Deep breath … in through your nose … and exhale out your mouth. One more in … and out.
We are getting so close!
The NFL’s preseason was a welcome sight after six long, football-less months – and this year’s exhibition slate has given us some fun storylines, like the rise of Dak, more Sanchez turnovers, RGIII’s comeback bid, Zeke’s hype-train, $72 million struggles, a Titanic ground-game, trying to spell “Siemian,” on-field skirmishes, slimmed-down Eddie Lacy, Cam’s celebration troubles, Aguayo learning about pressure, 7-9 bullsh!t, and lessons on running with scissors.
But preseason ball is still just a tease and we can only take so much before we lose our minds.
Thankfully, the NFL season kicks-off for real in less than two weeks (Thursday, September 8). Begin saying your farewells to family and friends.
Done? Alright, back to the game: for the first time ever, the season-opener will serve as a Super Bowl rematch as the Carolina Panthers travel to Colorado to join in on the Denver Broncos’ banner-raising ceremony. (Talk about rubbing salt in the wound.)
The Super Bowl rematch is only the start to what should be a phenomenal season. For the first time I can remember, every team in the league has some interesting trait heading into the year. Seriously. Name an ostensibly boring team, I’ll give you an interesting story.
Cleveland? RGIII’s encouraging preseason; the return of Josh Gordon.
Houston (without JJ Watt)? Brock Osweiler’s unencouraging preseason; Jadeveon Clowney’s beast-mode potential.
Detroit? Umm … Matt Stafford’s first season without Megatron? Ok, you might have me there. Detroit is boring.
As we do every year, the SBD crew is going to set the odds on everything under the sun for the upcoming season. Who will take home the most prestigious awards? Who will make the playoffs? Which coaches will get fired? How many players will get arrested? It’s all here!
Thanks to Eric Thompson (ET) and Sascha Paruk (SP) for the assists.
Odds to win Super Bowl 51
New England Patriots: 15/2
Arizona Cardinals: 17/2
Seattle Seahawks: 17/2
Carolina Panthers: 9/1
Green Bay Packers: 10/1
Pittsburgh Steelers: 10/1
Cincinnati Bengals: 14/1
Denver Broncos: 16/1
Kansas City Chiefs: 20/1
Minnesota Vikings: 20/1
Indianapolis Colts: 25/1
Baltimore Ravens: 30/1
Dallas Cowboys: 30/1
Houston Texans: 35/1
New York Giants: 35/1
Buffalo Bills: 40/1
New York Jets: 40/1
Oakland Raiders: 40/1
Atlanta Falcons: 50/1
Jacksonville Jaguars: 50/1
Washington Redskins: 50/1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 60/1
Detroit Lions: 60/1
Los Angeles Rams: 60/1
New Orleans Saints: 60/1
Chicago Bears: 70/1
Miami Dolphins: 70/1
San Diego Chargers: 80/1
Philadelphia Eagles: 80/1
Tennessee Titans: 100/1
San Francisco 49ers: 125/1
Cleveland Browns: 150/1
Most of the league’s upper echelon resides in the NFC this year, and that easier route back to the Super Bowl means the New England Patriots, sans Brady for four games, are still the favorites to win SB 51. Their biggest challenge will likely come from the Pittsburgh Steelers, unless they fail to stay healthy, again. As for that top-heavy NFC, the battle to watch will once again be in the West between the Seahawks and Cardinals; one of the five best teams in football will be forced to win three road games just to make the Super Bowl thanks to the NFL’s broken playoff system. – ET
Odds to make the 2016-17 playoffs
New England Patriots: 2/9
Carolina Panthers: 1/4
Arizona Cardinals: 4/11
Seattle Seahawks: 4/11
Green Bay Packers: 3/7
Pittsburgh Steelers: 3/7
Cincinnati Bengals: 5/9
Minnesota Vikings: 2/3
Denver Broncos: 4/5
Kansas City Chiefs: 4/5
Indianapolis Colts: 1/1
Houston Texans: 13/10
Baltimore Ravens: 3/2
Dallas Cowboys: 3/2
New York Jets: 8/5
Oakland Raiders: 7/4
New York Giants: 2/1
Buffalo Bills: 7/3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7/3
Jacksonville Jaguars: 5/2
Washington Redskins: 5/2
Atlanta Falcons: 3/1
New Orleans Saints: 3/1
Miami Dolphins: 4/1
Chicago Bears: 9/2
Detroit Lions: 9/2
Philadelphia Eagles: 5/1
Los Angeles Rams: 6/1
San Diego Chargers: 7/1
Tennessee Titans: 8/1
Cleveland Browns: 12/1
San Francisco 49ers: 14/1
Over the last ten years, the NFL has averaged 5.6 new playoff teams each season. But given how strong the top of the NFC looks, it’s hard to imagine a ton of turnover there (outside of the NFC “Least”). Surprises occur each year though. Will the Raiders or Jets rise up and grab a playoff spot in the AFC? Will Jameis Winston and his upstart Bucs crash the party ahead of schedule? Will the Browns ride the sudden resurgence of Cleveland sports and make their first playoffs since 2002? (Okay, that last question isn’t quite as tantalizing as the others.) – ET
Odds all three Florida teams (Buccaneers, Dolphins, Jaguars) make the playoffs: 199/1
Odds all three Florida teams miss the playoffs: 3/2
A lot of people are sold on the Jags making the jump this year. I’m not. Andrew Luck looks like he’s back (not only in the sense of being healthy, but in the “back to being really good” sense, as well) and the Texans should be better than last year when they won the division. (Brock Osweiler can’t be much worse than Brian Hoyer, can he?) “Exotic smash mouth” will make the Titans competitive, as well.
If the Jags are getting in, it’s likely via the Wild Card, and that’s hard to do in the AFC. It took double-digit wins the last two years.
The Bucs and Fins will also need Wild Card spots, in all likelihood. Jameis Winston isn’t ready to dethrone Cam Newton and the Panthers in the NFC South. The AFC East belongs to Bill Belichick until someone proves otherwise. Plus, Miami is awful. – SP
Odds all three New York teams (Bills, Giants, Jets) make the playoffs: 75/1
Odds all three New York teams miss the playoffs: 5/2
Good Lord, it’s been five years since a New York team made the playoffs (2011 Giants). The G-Men have a decent shot at winning a wide-open NFC East and ending the drought. Either the Jets or Bills should finish runner-up to the Pats in the AFC East. (Recall that Miami is awful.) That wasn’t good enough to make the AFC playoffs last year, but the Jets were heart-breakingly close. One of the trio should end New York’s playoff shutout streak this season. – SP
Over/Under on how many California teams (49ers, Chargers, Raiders, Rams) make the playoffs: 0.5
Odds all four California teams miss the playoffs: 6/5
The Raiders have a reasonable chance in the AFC. The offense will continue to progress under Derek Carr, who has Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray to lean on, while Khalil Mack leads an improving defense.
The other three teams could be among the worst in the league. The Rams have a nice D, but will either start a rookie QB who hasn’t looked great in the preseason (Jared Goff) or Case Keenum (no further explanation required). – SP
Odds a team goes 16-0 in the 2016 regular season: 350/1
Carolina came close to accomplishing that feat last year, before falling to Atlanta in Week 16. It’s unlikely they’ll come anywhere near 16-0 this season, facing a loaded schedule with Denver, Arizona, Kansas City, and Seattle all on tap. In terms of strength of schedule, Green Bay has the easiest table to run. But given the trouble they had in their own division last season, it’s still a wildly long shot. – ET
Odds a team goes 0-16 in the 2016 regular season: 300/1
A team losing all 16 games will always be more conceivable than running the table, because dreadfulness is easier to understand than greatness. Plus, losing is apparently contagious (just ask Cleveland). But while the Browns will be one of the teams to watch in this race, the favorite should be the San Francisco 49ers. Caught in a no-win quarterback situation and facing a brutal schedule, Chip Kelly’s first season with the Niners could also be his last. – ET
Over/Under on longest win streak to start the 2016 season: 8.5
Last season saw an incredible three teams reach the midway point undefeated (New England, Cincinnati, and Carolina). But not every year begins with a lengthy unbeaten run: in 2014, no team made it past 3-0 before being dealt their first loss. – ET
Over/Under Patriots win total during Tom Brady’s four-game suspension: 2.5
The visit to Arizona has already been chalked up as a loss, leaving three home games against three middle-of-the-pack AFC teams. Seeing a Belichick team do any worse than 2-2 over that stretch would be a complete shock. – ET
Odds to win 2016 NFL MVP
Aaron Rodgers, Packers: 13/2
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: 7/1
Cam Newton, Panthers: 8/1
Russell Wilson, Seahawks: 10/1
Andrew Luck, Colts: 12/1
Tom Brady, Patriots: 15/1
Eli Manning, Giants: 15/1
Carson Palmer, Cardinals: 18/1
Adrian Peterson, Vikings: 22/1
Tony Romo, Cowboys: 25/1
JJ Watt, Texans: 33/1
Drew Brees, Saints: 35/1
Todd Gurley, Rams: 40/1
Andy Dalton, Bengals: 50/1
Derek Carr, Raiders: 66/1
Antonio Brown, Steelers: 70/1
Blake Bortles, Jaguars: 75/1
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: 80/1
Matt Ryan, Falcons: 95/1
Von Miller, Broncos: 100/1
After posting his worst statistical season since 2008 (the year he first started), Rodgers has his top-target, Jordy Nelson, back and a running game to help out. Rodgers, and the Packers offense as a whole, are set to explode this season.
If Rodgers doesn’t win, you can bet another QB will. This award is dominated by pivots, which is why you see the likes of Blake Bortles and Derek Carr on the list but only two running backs (Peterson and Gurley).
The NFL has never seen a wide receiver win the award, so Antonio Brown’s odds remain long, despite everyone’s sky-high projections for him this season. – MM
Odds to win 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys: 4/1
Derrick Henry, RB, Titans: 9/1
Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants: 12/1
Devontae Booker, RB, Broncos: 12/1
Josh Doctson, WR, Washington: 14/1
Corey Coleman, WR, Browns: 15/1
Jared Goff, QB, Rams: 18/1
Ken Dixon, RB, Ravens: 19/1
It’s no secret that Elliott is coming into a great situation. The Cowboys have the best offensive line in the league. Even Darren McFadden looked good in their backfield last year when Tony Romo was injured and everyone knew they wanted to run.
Derrick Henry has shown flashes in the preseason and should share the load with DeMarco Murray in Tennessee. Concerns over his lateral quickness have proven unfounded. The 6’3, 247-pound back can run over or around you.
A few first-year receivers could have big years. Doctson is coming to a prolific Washington passing game, but he’ll have to contend with Desean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Jordan Reed for targets. If RGIII really is back, Corey Coleman could have a nice year in Cleveland; the Browns have more weapons than they used to, but none of them have any established chemistry with their new QB.
Goff was an early co-favorite, but the preseason hasn’t been encouraging. He’s probably not going to start and, even if he does, who the hell does he have to throw to?
There’s still a lot of room left in these odds for the field, and rightfully so. Guys like Tyler Boyd (WR, Bengals), Michael Thomas (WR, Saints), and Dak Prescott (QB, Cowboys) have all impressed early. – SP
Odds to win 2016 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
DeForest Buckner, DL, 49ers: 15/2
Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers: 8/1
Jalen Ramsey, DB, Jaguars: 25/3
Myles Jack, LB, Jaguars: 12/1
Karl Joseph, DB, Raiders: 15/1
Leonard Floyd, LB, Bears: 20/1
Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Buccaneers: 22/1
Darron Lee, LB, Jets: 30/1
With Joey Bosa still in a contract dispute with the Chargers (more on that later), the DROY award is up for grabs. Bosa remains deep in the hunt, as he’d be given every opportunity to succeed in San Diego if they can come to an agreement on his contract.
For now, Buckner takes over as the favorite. He is expected to be one of the best interior pass-rushers in the league. The former Oregon Duck is listed on the 49ers’ first-team defense, and has a great opportunity to rack up some sacks.
If Myles Jack were listed as a starter for the Jags, he would also enter the bottleneck at the top of the list.
Like OROY, there’s ample room for the field, which contains players like Keanu Neal (SS, Falcons), Eli Apple (CB, Giants), Kenny Clark (DT, Packers), and Robert Nkemdiche (DT, Cardinals). – MM
Over/Under on number of games started at QB
Tony Romo (DAL): 13.5
Robert Griffin III (CLE): 11.5
Sam Bradford (PHI): 10.5
Jared Goff (LA): 7.5
Colin Kaepernick (SF): 7.5
Trevor Siemian (DEN): 7.5
Blaine Gabbert (SF): 6.5
Paxton Lynch (DEN): 5.5
Mark Sanchez (DEN): 2.5
Carson Wentz (PHI): 0.5
Unless he’s endangering other players with his poor play, there’s no reason for the Browns to put anyone other than RGIII under center this season, especially after what he’s shown in the preseason. There is always the fear of injury with Griffin, though.
Trevor Siemian has broken away from Mark Sanchez in the quarterback battle and will start for the Broncos in their third preseason game. Rookie Paxton Lynch has looked very good in the preseason as well, but the team will want to bring him along slowly. He’ll only see action if both Siemian and Sanchez can’t keep Denver in the hunt. (That’s not an insignificant possibility.)
It’s been a pretty mixed bag for Blaine Gabbert in the preseason, and we have yet to see Colin Kaepernick due to a sore throwing shoulder. The intrigue of Kaep in Chip’s offense will be too much to resist, but don’t be shocked if we see Christian Ponder in the gun late in the season after the others squander their turns. – MM
Odds to lead the NFL in interceptions
Blake Bortles, Jaguars: 13/3
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets: 11/2
Eli Manning, Giants: 7/1
Jay Cutler, Bears: 7/1
Matt Ryan, Falcons: 9/1
Matthew Stafford, Lions: 19/2
Andrew Luck, Colts: 12/1
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: 12/1
Jared Goff, Rams: 18/1
While the expectation is that the Jags improve this season, that doesn’t mean their young quarterback will stop making the boneheaded throws he’s become famous for. Bortles has thrown 35 interceptions over the last two seasons, by far the most in the NFL over that stretch. Expected to attempt well over 600 passes again this season, Bortles should be right in the mix for this dubious mark.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had a strong season last year, but his Week 17 meltdown may be a sign he’s ready to fall off a cliff again. And despite the vitriol, it’s tough to give Cutler shorter odds, since the Bears are a far heavier run team under John Fox and the QB always misses at least one start a year because of injury. – ET
Odds on which rookie QB will throw the most TD passes during the 2016 season
Jared Goff, Rams: 3/2
Paxton Lynch, Broncos: 7/3
Carson Wentz, Eagles: 20/1
No rookie quarterback is slated to start Week 1, but Paxton Lynch is making a strong push to assume the role earlier than expected. Meanwhile in LA, Jeff Fisher’s seat is getting toasty, so Goff could be thrown in the fire a little prematurely if the season doesn’t start well for the team.
Barring disaster, Wentz should spend the season as the Eagles’ third quarterback.
The potential for a Tony Romo injury and a regular season Dak Prescott sighting legitimizes the field. – MM
Odds of rushing for 2,000 yards in the 2016 season
Todd Gurley, Rams: 7/1
Adrian Peterson, Vikings: 9/1
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys: 10/1
I do not doubt that Gurley has the talent to join the 2,000-yard club, but all eyes will be on him when the Rams offense is on the field.
No player has ever surpassed 2,000 yards on the ground in more than one season, so AP’s odds get a little longer with that in mind. – MM
Over/Under on touchdown passes for Jimmy Garoppolo during Tom Brady’s four-game suspension: 5.5
Sure, the kid has all these great weapons around him. But he’s not Tom Brady; he’s effectively Matt Cassel. And when Cassel is your QB, you run the ball like crazy – especially in the red zone. Even with Dion Lewis injured, the Pats still have a stable of running backs they trust, led by the human battering ram LeGarrette Blount. It may be a passing league, but Garoppolo likely won’t be earning a spot start in fantasy. – ET
Odds Jimmy Garoppolo does not start/is pulled from a game during Brady’s four-game suspension due to performance: 7/5
Garoppolo hasn’t gotten off to quick starts this preseason, but the cupboards aren’t exactly stocked behind him, with rookie Jacoby Brissett the only other QB currently on the New England roster. If Garoppolo does get pulled from one of the first four games, it will probably be to prevent him from getting destroyed by the Cardinals or Texans pass rush. – ET
Odds to play in an NFL game in 2016
Greg Hardy: 5/1
Ray Rice: 9/1
Marshawn Lynch: 15/1
Calvin Johnson: 18/1
Peyton Manning: 20/1
D’Brickashaw Ferguson: 25/1
Johnny Manziel: 100/1
If Greg Hardy was still the same pass-rusher who recorded 15 sacks in 2013, there may be a team willing to take the gamble.
Who in their right mind would want to invite the Manziel circus to town, let alone trust him on the field? – MM
Odds Joey Bosa signs with the Chargers before the end of the 2016 season: 1/5
The sides aren’t far apart on the total dollar value of the contract. It’s the nitty-gritty, like the timing of his signing-bonus payout, that’s holding things up. The sides should reach a deal at some point this year (they have until Week 10 to do so); but Bosa is proving recalcitrant and the Chargers have some leverage (DE Darius Philon is filling the role many thought would be Bosa’s, and he’s doing it well), so it might not be in time for Week 1.
Under the NFL’s CBA, the deadline for dealing Bosa to another team expired in early August. – SP
Odds Josh Gordon (Browns) is suspended before end of the 2016 season: 3/1
The 25-year-old is well aware that this is his last opportunity, so he’ll be on his best behavior this season. Gordon’s “best behavior” could still be suspendable, though. – MM
Odds Josh Gordon is traded before the end of the 2016 season: 4/1
The Browns may not have any interest in trading him right now, but a lot could happen: Gordon doesn’t produce; Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman make him expendable; maybe he does get in trouble again.
I don’t see any of that being the case, but they’re all possibilities. – MM
Odds to be the first coach fired during the 2016 season
Mike McCoy, Chargers: 4/1
Gus Bradley, Jaguars: 13/3
Jason Garrett, Cowboys: 6/1
Jeff Fisher, Rams: 7/1
Rex Ryan, Bills: 15/2
Chuck Pagano, Colts: 9/1
Jim Caldwell, Lions: 12/1
Mike Mularkey, Titans: 33/1
Dan Quinn, Falcons: 75/1
John Fox, Bears: 99/1
Mike McCarthy, Packers: 150/1
McCoy and Bradley have been given ample time to turn their respective teams into contenders, but have failed miserably thus far. Although they can’t do anything about the poor personnel moves their teams make, they’ll serve as the scapegoats if 2016 gets off to a rocky start.
Garrett and Fisher have kept their teams mediocre throughout their tenures, but both will need to do more than that in 2016 to keep their jobs.
Rex Ryan should catch a break with all of the injuries the Bills have suffered this offseason. – MM
Odds the NFL approves marijuana as a medical alternative before the start of the 2017 season: 15/1
I can’t see it happening this soon, nor under Roger Goodell’s watch, but it may become a major issue when the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2020. – MM
Odds Roger Goodell is not commissioner at the 2017 NFL Draft: 7/1
Goodell’s contract expires in March 2019, and if the owners want him out before then, it would cost them a lot of money. Have you ever known owners to be eager to part ways with their money? Me neither.
Side note: why is the commissioner’s contract guaranteed, but the player’s contracts aren’t? – MM
Over/under number of active NFL players arrested between opening day and the Super Bowl: 9.5
During that time frame in 2015, there were only eight active players arrested. However, that number rises beyond 20 when you look at the 2014 season.
Generally, players are better-behaved during the season, just so long as their name isn’t Johnny Manziel, or Billy, or whatever the hell his name was that night in Vegas. – MM
Over/Under number of times the announcers say “Brady” during the Patriots’ Week 1 game (kickoff to final whistle): 9.5
Every one says they’re tired of “Deflategate,” yet the NBC crew will still bring it up at least three times. What will be interesting is seeing how many times Al Michaels mistakenly refers to Garoppolo as Brady. (He’s been calling the same name for like 15 years, I wouldn’t blame him.) – ET
Over/Under number of times the announcers say “St. Louis Rams” during the Rams’ Week 1 game (kickoff to final whistle): 1.5
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice … most of the world probably won’t notice. – SP
Odds the Rams don’t sell out one of their home games: 49/1
While a lot of games were blacked out in LA back in the day (circa 1994) because of non-sellouts, the new Rams had to open up more seats for their first preseason game due to demand for tickets. The novelty of having an NFL team back in town will eventually wear off, but not in the first eight games. (Los Angeles fans who can’t make it to games in person don’t have to worry about missing them entirely as the NFL has again lifted its blackout policy in 2016.) – SP
Featured photo credit: Tammy Anthony Baker (Flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/]).