We made it. Football season is almost here and it’s time to prepare. In this massive NFL season preview I will break down the major storylines, give out best bets, and make a fantasy football suggestion for every team in the league. Let’s dive in.
(Betting odds are via FanDuel, lines may shift so be sure to price shop. Fantasy tips can be applied to PPR and Half-PPR leagues)
After another disappointing season and an embarrassing playoff exit, Mike McCarthy is out and the Sean Payton era is set to begin. Oh crap, this was for the 2023-2024 season preview. My bad. In all seriousness, this seems like where the Cowboys are headed. The Cowboys finished #1 in DVOA last season per football outsiders. Number one!! And yet the season ended with a round-one playoff loss at home to Jimmy Garoppolo. Dallas lost La’el Collins and Amari Cooper this offseason, mostly thanks to the brutal Ezekiel Elliott contract. Dan Quinn’s defense was impressive last year (#2 in defensive DVOA) and Micah Parsons is a legit DPOY candidate. However, this defensive unit is due for some harsh turnover regression. Turnover luck is not a sticky stat and the Cowboys led the NFL in turnover differential last season. The division is weak and Dak Prescott is very good, I just don’t think a Super Bowl ceiling is there, even in an underwhelming NFC. Especially with the recent loss of Tyron Smith on the offensive line.
UNDER 10.5 WINS (-145)
The offensive line is worse, the weapons are worse, turnover regression will hit, and I don’t think you can pencil in 4-0 against Washington and New York. 11 wins feels like a stretch with the current status of this roster.
Fantasy Football Tip
Draft Dalton Schultz
Dalton Schultz is going to inhale targets this year. I don’t think Dallas will be able to run the ball as well as they have in the past. Kellen Moore likes to dial up pass plays and Dak is comfortable racking up the attempts. With the departure of Amari Cooper, Schultz is suddenly the number two option in this passing game. Schultz is the ideal TE pick this year in full PPR leagues. I think he could easily end up as a top-three TE.
The goal for the Eagles as a franchise this year is pretty simple: Find out if Jalen Hurts is that dude. This goal is going to be achieved because the rest of the roster is ready to compete for the Lombardi Trophy. The offensive line heading into the year is ranked #1 according to PFF. The skill position group is strong with AJ Brown, Devonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and Justin Jeff… wait sorry I mean Jalen Reagor. Could you imagine though!? I know Eagles fans can. The defense is also improved after some nice additions like James Bradberry, Jordan Davis, and Kyzir White. If I were a Jalen Hurts truther I would be picking the Eagles to win the NFC. I just can’t get there though. Hurts is just not there yet as a processor and a passer in my eyes.
I love this team in the regular season and will be interested to see if Hurts can prove myself and many others wrong in the playoffs this year.
Eagles to win the NFC East (+155)
The Eagles are going to be better than the Cowboys. They have the better offensive line, the better weapons, the better coaching staff, and I believe the defenses and quarterbacks are close enough. Getting +155 feels like great value and despite my doubts about Hurts, I also think +1400 to win the NFC is pretty interesting.
Fantasy Football Tip
Draft Jalen Hurts
Yes I know you might be confused. While I do have doubts about Hurts as a pure passer in the playoffs, I love him as a fantasy asset. Getting rushing production from your QB is a fantasy football cheat code and Hurts ran for 784 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. The passing numbers project to be much better this year and the offense as a whole should be very strong behind that loaded offensive line. Real-life QB? Meh. Fantasy football QB? Yes please.
When the NFL released the schedule there was one game in week 1 that really made me laugh, and that is a Carson Wentz revenge game vs the Jaguars. The Jags knocked the Colts out of the playoffs (and Wentz out of Indy) by handing them an improbable loss in week 18 with a playoff spot on the line. You won’t find many people more out on Wentz than me, mostly because I held the Wentz stock for as long as I could, and he continuously made me feel dumb. Wentz was in a great position to succeed last year and still made the same ole’ Carson Wentz mistakes. Throw the ball away just once, one time. Don’t take the sack. Don’t panic and make a left-handed pass. Just throw it away, live to see another down. But he won’t.
The defense was surprisingly bad last year for Washington and I’m still not sure really what to make of that. The Commanders spent a first-round pick on WR Jahan Dotson and there seems to be real competition at RB since Antonio Gibson can’t stop fumbling and has not impressed the coaching staff. The Commanders are going to be pretty boring and irrelevant this year outside of the weekly Carson Wentz viral twitter play.
UNDER 8.5 WINS (-170)
Nine wins for a Carson Wentz-led team with an unproven defense, decent weapons, and average offensive line? Under. I think it could get ugly in Washington once again. I am not sprinting to the window to hammer this because of the juice and the light schedule but I do see this as the best bet for a team that might be the least exciting watch in the NFL.
Fantasy Football Tip
Run far away from any player wearing these maroon/auburn/mustard-ish-looking jerseys. Even a talented guy like Terry McLaurin will likely be too inconsistent to return value on his current ADP. Antonio Gibson is a CLEAR fade due to fumble concerns and lack of receiving work. Just fade the team entirely and thank yourself later.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Words cannot accurately reflect how big of a deal it is that the Giants offense is going from Jason Garrett and Joe Judge to Brian Daboll. At least that is the hope for Giants fans that root for a team that… well…
The quest to be over .500 for just a single moment rolls on and it does so with Daniel Jones at QB. The Giants had a respectable offseason, adding to both lines in the first round of the draft along with the clear coaching upgrade. This will likely be the last season in New York for Daniel Jones, and Saquon Barkley is also in a contract year. The play on the field should be much better, but even a Bill Belichick-Sean McVay love child at head coach couldn’t stop Daniel Jones from mucking up an offense for an extended period of games. If Kadarius Toney can stay healthy and Saquon looks like Saquon again, this team will be an exciting watch. But the real fun for fans of the G-Men will likely start in 2023 when a new QB is under center.
Saquon Barkley most regular season scrimmage yards (+1600)
Let’s take our first longshot here. Vibes around the Giants’ training camp and specifically the offensive line have not been great. But if that group can get healthy I could see a big year for Barkley. First off, there is zero competition for touches in this backfield. Minimal offense to Matt Breida, but Saquon is going to be on the field at a high rate. Next point – there is no reason not to give Saquon a ridiculous workload. This is the last year of his deal so there is no incentive to save his body. If he handles the workload and looks great, they can pay him. If he doesn’t hold up physically, they let him walk. Either way, they will know. Saquon is a talented pass catcher and Brian Daboll is a smart offensive mind that will look to get the ball to his best weapon often. 16-1 is absolutely worth a flier that will be fun to root for.
Fantasy Football Tip
Buy Saquon. Sell Golladay.
I love Saquon in fantasy this year for all of the reasons listed above. I am taking him at the back of the first round over guys like Najee Harris and Derrick Henry. Saquon is going to look like a different guy now that he is another year removed from his ACL injury.
One guy I don’t believe will look like a different guy is Kenny Golladay. Golladay is perennially banged up, past his prime, and is not a top option on this offense. If you want a piece of the Giants offense, get it in the form of Barkley or Kadarius Toney.
It’s time. It’s all lined up for the Buffalo Bills to win the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. All of the major players are back. Von Miller is now in town. They have more than enough playoff experience. Patrick Mahomes now has the cap hit of a star NFL QB. The NFL overtime rules have been changed. The Bills have the QB, they have the roster, they have the coaches, now it’s time for it all to come together. Buffalo is the betting favorite to win the division, conference, and Super Bowl. With the conglomerate of talented teams in the AFC West and AFC North, the Bills start the year with the inside track to the number one seed in the AFC.
I have no reason to doubt the Bills this year. The loss of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is the only thing people can really point toward as a negative. That and the fact that this team got into a weird amount of fights in training camp.
The AFC is LOADED with contenders. But when considering talent, playoff experience, and the division, the Bills are the team to beat entering the season.
OVER 11.5 WINS (-135)
There isn’t much “value” out there when looking at a team as good as the Bills. No team is worth a +600 Super Bowl bet in the preseason due to injury variance and the single-elimination playoff format. Not to mention the AFC is stacked with contenders. The Bills should be able to go 5-1 in division games and they have games outside of the division against the Browns, Lions, and Bears. I expect the Bills to be hyper-focused on securing the top seed, ensuring that the road to the Super Bowl goes through Orchard Park.
Fantasy Football Tip
Believe the Gabriel Davis Hype
Gabriel Davis took a huge step forward at the end of last season, culminating in the dominant four-touchdown performance in the playoff loss to the Chiefs. That final game certainly is a factor in Davis’ 4th/5th round ADP. But he is still a buy at that spot. For the first time in his career, Davis is going to consistently be on the field after the departure of Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley. Sanders and Beasley combined for 184 targets last season and I expect Davis to be the main beneficiary of those vacated targets in this pass-happy offense. Davis is also a physical freak, making him an ideal red-zone target for Josh Allen. I will be surprised if Davis has single-digit touchdowns this year and think he has a great shot to finish as a WR 1.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Mac Jones is entering the always crucial sophomore season at QB. Unfortunately for newly-chiseled Mac Jones, his proven offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, is playing blackjack in Vegas and the offense now lies in the hands of… wait for it… recently fired defensive specialist Matt Patricia and recently fired special team specialist Joe Judge.
Who doesn’t love a good training camp battle between failed head coaches to determine who calls plays for the offense in year two for Mac Jones?
I trust Belichick to have a good defense and the weapons around Jones are underrated. The Pats will win their fair share of games as they always do, but the roster and QB just don’t stack up with the true contenders in the conference.
I was going to go with the Pats to miss the playoffs but that is juiced to -200 and is not worth it at that number. The win-loss total at 8.5 feels like a coin flip. Pass on these and look elsewhere for better value.
Fantasy Football Tip
Snag Jakobi Meyers
Jakobi Meyers is a very solid late-round pick in PPR leagues. He is not a league-winner but you don’t have to and shouldn’t try to win your league with every pick. When injuries hit or BYE weeks pile up, it’s helpful to have a solid option to plug in that you can expect double-digit points from. And that is what Jakobi Meyers brings to the table. Meyers hauled in 83 receptions last year but is ignored by the fantasy community because he has only two career touchdowns. Even with the lack of touchdown production, Meyers can still help your team and there is little opportunity cost with his current draft price. Meyers is the most well-rounded and consistent wideout on the Pats and could see a bump in QB play this year. Make a fun and irresponsible pick at WR in the middle rounds — like Kadarius Toney or Brandon Aiyuk — and then follow that up with a late and mature selection of Jakobi Meyers.
Entering the 2022-2023 season, Tua falls into the Jalen Hurts category of ‘let’s find out what we have in this dude’, after his uninspiring play in years one and two. Last season, Tua ranked 20th in EPA per play among qualifying QBs. That’s not going to cut it for a highly touted prospect that was taken ahead of Justin Herbert (6th in EPA per play) in the 2020 draft. Tua enters this season with a lot of pressure, but also with an ungodly amount of speed in that Miami WR room. The combination of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle will keep defensive coordinators around the league up all night if Tua can get the most out of them. And if he can’t, Miami should start looking for someone who can.
The Dolphins have been involved in plenty of off-the-field drama this offseason. There was the Brian Flores debacle, tampering allegations, and ultimately, the loss of a future first-round pick. None of that is of the concern of first-year head coach Mike McDaniel. The charismatic offensive guru comes from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree and will attempt to bring that efficient Shanahan offense to South Beach. To help him do that, Miami added the All-Pro left tackle Terron Armstead and running back Chase Edmonds, who is known for being a great runner in outside-zone schemes. If Tua can be a left-handed, less handsome Jimmy G, then this offense should be solid at worst. If Tua starts to play with more confidence and combines his trademark accuracy with some actual big plays, this offense could put Miami in the playoffs.
Miami Dolphins to miss the playoffs (-174)
Despite the addition of Terron Armstead, Miami enters the season with the 23rd-best offensive line according to PFF. I also have questions about the defense post-Brian Flores. Flores is a talented defensive play caller with a real knack for knowing when to dial up a blitz. Miami’s defense was #10 in DVOA last season and I could absolutely see that unit taking a step back this season.
I just don’t think it all comes together for Tua and this team in year one with a new head coach and a new offense. Not to mention the Dolphins open the season with the Patriots, Ravens, Bills, and Bengals, before closing the year with the 49ers, Chargers, Bills, Packers, Patriots, and Jets.
Fantasy Football Tip
Follow the money and draft Chase Edmonds
I love Chase Edmonds this year. The Dolphins went out and signed Edmonds to a 2-year deal for $12 million, outbidding teams like the Bills in the process. Edmonds has always been one of the most efficient outside-zone runners in the NFL and Mike McDaniel is an expert with that specific scheme. Edmonds sought out an offense with this style and the Dolphins sought out Edmonds to fill this role. It’s a match made in fantasy football heaven. Lastly, Chase Edmonds has always been an elite fantasy option in games he has started and is now the unquestioned lead back. He will get the ball at the goal line and he will catch plenty of those classic Tua checkdowns. Edmonds is a massive value at his current ADP in the 80s.
NEW YORK JETS
The Jets enter the season as the clear #4 in this division. Year one was rough for head coach Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson, the latter of which did a lot more scoring off the field than he did on it. Most would agree that it would be a real shock to see this team competing for a playoff spot in January, so this year is more about internal development and scouting. Is Zach Wilson the guy? Is Robert Saleh the guy? How legit are Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson on the outside? As usual, there are more questions than answers surrounding the Jets.
Breece Hall Rookie of the Year (+1200)
Nothing on the board screams value when looking at the Jets so let’s look towards the awards market. With the lack of good QBs in this draft class, the offensive ROY award feels wide open. Breece Hall was the first RB off the board in April and is an explosive athlete that could pop at the NFL level. Hall does have some competition for touches in the backfield, but his talent and the draft capital spent by the Jets indicate a path towards high volume. Hall can catch the ball out of the backfield and rip off big plays. The concern here is the potential lack of success from the offense and the team, but +1200 for the most talented rookie RB is good value in a year where a QB likely won’t win the award.
Fantasy Football Tip
No Private Jets
One of Elijah Moore, Breece Hall, and Garrett Wilson could certainly pop. They all have extreme talent and the majority of the work should run through those three players, but none of them are that cheap. All three guys have concerningly low floors at their current ADP so I am passing on them in redraft leagues. Give me Cam Akers > Breece Hall, Allen Lazard > Elijah Moore, and Joshua Palmer > Garrett Wilson.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Things are going to look a little different at Lambeau Field this year. Davante Adams is gone meaning number 12 will have to find someone other than number 17 to throw the ball to. Luckily the Packers have two excellent running backs — Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon — both of which can and will catch the ball. Rodgers has expressed confidence in Allen Lazard, and the Romeo Doubs hype train is steamrolling into Minnesota for a week one matchup vs Captain Kirk. I see little reason to doubt the back-to-back MVP, this offense will still put up points.
The defense finished #22 in DVOA last season but the return of lockdown corner Jaire Alexander will give a significant boost to that unit. It was the 32nd-ranked special teams group that ultimately shattered the Packers’ hopes in the playoffs when the 49ers blocked a punt that ultimately swung that divisional round game.
While the offense might take a step back, the defense and special teams could easily take a step forward, putting Green Bay right in the thick of Super Bowl contention once again.
Packers to win the NFC (+500)
The Packers are my pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this year. I expect a balanced offense that operates efficiently under Rodgers and LaFleur. The defense boasts an above-average secondary that will make a huge impact against teams like the Bucs and Rams. And the special teams can’t doom them again… RIGHT!? I’ll take +500 for the team with the best QB in the conference.
Fantasy Football Tip
Pass on Aaron Jones and grab AJ Dillon
It would not shock me at all, there would be no flinch from this guy if AJ Dillon outscored Aaron Jones this year. And I like Aaron Jones a decent amount, but I LOVE AJ Dillon. I certainly love him more than this poor mascot.
AJ Dillon had more red zone and goal line rushing attempts than Jones last year and I think that gap will widen this season. A lot is being made of Jones catching passes, and he certainly will, but so will Dillon. Rodgers has talked up Dillon as a receiving threat and has asserted that Dillon will be on the field often with Jones. I could see this offense running through AJ Dillon, especially in games in which the Packers have the lead, which should be fairly often. Not to mention, if Aaron Jones gets hurt, Dillon would immediately become a top-five fantasy RB. Last but not least, Jones is going in the second round, while Dillon is going in the fifth or sixth.
The Mike Zimmer era is over in Minnesota. In comes Kevin O’Connell, the latest leaf to fall gracefully off of the Sean McVay coaching tree. O’Connell figures to install a pass-happy offense that looks quite different than the Vikings’ offense of old that was predicated on outside-zone running and play-action passing. This new offense should give new life to Kirk Cousins, who secured yet another BAG from the Vikings this offseason.
Cousins is the Vanilla ice cream of the NFL and has been for a while. Ice cream is great, everyone loves ice cream, but one flavor has to be the worst. The same can be said about Kirk Cousins who falls into the category of good quarterbacks, unfortunately for Vikings fans, Kirk is the worst of that group. If you add sprinkles and chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream suddenly isn’t so meh. The same can be said about Cousins when Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are out there at full strength. All of a sudden the offense is pretty good and vanilla ice cream ends up with a stat line of 350 yards and 3 TDs. But at the end of the day, there is a ceiling on how good you can make vanilla ice cream, and the same can be said about Kirk Cousins.
Dairy analogies aside, I’m very excited to see this new offense in Minnesota, the Vikings will be a fun team to watch week in and week out.
Vikings to make the playoffs (-110)
After looking through and analyzing all 16 NFC teams, I find it hard to believe that 7 of them will make the playoffs over the Vikings. I expect Minnesota to have a top-10 offense this year. The weapons are fantastic, the QB is capable, and the offensive line is average. The defense should be average as well and that should be enough for the Vikings to snag a wild card spot. Two games against the Chicago Teddy Bears and four vs the NFC East also help this bet.
I additionally like Justin Jefferson +1400 for Offensive Player of the Year and +900 to lead the NFL in receiving yards.
Fantasy Football Tip
Reach for Jefferson and Cook
Justin Jefferson is my #1 WR this year and my #3 player overall in full PPR leagues. Jefferson has talked about how the new coaching staff wants to get the ball in his hands as much as possible and is moving him all over the field to do so. Jefferson is in the Cooper Kupp do-it-all role for the Vikings, and a Kupp-like fantasy season is in the cards for Jefferson this year.
If you miss out on Jefferson, I like Dalvin Cook in the middle/back of the first round. Cook is my #4 RB and is due for some positive TD regression in an offense that projects to score more points and play at a faster tempo. Cook is also expected to be more involved in the passing game, giving him that delicious PPR upside that elite RBs need in fantasy football.
There is a greater than zero percent chance that the Lions are a frisky team that could push 6 or 7 wins this season. And that would probably be the worst thing that could happen to the franchise. The pieces are starting to fall into place, there are some playmakers on the field and some competent coaches on the sideline. Plug in a stud rookie QB and the Lions could be interesting sooner rather than later, but a 6 or 7-win season could put all of that on hold. In my head, the perfect year for a Lions fan is a season in which Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift, Jameson Williams, Jeff Okudah, and Aidan Hutchinson all show huge potential… while Jared Goff racks up losses. An electric 3-14 season that results in Bryce Young would be perfect… meaning it probably won’t happen. Some people just can’t have nice things, and Lions fans are those people.
D’Andre Swift Over 6.5 Rushing Touchdowns (-112)
PFF projects the Lions to have the third-best offensive line in football this year. A beefy unit up front combined with talented skill players should lead to points in Detroit. Swift should get ample opportunities in the red zone behind a stout O-line, give me the over. Backup RB Jamaal Williams once said, “if you’re gonna piss like a puppy, then stay on the porch and let the big dogs eat.” Swift is that big dog, and it’s time to feed him.
Fantasy Football Tip
Say Amon-Nah to St. Brown
The second-year WR from USC is clearly talented, shown by his 90 receptions last season. This recommendation could bite me in the ass. I usually love to buy second-year WRs on offenses that are trending up, but I just don’t think Amon-Ra is worth the fifth-round cost in fantasy drafts. There are a lot of mouths to feed in this offense — Swift, Brown, Chark, Hockenson, eventually Jameson Williams — and it’s not like Patrick Mahomes is the one doing the feeding. Jared Goff is the man putting the stale, moldy bread on the table for this family and I don’t like that. I prefer my bread moldless with cinnamon butter. I’d much rather deploy an early pick on Swift or a late dart throw at Chark as opposed to using a premium selection on St. Brown.
Chicago Bears to have the Worst Regular Season Record (+750)
You just have to feel bad for Justin Fields at this point. He got yanked around like a yo-yo last year by Matt Nagy and now returns this season to a horrific offensive line, a piss-poor WR corps, and a new GM that has no ties to selecting him in the first round. Justin Fields might be really good, and we never get to see it. On the flip side, I guess he could be really bad and nobody would ever really blame him for it. Fields will be running for his life all year long. He’ll be forced into obvious passing downs, allowing defensive ends to prey on him while Fields holds the ball, watching his receivers create negative separation. It would be a win if Fields leaves this season with two arms, two legs, and a head. The Chicago Bears, worst team in ball, grab the +750.
Fantasy Football Tip
Cole Kmet is your late-round sleeper TE
If you play in a deep league or maybe a TE-premium one, you can do much worse than Cole Kmet at TE. I basically laid out the case in the section above. Let’s break this down with some simple math. The Bears wide receivers suck = Cole Kmet targets. The Bears offensive line sucks = no time to throw = Cole Kmet targets. The Bears as a team, franchise, and concept suck = throwing a lot while losing = Cole Kmet targets. Cole Kmet targets = Cole Kmet fantasy points. I may have sucked at accounting, but I would have graduated with honors at the school of TE targets. Keep it simple, folks.
Joe Burrow might have that dawg in him, but he no longer has an appendix. The charismatic cigar-smoker is looking a little thin post-surgery, but that likely won’t slow down the king of the “it factor”.
I wouldn’t know how to feel if I were a Bengals fan. This team is young, fun, and coming off a Super Bowl appearance. Yet despite having two of the most valuable assets in the NFL — a star QB on a rookie contract and a star WR on a rookie deal — the Bengals rank 26th in money spent for this upcoming season per The Ringer. If there were EVER a time to throw caution to the wind and push the chips to the middle of the table that time is now. But that just isn’t how the Bengals go about business under this current regime.
Despite not spending much, the Bengals did improve this offseason in the area they needed to — offensive line. Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La’el Collins are now part of the unit tasked with keeping the franchise QB off of his back. This unit went from a glaring weakness to a possible strength. On paper, the offense should be elite and the defense should be fine. The only thing looming over the head of the Bengals is regression. Can Joe Burrow and this offense hit big plays at an astronomically high rate again? Maybe. Or perhaps Burrow will be able to adapt to the plethora of cover 2 looks that teams are about to throw his way.
Joe Mixon Over 1075.5 Rushing Yards (-112)
At his core, Zac Taylor wants to pound the rock. The Bengals have a much improved offensive line and should find themselves in plenty of run-friendly game scripts. Give Zac Taylor a reason to run Mixon and he will do it with a smile on his face. Mixon has gone over this number in 3 of 5 seasons and now is in the best spot of his career as far as rushing yards are concerned. I’m more than willing to bet on health at this number.
Fantasy Football Tip
Fade Tee Higgins
Joe Burrow has spoken publicly about how the Bengals will face more two-high safety looks this season. He is prepared to be patient and check the ball down. I believe this will come at the expense of Tee Higgins. I can’t see Jamaar Chase losing many targets, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Higgins’ numbers come down across the board. Higgins is being drafted at the 2-3 turn as a borderline WR one. He is the number two in his own offense and there are just other guys — Mike Williams and Michael Pittman Jr — that I would rather have on my team.
Things are changing in the Steel City. Heinz Field is now Acrisure Stadium, Ben Roethlisberger is now Mitch Trubisky, and Mike Tomlin is, well he is still there actually. Pittsburgh’s offense was down bad last year, 25th in DVOA down bad. Roethlisberger was operating as a glorified traffic cone in 2021 and the run defense was shockingly weak as well. The Steelers were the only team to flinch and draft a QB in round one, selecting Kenny Pickett out of Pitt. Just a really unfortunate QB name by the way. Pickett taking over for Trubisky as the starter in 2022 is a matter of when not if. And it will be interesting to see how he plays when he does get a shot.
The Steelers once again project to have a poor offensive line, but will trot out an exciting group of young skill-position players with Najee Harris, Chase Claypool, and George Pickens. I would say this will be a developmental year in Pittsburgh, but it would be unfair to write off a Mike Tomlin-led team considering that all he does as a coach is have winning seasons.
There is no value on the board with the Steelers.
Fantasy Football Tip
Fade Najee Harris
Najee Harris had 94 targets and 74 receptions last season with Big Ben. Those numbers are fixing to take a big step back. The Steelers had a putrid offensive line and an immobile QB, thus Roethlisberger was looking to get rid of the ball ASAP every single play. Harris was peppered with checkdowns as a result and was a reliable fantasy option. When it comes to QB play, more mobility and less experience typically lead to fewer dump-offs to the running back, and the Steelers QB play will be mobile and inexperienced this season. Add in what projects to be an inefficient run game and an inconsistent offense… I hate to throw around the B word, but Najee Harris is a BUST this year.
All signs point to Jacoby Brissett being the starting QB for the Browns when they roll into Carolina week 1. I struggle to see how the Browns push for a playoff spot this year now that Deshaun Watson is officially suspended for the first 11 games. Watson hasn’t played football for quite some time, making it unlikely that he is peak Watson when he returns. Most of the world will be rooting for the Browns to fail after the embarrassing handling of the Deshaun Watson situation, and the world may get what it wants. An elite offensive line and solid defense will likely keep Cleveland from bottoming out, but are those units good enough to carry Jacoby Brissett? That’s the major question.
There is just so much uncertainty when it comes to Jacoby Brissett. The Browns open the season with the Panthers, Jets, Steelers, and Falcons. If you told me they start 4-0 I’d believe you. I’d also not be shocked by a 1-3 start. Stefanski is a great coach, but Brissett just isn’t very good. The best overall value I see is 30-1 to win the Super Bowl, but nobody wants to root for that.
Fantasy Football Tip
Don’t take Amari Cooper
There will be a point in the draft where it seems odd that a player with the talent and proven track record of Amari Cooper is still on the board. He’s there for a reason. QB play is instrumental in the success of fantasy WRs and Cooper is facing an enormous downgrade in the QB department. The beginning of the year is the most important part to consider when in a fantasy draft, and that’s when Cooper will be at his worst. He might be a buy-low trade candidate during the season, but don’t bother drafting him. There are other WRs with more upside and better QB play out there.
Lamar Jackson might not have a new contract yet, but he does have his teammates back on the football field. When discussing the 2021 Ravens you pretty much start and stop with the injuries. Last season, the Ravens had 191.2 adjusted games lost due to injury. That is 20 AGL more than the second highest team, wait for it, OF THE LAST TWENTY YEARS, per football outsiders. There weren’t enough trainers in the state of Maryland to treat all the injured Ravens. And the craziest part is that they were still in it until Lamar went down in week 12. Baltimore was also bottom five in turnover differential. The Ravens are due for some serious luck this year, not that a team with Lamar at QB needs that much luck to begin with.
Ravens to win the AFC North (+145)
I love this bet. While many people, myself included, have doubts about Lamar as a playoff QB. He is flat-out elite in the regular season. Wink Martindale and his absurdly high blitz rate are now in New York with the Giants, which I believe is for the better. The skill players are not flashy, but Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews are great options for Lamar in this run-heavy scheme. When comparing the two best teams in this division — Baltimore and Cincinnati — an important thing to consider is that the Ravens have the benefit of a fourth-place schedule, while the Bengals play a first-place schedule. I believe the Ravens are the better team, and the schedule difference is the icing on the cake.
Fantasy Football Tip
Get Lamar if he slips
As fantasy football grows, more and more people subscribe to the late-QB strategy. This often creates an opportunity for value when an elite QB such as Jackson starts to fall. Jackson has shown that he can be a league-winning player that can drop a 40-burger any given Sunday. If Lamar slips to the back of the fifth or into the sixth round, that is a spot where I would take him every time.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Bucs are giving off weird vibes in training camp. But will it matter? If I told you that a team had a 45-year-old QB that recently retired, lost his favorite TE, randomly disappeared from training camp, and continues to lose offensive linemen, you would be concerned about QB play for that team. Luckily for the Bucs, nobody in the history of sports has earned the benefit of the doubt more than Tom Brady.
Even if the offensive line takes a step back, Brady will be able to move the ball with the elite weapons at his disposal. If just three of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage, Julio Jones, Leonard Fournette, and Rachaad White are healthy, I won’t be worried about this offense.
Tampa’s defense was #9 in DVOA last year and remains loaded with talent. With Brady running the offense and Todd Bowles running the defense, the Bucs will continue to be a contender in the NFC.
UNDER 11.5 WINS (-145)
The weirdness in training camp and the decimation of the offensive line are enough to push me toward the under. 11-6 is still a very respectable record that would likely win this division. The Saints have given Tampa trouble in the past, to say the least, and the rest of Tampa’s schedule is no joke. There could be some growing pains early for a team with a new head coach and new starters sprinkled throughout the roster. However, there is little time for acclimation as Tampa’s first four games come against the Cowboys, Saints, Packers, and Chiefs.
Fantasy Football Tip
Do as Brady does and target the backfield
Rather than trying to decipher which of Brady’s four wideouts will return the most value, draft the running backs. Leonard Fournette was tremendous last season and I see little reason why he won’t repeat that success. He checks every box that I look for in a fantasy RB. He catches passes, gets the ball on the goal line, and plays in an elite offense. The holy trinity of fantasy goodness.
If something were to happen to Fournette, Rachaad White should be able to replace Lenny in every aspect, making him one of the best late-round handcuff RB options this season.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
For better or for worse, Mickey Loomis really believes in the Saints. Loomis has had two chances to dive into a rebuild — once after Drew Brees retired, and once after Sean Payton retired — and has chosen not to do so. The NFL salary cap is about 75% not real, but the quarter of it that does exist has cost the Saints in the past few offseasons. Losing Marcus Williams and Terron Armstead is no joke. New Orleans also spent a kind of absurd amount of draft capital to acquire Chris Olave and Trevor Penning. Cap problems and draft strategy aside, the Saints figure to be in the mix this year. The biggest question mark is the coaching staff. Dennis Allen was great as a DC, but can he replicate that success as the head coach? Pete Carmichael has been the offensive coordinator for the Saints since 2009, but everyone knows Sean Payton was the man calling the shots and the plays. If Carmichael does in fact know ball, Jameis should be able to put up points with the weapons surrounding him.
Saints to make the playoffs (+118)
There is a large tier gap in the NFC after the Bucs, Packers, and Rams. The Saints and a handful of other teams make up that next tier of teams who will compete for a playoff spot. The Saints nearly made the playoffs last season without a functioning NFL QB. Not only do they now have Jameis back healthy, but Michael Thomas could be back on the field this year next to the first-rounder Chris Olave.
Dennis Allen has enough pieces to keep the defense rolling and two free wins over the Falcons is a nice boost. The Saints are going to be marching back into the tournament. Take the plus money.
Fantasy Football Tip
Draft Chris Olave
Olave is a Michael Thomas injury away from being the clear number one option in this passing game. A delightful scenario when considering Michael Thomas is known for two things – running slants and missing football games. Olave has been a favorite target of Jameis during camp and is a guy that can be utilized all over the field. The speedster from Ohio State is going too late in drafts. The cornerstones of fantasy success are talent and opportunity, Olave has both. Scoop him up as your third or fourth WR.
For several years now the Panthers have been in a spot where a full rebuild is necessary, yet they just won’t do it. Instead, they have spent a surprising amount of money and draft capital to assemble a QB room of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, PJ Walker, and Matt Corral.
Matt Rhule’s reign as the coach has been underwhelming, to put it nicely, since he arrived from Baylor. I could count on one hand teams that are further away from winning the Super Bowl than the Panthers. A healthy Baker Mayfield with Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore at his disposal is enough to win 6-8 games and knock the Panthers out of the running for a top QB in next year’s draft.
Christian McCaffrey to win Comeback Player of the Year (+800)
CMC has played a total of 10 games over the past two years. This makes him an obvious candidate for this award going into this season. When on the field, few players can impact a game like McCaffrey. The numbers have always been incredible and now McCaffrey will play with the best QB he has had since 2017 Cam Newton. CMC will be the focal point of the offense and Baker will be more than happy to pepper him with short passes after the beating he took in Cleveland the past couple of years. This is very much a bet on health, but if he does play 15-17 games, McCaffrey should run away with this award.
Fantasy Football Tip
This is the year for D.J. Moore (please)
I am nothing if not consistent in my belief for D.J. Moore. I have been in on Moore for what feels like an eternity and I have been left wanting more every year. But that is a good place to start with the D.J. Moore discourse. The worst-case scenario is that he will be just fine, as he has been the past three years in which he has had over 1,100 yards. He is not going to lose you your league. Moore is going to catch 85+ balls for 1,100+ yards. He just needs the touchdowns. I am begging for Moore touchdowns. DJ has had exactly 4 touchdowns in each of the last three years and if that number jumps to say 8, oh boy. Baker Mayfield is the best passing QB that Moore has ever played with, and the return of CMC should help the offense generate more scoring opportunities as a whole. All the buzz out of training camp is that the Mayfield-to-Moore connection is a real thing. THIS IS THE YEAR. And if it isn’t…then it will be next year.
It’s early, but I am starting to get some Shohei Ohtani/Angels vibes from Kyle Pitts and the Falcons. If you take a scroll through MLB twitter you will often find a tweet that reads something like, “Ohtani went 4-4 with 2 HR and 6 RBI as the Angels fall 14-6 to the Twins and drop 15 games below .500.” Similarly, I imagine that multiple times this year we will read that, “Kyle Pitts dominated all over the field, racking up 138 yards and two touchdowns. But it was not enough. Final score – Tampa Bay 38, Atlanta 14.” Atlanta has like 5 actual NFL players on this team and should absolutely be looking at a QB come next spring. I will be streaming players against the Falcons in DFS all year long.
UNDER 4.5 WINS (+100)
If betting on DVOA finishes were a thing, I would hammer the Falcons to finish 32nd in defensive DVOA. It is not going to be pretty on that side of the ball. Meaning Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder will be playing from behind. A problematic proposition for an offense that PFF projects to have a bottom-five O-line. Teams can overlook the Falcons and still win by double digits this year.
Fantasy Football Tip
Draft Kyle Pitts – The 2022-2023 Garbage Time King
Garbage time points count just the same as game-winning touchdowns. Every year there are players that thrive while down 20 in the fourth and reward their fantasy managers. Kyle Pitts is that dude this year. Pitts obviously has more than enough talent to explode, and I love the delicious garbage time opportunity facing him this year. As mentioned above, the Falcons will be bad and they will be forced into Pitts-friendly game scripts. Mariota/Ridder are each accurate enough to get the ball into Pitts’ hands and he will take care of the rest. Having that elite TE is often the difference for top-notch fantasy teams and Pitts could emerge as the overall TE 1 this season.
I’m still not sure which was more surprising, the Titans being the #1 seed last year, or the fact that they lost a home playoff game in the divisional round in which they sacked Joe Burrow 9 times. That loss to the Bengals was one of the worst games of Ryan Tannehill’s career and left a bad taste in the mouth of Titans fans. The Titans then opted to trade AJ Brown on draft night, choosing to replace him with first-round rookie Treylon Burks — who prefers to hunt Hogs with knives, not guns, because it increases the thrill — and Robert Woods.
In order to move the ball this year, Tennessee will have to be able to do one of two things. Prove that the passing game is still functional without A.J. Brown, or be able to run right through a loaded box. I’m skeptical that the Titans will be able to do either of those things behind what projects to be a shaky offensive line. Mike Vrabel is a great coach and the defense, led by Jeffery Simmons, should once again be solid. Making it tough to get a read on this team.
Titans to MISS the playoffs (-110)
It’s important to preface this by admitting that the Titans are my betting nemesis. For years I just never seem to have the correct take when it comes to Tennessee. With that being said, the Titans are not making the playoffs this year. The Colts are the better team and I don’t think the AFC South gets two teams in the dance this year. A meh defense with a meh QB and a bad O-line makes this an easy call. Every NFL season there are a handful of teams that miss the playoffs after making it the year before, the Titans will be one of those teams in the AFC.
Fantasy Football Tip
Put the Big Dog in the Crate – Pass on Derrick Henry
Last season was really the first time we ever saw Henry flash a bit of mortality. The star RB got off to a scorching hot start before missing the second half of the year with a foot injury. I’m no doctor, but I do worry about a man with the sheer size of Henry reaggravating that foot injury due to his running style and the laws of gravity. If I were his foot I would also get tired of supporting 250 pounds of pure muscle for 30 carries a game. That is not the only concern I have with Henry. The Big Dog was inefficient upon his return and I expect defenses to load up the box against him this season without the threat of A.J. Brown on the field. The O-line is weaker and Henry doesn’t catch many passes. There aren’t many arguments in favor of Henry this year besides, “he’s Derrick Henry” and I’ll admit that is a damn good argument. But you won’t find Henry on any of my teams this year.
The Colts made a significant move this offseason when they traded away Carson Wentz and brought in Matt Ryan. Ryan was 13th in completion percentage last year, while Wentz came in at 26. Ryan goes from a bottom-ten offensive line to a top-ten unit, which is a big deal for an especially immobile QB like Ryan.
On the other side of the ball, the Colts need to find a way to get to the QB. In 2021 the Colts ranked 31st in QB pressures per dropback according to pro football reference. DeForest Buckner and Kwity Paye have to be disruptive forces that make life easier for the other guys on that D-line. This needs to be a good year for the Colts, or head coach Frank Reich and GM Chris Ballard will be under some serious heat.
Colts to win the AFC South (-125)
Nothing too fancy here. I believe that the Colts are the best team in this division by a wide margin and will take care of business. Matt Ryan should thrive behind a good offensive line and a great running game. The rest of the division is about as intimidating as Ben Simmons pump-faking from three. The Colts would have to go full-Plaxico and really shoot themselves in the foot to not walk away with the division title.
Fantasy Football Tip
Believe in Michael Pittman Jr
Michael Pittman Jr was consistently open and should have broken out last year, but his QB could not hit water if he fell out of a boat. Wentz ranked 26th in the NFL in percentage of on-target passes, with Ryan ranking 9th in the same category. I suspect that Ryan will even improve in this category upon the significant situation upgrade. Pittman is the unquestioned number one in this passing game and I believe he is due for some positive TD regression after the Colts refused to let Wentz pass in the red zone last season. I see Pittman being a top-five fantasy WR this year. He is my single favorite target in the third round.
There are a few somewhat intriguing storylines around the Texans this year, which is about all you can ask for when the roster is this depleted. What does 64-year-old Lovie Smith have up his sleeve? Will there be a breakout season for either Dameon Pierce or Nico Collins? Can Davis Mills go from sneaky-not-that-bad to sneaky-good? The Texans aren’t going to be making much noise in the playoff picture, but I look forward to tuning into their games and having a few of those questions answered.
Texans to finish fourth in the AFC South (-210)
I don’t mind laying the juice for this bet. The only way that this bet loses is if Trevor Lawrence gets seriously injured. The offense, defense, special teams, and O-line all project to be below league-average, Houston is headed for the basement. (If you are looking for a more fun bet, Dameon Pierce OROY 16-1 is decent value)
Fantasy Football Tip
Embrace the boringness of Brandin Cooks
Brandin Cooks is going to have over 1,000 yards and outperform his ADP. Why do I say this? Because Brandin Cooks always has over 1,000 yards and beats his ADP. The connection with Davis Mills should be stronger in year two and the offense as a whole should be slightly more efficient. Cooks is primed to be a garbage time king this year and is an ideal WR 2 or 3 for fantasy rosters.
What was your favorite Urban Meyer moment last year? Mine is either the time that he claimed Andre Cisco was playing more after a zero-snap game, or the time he kicked his kicker. There are many delicious options on the menu, but those two get me every time.
Safe to say that the move from Urban Meyer to Doug Pederson is going to net the Jaguars a handful of wins. The Jaguars also improved the roster by spending an eye-opening amount of money on players like Christian Kirk, Foley Fatukasi, and Brandon Scherff among others. Did the Jags get a ton of value this offseason? No. Is the roster better than last year? Yes. Trevor Lawrence should be able to display some of his insane potential that we all have heard about. Lawrence had some good moments last year despite the circus surrounding him. The Jags, and Lawrence specifically, could surprise a lot of people this season.
OVER 6.5 WINS (+115)
I see a team with an ascending QB talent, an improved coaching staff, and a light schedule. This feels like a great spot to buy the Jags. There is a high chance that this is the last time we will get a chance to go over 6.5 on a team with Trevor Lawrence at QB.
The Jaguars — the worst team in the league last year — will have a better record than the Titans — the team that was the No. 1 seed just a year ago. This scenario opens up other fun bets that I would also recommend.
Jags to finish 2nd in the AFC South +270
Exact finishing order, Colts 1, Jags 2 +700
Fantasy Football Tip
Do not leave a draft without Christian Kirk
I am ALL IN on Kirk this year. Kirk is the guy that I am the most confident will smash his current ADP. I am the mayor of Christian Kirk island and have been drafting him non-stop since June. Reasons I love Kirk this year, (a) – the Jags gave him the bag and want him to be the guy, (b) – a highly talented QB that is primed to take a leap, (c) – he is the clear No. 1 option in the passing game, (d) – The Jags’ defense will still be bad, forcing the offense to pass a lot, (e) – Kirk has been killing it in training camp and the preseason. I could go on but you get the point and there aren’t enough letters in the alphabet. Depending on the type of league you play in, Kirk is being drafted anywhere from the 7th to the 11th round. He is likely the 4th or 5th WR on your team and I think he ends the year as a TOP 20 fantasy WR.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams pushing all the chips to the middle of the table and then immediately winning the Super Bowl in their glamorous new stadium was pretty cool. Stafford was everything they hoped he would be and Cooper Kupp had a season for the ages. Now comes the title defense.
The NFL has not seen a team win back-to-back titles since the Patriots did it in the early 2000s. The Rams were able to return a large portion of their notable contributors, with the key losses being Von Miller, Odell Beckham Jr, and Sebastian Joseph-Day. There has been some concern about the health of Matthew Stafford’s right elbow, but all indications are that he will be able to play through the pain. Allen Robinson is now in town after Matt Nagy’s offense had A-Rob on the first train out of Chi-Town. Reports out of camp have praised Robinson and seem to indicate that the Rams are ready to run it back. Aaron Donald is so fired up that he even started beating Bengals players with their own helmets in a joint practice.
Rams to win the NFC West (+125)
While a Super Bowl hangover is a little concerning, the Rams are still the class of this division. Every unit on the team is solid and Stafford should be even better in this offense in year two. Raheem Morris returns for his second year as the DC and has Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey ready to go. The 49ers and Cardinals are high-variance teams this year, making me like the continuity that comes with the Rams.
Fantasy Football Tip
Buy the Cam Akers Dip
I wholeheartedly believe that Cam Akers was going to be a fantasy football star if he had not torn his Achilles last year. Akers made a pretty astonishing return from that injury and was given meaningful carries throughout the Rams’ Super Bowl run. While Akers didn’t post good numbers upon his return, the fact that he returned that quickly has me feeling good about his health for this season. The Rams also had very shaky offensive line play during that stretch. McVay has always given his starting RB a high workload and Akers is in line for that role this season. A few committee-oriented comments from McVay and a string of missed practices have pushed Akers down the board in recent fantasy drafts. I’m buying the dip on this one. The injury doesn’t seem to be of any major concern and when Akers gets on the field I expect him to look more like the guy that popped towards the end of the 2020 season. Touches, targets, and touchdowns. That is what I want from my fantasy running backs and I believe Akers is in line for all three. I feel comfortable with Akers as the RB 2 on my roster.
The Cardinals have four primetime games on the schedule this year, something I am especially happy about for one reason – TWITTER. I have high expectations for the bird app every time Kyler makes a bad read. Millions of people, myself included, will be waiting to crack a film study-related joke and I am here for all of them.
In between the lines, the six-game PED suspension for Deandre Hopkins is a big concern. The Cardinals no longer have Christian Kirk and Hopkins is a huge part of that offense. There is a lot of pressure on Hollywood Brown and Zach Ertz to carry the passing game early in the year, a time of the year in which the Cardinals usually thrive. Maybe getting Hopkins back after six games will be the late-season boost that the Cards have lacked in recent seasons. Or maybe the Cardinals have floundered at the end of seasons because their QB is fragile and isn’t the same guy when playing through pain. Ironically, by week 9 the film always seems to be out on Kyler and Kliff, and the rest of the league is able to slow them down. It’s safe to say that nobody will be falling for the Cardinals if they come out of the gates hot yet again, they need to prove they can do it in January.
Cardinals to MISS the playoffs (-144)
The second-half collapse is a real thing and I expect it to continue. It has happened to Kliff throughout his career in college and the pros. Kyler doesn’t look the same when he is banged up and it’s tough to imagine a world in which a QB of his stature with his play style will stay 100% healthy throughout the year. Early in the season — when Hopkins will be watching from the bench — the Cardinals play the Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Panthers, and Eagles. 1-4 or 2-3 is certainly realistic and I don’t think Arizona will be able to rally from a slow start.
Fantasy Football Tip
Keep an eye on Eno Benjamin
James Conner has played over 13 games one time since becoming a starting running back in 2018. Eno Benjamin seems to have established himself as the backup running back in Arizona and has generated a lot of positive buzz out of training camp. Kyler doesn’t mind using his running backs in the passing game and Kliff LOVES to run the ball in the red zone. Benjamin is one of the best backup RB options this year. Snatch him late in deep leagues or be ready to grab him off waivers.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
It’s not too often that a team makes the conference championship game and then willingly moves on from the QB that took them there. Jimmy G’s time as the starting QB in the bay is over, the keys to the car have been handed to Trey Lance.
Lance has started just three football games since the beginning of 2020, so it’s safe to wonder what he will look like over a larger sample. Luckily for Lance, he finds himself in a QB-friendly environment that will set him up for success. There are few game plan designers better than Kyle Shanahan, who will do his best to take the pressure off of his young signal-caller.
Last year the defense underwent a brutal stretch of injuries, but defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans had his unit playing elite football in the playoffs. Deebo has been paid, Brandon Aiyuk has emerged from the doghouse, and the roster is set for another run in January. It will all come down to Trey Lance, and I’m excited to see what he looks like.
Trey Lance OVER 6.5 Rushing Touchdowns (-102)
Whether or not Trey Lance can succeed as a passer remains to be seen. But one thing that is certain, he’s going to run a lot. When the 49ers get in the red zone Kyle Shanahan is not going to ask Trey Lance to drop back, work through multiple progressions, and dart a pass into a condensed area. Instead, Lance will be on the move. Lance is an excellent runner that is hard to tackle, and his large frame will help him get into the endzone. Lance will go over this number with relative ease.
Fantasy Football Tip
Draft Trey Lance
I tipped my hand a little with the above section, but I love Lance as a fantasy asset this season. It’s important to know your league when considering how early to draft Lance. In high-money leagues, Lance is going as the 7th or 8th QB off the board, ahead of guys like Joe Burrow and Russell Wilson. In home leagues with more casual fantasy players, Lance is going LATE. Lance is my QB 7 this year and I’m more than comfortable having him as my starter. Quarterbacks that run as much as Lance is projected to run are stellar for fantasy more often than not. The consistent usage in the run game raises the floor for Lance and will make him playable every week. And if he can pass at all, he is going to win leagues for his fantasy managers. Identify where you believe he will be drafted in your league and then snag him a round early. He will be worth the reach.
70-year-old Pete Carroll is really sticking around for this rebuild huh? I hope that when I am 70 I still love football as much as Carroll. If Pete intends to stick around and groom the next Russell Wilson in Seattle, well he might not have to wait long because this team stinks. The Seahawks project to be in a great spot to grab their future QB in the next NFL draft.
Seattle doesn’t exactly run the most modern of concepts on either side of the ball, and Russell Wilson often bailed out the offensive coaching staff in my opinion. There will be no bailing out from QB Geno Smith this year, besides Geno himself bailing out of the pocket due to the failure of his O-line, a unit that PFF ranks dead last entering this season.
UNDER 5.5 WINS (+115)
DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett can only do so much. This offensive will generate the occasional big play, sure, but it won’t be good. The foundations of this offense have always been running the ball and taking deep shots, both of which are difficult to do behind a bad offensive line. Seattle could absolutely go 0-6 in the division and I’m not sure the 12th-man is going to be quite as daunting this season as it has been in the past.
Fantasy Football Tip
Don’t buy the dip on Metcalf and Lockett
The move from Russ to Geno has pushed Metcalf and Lockett down draft boards. Save yourself the weekly headache and continue to let them fall. Metcalf will have a few big weeks, but you will have no clue when they are coming. Both of these guys will be so inconsistent that you won’t know when to plug them in and when to bench them. They are decent-ish picks in best ball and will be worth a look in DFS, but I’m completely out on these guys in traditional fantasy leagues.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Two things jump off the page when looking at the Chiefs, (a) – Patrick Mahomes is no longer on a rookie contract, (b) – Tyreek Hill’s talents have been traded to South Beach. Despite these notable changes, KC still has the third-best odds to win it all.
This offseason the Chiefs began the transition from the all-in style of team building — that made sense during Mahomes’ rookie deal — to a more balanced approach that will keep the Chiefs in the mix for years to come. KC picked up two receivers that the market was low on — JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling — to help replace the loss of Hill. Skyy Moore (WR) and training camp sensation Isiah Pacheco (RB) were also added in the draft. The Chiefs have won the AFC West six years in a row, but the quest for a seventh straight division title is going to be tough. The other three teams in this division have loaded up, hoping to be the ones to dethrone Mahomes and Reid. Mahomes struggled with two-high defenses — a conservative style of defense that limits big plays — early last year, but eventually started to pick them apart. The Chiefs were destined for another Super Bowl appearance before a puzzling second-half collapse at home against the Bengals in the AFC title game.
Will this offense still be elite post-Tyreek? My guess would be yes. Will this team be able to outlast the other contenders in the AFC West? That is a far more difficult and exciting question to answer.
Chiefs to finish second in the AFC West (+230)
This is the year the Chiefs slide down to second in the division. I predict that the Chiefs will still be very good this year. Bets on KC to win the Super Bowl or Mahomes to win MVP are fine by me. I just feel that a different team in this division is ready to overtake KC. Patrick Mahomes has never played a playoff game on the road and I think that changes this year.
Fantasy Football Tip
Draft someone on the Chiefs late
A pretty broad recommendation I know. But a common approach I have been taking this year is to walk away from every draft with one KC player. The offense is going to produce points, but the production is likely to be spread across many different players. JuJu is the player with the highest ceiling at his current ADP, but I don’t trust his knees enough to go all in. My favorite targets right now are Valdes-Scantling and Mecole Hardman, both of whom are going late in drafts. Pachecho and Jerick McKinnon are late running backs that I am keeping a close eye on. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is not very good and I think the Chiefs know it, meaning someone else in that backfield could pop this year.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
To say this is a big year for the Chargers would be an understatement. As they should be, the Chargers are going all out to win a championship during Justin Herbert’s rookie contract. The Bolts took care of virtually every hole on the roster with the additions of Khalil Mack, J.C. Jackson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Austin Johnson, Bryce Callahan, and rookie Zion Johnson. Mike Williams and Derwin James were given lucrative long-term deals, the coaching staff remained intact, and there are no excuses for the Chargers this season.
Brandon Staley didn’t have the right pieces to do what he wanted to do on defense last year, he does this year. The run defense should be well above average while the secondary is deeper and more versatile than last season.
It’s hard to ask an offense that finished 4th in DVOA and 5th in EPA per play to be better, but there is no reason why it shouldn’t be. For the first time in a long time, Justin Herbert will get to work with the same offensive coordinator in consecutive seasons. Joe Lombardi has the NFL’s most talented QB, a reliable group of weapons, and a stout offensive line at his disposal. If the Chargers don’t have a top-three offense this season some tough questions will need to be answered. It’s time for Justin Herbert to take over the league. Herbert can make every single throw, has a bazooka for an arm, and is an elite decision-maker.
Outside of maybe the Bills, no team has more pressure on them than the Chargers. It’s time to live up to the hype.
Chargers to win the Super Bowl (+1400)
I like almost every Chargers-related bet on the board. Herbert for MVP, division odds, you name it. But 14-1 to win it all is too good to pass up. The Chargers have the best roster in the NFL on paper, including a tier-1 quarterback. The lack of playoff experience is a concern, but this team is loaded with veterans that will not be afraid of the moment. Plus at 14-1 there could be a good chance to hedge this bet for a guaranteed profit if you choose to do so.
If my life depended on it, I would pick the Bills to win the Super Bowl this year. But 14-1 for LAC is much sweeter than 6-1 for Buffalo. Buy the hype and enjoy the ride.
Fantasy Football Tip
Grab Joshua Palmer in deep leagues
Palmer enters the year as the WR 3 for a hyper-efficient LA offense. Herbert has raved about Palmer ever since he was drafted in 2021 and clearly has a strong connection with him. Palmer is a valuable asset as the WR 3, and should something happen to Keenan Allen or Mike Williams, Josh Palmer would soar up weekly fantasy rankings. Palmer has a perfect ceiling/floor combination and is a great way to get a piece of an elite offense for free.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
In true Vegas fashion, the Raiders made some splashy moves this offseason. Josh McDaniels is in from New England, Chandler Jones is in from Arizona, and most notably, Davante Adams comes to town from Green Bay. Despite a negative 65-point differential, the Raiders squeaked into the playoffs with a dramatic win in week 18 over the Chargers.
In 2022 it will be two units that decide the fate of Las Vegas, the offensive line and the secondary. The Vegas’ O-line projects to be a bottom five group while the secondary has a lot of improving to do after finishing 26th in EPA per dropback in 2021. Look around the division and all you will find are elite quarterbacks and pass rushers, making those weaknesses quite concerning for Raider Nation.
It doesn’t get much better than Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones on the edge. And I sure wouldn’t want to be the defensive coordinator in charge of trying to stop the Waller-Adams-Renfrow barrage. Can the strengths of the Raiders outweigh the weaknesses? We should find out pretty quickly in a week 1 matchup with the Chargers.
UNDER 8.5 WINS (-105)
The division is too good to ignore the glaring weaknesses of the Raiders. I expect the Raiders to play a lot of close games, but regress in how many they are able to win. Josh McDaniels has never proven that he can do it as a head coach, Carr has always been shaky against pressure, and I don’t believe in the secondary. Davante Adams is the best WR in football, but I still don’t see this as a nine-win team in this division.
Fantasy Football Tip
Do not even think about touching Josh Jacobs
Josh McDaniels is a pioneer of the running back by committee approach. McDaniels has no ties to Josh Jacobs, but is invested in fourth-round rookie Zamir White. Along with White, Ameer Abdullah has generated positive buzz out of training camp. The Raiders’ passing attack has three of the best red zone weapons in football, and a poor O-line will limit the overall efficiency of the run game. I don’t see Jacobs racking up a ton of touches, targets, or touchdowns. Which ultimately takes him off of my draft board.
Denver hasn’t had a quarterback that they have believed in since Peyton Manning. The Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Drew Lock merry-go-round has not been a fun ride. Russell Wilson is now in town and is ready to prove everyone that said, “Denver is just a QB away” right. The biggest question is whether or not Denver is getting peak Russell Wilson, or the version that finished 19th in adjusted EPA per play last season.
Wilson has always been able to use his mobility to extend plays and pick up big gains down the field. A pure pocket passer he is not. If Russ still has the juice to produce weekly magic, the Broncos will BE a problem. If those days are behind him, the Broncos could HAVE a problem.
The loss of Tim Patrick to an ACL tear is significant. And while Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy are a nice duo, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are better. Denver also has a first-year head coach in Nathaniel Hackett, who came over from Green Bay. While it is certain that the Broncos will be better, it remains to be seen how much better they actually are. The range of outcomes in Denver is wider than most people think.
Courtland Sutton OVER 5.5 receiving touchdowns (-124)
Sutton and Wilson have reportedly developed a strong connection this preseason. Wilson loves to push the ball down the field and has always trusted big-bodied pass catchers. Sutton is another year removed from his ACL injury and is primed to look like the guy that burst onto the scene in 2019. All of this bodes very well for Sutton to become a high-volume target for a QB that historically throws a lot of touchdowns. This one won’t even be a sweat, Sutton will hit this over by week 14.
Fantasy Football Tip
Pass on Jerry Jeudy
Jeudy came out of Alabama as a can’t-miss WR prospect, but frankly just hasn’t shown it at the NFL level. Injuries and poor QB play have slowed him down, and he does enter the season healthy with Russ throwing him the rock. But Jeudy’s strengths just don’t quite mesh with Wilson’s. Russ famously doesn’t throw the ball over the middle of the field — the area of the field where Jeudy is at his best — and seems to already have a stronger connection with Sutton. Jeudy will likely be fine, but I can’t endorse him at his current ADP, opt for an elite QB or TE in that range instead.
It just doesn’t get better than football season. Best of luck to your favorite team, bank account, and fantasy teams.
Thank you for reading.