Halfway through the 2017 season, some normalcy has returned to the NFL. The Steelers and Patriots are on top of the AFC; Tom Brady leads the league in passing; Antonio Brown leads the league in receiving; and the Browns are still winless. Ahhh, terra firma.
Not all of the early-season surprises have faded away. Case in point: the Eagles have the best record in the league; the Rams are the highest scoring team; and the Jaguars are currently a playoff team. GAHH, WHICH WAY IS UP?!
What’s real and what’s a mirage? Let’s update some season-long props, including the Super Bowl 52 futures, NFL MVP, Offensive Rookie of the Year, and everyone’s favorite: which coaches are on the chopping block.
Updated Super Bowl LII Odds
Seattle Seahawks: 12/1
Oakland Raiders: 45/1
Detroit Lions: 55/1
Arizona Cardinals: 150/1
New York Jets: 150/1
Cincinnati Bengals: 150/1
Houston Texans: 150/1
Chicago Bears: 200/1
Indianapolis Colts: 200/1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 250/1
New York Giants: 500/1
Cleveland Browns: 1000/1
San Francisco 49ers: 1000/1
How are the Eagles, a team led by a sophomore QB and head coach, ahead of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the 6-2 Patriots, who are on their way to a ninth straight AFC East title despite playing mediocre football through nine weeks? Two main reasons. First, the Eagles are the more complete team, pairing a balanced offense with a game-wrecking front seven that will haunt your dreams, whereas Brady is teamed up with a defense that still ranks dead-last in DVOA, as discussed above. Second, the Eagles won’t have the Steelers to deal with come playoff time. The NFC is relatively deep, but less top-heavy, and that makes for an easier path to the Super Bowl on the whole.
Updated MVP Odds
Tom Brady, Patriots: 7/4
Carson Wentz, Eagles: 7/4
Alex Smith, Chiefs: 12/1
Russell Wilson, Seahawks: 15/1
Drew Brees, Saints: 19/1
Le’Veon Bell, Steelers: 39/1
Dak Prescott, Cowboys: 39/1
Wentz has led the Eagles to the best record in the league through the first half of the season, and if the award was given out now, he’d take it home. He leads the league in TD passes, is fourth in passer rating and yards, and has generally been the most important player on the NFL’s best team. The schedule ratchets up now, though, with two games against the Cowboys and road tilts against the Seahawks and Rams still to come. Aside from Philly’s Week 2 game at KC (their only loss so far) those may be the four toughest games on their schedule.
Who’s lurking just below the surface, ready to pounce if Wentz stumbles even for an instant? Oh just 40-year-old Tom Brady, who leads the NFL in passing yards and has the Patriots at 6-2 through Week 9, even though the team ranks dead last in both total defense and Defensive-DVOA.
Updated Offensive Rookie of the Year Odds
Kareem Hunt, Chiefs: 5/2
Leonard Fournette, Jaguars: 4/1
Alvin Kamara, Saints: 6/1
Evan Engram, Giants: 9/1
Christian McCaffrey, Panthers: 15/1
Deshaun Watson, Texans: 85/1
Kareem Hunt leads the league in rushing through nine weeks and narrowly trails Todd Gurley in yards-from-scrimmage per game (128.0 to 125.7). Fournette is averaging more rushing yards per game and has more TDs (6 to 4), but he’s missed some time and is having off-field issues in Jacksonville. Kamara has been coming on strong ever since Adrian Peterson was traded to Arizona; while he only has 311 rushing yards on the year, he’s starting to get more carries and he continues to be a huge receiving threat out of the backfield, with 341 yards and two touchdowns through the air. If Andy Reid keeps limiting Hunt’s touches and Fournette can’t keep out of trouble, the Saints third-rounder will march in and swipe the trophy.
Odds to Get Fired Before “Black Monday” (Jan. 1, 2018)
Ben McAdoo, Giants: 4/1
Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers: 5/1
Hue Jackson, Browns: 8/1
Marvin Lewis, Bengals: 10/1
Chuck Pagano, Colts: 12/1
John Fox, Bears: 15/1
In-season changes are not that common, which is why “Black Monday” (the first Monday after Week 17) became so synonymous with firings. But the extent to which the Giants, Bucs, and Browns have underperformed this year could motivate ownership to move in a new (or interim) direction sooner than later. The 1-7 Giants and 2-6 Bucs, in particular, have been disappointing. They were pegged as playoff contenders, if not Super Bowl dark-horses, in the preseason. Instead, they’re jockeying for the first-overall pick.
The Browns’ preseason hopes weren’t nearly as high, but Jackson is still ripe for the axing because a 1-23 record speaks for itself.
Odds QBs Get Benched Before Season’s End
TIER 1: DESTINED FOR THE PINE
Josh McCown, Jets: 2/3
This “top” tier is comprised of starting QBs who probably won’t finish the season with that label, for varying reasons.
Simply put, Brock Osweiler is not a good quarterback. The Broncos will bench him the moment 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch is ready to play.
The same goes for Tom Savage. He is only under center because Deshaun Watson got hurt, but he’s quickly sinking Houston’s chances of making the playoffs. Count on Bill O’Brien’s QB merry go-round to get fired up again in the coming weeks.
Whether Kyle Shanahan wants to admit it or not, his new franchise QB Jimmy Garoppolo is going to see snaps this season. It would be one thing if Shanahan had a veteran signal-caller under center right now, playing at a reasonable level, but he doesn’t: CJ Beathard has a 62.7 passer rating this season. It may not happen in the next couple weeks, but it will eventually.
Though you can’t blame all the Giants problems on Eli Manning, he has played a major role. It would be in the Giants’ best interest to get Davis Webb a start or two now that their 2017 is all but over.
In spite of how well Josh McCown has played for the Jets (96.1 passer rating), the team isn’t going to make the playoffs. And once they are eliminated, they need to find out what they have in Christian Hackenberg.
TIER 2: ANYTHING BUT SAFE
Deshone Kizer, Browns: 1/1
Brett Hundley, Packers: 5/4
Case Keenum, Vikings: 4/3
Drew Stanton, Cardinals: 4/3
It has become quite apparent that no one knows what’s going on in Hue Jackson’s mind. DeShone Kizer has been benched before and very well could be benched again.
Brett Hundley has not played very well in place of Aaron Rodgers for Green Bay, and now there’s talk of a possible Rodgers return in 2017. It may not take the two-time MVP returning to have Hundley on the bench, though.
Both Case Keenum and Drew Stanton are playing with house money at this point: neither were supposed to start for their respective teams this season. The former is currently holding off Sam Bradford, but will also have to deal with Teddy Bridgewater, who’s coming off the PUP list imminently. The latter will likely have the job as long as Carson Palmer is out, unless Bruce Arians wants to give Blaine Gabbert a look.
TIER 3: UNDER PRESSURE
Andy Dalton headlines the group. Thanks to a botched trade, the Bengals still have AJ McCarron on their roster, and may want to give him an opportunity in what’s quickly becoming a wasted season. Although the play of Blake Bortles, Jay Cutler, and Joe Flacco suggests they should be higher, their respective teams don’t have anyone better behind them on the depth chart.
TIER 4: SAFE AND SOUND
Tom Brady, Patriots: 500/1
The only way any of these QBs would find themselves on the sideline this season is if they weren’t physically capable of taking a snap. (It doesn’t count as getting “benched” when your team is up by so many points that the coach decides to give you a rest.)
Colin Kaepernick Props
Odds Colin Kaepernick is signed by an NFL team in 2017: 29/1
Odds to Sign Colin Kaepernick in 2017
Houston Texans: 99/1
Jacksonville Jaguars: 150/1
Seattle Seahawks: 150/1
Green Bay Packers: 200/1
Denver Broncos: 250/1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 400/1
Chicago Bears: 500/1
Before Colin Kaepernick filed his collusion case against the NFL on October 15, his chances of being signed by a team were already getting pretty slim. After filing the court papers, Kaepernick’s odds of playing in the NFL again seemed to have vanished. However, with the recent season-ending injury to rookie sensation Deshaun Watson, who was playing himself into the MVP conversation, the Texans quickly found out Tom Savage is not a viable replacement under center. In a 20-14 loss to the Andrew Luck-less Colts, Savage was a horrendous 19/44 for 219 yards, one TD, and a 66.4 passer rating. The loss set Houston back to 3-5, two games back of the division-leading Titans. Now Bill O’Brien has two options: (a) find a new answer at QB or (b) give up on the 2017 season. The coach announced yesterday that the Texans will not be bringing in a signal-caller to replace Savage. So I guess he’s going with option (b).
Whether that’s truly how O’Brien feels, or it’s just an attempt to boost Savage’s confidence, his tone could change very quickly after a Week 10 trip to Los Angeles to play the 6-2 Rams. If Houston gets blown out, their hand will be forced into at least bringing in competition at the quarterback position, and they have at least admitted to discussing Kaepernick as a possibility. The former 49er has the mobility to run the zone-reads and option plays O’Brien developed with Watson, and it’s hard to argue Kaepernick isn’t a better passer than Savage, too.
Bringing in Kaepernick would not only be a good football move for the Texans, but would also be a good way for owner Bob McNair to regain the respect of the locker room, following his cringeworthy “inmates” comment. But something also tells me that a member of the “old-boys’ club” isn’t going to be rushing to sign the “inmate” who started all these protests, especially after McNair was compelled to turn over his cell phone records and emails in relation to Kaepernick’s collusion case.
If this isn’t Kaepernick’s time to get signed, it’s unlikely that time ever comes in 2017.