The NFL season is finally upon us. Before the season opens up officially Thursday night, I want to give my season long bets column. We will have futures on win totals, Super Bowl futures, and division futures. Let’s get into it.
Baltimore Ravens to win the AFC North:
You can make an argument that the AFC North is one of the toughest divisions in football. You have three different head coaches that have made a Super Bowl appearance. You have a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in TJ Watt and MVP candidates in Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow.
I think the Ravens are getting undervalued here.
Baltimore made the post season last year despite having Lamar Jackson miss more than a quarter of the season. The Ravens got better drafting Zay Flowers in the first round and adding Odell Beckham. Lamar has never had better weapons at his disposal.
Plus, Joe Burrow is already on the injury list in training camp and the Bengals lost important pieces in the secondary, most notably Pro Bowl safety Jesse Bates. Plus, there has never been a team that has won the AFC North three seasons in a row. That’s mind boggling when you think of the talented cores the Steelers and Ravens have produced over the years.
Meanwhile, the Steelers are talented but I don’t think Kenny Pickett takes the next step into being an elite quarterback yet. While the Browns are still talented, I can’t take their coaching staff and talent over what Baltimore, Cincy, and Pittsburgh have.
New offensive coordinator Todd Monken will put some new wrinkles into the new offense.
Baltimore plus money has some value here.
Buffalo to win the AFC East and win the Super Bowl (+900)
Everyone wants to fade Buffalo here. The Bills were the heavy favorites going into last year. Everyone is trying to jump on the Aaron Rodgers bandwagon in New York, or they want to see Tua take the next step in Miami. There is no doubt the division will be much tougher.
But the Bills will take care of business once again. Buffalo spiraled in the postseason. There were a lot of emotional ups and downs with the Damar Hamlin injury situation. Hamlin is back now. They should have Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, and Von Miller back on defense. They drafted Dalton Kincaid at tight end and James Cook will give Buffalo a more reliable ground game. Josh Allen is unquestionably a top 3 QB in the NFL. The tests will be tougher, but the Bills still have the best roster in the division. They should hoist the AFC East crown once again.
I think they take it a step further. The championship window is winding down in Buffalo. This is the year they get it done. Their defense has ranked 1st in DVOA the last two years. They rank in the top five in pressure rate. Their offense has been in the top 10 overall in Offensive DVOA and top 5 in passing.
If James Cook can provide some balance to their offense, I really like the Bills upside. 9/1 is a pretty good value.
Lions to win the NFC North and over 9.5 wins
The Lions haven’t won a division in over 30 years. This year is the perfect opportunity for the Lions to break that streak. Aaron Rodgers is officially out of the division in Green Bay. The Vikings have been battling cap issues and have had to release top contributors on offense and defense, and the Bears are in year three of a rebuild.
The Lions finished last season winning eight out of their last 10 games. They drafted impact players in the early rounds of the draft. They have the best offensive line in the division and one of the most reliable quarterbacks in the NFC. This division is between the Lions and the Vikings. The Lions have a much more favorable schedule.
We are going to take the Lions to win the NFC North here.
MVP: Justin Herbert (+900)
Herbert is the fourth in line as far as MVP odds go. Herbert played all of last year with a broken rib and Joe Lombardi limited him as an offensive coordinator. The Chargers threw the ball on first down the least amount of times in the NFL. That will change with Kellen Moore who passed the ball 56% of the time on first down when the score was neutral. He is also going to implement more tempo, play action, and QB run concepts.
This is a big season for the Chargers.
Herbert will play on prime time a half dozen times. The entire football world will have many chances to see him play. If Herbert has a big year and leads the Chargers to a division title to unseat the Chiefs off the AFC West throne, I think that’s a good enough case for Herbert to lift the trophy.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Joey Porter, CB, Pittsburgh (+2200)
This is my favorite value play on the entire board. Porter won the starting job in fall camp. His dad was a Hall of Famer for the Steelers. If Porter plays extremely well, I think the writers love the story line for being the top rookie. The Steelers will be battling for a playoff spot. I don’t see any of the top draft picks breaking out. Porter will be in a good position. I think a lot of teams are going to try to test him early. He is going to be guarding some of the best wideouts in the game early on. Sauce Gardner won defensive rookie of the year as a corner last season. I think Porter can do something similar.
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