Come on, we all knew the Giants would be heading into Week 5 without a win, and the Bills would be on top of the AFC East. (If you couldn’t be bothered to click the link, someone may have picked the Giants as their Super Bowl favorite ahead of the season.)
Alright, so there’s been a few surprises, one of which is the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team: the Kansas City Chiefs. Thanks to sensational rookie RB Kareem Hunt and a brand new Alex Smith, the 4-0 Chiefs are skyrocketing up the list of Super Bowl favorites.
With every pleasant surprise, though, comes an equally shocking disappointment. (Did I mention I picked the Giants to reach the Super Bowl?) Let’s recap the first four weeks of the season through the magic of updated Super Bowl, MVP, Rookie of the Year odds, and more.
2017 NFL ODDS: 1/4-MARK UPDATE
SUPER BOWL LII ODDS
New England Patriots: 13/2
Green Bay Packers: 8/1
Kansas City Chiefs: 9/1
Pittsburgh Steelers: 9/1
Atlanta Falcons: 21/2
Seattle Seahawks: 12/1
Dallas Cowboys: 14/1
Denver Broncos: 16/1
Philadelphia Eagles: 22/1
Oakland Raiders: 25/1
Let everyone else overreact to New England’s slow start while you remain cool, calm, and collected. Let them scream to the heavens that the sky is falling, that the sun is going to rise in the west and set in the east, that the Patriot dynasty has ended in a blaze of Devin Funchess. Film and record as much of this as possible. Play it back for all the Chicken Littles when Tom Brady and Bill Belichick head to their seventh Super Bowl. Smile smugly for the next six months.
It’s not that we’re unimpressed by KC’s fast start. It’s just that you can’t win the Super Bowl without winning several playoff games, and “Topics in Winning Playoff Games” was full by the time Andy Reid tried to register. #TimeManagement
All joking aside, there’s no flawless team in the NFL. The Chiefs’ defense bleeds yards; Ben Roethlisberger no longer looks like an elite pivot in Pittsburgh; the Falcon offense is regressing without Kyle Shanahan and has showed how dependent it is on having Julio Jones 100-percent healthy; and I’m pretty sure the Seahawks have a hologram of Walter Jones playing left tackle. (Side note: the Giants should try this with Rosey Brown replacing Ereck Flowers.)
So yes, the Patriot defense is last in DVOA by a wide margin. But this is a QB-driven league, Brady is still at the top of his game, and Belichick loves a challenge. They’re going to sort out enough of their defensive issues to win another AFC East title, and Brady’s eminence will be the difference-maker in January, per usual.
ODDS TO WIN AP NFL MVP
Tom Brady, Patriots: 11/2
Aaron Rodgers, Packers: 6/1
Matthew Stafford, Lions: 9/1
Matt Ryan, Falcons: 12/1
Russell Wilson, Seahawks: 12/1
Drew Brees, Saints: 19/1
Kareem Hunt, Chiefs: 22/1
Le’Veon Bell, Steelers: 22/1
Alex Smith, Chiefs: 25/1
Jared Goff, Rams: 30/1
Carson Wentz, Eagles: 35/1
Two-time MVP Tom Brady leads the NFL in passing yards, touchdowns, and plays of 20-plus yards, and he’s done it all with Julian Edelman sidelined and the rest of his receiving corps hobbled. He’s the only reason the Patriots and their abhorrent defense are still a going concern. Most years, you can undermine Brady’s MVP case by pointing to how good the team around him is. That’s not true in 2017.
So why isn’t Brady a bigger favorite? Because Aaron Rodgers is a god***m freak of nature. Seriously, it’s terrifying how easy he makes this look. Plus the Packers have navigated to a 3-1 record through a daunting early slate. They’re likely to win the NFC North, which is almost a pre-req for winning MVP. That’s why Matt Stafford, who’s now playing hero-ball (in the best way possible) for the full 60 minutes instead of just the fourth quarter, finds himself lower on the list. Yes, the Lions are also 3-1, but expect that record to regress when the team’s turnover numbers come back to earth.
ODDS TO WIN AP DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Khalil Mack, Raiders: 7/1
Von Miller, Broncos: 15/2
DeMarcus Lawrence, Cowboys: 8/1
JJ Watt, Texans: 8/1
Everson Griffen, Vikings: 10/1
Aaron Donald, Rams: 12/1
Bobby Wagner, Seahawks: 12/1
A common misconception with NFL awards is that the annual sack leader is handed the DPOY honors. If your name is JJ Watt and you lead the league in sacks, then yes, you will win DPOY. Outside of Watt in 2015 and 2012, the last player to lead the league in sacks and win the award was Michael Strahan in 2001, when he broke the single-season sacks record. This is why you don’t see current sack-leader DeMarcus Lawrence (7.5 sacks) at the top – you need to be more than just a sack specialist.
Two guys who not only get to QBs often, but are also just general playmakers on the defensive side are Von Miller and reigning DPOY Khalil Mack. Both have recorded four sacks thus far, and have years of proof that they won’t slow down.
ODDS TO WIN AP DROY
Malik Hooker, Colts: 8/1
Myles Garrett, Browns: 17/2
TJ Watt, Steelers: 9/1
Tre’Davious White, Bills: 9/1
Carl Lawson, Bengals: 10/1
Outside of Tre’Davious White and Malik Hooker, no defensive rookie has done anything spectacular through the first four weeks. But in the two DBs case, it’s difficult to win the award playing that position. Since 1998, Marcus Peters is the only defensive back to take home the honor, and he did so because he led the league in interceptions. Though White has been a lockdown corner to this point, he has only recorded one interception.
Hooker, on the other hand, is currently tied for the league-lead in INTs with three on the year. The sooner Andrew Luck returns to the lineup – and opposing teams are forced to pass more – the better Hooker’s chances will get of continuing to rack up the INTs.
And I’m certainly not ready to write off the first-overall pick from the draft, Myles Garrett. The DE missed the first four weeks with a high ankle sprain, but is set to make his NFL-debut against the Jets this Sunday. It won’t take Garrett long to make his presence felt, and start racking up the sacks.
BIGGEST OVERACHIEVER: LA RAMS
I started the season off liking the coaching changes the Los Angeles Rams had made. They needed an offensive-minded coach who could tutor Jared Goff and get his career back on track. After watching them hammer the Colts in Week 1, my feelings grew stronger. Seeing Jared Goff light up the 49er defense in Week 3 only intensified my feelings. And after they came through for me against the Cowboys in Week 4, my belief in McVay and Goff is sky-high.
The league’s highest-scoring offense (35.5 PPG) is about to face their toughest test yet in Week 5, when the Seahawks come to town. If Goff and co. can hang 30-plus on them, a message would be sent to the entire NFC West: the Rams are for real!
UPDATED SUPER 52 ODDS: 40/1
There are still questions surrounding this team, however, so don’t pencil them into Super Bowl 52 just yet. The biggest issue that’s keeping this good LA team from being great is the run defense. The Rams are allowing 151.5 rushing yards per game through the first four weeks (third-most in the NFL), and will need to get better play from their nose tackle to correct this. But looking around the rest of the NFC West, it’s very possible the Rams seize the division for the first time since 2003.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: NEW YORK GIANTS
No one would have batted an eye if you proclaimed in your best Nostradamus impression that a New York football team would be winless heading into Week 5. But you would have been wrapped in a straight jacket and declared a danger to yourself and others if you said it would be the Giants instead of the Jets. Alas, here we are. The Jets (2-2) have a great chance to get over .500, facing the Browns in Week 5, while the Giants are still looking for their first W, hosting the identically winless Chargers.
UPDATED SUPER 52 ODDS: 299/1
No team has gone from an 0-4 start to a playoff berth since the 1992 Chargers. Barring some truly wacky shenanigans in the NFC, the Giants will need to get to at least 9-7 to make the playoffs. That means they can only lose three of their remaining 12 games; that means they need to win at a 75% clip with Ereck Flowers playing left tackle; that basically means they have to do the impossible.
And Flowers isn’t the only issue. The defense has regressed, especially against the run, and the G-Men still have no semblance of a ground game to ease the pressure on Eli Manning’s right arm. That’s allowing edge rushers to pin their ears back and come after Manning like Hungry Hungry Hippos who spent the last two decades in your storage unit.
Manning is partly to blame for the abysmal start as well (especially in the setbacks in Weeks 1 and 2), but you can understand why he’s p***ing his pants when he drops back to pass.
I hope Eli is OK after taking this hit pic.twitter.com/FHsUFXNONR
— Dave Lozo (@davelozo) September 19, 2017
UPDATED 2017 WIN TOTAL: 4.5
Circle the Chargers (Week 5) and Niners (Week 10) as probable wins. You can stop there. The next easiest games on the schedule are a road tilt with the Cardinals in Week 16 and … yeesh … the Rams at MetLife in Week 9? Crossing over with the AFC West makes for a rough slate.