Generally, after the first two weeks of NFL football, the public discourse is focused strictly on how excited we all are to have our Sunday ritual back. But the 2017 season is suffering through a multitude of issues, thus far.
Teams are struggling to score points on the field, averaging just 2.13 TDs per game (lowest since 1993), and the league isn’t scoring off the field with TV ratings, either. Ratings were down by 12 and 15-percent in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. There is assumed to be a causative relationship between the lack of points and lower ratings, but the NFL is also dealing with a large number of fans who are unhappy with the general direction of the league.
Some are so unhappy that they’ve boycotted the league, either because they take issue with NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem or, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, because they feel it’s unfair that Colin Kaepernick does not have a job in the NFL. And then some are just Jets fans.
Will any of these former fans have their problems resolved? Which current head coach will find himself watching from home? And, of course, will Jay Cutler lead the Miami Dolphins to a perfect season? We’ve got odds for all these burning NFL questions and more. (And by “we,” I mean me and Geoff Johnson.)
ODDS TO BE THE FIRST COACH FIRED
Chuck Pagano, Colts: 13/7
Marvin Lewis, Bengals: 3/1
Todd Bowles, Jets: 8/1
John Fox, Bears: 9/1
Ben McAdoo, Giants: 9/1
Sean Payton, Saints: 24/1
Hue Jackson, Browns: 33/1
Simply put, the Colts have regressed under Chuck Pagano. Yes, this team would be a lot better with Andrew Luck under center, but they would still be far from a Super Bowl contender. Pagano’s desire to have a “tough” offense has held them back from achieving their sky-high potential, and the defense has only ranked in the top-18 in points allowed once in Pagano’s five-year (going on six-year) tenure. If Luck doesn’t return this season, Indianapolis’ record will force the team to part ways with Pagano; and if Luck does return, they’ll again be forced to can Pagano when the Colts continue losing.
The only other coach who already has reason to fear for his job is Marvin Lewis. The Bengals HC is the second-longest tenured coach in the NFL (hired in 2003) behind Bill Belichick, and has failed to coach the team to a single playoff victory. Though it’s not Lewis’ fault that the Bengals let their only two serviceable offensive linemen walk in free agency, the organization will likely scapegoat him for the terrible season they’re about to endure.
ODDS TO BE FIRED BEFORE SUPER BOWL LII
Chuck Pagano, Colts: 1/2
Marvin Lewis, Bengals: 7/8
Todd Bowles, Jets: 1/1
Sean Payton, Saints: 6/5
John Fox, Bears: 3/2
Ben McAdoo, Giants: 7/4
Bill O’Brien, Texans: 7/3
Jay Gruden, Washington: 5/2
Hue Jackson, Browns: 7/2
Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers: 4/1
Three consecutive 7-9 seasons have led to rumors of Sean Payton’s demise in New Orleans. The 53-year-old certainly knows offense, but his defenses have ranked in the bottom-two for points allowed in four of the last five seasons. (They were a phenomenal 28th the other year.) After an 0-2 start, and much uncertainty regarding Drew Brees’ future with the team, it’s becoming more and more likely the Saints make some major changes.
Another surprising fire could be Ben McAdoo. In spite of being considered an offensive guru, McAdoo took over a Giants offense that ranked sixth in points and eighth in total offense, and has driven them straight into the ground. In 2016, the Giants offense largely held them back, ranking 26th in points scored and 25th in total offense. It has been very much the same for Eli Manning and company in 2017, too — 30th in points and 28th in total offense through two weeks. When Odell Beckham Jr returns to full health, there will be a lot of pressure on McAdoo to get the offense rolling. If he can’t and is forced to turn over the play-calling duties to his offensive coordinator, he won’t be serving much purpose for the team anymore.
ODDS TO FINISH THE 2017 SEASON WINLESS
New York Jets: 99/1
San Francisco 49ers: 150/1
Chicago Bears: 250/1
Cleveland Browns: 250/1
Indianapolis Colts: 250/1
Cincinnati Bengals: 350/1
New Orleans Saints: 500/1
New York Giants: 750/1
Los Angeles Chargers: 999/1
Looking ahead at the Jets’ schedule, I see two opportunities for wins: hosting Jacksonville in Week 4 and heading to Cleveland in Week 5. If they can’t pull out wins in either, they’ll be relying on Miami or Buffalo to lay a stinker against them. It was a really bad year for the Jets to draw the AFC West and NFC South. And they even have to play in New Orleans. Fortunately, the odds are still heavily in their favor to win at least one of their remaining 14 games.
If the Colts cannot beat the Browns at home this week, and Andrew Luck does not return this season, it’s a very real possibility that we see our second ever 0-16 team. But Luck should be back at some point this year.
ODDS TO FINISH THE 2017 REGULAR SEASON UNDEFEATED
Atlanta Falcons: 999/1
Kansas City Chiefs: 1200/1
Pittsburgh Steelers: 1200/1
Oakland Raiders: 2000/1
Carolina Panthers: 2500/1
Denver Broncos: 2500/1
Detroit Lions: 5000/1
Miami Dolphins: 10000/1
At the start of the year, one team was a reasonable bet (but still a very longshot) to go undefeated in 2017: the New England Patriots. With them losing the season-opener, don’t expect to see anyone accomplish the feat. Atlanta still has to play in New England and Seattle; the three undefeated AFC West teams all have to deal with each other eventually; and Pittsburgh has games against Kansas City, Green Bay, and New England later this season, and will — as always — have to contend with Ben Roethlisberger’s general struggles on the road.
ROGER GOODELL ODDS
Odds on when Goodell’s extension is finalized
Before October 1: 2/1
Between October 1 and October 15: 2/1
Between October 16 and Thanksgiving: 3/1
After Super Bowl LII: 12/1
The NFL owners care about one thing: making money. Roger Goodell has done a lot of that for them. It’s fitting that the hold-up with Goodell’s extension is the commissioner’s own salary.
Odds on an NFL lockout during Goodell’s tenure: 4/5
Over/under on when the next NFL lockout occurs: 2020.5
The current CBA is set to expire after the 2020 NFL season. The NFLPA is already warning players to start saving money in preparation for a 2021 lockout. The players want a few things: a bigger share of revenue, Goodell to have less power in player sanctions, and for the league to allow cannabis-use as a safer painkiller option (vis-a-vis opioids).
COLIN KAEPERNICK ODDS
Get ready to clutch your pearls, ladies and gentlemen. Colin Kaepernick has not found gainful employment in the NFL since his contract with the 49ers expired, and while the league insists he’s not being blackballed, the data doesn’t line up. Kaepernick posted a passer rating of 90.7 last year, squarely in the middle of starting QBs (and ahead of guys like Philip Rivers, Jameis Winston, and Carson Palmer) but has remained a free agent for 202 days and counting, longer than 2015 Michael Vick and far longer than any QB with similar stats.
You can’t really argue that there’s nowhere for a quarterback like Kaepernick to go. The NFL is currently suffering through a dearth of replacement-level starting quarterbacks; and 38 passers, most of whom have far worse stats, careers and game-tape, have been signed instead of Kaepernick. If I was a cynical man, I would say that Johnny Hekker will complete an NFL pass before Kaepernick, and I am a cynical man.
Scott Tolzien has a job, and that’s all you need to know. – GJ
Odds Kaepernick is signed before …
Week 4: 12/1
Week 8: 8/1
Week 16: 6/1
Superbowl LII: 5/1
Odds on Kaepernick’s next team
Seattle Seahawks: 6/1
Jacksonville Jaguars: 8/1
New York Jets: 10/1
New England Patriots: 100/1
WHICH NCAA TEAM WILL KNEEL FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM NEXT
Anthem protests aren’t reserved for professional sports. The bulk of college teams stick to the old format, wherein neither team is on the field for the national anthem. Some colleges do have the teams on the field, though, and last year three Nebraska players (Michael Rose-Ivey, DaiShon Neal, and Mohamed Barry) knelt during the national anthem, setting off a chain of events that had a university regent calling for them to be kicked off the team and the players receiving death threats from fans. Rose-Ivey, who spoke at a press conference about the motivations behind the protest, graduated and is off the roster, but Neal and Barry remain.
Eastern Michigan fans protested racism as well, taking the field after last year’s Wyoming game when the university played a recording of the national anthem 30 minutes earlier than normal to prevent a potential player or band protest.
Another likely candidate is Oregon, where the university recently removed a KKK member’s name from a campus building and the coach encourages athletes to engage meaningfully with the issues that inform campus protests. Given that openness and the state’s bizarre history as a white-supremacist utopia, we could see anthem protests of some kind, although Oregon teams are typically still in the tunnel during the national anthem. – GJ
First FBS team to protest racial violence
Nebraska Cornhuskers: 8/1
Eastern Michigan Eagles: 10/1
Oregon Ducks: 14/1
ODDS ON WHICH NFL PLAYER WILL KNEEL FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM NEXT
Cam Newton, Panthers: 99/1
DeShone Kizer, Browns: 99/1
Russell Wilson, Seahawks: 150/1
Tom Brady, Patriots: 1000/1
ODDS ON WHICH NFL TEAM WILL KNEEL FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
Cleveland Browns: 12/1
Seattle Seahawks: 12/1
Philadelphia Eagles: 19/1