It is safe to say this past NFL offseason was one of the most frenetic in recent memory.
Tom Brady retired in February, then unretired weeks later, upstaging the NCAA Tournament selection show.
Former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett became the head coach of the Denver Broncos, fueling intense speculation that Aaron Rodgers would join him in the Mile High City. Rodgers instead remained in Green Bay, prompting the Broncos to execute a blockbuster trade for Russell Wilson.
The Browns outbid the Saints and two other NFC South rivals for Deshaun Watson, signing the disgraced quarterback to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract. Cleveland then jettisoned Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, to Carolina for a 2024 conditional fifth-round pick.
Among Pro Bowl receivers, Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, and Amari Cooper all jumped to new teams in the offseason.
The flurry of movement has created a chaotic few months on future markets at sportsbooks across the country. One top contender, though, retained all of its star players and even reloaded. Following an excruciating loss to the Chiefs in the playoffs, the Bills bolstered their roster with the signings of Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller and Pro Bowl offensive lineman Rodger Saffold and the selections of Florida corner Kaiir Elam and Georgia running back James Cook in the NFL Draft. As a result, the Bills are the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl.
With all of the prognostications that have the Buffalo Bills as the Super Bowl favorite, we wondered, “How often has the team with the best odds heading into Week 1 won the Super Bowl?” https://t.co/GrTWhzHXL0
— The Buffalo News (@TheBuffaloNews) September 1, 2022
At Caesars Sportsbook, the Bills have received more bets to finish with exactly 17 regular season wins (35/1 odds) than the rest of the NFL combined. Buffalo (+600) has attracted more than twice as much money to win the Super Bowl as every other team. The Bills have drawn more than 10 times as much money to win the title as 12 individual teams.
Super Bowl prices on the Bills:
The following is a compilation of our staff’s favorite wagers for the upcoming season, a US Bets tradition. As with any betting endeavor, please take our selections with a grain of salt. We may write about sports betting, but we are not professional handicappers.
Eagles/Cowboys top 2 in NFC East, any order, +110, FanDuel
Chiefs/Chargers top 2 in AFC West, any order, +210, FanDuel
These are fun props FanDuel is offering this season that I hadn’t seen in years past. For each division, you can wager on the exact finishing order of all four teams, the exact finishing order of the top two teams, or this less precise market of “top 2 any order,” which sent me searching for divisions with theoretical separation between two haves and two have nots.
While there are potentially some big payouts to be earned if you have a contrarian hunch or two to go nuts on (Panthers and Falcons top 2 in the NFC South at 110/1, anyone?), it’s a couple of well-priced favored duos that have attracted my gaze. In the NFC East, reasonable people can disagree over whether it’s Dallas or Philly that they see winning the division, but it almost has to be one of those two. And FanDuel is giving plus-money odds that the lesser of those two teams will finish higher than the better team of the Giants and Commanders?! Sign me up.
Jalen Hurts is a long shot (+25500) to win MVP at SI Sportsbook.
Should you bet on the Eagles’ [email protected]__Childs breaks down the MVP odds and provides his bets!https://t.co/odmaDAJh3M
— SI Betting (@SI_Betting) September 4, 2022
In the AFC West, the odds are a bit longer because there’s more of a debate over which two teams are the best on paper. But to my eyes, it’s K.C. and L.A. that are a notch above Denver and Vegas. Even in a division this strong, it’s hard to see the Chiefs finishing worse than second place, so the question becomes whether the Chargers will prove the best of the other three, and +210 seems a fine price to suggest they will.
(Of course, all this logic goes out the window the first time a starting quarterback goes down, but, hey, that’s why they call it gambling!)
Tom Brady, total passing yards, under 4600.5, -120, DraftKings
You heard it here first — Tom Brady is done, at least so far as betting “over” on an extremely high passing yardage for him.
DraftKings’ over/under on the Bucs quarterback’s season total is 50 yards higher than what’s listed by BetRivers and 100 yards higher than what FanDuel has posted, and we’re happy to take advantage of that discrepancy (even using DK’s inflated vig on the under).
True, Brady threw for a league-leading 5,316 yards last year in having found Ponce de Leon’s formerly mythical fountain of youth in Florida. But he was 44 way back then and is much older now. If ailments cause Brady to miss one or two games, this bet could be a virtual lock.
And he was already retired for 40 days, suggesting some ambivalence about further quarterbacking. And he’s lost three of his offensive linemen, not to mention Rob Gronkowski, to whom he may have been closer than anyone in the world — including his wife, with whom he’s had some reported marital issues that could affect him.
Is it time to fade Tom Brady and the Bucs? The influx at the offensive line position could be [email protected]_drumheller analyzes all the different angles for betting Tampa this season ➡️ https://t.co/91tmAJZvGF pic.twitter.com/DtFQsF2GHg
— Yahoo Sportsbook (@YahooSportsbook) August 22, 2022
There are only two quarterbacks for whom DraftKings has posted higher yardage totals — Justin Herbert at 4700.5 and Patrick Mahomes at 4650.5 — and Brady is about two decades older than either.
He can’t do this stuff forever, folks, and DraftKings itself is recognizing that possibility — it’s already backtracked from the 4650.5 number it had posted for Brady last month. We agree with its competitors that the number should be still lower … maybe far lower.
Parlay: Kyle Pitts, DK Metcalf, Elijah Moore, Adam Thielen, and Dallas Goedert to each have 750+ receiving yards, +834, FanDuel
The biggest caveat to this is everyone remaining healthy, which was an issue for Moore and Thielen as they missed a combined 10 games last season. But there is no questioning the talent of this quintet.
Pitts is the focal point of Atlanta’s passing offense, and new quarterback Marcus Mariota will look for him early and often as they ease rookie wide receiver Drake London into the offense. There is some (all right, a lot of) concern about Geno Smith and Drew Lock, rather than Russell Wilson, being the ones throwing to Metcalf, but there is also reason for confidence the fourth-year receiver can rack up the 45 yards per game needed to surpass 750 if healthy a full season.
Goedert is the one who drives up the value of this parlay to make it a worthwhile flyer — he’s +105 as a stand-alone pick — but being TE1 on an Eagles team that will give Jalen Hurts every chance to succeed should mean plenty of targets.
Getting off to a fast start may be a challenge for Moore given the Jets will be without Zach Wilson until at least Week 4 and New York’s first four games are against the AFC North, but the second-year pro has added muscle and looked to be on temporary starter Joe Flacco’s wavelength during the preseason. Thielen nearly hit 750 yards last season despite missing four games and is as solid a WR2 as you’ll find in the league, especially with Justin Jefferson being a WR1.
Lions, over 6.5 wins, -125, DraftKings/FanDuel
Winning at least seven games doesn’t mean Detroit will be great, but it does mean the Lions take a step forward after going 3-13-1 a season ago. I think that’s doable.
Detroit quarterback Jared Goff is protected by an offensive line ranked as the fourth best in the NFL by Sharp Football Analysis. At wide receiver, free agent D.J. Chark and rookie Jameson Williams will make Goff’s life easier, even if Williams will open the season on the sideline. Defensively, there are legitimate questions, but rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson is among a couple of potential impact rookies.
Aidan Hutchinson draws high praise from AFC executive #OnePride #Lions https://t.co/wcQekDVbfy
— DetroitSportsNation (@detsportsnation) September 7, 2022
Hutchinson is one of the favorites across the league to win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. He finished second in Heisman Trophy balloting last season after setting Michigan’s single-season record in sacks with 14.
After the Lions recorded six one-possession losses and a tie in 2021, I expect an improved roster to finish off a few more games this season. I also like that Sharp Football Analysis says the Lions have the fifth-easiest schedule in the NFL.
Lamar Jackson, Most Valuable Player, +2000, DraftKings/FanDuel
Ravens, over 9.5 wins, -160, Caesars
Ravens to win the AFC North, +145, FanDuel
I’m bullish on Baltimore. I might even sprinkle in bets on the Ravens to win the Super Bowl at +2000 odds on DraftKings and FanDuel.
The AFC North is winnable, with Cincinnati the major competition. Jackson and the Ravens had six one-possession losses in 2021, including five in their final six games of the season. With John Harbaugh at the helm, they’ll bounce back from those crushing defeats, winning double-digit games and a division title in 2022.
If the Ravens win 10-plus games and the AFC North, there’s no way a healthy Jackson isn’t one of a handful of players vying for MVP honors.
Saquon Barkley, rushing yards, over 900.5, -118, FanDuel
Barkley, rushing touchdowns, over 6.5, -164, FanDuel
Barkley, combined rushing/receiving yards, over 1300.5, -120, DraftKings
Saquon, Saquon, and more Saquon.
Is Saquon Barkley back? That is one of the bigger questions heading into the 2022 NFL season. Coming off an injury-shortened, objectively terrible season — and one more year removed from a torn ACL — Barkley hype is starting to hit fever pitch territory.
Back pre-training camp, his average draft position in Underdog best ball tourneys was late second round; today, he’s often a late first round selection. Add in the offensive wizardry (well, supposed offensive wizardry) of new head coach Brian Daboll, and a new-look offense, and his apparent bell cow status, and it would seem Barkley — who is all of 25 years old — might be primed for a knockout of a season.
What Are The Odds That Saquon Barkley Regains His Previous Form?
— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) July 4, 2022
And if you believe that, his props are entirely too low. His rushing yardage prop at FanDuel is 900.5 (at -118). His rushing touchdown number is 6.5 at FanDuel (at -164) and 7.5 on DraftKings (at -115).
But perhaps the “best” bet is at DraftKings at -120: over 1300.5 combined rushing and receiving yards. No fewer than 10 NFL running backs hit that number last year, and if Barkley stays healthy and the Giants offense even lives up to half the hype, 1,300 yards seems like a sure thing.* (*Famous last words.)
New Orleans Saints to win NFC South, +300, FanDuel
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, under 11.5 wins, -140, Caesars Sportsbook
Since Brady joined the Bucs in 2020, no team has given him more headaches than the Saints, Tampa’s archrival in the NFC South.
In Week 9 of the 2020 season, the Saints created constant pressure on Brady in a 38-3 drubbing — one of the worst of the legendary quarterback’s 23-year career. Brady faced pressure on 19 of 41 dropbacks according to Pro Football Focus, leading to three sacks and three interceptions in the lopsided Saints victory. David Oneymata, a mammoth 6’4″, 300-pound defensive tackle, caused relentless havoc with seven pressures and four QB hits. While talented defensive end Trey Hendricks is now with the Bengals, three imposing linemen — Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport, and Oneymata — remain on the Saints’ front four.
The strip sack of Tom Brady shows how much a (mostly) full-powered Saints DL can feast.
– Brady looks ready to fire … David Onyemata gets his hand in the passing lane
– Marcus Davenport grabs the jersey
– Cam Jordan plows Tristan Wirfs into Brady
– DO recovers the fumble pic.twitter.com/DCBR2FVG3J
— Jeff Nowak (@Jeff_Nowak) November 1, 2021
As the Giants’ historic upset over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII demonstrated, Brady often struggles when facing pressure up the middle. That game served as a coming-out party for Justin Tuck, who sacked Brady twice and forced a fumble after eluding the Pats’ interior line. Heading into the season, the Bucs face significant questions up front after Pro Bowl left guard Ali Marpet entered retirement and right guard Alex Cappa signed with Cincinnati. Making matters worse, veteran center Ryan Jensen went down with a severe knee injury in the preseason that could sideline him for the year.
If the Bucs’ interior line is unable to jell, Tampa could struggle from the outset. The Bucs will enter a gauntlet in the opening month with matchups against the Cowboys, Saints, Packers, and Chiefs in the first four weeks. The second half of the season features challenging games against the Rams, Niners, Bengals, and Cardinals, as well as a rematch with the Saints.
At Caesars, only two teams — the Bucs and Seahawks — have win-total unders that are drawing at least 80% of the handle. While the Bucs (83.7% on the under) trail the Seahawks by about three percentage points, the trends show that the public is fading Brady. I think it will be tough for the Bucs to win at least 12 games and I’m willing to absorb the extra juice.
Last year, the Saints collapsed down the stretch after Jameis Winston went down with a season-ending knee injury. Winston returns to the lineup and adds two new receivers in Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry. The Saints also return three-time Pro Bowl wideout Michael Thomas, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury. Before COVID-19 led to widespread disruptions throughout the NFL, Thomas led the league in receptions in both 2018 and 2019.
In Michael Thomas’s last full NFL season (2019), he had a 90.7 receiving grade.
Saints WR room could be one of the best this season 👀 pic.twitter.com/Skit4MggQx
— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) September 7, 2022
Since then, the All-Pro receiver has only appeared in seven games. Though it is difficult to expect Thomas to return to 2018 form, he does add another potent weapon for Winston. A depleted Bucs line, a menacing Saints front four, and Winston’s new weapons reinforce the case that the Saints can win the division.
If the Bucs have protection issues on the interior line and the Saints sweep the season series, there is tremendous value on New Orleans to win the division at +300.
Cardinals to miss playoffs, -125, SuperBook
Saints to make playoffs, +125, DraftKings, and Saints to win NFC South, +300, PointsBet
Justin Jefferson to win Offensive Player of the Year, +1400, FanDuel
Hopefully these picks fare better than my head-to-head wager with Rybaltowski last year that the Cardinals would miss the playoffs. At least Rybaltowski won’t collect my money, because this time I bet two units at the SuperBook on the Cardinals to miss the playoffs at -125.
But never mind that, how about some optimism? I pushed a lot of chips on the Saints this season to win more than 8 games (-140) and more than 8.5 (+110), to make the playoffs (+125), and to win the NFC South (+400, though the price has since come down to +300). No doubt the loss of Sean Payton counts for something, but it’s a solid roster, especially on defense, and the skill positions are looking way better than last season with Michael Thomas returning, Jarvis Landry aboard, Alvin Kamara avoiding suspension for now, a newish-and-improved Jameis Winston healthy, and a much more capable backup aboard in Andy Dalton.
Elsewhere, I bet on the Patriots to win fewer than 8.5 games at plus money, the Eagles to win the NFC East (#FadeTheCowboys), the Titans to win fewer than 9.5 (Adam Small’s Slack messaging disputing this incoming), and Justin Jefferson to win Offensive Player of the Year at 20/1 (it has since shortened to 14/1). The NFL is back, and damn it feels good.
Photo: Kim Klement/USA TODAY