Trying to bet NFL futures or season-long props is pretty daunting.
While the cream typically rises to the top when it comes to the Super Bowl champion, piecing together the road map to the big game is easier said than done. The NFL regular season is as unpredictable as anything else in sports, giving real credence to the “Any given Sunday” mantra.
All that being said, our fearless staff of writers and contributors on NESN.com and NESNBets is more than ready for that challenge. To celebrate the start of the 2022 NFL season, we each came up with one season-long future or prop “best bet.”
For uniformity’s sake, all the odds are from DraftKings Sportsbook. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Keagan Stiefel: Chris Olave to win Offensive Rookie of the Year (+1000)
I made backing Chris Olave my brand over the course of his collegiate career and I’m not stopping now. Entering an offense with plenty of weapons surrounding him, Olave should receive plenty of opportunities from Jameis Winston to contribute to the Saints’ offense. The OROY field is kind of gross anyway, with the current favorite (Kenny Pickett) not even slated to start the season. Give me the smoothest man in football.
Sam Panayotovich: Minnesota Vikings to make playoffs (-115)
I cannot wait to see what new Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell does with all these offensive weapons. Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook and Irv Smith should all thrive with more freedom and space, and Kirk Cousins might throw for 5,000 yards. The defensive line is as good as it’s been in years, too. If Minnesota doesn’t make the playoffs out of a down division, something will have gone drastically wrong.
Jason Ounpraseuth: Kevin O’Connell to win Coach of the Year (+1600)
The market is very high on the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers to take the NFC North again, but a weakened offense opens up opportunities for the new Minnesota Vikings head coach. An offensive system that is similar to the Los Angeles Rams — where Kevin O’Connell served as offensive coordinator — could benefit Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson and lead the Vikings to a division win, which would make O’Connell a strong Coach of the Year contender.
Ricky Doyle: Division straight forecast — Indianapolis Colts first and Jacksonville Jaguars second in AFC South (+700)
The Colts are by far the best team in the AFC South, which is reflected in their odds to win the division (-130). After that, things get a little murky. The Tennessee Titans are projected to be the second-best team, but they have questions at quarterback (how good is Ryan Tannehill?), running back (will Derrick Henry’s workload catch up to him?) and wide receiver (can they adequately replace A.J. Brown and the massive target share they lost from last season?). The Jags, meanwhile, are trending upward, with Trevor Lawrence entering his second season and Doug Pederson — a Super Bowl-winning coach — replacing Urban Meyer on the sidelines. If we write off the Houston Texans, as we should, there could be a real battle for the No. 2 spot, which makes +700 feel like solid value here.
Sean McGuire: Indianapolis Colts most regular-season wins (+1600)
The Colts play in an absolute cupcake of a division, with the Texans, Jaguars and less-intimidating Titans twice per season. Five wins? Indianapolis then will get the mediocre-at-best NFC East, with a potential three wins in four games, along with the Patriots, Vikings and Steelers — no daunting task — elsewhere on their schedule. Of course, the biggest factor here will be their record against the brutal AFC West — Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders and Broncos — but a .500 record against that division could lead the Colts to 13 or so wins. Indianapolis’ win total is set at 10, which it should pass easily, but we took it a step further for a (potentially) bigger payout.
Scott Neville: Travis Kelce Under 1,100.5 receiving yards (-120)
For Kelce to exceed 1,100 yards, he’d be making NFL history. The longtime Chiefs tight end is entering his age-33 season and will do so without superstar wide receiver Tyreek Hill taking away two defenders on nearly every play.
The most yards ever from a 33-year-old tight end was 872 from Antonio Gates. Tony Gonzalez recorded 867 for the second-most all-time as two of six players to ever hit the 800-yard mark. Kelce would have to not only break the record but do so by 229 yards. He’ll have an extra game to play with, but that still puts him substantially short of the mark unless he can far outperform the rest of the position’s history while being the focal point for opposing defenses to lock down.
Claudia Bellofatto: Chiefs under 10.5 wins (+100)
It’s not a popular pick to fade the Chiefs, but I’m doing it anyway. Patrick Mahomes lost his best weapon in the passing game with Tyreek Hill gone and he now faces the single toughest schedule in the NFL. Kansas City had one of the worst secondaries last season, which should be even worse after losing Tyrann Mathieu. The pass rush struggled last season, as well, and they didn’t do much to fix that. KC finished with 12 wins in 2021 after having the healthiest team in the NFL. Any significant injuries and they’re easily looking at 10 or fewer wins in the toughest division in football.
Mike Cole: Chiefs’ longest winning streak under 4.5 (-115)
The Chiefs very well could win the Super Bowl, but they are going to be tested all season long. Kansas City’s first eight games are all against teams with Super Bowl odds of 40-1 or shorter and that includes an always-tough divisional showdown with the Chargers, a playoff rematch with the Bills and a potential Super Bowl preview against San Francisco. Not only that, the AFC West might be the toughest division in football. Again, KC will be there in the end, but it’s going to be difficult for the Chiefs to piece together a long streak.