NFL is back… Do I need to say more?
1 Unit – Patrick Mahomes @ $6 (Sportsbet)
If you ask me who the best Quarterback is, to me, it’s Patrick Mahomes (not exactly going out on a limb here). Before I proceed, is he the GOAT? Is he the most accomplished? Is he the Quarterback that has the inanest capability of making everyone and the WHOLE organisation better to the point that it just doesn’t seem possible? No, all of those accolades belong to Tom Brady. But if you limit the role of a Quarterback to purely what happens between downs, to me, that’s Patrick Mahomes.
In the last 3 seasons, Patrick Mahomes is the only player to feature in the votes at least twice (won in 2018, and runner up in 2020).
I believe that when Mahomes is looking back on his career, there’s a serious chance that he has caught Peyton Manning’s record of 5 MVP’s, meaning he needs to win 4+ from here on in. Let’s play round numbers here; if Mahomes plays 16 more seasons, I expect him to win at least once every four years, not 6.
Team to make Wild Card
1 Unit – Atlanta Falcons @ $4.50 (TAB)
Since 2010, there have been 22 teams that have lost by 7 points or less on at least 5 more occasions than what they had won by the same margin. For example, the Falcons won 1 game by 1-7 points, and lost 8 games by 1-7, equating to a -7 W-L differential in close games.
Of the 22 teams that have fit the mould since 2010, 8 have made the playoffs the following season. That’s 36.36% (true odds - $2.75). Oh, before we go any further, there were two teams who lost at least 5 more close game than they won last season. The other was the Texans, and they ain’t winning anything this season.
The reason for losing these close games could be coaching, it could also just be “bad luck”, either way, there’s nothing to suggest that there’s a correlation between the number of close games a team loses from year to year.
Just to play devil’s advocate, let’s say it is coaching, well then it’s a good thing that the Falcons moved on from Dan Quinn, and hired Arthur Smith. Two years ago, no one knew who Arthur Smith was, but he turned the Titans’ offence from ranked 23rd (DVOA) in 2018 to 6th in 2019 and backed it up with the 4th ranked offence in 2020.
No, Smith won’t have Derrick Henry at his disposal, but it’s not like Henry was a top 5 Running Back before Smith was the play-caller either. If Smith can run a top offense with Ryan Tannehill, I have every reason to believe that he can do it with Matt Ryan.
A 30th ranked Strength-of-Schedule will certainly help the Falcons this season but being in the same division as the NFL Champions won’t, making this a perfect play.
Most Receiving Yards
Let’s have a look at the last 8 Receiving Yard Leader kings.
- Stefon Diggs - Aged 26
- Michael Thomas - 26
- Julio Jones – 29 (2nd Receiving Title)
- Antonio Brown - 29 (2nd)
- TY Hilton - 26
- Julio Jones - 26
- AB - 26
- Josh Gordon – 22
- Calvin Johnson – 26 (2nd)
- Calvin Johnson – 25
From this list:
- All winners were under 30
- All first-time winners were 26 or under
If we were to expect this trend to follow, that rules out:
- Hopkins (29), Tyreek Hill (27), Davante Adams (28), Travis Kelce (31), Keenan Allen (29), Amari Cooper (27), Allen Robinson (28), and Julio Jones (31)
I’m also going to rule out:
- Stefon Diggs – Almost nobody, unless your name is Calvin Johnson, leads the league in receiving yards back to back.
- DK Metcalf – For the first time under Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson, the Seahawks looked like a pass-first football team with Brian Schottenheimer as the play-caller… Well, he was fired and I think this hurts Metcalf’s production.
- A.J Brown – Make no mistake, Brown is *the* man in Tennessee, but the Titans run the ball too much for me to think Brown will lead the league in yardage.
Leaving us with…:
- Calvin Ridley – With Julio out of the picture, Ridley is undoubtedly the “X” receiver in Atlanta. Assuming the Falcons don’t run it as much as Tennessee has in the past (Falcons don’t have a RB named Derrick Henry), I expect Ridley to thrive in a more productive offence. Ridley has gone 821, 866, and 1374 yards in his three seasons. My money’s on this man.
- Justin Jefferson – Of the players who amassed 1000+ receiving yards in 2020, the now-second-year player had the highest yards per target, and is only of only 2 who averaged 100 yards per start (Diggs was the other). After Jefferson and Thielen, the Vikings receiving group drops off fast. Combine this with the fact that Jefferson was mainly targeted between the 20’s and Thielen was preferred in the red-zone, Jefferson should see bulk yardage once again in his 2nd season.
- Terry McLaurin – Has amassed 919 and 1118 in his first two years with the likes of Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, and Case Keenum throwing him the ball. Ryan Fitzpatrick is no Peyton Manning, but he’s a gunslinger and will give McLaurin additional receiving yardage opportunities, for better or for worse.
0.5 Units – Calvin Ridley @ $11 (Ladbrokes)
0.5 Units – Justin Jefferson @ $15 (TAB)
0.25 Units – Terry McLaurin @ $21 (Bet365)
Most Rushing TOUCHDOWNS
I believe the Most Rushing Yards market is pretty accurate, and it’s pretty hard to go past Derrick Henry or Dalvin Cook, but I think there’s more value in the most rushing touchdowns market.
0.5 Units – Dalvin Cook @ $7 (Sportsbet/TAB/Pointsbet)
When breaking down situational pass:rush ratios, no team run the ball more in 2020 than the Vikings inside the 10-yard line when the game is in the balance (10 points) – 59 times. How I translate that is, no team WANTS to run the ball when they get down within scoring distance. In comparison, the Titans ran it 37 times within the same criteria.
Cook averaged the most rushing touchdowns per game (1.14) in 2020
0.25 Units – Antonio Gibson @ $18 (Pointsbet)
Washington ran the ball 63% of time in the same situational criteria mentioned above (5th most in the league), unfortunately, they only had 47 red zone trips (6th least). I like the intent to run the ball in scoring positions (for betting purposes) and with an upgrade in Quarterback, I expect more scoring opportunities for both Washington and Gibson.
With then-teammate Peyton Barber out of the way, I expect Gibson to improve on his already-impressive 11 touchdowns in his rookie year with a greater load of the carries.
0.25 Units – Alvin Kamara @ $16 (Pointsbet)
In 2020, the most rushing TD’s read:
- Derrick Henry – 17 from 16 games
- Dalvin Cook – 16 from 14 games
- Alvin Kamara – 16 from 15 games.
- 3 backs with 12
Henry did it with 64 redzone carries, Cook from 68. Kamara? Just 46. Making him by far the most efficient redzone back in the league in 2020. I doubt Kamara will be this efficient again, but with fellow back Latavius Murray being released, we could see more redzone carries for Kamara.
0.25 Units – Gus Edwards @ $34 (Sportsbet)
Baltimore were one of only 3 teams to have 2+ running backs with 28+ redzone carries (Rams & Browns) in 2020. Ideally, the Ravens would probably like to run a back-by-committee system, but after releasing Mark Ingram, and JK Dobbins and Justice Hill having their season finished before it started with injuries, the Ravens are left with Edwards – someone who I have claimed to be vastly underrated and underutilised in the past. Yes, the Ravens will look elsewhere to find some support for Edwards (rumours with Le’Veon Bell signing), but this price is too hard to ignore.
Defensive Player of the Year
1 Unit – Aaron Donald @ $6 (Sportsbet)
Not only is Aaron Donald the best defensive player in Football, by my definition, he is the best player in football. Everyone will have a different criteria or definition when it comes to naming the best player in football, but I believe Donald is the best player because the gap between Donald and the next best player in his position, is greater than any player in any position. Donald is a one-man wrecking crew.
Donald is the only player to receive AP Defensive Player of the Year award votes in each of the last 3 years… and he has for the last 5, taking the crown in 3 of them. The public is high on the Rams this year, mainly due to their upgrade at the QB position, and if this turns to fruition… you thought Donald was already good? Wait until you see him when he’s facing teams who are facing obvious passing-downs. Scary.
1 Unit - Division Winners – Chiefs / Bills / Titans @ $4.14 (Topsport)
Chiefs: Let’s be honest, the only way Mahomes and Chiefs don’t win the AFC West is if Mahomes is out for the season, and even then, it’s still probably even money.
Bills: Probably one of the most stable teams at the moment. It’s not too often a team goes to the Conference Championships and they manage to retain both the Offensive and Defensive Coordinator. In fact, they’re one of only 2 team (Saints) who are rolling into the new season with the same coordinators and Head Coach for at least the 4th year straight. Have a look around the East – 2 rookie QB’s and a questionable one in his sophomore year in Tua. I think the Pats and Phins are capable of making the playoffs, but it would be a monumental failure for the Bills if they’re not in contention for the Super Bowl come January.
Titans: The AFC South is a 2-horse race, let me set that straight before I delve any deeper. I like the Colts, but I’m not sure they exactly upgraded on Quarterback this off-season. Rivers was well past his peak (understatement) in his sole season in Indy, but I think it’s time to call a spade a spade when it comes to Wentz. He’s an “okay” Quarterback who had one amazing half season before he – like his other seasons – got injured. That 4-month period where Wentz looked like the MVP, that’s the exception, not the rule for me.
The Titans, on the other hand, with the addition of Julio Jones and a much-needed revamped defence (ranked 27th DVOA in 2020), I don’t see the Titans regressing, especially on defence. A slight concern I have for the Titans is that they lost their 2020 Offensive play-caller and considering their offense has carried this team to the playoffs two years in a row, it’s going to be interesting to see how they adapt in 2021.
Even if I could guarantee full health to these two teams’ respective Quarterbacks, I would still have the Titans, just. But when you consider the fact that Wentz has played 14+ games only twice in his 5 seasons and that he already has a already had a scare in his foot before the season starts, that wants me to lay the Colts here.
And I’ll end it with this one…
0.1 Unit – Division Winners – Ravens / Bills / Titans / Chiefs / Packers / Washington / Bucs / 49ers @ $189.4 (Bet365)
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