FINALLY Week 1 of the 2014-15 NFL season is nearly upon us, but before the season begins, NFL boffin Tom Selwyn (@Tom_Selwyn) had a look at some of the ante post markets.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
This award has been won by a skill position (QB, RB, WR) player for every year as long as I can remember, but with only one QB scheduled to start Week 1 (Derek Carr of the Raiders) and an underwhelming crop of RBs, I’m struggling to look past the WR position when it comes to contenders for this year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
In my mind, there are four receivers in with a chance; Sammy Watkins (Bills), Mike Evans (Buccaneers), Brandin Cooks (Saints) and Kelvin Benjamin (Panthers).
Of those four, only one has an elite QB and that’s Cooks who will have Drew Brees throwing him the ball so he is my choice and can be had at around 9/1 at Bet365.
Watkins and Evans are arguably more talented than Cooks but both have question marks at the QB position, leaving them fewer opportunities to showcase these talents.
For people after more of a longshot, Kelvin Benjamin is a nice pick at 20/1 with Coral. Cam Newton is obviously nowhere near as accomplished a passer as Brees, but given that Benjamin is by far the most talented in a poor group of receivers you can expect him to see a lot of targets this year.
Outside of the WRs there is Blake Bortles, QB for the Jaguars, is another option too. He can also be had at 20/1 with Bet365 and has looked very impressive during pre-season games. Unfortunately the Jaguars have said that Chad Henne will start Week 1, but if Bortles is able to supplant him early in the season and then continues to play as he has done in pre-season he could be in with a shout.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Much like the offensive award, this award is usually concentrated to certain positions; in this case the front seven (DT, DE and LB).
The three favourites for this award are Jadeveon Clowney (Texans), Khalil Mack (Raiders) and Ryan Shazier (Steelers).
Of those players, I like Shazier the most and he currently sits at around 9/1 in the betting with William Hill. He was constantly popping up on screen during pre-season games and, with elite speed for the position, he is well placed in the middle of the Steelers defence to carry this form into the regular season.
Although Clowney is hugely talented and benefits from having, in my mind, the best defensive player in the game in JJ Watt alongside him he is simply too short (12/5 in some places) to go with here. As for Mack, I believe that he will suffer from being on a poor Raiders team too much.
Both of these players benefit from having great defensive minds as Head Coaches; Mike Zimmer for the Vikings and Rex Ryan for the Jets. This should really help accelerate their development and help showcase their talent early in their career.
Most Receiving Yards
Lions WR Calvin Johnson is the clear favourite in this market and I can’t be backing him at prices as short as 5/2.
Out of the rest of the WRs, I like the look of two who are in great situations to thrive this season and put up big numbers: Julio Jones of the Falcons and Dez Bryant of the Cowboys, both of whom can be had at 12/1 at Bet365.
Before injury derailed his season Jones was averaging 116 yards a game and with TE Tony Gonzalez retiring he looks set to see even more of the ball this year – 1,500 yards could easily be in reach even with Roddy White on the field.
As for Bryant, the Cowboys are going to have to be putting up a lot of points to win games this year due to what looks like an appalling defence. He will be the key to this “strategy” and will need to put up an enormous amount of yards if the Cowboys are to have any hope of a winning record.
With each-way terms also on offer on some sites, these two look like good bets.
It’s difficult to analyse the entire league in a few short paragraphs, so to cut to the chase I’m going to eliminate the whole of the AFC. The Patriots and Broncos are clearly the best in the conference and I can’t see anyone else making it to the Super Bowl. The prices reflect this and there isn’t too much value to be had with AFC teams.
The NFC on the other hand has a number of good teams capable of challenging the favourite Seahawks. I feel that home-field advantage in the Conference Championship game is going to be key here.
It is for this reason I like the Saints over the Packers (both around 12/1 with Coral). With needing the best record in the conference to get home-field throughout the playoffs and not much difference between the two teams (prolific offenses, serviceable defences), the schedule will play a big part.
The Packers have to navigate their own tough division as well as travelling to Seattle in Week 1, matchups with the Patriots and Eagles, along with a game at the Saints. Conversely, the only “elite” (open to interpretation that one..) team the Saints have to deal with is the 49ers. If the Saints can take care of their schedule and face the Seahawks at home, I see them getting to the Super Bowl and beating either the Broncos or the Patriots.
In terms of longer odds teams, I was looking towards the Eagles (25/1 Coral) or the Bears (33/1 Bet365). Again, both teams have very similar make-ups but given the weakness of the NFC East, I would have to pick the Eagles over the Bears here.
Offensive Rookie Of The Year – Brandin Cooks (9/1 Bet365)
Defensive Rookie Of The Year – Ryan Shazier (9/1 William Hill)
Most Receiving Yards – Julio Jones (12/1 Bet365)
Most Receiving Yards – Dez Bryant (12/1 Bet365)
Super Bowl – New Orleans Saints (12/1 Coral)