A round up of team and player markets ahead of the new NFL season

A Team to finish 0-16

This off-season the Jets traded or released or injured 11 of 22 starters from last season. Clearly if they are not “tanking” they are positioning the roster to rebuild from the bottom up, starting with they hope a franchise quarterback next April. In 2015 in Head Coach Todd Bowles’ first year the Jets finished 10-6 and then 5-11 last year. Faced with the prospect of “muddling on” this year without a viable NFL quarterback option on the roster, and with a dysfunctional locker room, the franchise decided to “blow it up” and of the 53 man roster at the end of last season 22 have departed. All NFL teams have some turnover it is inevitable under a salary cap and free agency as rookies arrive and veterans depart but 40% turnover is abnormally high.

The Jets enter this season without NFL quality at quarterback, wide receiver (Brandon Marshall released and Eric Decker traded now Quincy Enunwa on injured reserve) and are ageing at running back (Matt Forte) and the strength of the team is on defense, particularly up front.

Their Vegas win total is 4.5 games. I think a more realistic figure is 0-2 games. That would quite possibly secure them the top draft pick and they would then select a franchise quarterback which is a big first piece to get in any rebuild, and absolutely necessary in this one.

Now normally I wouldn’t consider a market such as a team “to finish 0-16” (it’s a 16 game accumulator in essence) but I had to look it up and Ladbrokes offer 14/1. RedzoneSports are quoting 10/1, which is about where I would be. With both prices, we get all the other teams with us as well, however unlikely that might be.

The good thing with this small bet is that we will know if we have a runner early in the season

“a team to finish 0-16” 14/1

Most Passing Yards

Last season finished as follows:
Drew Brees 5208 yards
Matt Ryan 4944
Kirk Cousins 4917
Aaron Rodgers 4428
Philip Rivers 4386

Prices at the head of the market are:
Brees 7/2
Brady 9/2
Rodgers 8/1
Ryan 8/1
Cousins 12/1
Carr 14/1
Luck 20/1

Each way terms vary by three or four places one quarter the odds are available
Brady missed four games with suspension, Luck and Roethlisberger who also would have been in the running to place, suffered injuries.

Drew Brees is the favourite to lead the NFL in passing yards again. The Saints quarterback has topped the league in passing seven times in his career including each of the last three seasons.
Tom Brady was fantastic in 12 games last year throwing for 3,554 yards. The five-time Super Bowl champion has led the league in passing twice in his career.

Behind Brady is Aaron Rodgers. The two-time MVP has never thrown for more than 5,000 yards in his career. Matt Ryan (8/1) leads an explosive offense too, albeit one that has lost their offensive co-ordinator Kyle Shanahan to be head coach of the 49ers. Such was his ability to scheme that that has to be a slight negative for this year.

I think there is a stand out each way bet here. Kirk Cousins of the Redskins (for starters, I like the Redskins more than the market) is once more in a contract year and looking for a big deal possibly somewhere else at the end of the season.. Playing in a division where a couple of the secondaries look suspect (Cowboys,Eagles) his running game isn’t the strength of the offense, it should be the passing game. Garcon and DeSean Jackson have left (in part to contracts he helped them to get by throwing for nearly 5000 yards last year) and Terrelle Pryor has arrived from Cleveland and he should be a star, very difficult to defend in the red zone. In the slot Jamieson Crowder was excellent last year and last year’s first round draft choice Josh Doctson will be on the other side. At Tight End, once he is fit Jordan Reed is a real weapon. That’s four difference makers in the passing game. Cousins at 12/1 looks excellent each way value.

each way Kirk Cousins most passing yards 12/1

Most rushing yards

Last season’s result was:
Ezekiel Elliott 1631
Jordan Howard 1313
DeMarco Murray 1287
Jay Ajayi 1272
Le’Veon Bell 1268
LeSean McCoy 1267
David Johnson 1239

And this time round the market is:
Bell 100/30
Johnson 5/1
Elliott 8/1
Ajayi 8/1
Howard 8/1
McCoy 11/1
Murray 16/1
Gurley 18/1

Interestingly this is a market where a lot of the leading players are facing issues on or off the field
Ezekiel Elliott is suspended for the first six games of the season. He has appealed, it may go to court and he may play all season. If he does he should be favourite, but you can’t put that as the central case. With any suspension, beyond a couple of games, he’s off the board in this market. In addition to the suspension there is turnover on the offensive line as well, it may not be quite the unit it was
He ran away with the rushing crown last year totaling 1,631 yards behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, finishing with 1,994 scrimmage yards during his 2016 rookie campaign, the 3rd-most by a rookie in NFL history

Jordan Howard was the league’s second-leading rusher last season with 1,313 yards. This time round the issue is that he will (if not immediately but soon) be playing with rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Defenses can be expected to “stack the box” to stop Howard in anticipation of not being overly hurt by a rookie passing the ball stacked boxes?

If David Johnson wasn’t so dynamic in the passing game as well as the running game then 8/1 would be a great bet. He had 876 yards receiving last year though (next highest in the top ten running backs 600 yards, average 300 yards) and that isn’t going to change next year. Likely to be the best all-purpose back but not ideally suited for this market

Jay Ajayi is going to be the focal point of a Miami offense that will be run heavy, in an attempt to limit Jay Cutler’s mistakes. The issue is injury. He has a history of concussions (violent running style) and is currently sidelined with another one.

DeMarco Murray is 29 and has a lot of miles on the clock. Has a hamstring injury in camp. He should also lose carries to Derrick Henry

LeSean McCoy is playing for another “team tank” the Bills, who just traded away their top receiver and cornerback. He might be traded?

Devonta Freeman? Concussion problems and splits time with Tevin Coleman

Todd Gurley? Plays for a bad team and has one 90+ yard rushing game in his last 24 games

Lamar Miller? Struggled with the workload in 2016, probably still a bad offense this year

Of the rookies, Leonard Fournette should be the workhorse in a run first Jaguars offense. He’s already nicked up with an ankle though, which caused him to miss a lot of time in his last season in college.

That leaves us with Le-Veon Bell. Here too there are issues. He’s missed 14 games in the last two seasons through suspension and injury. He is currently holding out in (another) contract dispute too though the word is he will report in time for the regular season.

Bell’s 1268 yards last year were in 12 games only. He led the league in yards from scrimmage per game last season. He’s brilliant, hopefully we’ve seen the last of the suspensions too and holding out into the season itself is highly unlikely. Defenses can’t stack the box against him as Big Ben and Antonio Brown are too much of a threat

At the time of writing most prices/firms are off the board due to the Elliott appeal and assorted uncertainties mentioned above. Assuming Elliott does serve six games i will place the bet below

Le-Veon Bell most Rushing yards 100/30

Most receiving yards

Last season
TY Hilton 1448
Julio Jones 1409
Odell Beckham 1367
Mike Evans 1321
Antonio Brown 1284
Jordy Nelson 1257
Brandin Cooks 1173
Amari Cooper 1153

This time round the market is
Brown 7/2
Jones 7/2
Beckham 7/1
Evans 12/1
Hilton 14 /1
Green 16/1
Thomas 20/1
Cooper 20/1
Cooks 20/1

Each way terms four places one quarter the odds at Ladbrokes and Coral

T.Y. Hilton of the Colts led the NFL in receiving last year and Andrew Luck’s favorite target is 14/1 to defend his title.

Julio Jones and Antonio Brown are 7/2 co-favourites. Jones led the league in receiving yards in 2015 and Brown did it in 2014. Undisputably top three receivers in the league both in good situations and tough to keep out of the frame if fit.

Odell Beckham Jr.is 5/1 to win his first receiving title. He has never caught less than 1,300 yards in a season.

Mike Evans is the number one receiver hitting his peak with a developing franchise quarterback in Winston and likely to face a lot of single coverage this year with the team having recruited DeSean Jackson to play opposite him. A definite contender.

Certainly any of the top five in the market here are possible winners of this and I could make a case for any. There is better value a little lower down the page though.

A player with some value is A.J. Green (16/1). The Bengals top receiver averaged 96.4 yards per game, second most in the NFL in 2016. Green was limited to ten games last year due to injury but a full season would put him in the conversation here.

The Bengals looked stacked on offense with three running back options, and they drafted speedster John Ross to stretch the field too. Green’s price looks too long to me.

He had 1297 receiving yards in 2015,but the Bengals look a better offensive side now which should open up opportunities for Green to have a big year

Michael Thomas was tipped here for offensive rookie of the year last season and in any normal year (minus Zeke Elliott and Dak Prescott) would have been a very live candidate.

Thomas actually led the Saints in targets, catches and touchdowns in 2016. He earned 1137 receiving yards, played 15 games but only started 12. That was enough for the coaching staff to trade away receiver Brandin Cooks and hand him the No. 1 role in the offense for this season. With Drew Brees quarter-backing, favourite to win the passing yards title, that obviously bodes well.

There’s actually reason to believe Thomas’ statistics will improve in 2017 now that he’ll see more targets with Cooks gone. Cooks was targeted 117 times last year. He also won’t see a lot of double-teams since the Saints still have Snead in the slot and the very quick Ginn playing the other side of the field.
I have Green, and hopefully Thomas, in the same tier as Brown, Julio and Odell Beckham (probably Evans too) at far better prices

each way A J Green Most Receiving Yards 16/1
each way Michael Thomas Most Receiving Yards 20/1

Most Sacks

Last year:
Vic Beasley 15.5
Von Miller 13.5
Lorenzo Alexander 12.5
Markus Golden 12.5

No less than sixteen players recorded ten or more sacks in what was a “down” year for personal statistics in this category. In most years 18-20 sacks are needed.

Prices this time from Sky Bet are as follows:

Watt 5/4
Bosa 3/1
Miller 8/1
Beasley 9/1
Mack 10/1

Joey Bosa was drafted by the Chargers in 2016 and promptly held out of training camp in a contractual dispute. He missed the first few games due to this and injury

Overall he played 12 of 16 games, and started 11. He recorded 10.5 sacks. He’ll be better this year too and is a genuine defensive player of the year candidate and a decent proposition in this market against Watt.

Joey Bosa Most sacks 3/1

Comeback Player of the Year

The NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award, presented by the Associated Press (50 voters, announced the night before the Super-bowl) to the player that demonstrated the most “perseverance in the face of adversity”. Recent winners have been both grat on the field and inspirational in their recoveries off it: In the 2014 season, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski returned from a torn ACL and MCL to catch 12 touchdowns and help win the Super Bowl. Chiefs safety Eric Berry recovered from Hodgkin lymphoma to win first-team All-Pro honours in 2015.Last year, Jordy Nelson came back from a torn ACL to lead the league with 14 touchdown catches.

We need a player that performs superbly, obviously. He has to have the opportunity to contribute and preferably in a good high profile team/market, with prime time games catching the attention of voters. A nice back story helps too.

So for this season the market forms as follows

JJ Watt 4/1
Derek Carr 8/1
Justin Houston 8/1
Marshawn Lynch 8/1
Earl Thomas 10/1

J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans simply has to be the favourite. Watt racked up 69 sacks and won the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year Award three times from 2012 to 2015, but aggravated a back injury in Week 3 last year and went to the injured reserve. He could be playing for the best defense in the league this year, if fit will be getting 15+ sacks and is a league poster boy.
Derek Carr broke his leg in game 15 last year and might not be a “comeback” player for me, hasn’t been out that long. Justin Houston the Chiefs pass-rusher is on the way back from a knee injury suffered last August. Earl Thomas broke his leg in week 13 last year. He almost retired previously and is a star player on a star defense. Both Houston and Thomas have to be candidates if performances allow.
Outside these players is running back Marshawn Lynch now of Oakland Raiders. An all-pro in Seattle, Lynch has always marched to the beat of his own drum and retired (prematurely, most felt)over a year ago. “Beast Mode” is one of a sizeable group of running backs that could challenge for the Comeback Player of the Year award this season,  joining New Orleans’s Adrian Peterson, Denver’s Jamaal Charles, Seattle’s Eddie Lacy, Detroit’s Ameer Abdullah, and Baltimore’s Danny Woodhead as contenders. However Lynch’s situation coming out of retirement and his role with the Raiders as the primary ball carrier in Oakland, running behind one of the most talented offensive lines for what should be a winning team puts him ahead.

Purely from the point of view of betting on him here, I didn’t like to see him sitting down for the national anthem before the start of a pre-season game. Remember to win this you need votes from journalists but, he is box office and also provides them plenty of copy so its swings and roundabouts.

There is also the risk that he will down tools at any point. However in terms of talent (five time pro-bowler, twice won the rushing title) and situation I don’t think he can be ignored. He’ll certainly get enormous media coverage all season.

Marshawn Lynch Comeback Player of the Year 8/1

Offensive Rookie of the Year

This year’s draft dropped a really good looking class of running backs and receivers into the NFL. Headliners like Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, and quarterback Deshaun Watson carry big expectations with them. The result could be a tight Rookie of the Year race in league history.

The head of the market is as follows

Leonard Fournette 5/1
DeShaun Watson 6/1
Christian Mccaffrey 7/1
Dalvin Cook 8/1
Corey Davis 9/1
Joe Mixon 10/1

Looking at each of these in turn

Leonard Fournette Jacksonville needed a big-time running presence after Yeldon and Ivory disappointed last season and with a dysfunctional passing game because of quarterback issues. Fournette went to LSU as the nation’s top recruit and promptly ran for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns as a true freshman. He nearly doubled that yardage in 2015 before injuries cut his final season in the NCAA short. It is that injury, specifically a re-occurrence with a big workload likely, that makes me wary of him as favourite. I would also be much more confident of his short term prospects if the Jacksonville passing game worked as intended (teams can’t tehn stack the box to stop the run) but the quarterback situation looks rough.

Christian McCaffrey’s ability to contribute as a versatile tailback and kick returner made him one of college football’s most valuable players. He gained more than 6,000 all-purpose yards in his final two seasons at Stanford, proving himself an asset as a runner and receiver. That’s great news for Cam Newton, in a Panthers offense that lacked difference makers with Jonathan Stewart past his best at running back too.McCaffrey has been working with the wide receivers in camp. “There’s not going to be anybody in this league that can cover him one-on-one” said Stewart. He ismyfavourite to win this award

Deshaun Watson drafted by the Texans, and therefore has an immediate opportunity to start early. At Clemson he played in two national championship games and earned a play-off title in January. The question now is whether he can scale that success up to the NFL. Houston will give him several opportunities to thrive, surrounding him with offensive talent like DeAndre Hopkins.

Corey Davis was the first wide receiver drafted,by the Titans. A big tall receiver his potential to forma partnership with Mariota is obvious in what looks to be a fast improving team. Te downside is persistent off-season injuries and not active in camp yet. A slow start matters less than how he does at the end of the season, but still off-putting.

Dalvin Cook was prolific at Florida State, setting a team record with 4,464 rushing yards in three seasons. Character concerns and a deep running back class dropped him to the second round, where he should start for the Vikings and improve a rushing attack ranked last in the NFL in yards per attempt last season. Cook has excelled as pass catcher and blocker in camp, played every snap with the first team in the first two pre-season games. He will play in a high-efficiency offense with a check-down quarterback in Bradford.

Joe Mixon has a chequered past which meant he was drafted lower than he would have been on talent alone, by the Bengals. A big fast running back he goes into what should be a good offense with a chance to start immediately over Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard.

I wanted to mention a big priced outsider too in

Kenny Golladay who was drafted in the third round by the Lions, a 6 ft 3 wide receiver. This is immediately an interesting opportunity Last season on pass plays inside the opposing 40 yard line the Lions used 3 or more wide receivers 93% of the time second most in NFL (78% average). Being the third wide receiver in Detroit (Anquan Boldin has left and Calvin Johnson’s retirement still looms large froma year ago) gives plenty of touchdown opportunities.
Last year the three Detroit receivers got 135, 105 and 95 targets with Stafford passing on 65% of plays. They still have an unusual running game (lack a “bell cow first down back) and no star tight end. Golladay is five inches taller than the WR1 (Golden Tate) and two inches taller than the WR2 (Marvin Jones). Tate really belongs in the slot,as in Seattle, and that should happen at some point this season giving Golladay the opportunity on the outside for big plays.

Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, now in NFL Media, visited Lions camp and said afterwards Golladay is going to be ‘special’

Golladay scored two touchdowns in his first pre-season game and looked tough to cover. Just look at the price. 66/1. Yes please.

There are many candidates in this market and I wanted to create a basket of selections in different price tiers

Firstly among the favourites I am bullish on McCaffrey. He should be a real difference maker on a team that will rebound strongly and Dalvin Cook should make a big difference for the Vikings

Christian McCaffrey Offensive Rookie of the year 7-1
Dalvin Cook Offensive Rookie of the year 10/1
Kenny Golladay Offensive Rookie of the year 66/1

Summary of Recommendations

each way Kirk Cousins most passing yards 12/1 Coral)
Le-Veon Bell most Rushing yards 100/30 Skybet
each way A J Green Most Receiving Yards 16/1 Ladbrokes (1/4 1,2,3,4)
each way Michael Thomas Most Receiving Yards 20/1 Ladbrokes (1/4 1,2,3,4)
Joey Bosa Most sacks 3/1 Skybet
Marshawn Lynch Comeback Player of the Year 8/1 Ladbrokes
Christian McCaffrey Offensive Rookie of the year 7-1 Ladbrokes
Dalvin Cook Offensive Rookie of the year 10/1 William Hill
Kenny Golladay Offensive Rookie of the year 66/1 WilliamHill
“a team to finish 0-16” 14/1 Betfred

Also I like following team over/unders (at 10/11 if you shop around
Arizona Cardinals over 8 wins
Cincinnati Bengals over 8 wins
Washington Redskins over 7 wins