +10000
David Montgomery +1250 Miles Boykin +4000 Diontae Johnson +10000
Deebo Samuel +1650 Justice Hill +4250 Drew Sample +10000
Mecole Hardman +1800 Alexander Mattison +4500 Jace Sternberger +10000
Miles Sanders +1800 Terry McLaurin +4500 Jarrett Stidham +10000
Devin Singletary +2000 Andy Isabella +5000 Josh Oliver +10000
A.J. Brown +2500 Damien Harris +5000 Kahale Warring +10000
Daniel Jones +2500 Darius Slayton +5000 Andre Dillard +15000
Marquise Brown +2500 Hunter Renfrow +5000 Jawaan Taylor +15000
N'Keal Harry +2500 Jalen Hurd +5000 Jonah Williams +15000
T.J. Hockenson +2500 Will Grier +5000 Kaleb McGary +15000
Parris Campbell +2650 JJ Arcega-Whiteside +6000 Tytus Howard +15000
Darrell Henderson +3000 Gary Jennings +6600 Chris Lindstrom +20000
D.K. Metcalf +3300 Irv Smith Jr. +7500 Garrett Bradbury +20000
Riley Ridley +3300        

Andrew: Kyler Murray is an odd bookies' favorite, because although he's the top pick the Cardinals are widely expected to be dreadful. Murray might be the only rookie quarterback to start every game, but he's no Saquon Barkley as an automatic choice. One of the running backs could easily take this away from him. I think Murray's still my favorite, but it's nowhere near as automatic as last year.

Bryan: I do think that Murray is the favorite, simply because "quarterback who starts 16 games" is kind of your default winner for this sort of award, but yeah, +150 is way too high for him. I'll instead pin Josh Jacobs as my best value pick. It is true that Gruden and the Raiders are making noises about him having to earn his role and whatnot, in the way that old school football coaches seem determined not to put their best players on the field at any given time, but Jacobs has to be the best option the Raiders have, on all three downs. What, were they going to start Doug Martin over him? Please.

Andrew: Totally agreed, which leaves only the longshot for potential disagreement. The fact that two of the top receiver prospects, N'Keal Harry and D.K. Metcalf, already have health concerns -- Harry is now on injured reserve -- doesn't help. That pushes me all the way down to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who has garnered a ton of hype in Philadelphia as a prospective target for Carson Wentz. Arcega-Whiteside has a tough path to playing time given the reputation of those ahead of him, but I trust Doug Pederson and company to give him the opportunities, and everything I've heard suggests that he will take them.

Bryan: My longshot is based on a tried-and-true trend throughout the years: me being an idiot. I am on record, multiple times, saying that Daniel Jones was a terrible pick at No. 6 in the draft, and that I would rather have a flotilla of other quarterbacks ahead of him. So, of course Jones goes out and balls in preseason. I still think he'll be bad; I still think that his preseason success won't translate to regular success; and I still remind people of the famous 1998 New York Times headline from preseason: "Leaf Outduels Manning." Still. You certainly would prefer your rookie quarterback looking great in preseason than the alternative, so I'll grab Jones for a longshot.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Kyler Murray (+150) Josh Jacobs (+650) J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (+6000)
Bryan Kyler Murray (+150) Josh Jacobs (+650) Daniel Jones (+2500)

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Devin Bush +500 Christian Wilkins +4000 Dre'mont Jones +6600
Nick Bosa +750 Deionte Thompson +4000 Drue Tranquill +6600
Devin White +800 Greedy Williams +4000 Mack Wilson +6600
Quinnen Williams +1000 Marquise Blair +4000 Renell Wren +6600
Josh Allen +1350 Sione Takitaki +4000 Sean Bunting +6600
Ed Oliver +1500 Byron Murphy +4500 Trysten Hill +6600
Montez Sweat +1500 Jachai Polite +4500 Vosean Joseph +6600
Brian Burns +2050 Nasir Adderley +4500 Cody Barton +8000
Clelin Ferrell +2050 Ben Banogu +5000 Julian Love +8000
Chase Winovich +2500 Chauncey Gardner-Johnson +5000 Oshane Ximines +8000
Rashan Gary +2500 David Long (LAR) +5000 Blake Cashman +9000
Taylor Rapp +2500 Dexter Lawrence +5000 Amani Hooker +10000
Bobby Okereke +3000 Germaine Pratt +5000 Dandre Walker +10000
Jerry Tillery +3050 Jaylon Ferguson +5000 Joe Jackson +10000
Darnell Savage +3300 Joejuan Williams +5000 Khalen Saunders +10000
Rock Ya-Sin +3300 Justin Layne +5000 Ryan Connelly +10000
Jahlani Tavai +3500 L.J. Collier +5000 David Long Jr (TEN) +15000
Juan Thornhill +3500 Lonnie Johnson Jr +5000 Jefferey Simmons +15000
Deandre Baker +3550 Trayvon Mullen +5000 Blessuan Austin +20000
Johnathan Abram +3550 Zach Allen +5000    

Bryan: That Jachai Polite bet is in fact still on the board, despite his release from the Jets. What a fall from someone projected to be a top-10 pick before the combine.

It's always a little difficult to figure out which defensive rookies will make a splash, as it's all about opportunity. For my favorite, I'll just go with the combined powers of homerism, nepotism, and highest drafted player available and take Nick Bosa, who has returned to practice and gets to rush the passer across from Dee Ford. Since he missed all of preseason, however, I can't call him the best value. That has to go to Josh Allen (no, not that one), who seemed to be making plays whenever I turned my head during the preseason.

Andrew: If the 49ers defense is good this year, Nick Bosa has a great chance. They won't be, but it's a nice thought.

Bryan: I'm recording all of these for the December article we write after the 49ers clinch the NFC West.

Andrew: If the Buccaneers defense is good this year, Devin White has a great chance. They won't be, but it's a nice thought.

(If the Buccaneers win the NFC South, I think we can safely cancel our December articles.)

I think my favorite for this actually has an outsider's odds. Buffalo could have a very good defense this year, and Ed Oliver could be a huge part of their success. He has the profile and pedigree that make him likely to get credit if that happens, and sometimes that's what makes the difference for these things.

My value pick's only slightly below Oliver on the list. Brian Burns fills a vital need on the edge for the Panthers defense, and if that front is back to its usual effectiveness this year he is also likely to get a lot of the credit. That's enough to count as good value for me.

Bryan: I, too, was saying Boo-urns. He's my longshot rather than my value pick, because that's how the numbers worked out, but he had four sacks this preseason and looks ready to start strongly.

Andrew: Here's a philosophical question for you: is there a longer longshot in these odds than a second-round defensive back on the Patriots? No, I'm not picking Joejuan Williams, I'm just amused by the question.

Bryan: There are a couple of Longshots, and if you word your bet right, your bookie won't know if you've picked the Rams' David Long or the Titans' David Long. That's called thinking outside the box, there.

Andrew: My actual longshot pick is a second-round defensive back, but this time for the Colts. Rock Ya-Sin has a truly awesome name, the kind of moniker that births legends and etches itself firmly into people's minds. He has an important role in the secondary of a team that is suddenly likely to rely much more on its defense than anybody expected. If he holds up as an improved Colts squad makes a playoff push, that could be enough. Again, not entirely likely, but an intriguing outside prospect.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Ed Oliver (+1500) Brian Burns (+2050) Rock Ya-Sin (+3300)
Bryan Nick Bosa (+750) Josh Allen (+1350) Brian Burns (+2050)

Comeback Player of the Year

Player Odds   Player Odds   Player Odds
Jimmy Garoppolo +250 Everson Griffen +2000 Eli Manning +3300
Le'Veon Bell +400 Greg Olsen +2000 Joe Flacco +3300
Devonta Freeman +800 Antonio Brown +2500 Keanu Neal +3300
Cam Newton +1100 Hunter Henry +2500 Carl Lawson +5000
Carson Wentz +1200 Jerick McKinnon +2500 Delanie Walker +5000
Derrius Guice +1400 Leonard Fournette +2500 Jake Butt +5000
Earl Thomas +1400 Marcus Mariota +2500 Marqise Lee +5000
Cooper Kupp +1450 Josh Rosen +2800 Tyler Eifert +5000
Jason Witten +1500 Travis Frederick +3000 Dez Bryant +6000
A.J. Green +1600 Deion Jones +3300 LeSean McCoy +6600
David Johnson +1600 Derek Carr +3300 Vontaze Burfict +10000

Bryan: Alright, serious question here for a moment: should Le'Veon Bell be eligible to win this award? After all, what he's "coming back" from is a contract dispute. Most winners of this award have either come back from significant injury, or from being bad football players. Bell doesn't fall into either category; his statless 2018 was self-inflicted, whether you think he was in the right or not.

Andrew: Agreed. Let's bilaterally disqualify him, as revenge for what he did to your predictions record last year. Similarly, I'm not really sure what Leonard Fournette is meant to be coming back from. He had a bad second year, but at least some of that was self-inflicted.

Bryan: A little bit of being banged up, a little bit of being ineffective, and a little bit of being suspended by the team. At least he has a chance for his 2019 to be better than his previous season; that seems unlikely for Bell.

Andrew: Travis Frederick would be a great shout if he wasn't an offensive lineman. Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a very serious condition, and recovery often takes years. It's not quite your typical "injured or sucked" scenario.

Bryan: Frederick coming back is a feel-good story, and one of my favorite stories of the year. But for this award, I'm not picking a feel-good story. I'm picking a story of revenge.

One of the indelible images I have of the 2018 season is Earl Thomas being taken off on a cart, flipping the bird to the Seahawks' sideline after his broken leg ended his season. That also ended any hopes that the Seahawks would re-sign Thomas, as they had been playing coy about re-signing him up until that point. With a new big contract in Baltimore, I think Thomas plays with a fire in him to prove Seattle wrong. He's my best best and my favorite.

Andrew: Thomas is my value pick, but my favorite is Cam Newton. Last season was a tale of gradual decline for Newton as his shoulder deteriorated throughout October and November. This year, if things go better, he could be in the MVP conversation. Even if he isn't, a return to his previous level coupled with an improved supporting cast could mean his best season in years, and that would be enough to snag this award.

My longshot is LeSean McCoy, because coming back from being cut by the Buffalo Bills deserves every bit of praise it gets. McCoy is in an ideal situation in the Chiefs offense, and while I don't think he'll quite get back to his previous level, I trust Andy Reid to squeeze out every last drop that McCoy has left in the tank. If that's anything close to what the contract offer suggests Reid thinks it is, it's Comeback Player of the Year material.

Bryan: Hunter Henry is my longshot, in part because the media last year did not seem to be aware he was actually missing the season. If he's a top-five tight end -- and he showed the ability to do that -- and a key cog in a Los Angeles playoff run with, say, 70 catches? That sounds like a CPOY to me.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew Cam Newton (+1100) Earl Thomas (+1400) LeSean McCoy (+6600)
Bryan Earl Thomas (+1400) Earl Thomas (+1400) Hunter Henry (+2500)

Super Bowl Winner

Team Odds   Team Odds   Team Odds
New England Patriots +750 Dallas Cowboys +2700 New York Jets +8000
Kansas City Chiefs +825 Seattle Seahawks +3000 Tennessee Titans +8000
New Orleans Saints +1075 Atlanta Falcons +3300 Buffalo Bills +10000
Philadelphia Eagles +1200 Baltimore Ravens +3300 New York Giants +10000
Los Angeles Rams +1250 San Francisco 49ers +3500 Tampa Bay Buccaneers +10000
Los Angeles Chargers +1400 Houston Texans +4000 Detroit Lions +13000
Cleveland Browns +1800 Jacksonville Jaguars +4500 Cincinnati Bengals +20000
Pittsburgh Steelers +1800 Carolina Panthers +5000 Arizona Cardinals +25000
Chicago Bears +2000 Indianapolis Colts +6000 Washington Redskins +25000
Green Bay Packers +2000 Denver Broncos +7000 Miami Dolphins +40000
Minnesota Vikings +2500 Oakland Raiders +7500    

Andrew: Which leaves only the big one; the one that really matters. Our full set of staff predictions will cover this on Wednesday, but we have the chance to get in ahead of the pack (or, if we're feeling very bold, to actually go with the Pack). Tell us, Bryan: who gets your money for the only pick that really matters?

Bryan: As I mentioned in the NFC South Over/Unders, I'm going with the Saints. I do feel like this is their year; they've been at or near the top of the league time after time. I think they cruise through their division. I think the Eagles are a clear rung down as their biggest rivals in the NFC; I think the Rams, Bears, and Packers are not going to be as good as people think they will. I see them with the smoothest path to the big game, and I like them head-to-head against anyone on a neutral field. They're my favorites.

Andrew: The Saints are my value pick; the depth of the NFC is just enough to keep me from picking them overall. Sadly, overall my favorite is the Patriots. I think this year's Patriots team is a rung down from most recent Patriots teams, but I said the same about last year's and look where that ended up. Nobody else in the AFC has shown the consistent ability to take that conference away from Bill Belichick and company. Eventually, somebody else will, but until they do, the Patriots remain the deserved favorite.

Bryan: I do have the Patriots reaching the Super Bowl, but my value pick goes to the Chargers, who I am still on despite everything that goes hand-in-hand with placing money on the Los Angeles Chargers to do anything related to football. They were, originally, my Super Bowl losers, before the Derwin James injury news broke and I had to quickly e-mail Vince Verhei to change my picks for said staff predictions. I still have them going quite far, and perhaps James will come back and they'll settle with Melvin Gordon and things will go so well that a few people in Los Angeles might notice they have two football teams!

Andrew: As many of my picks here have probably given away, my longshot pick is the Carolina Panthers. Last year was the worst Panthers defense since 2012, with a quarterback who couldn't throw the ball 25 yards in the second half of the season, and they still finished one game short of breaking even. This year, the defense will be better, the quarterback should be healthier, the receiving group is deeper, and everything that made them so exciting after eight games last year is still around. Injuries could quickly derail this, as the Panthers are extremely shallow in a lot of spots, but a healthy Panthers team is a contender in the NFC.

Bryan: I, too, am sticking with a team down South for my longshot, but I'm headed over to the AFC. Yes, even after Bill O'Brien became something of a laughingstock this weekend after trading Jadeveon Clowney away for pennies on the dollar and then trading a zillion picks to the Dolphins for a mid-tier offensive tackle, I still think the Texans have a shot to be Super Bowl-bound. Afterall, someone has to win the AFC South, and the Texans still have the best quarterback, best wide receiver, and best defender in the division, which counts for something. The Laremy Tunsil trade was an attempt to shore up their greatest weakness by far. It's a gamble I don't think will work out, but if it does, the Texans might have something here. It's not likely, but again, that's why it's a longshot.

  Favorite Best Bet Longshot
Andrew New England Patriots (+750) New Orleans Saints (+1075) Carolina Panthers (+5000)
Bryan New Orleans Saints (+1075) LA Chargers (+1400) Houston Texans (+4000)

Bryan: And that should do it! When Sony Michel is running his nth touchdown of the year in against defensive player of the year Cam Jordan in the Super Bowl, you can remember that you read it here first! And if that doesn't happen, you can be sure we'll have plenty of time to mock one another for these picks when January rolls around.


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 at time of writing.

Bryan: Oakland (pick'em) vs. Denver. This started as a Raiders -3 line, but has been creeping down, down, down as the betters put their money on Denver. No, no, no, and no. These aren't exactly the two titans in the AFC West, mind you, but putting the Raiders and Broncos nearly even on Oakland's home field seems unnecessarily harsh for Gruden's Grinders. Don't get me wrong, I think the Raiders are a double-digit-loss team this year, but they didn't downgrade their quarterback this offseason. The Raiders' offseason plan, as wild and internally inconsistent as it was, was to get talent to compete. The Broncos' offensive plan was generally more about improving for 2020 or 2021; their young players will need time to gel. I'm fully on board with the Vic Fangio era, but I think he's going to open his ledger with a loss on Monday night.

Andrew: People much smarter than myself often point out that football is all about matchups. Strengths, weaknesses, and the ability of each team to take advantage of those. Atlanta's premier strength is its receiving corps; Minnesota's greatest strength is cornerback depth. That should make for a fascinating matchup when the Falcons are on offense, assuming the Falcons line can give Matt Ryan time against a formidable Vikings rush. On the other side, Minnesota certainly has the receivers to take advantage of Atlanta's uncertain secondary, whereas the Falcons don't look to have the pass rush to overwhelm even Minnesota's perennially questionable offensive line. In Minneapolis, the Vikings should have enough to see off Atlanta by more than the four-point line. Minnesota (-4) over Atlanta.

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 competition was a nail-biter last year, as Andrew led most of the way, but I pipped him at the line to earn the inaugural Double Survival crown. Did we succeed in our goal of going 32-0? Not even close; I won with a final score of 23-9. But, together, did we combine to find wins for all 32 teams? Again, no; the Cardinals and Jaguars slipped through our fingers. Ah well. Another year, another chance for glory.

I'll open up the picks this year by taking Philadelphia over Washington and the LA Chargers over Indianapolis. Both teams start the year with arguably their easiest matchups, regardless of the old saws about divisional rivalries and whatnot. For the Eagles, this is mostly about picking against Washington while they're still running Case Keenum under center. I'm not sure Dwayne Haskins will be the real deal, but we're fairly sure that Keenum isn't. There would be plenty of time to pick Philly later, but getting a win on the board early is rarely a bad thing; this is the game I'm most sure about this week.  Los Angeles handling Indianapolis is my second favorite game of the week, though it's not the game I think the Chargers are most likely to win (that would be against Denver in Week 5).  The Colts should still be a little bit reeling from the Andrew Luck retirement, so let's hit them early before they can rally around Jacoby Brissett.

Editor's Note: If you read this article early Tuesday afternoon, you might have seen Bryan taking Oakland over Denver instead.  That is a dirty, dirty lie caused by swamp gas bouncing off of Venus, and certainly NOT caused by Bryan forgetting that Week 17 doesn't count for Double Survival, heck no.

Andrew: I preferred to shy away from picking road teams last year, because even good NFL teams tend to be more vulnerable on the road. However, it's hard to resist the allure of opening the season by picking against what looks to be the two least talented teams in the league -- especially when we aren't yet sure of the quality of this week's opponents. Baltimore has a wide range of possible season outcomes depending on the progress of their young quarterback, but even if Lamar Jackson struggles they should easily have enough to dispose of this year's tankful of Dolphins.

Similarly, our numbers expect Detroit to be better than their general perception. That starts with a visit to a Cardinals squad whose coach and quarterback are both making their professional debuts, whose top cornerback is suspended, and whose current secondary consequently bears a striking resemblance to Barringer Crater. Neither of this week's road picks is a sure thing, but this is a good chance to get some potentially awkward teams off the board early.

Bryan selects the Eagles and Chargers; Andrew takes the Ravens and Lions

 

Comments

6 comments, Last at 04 Sep 2019, 3:01pm

1 I hope Jay Gruden is the…

I hope Jay Gruden is the first coach fired, but only because I think he's too good for Washington and I want to see what he can do elsewhere. Nobody ever talks about how Sean McVay was his offensive coordinator before getting hired in Los Angeles. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Gruden having comparable success with another team.

3 Gruden seems to be at least…

Gruden seems to be at least an average head coach, but I don't see how the McVay point proves it.  If the Washington offense was good when McVay was there, but it's done worse since then... isn't that some evidence that McVay was the reason, not Gruden?

2 Flores' odds of getting…

Flores' odds of getting fired are incredibly high. The team is already widely expected to get the #1 overall pick. In what scenario could he possibly mess that up enough to get fired first?

Re: Jon Gruden, I can see him pulling a Saban and going back to the booth at the end of the season, but no way is he getting fired mid-season. Which is what it's probably going to take to "win" that bet.

5 As for Gruden, that is why…

As for Gruden, that is why he is a longshot :)

 

It's not unheard of for no coaches to get fired mid-season, but even then, Chuckie's a tough bet to leave first, if for no other reason than he's on the West Coast and gets up three hours later than coaches in the East!  It would probably take a combination of no one getting fired midseason, the Monday Night booth tanking, Tony Romo signing a new deal with CBS, and the Raiders being more horrible than predicted, with Gruden announcing he's leaving right after the Week 17 game against Denver.  Tough set of circumstances, but not impossible.

4 It's exciting to see someone…

It's exciting to see someone pick up the hype on JJ Arcega-Whiteside who isn't an Eagles fan, but the feeling around Philly is that Miles Sanders has a way better chance to be an important cog in the offense this season. I could imagine a situation where he converts a surprising number of 3rd downs and red zone TDs (surprising like... 4-5 would be beyond outstanding) when they go with the Big Dudes receiver package, but all indications are he's situational guy and like the 7th receiving target until further notice.