The NFL season is less than a month away, and you can feel the excitement build before a season in which full capacity crowds will once again be part of the larger NFL experience in stadiums. It will feel a lot more like normal. Players will feed off the energy in a building instead of playing in front of empty or near-empty stadiums.
When evaluating the season in late August, one part of the larger process – and a big source of fun – is projecting which players will lead the NFL in various statistical categories. Let’s give you the NJ sports betting odds in seven separate categories and assess which players are most likely to rise to the top, and which players offer comparatively better or worse value.
Most Passing Yards (Odds via FanDuel)
Dak Prescott +500
Tom Brady +950
Justin Herbert +1200
Matt Ryan +1300
Mahomes, who has led the Kansas City Chiefs to three straight AFC Championship Game appearances and two straight Super Bowls, is a natural choice to lead the NFL in this category. It makes total sense.
However, one thing to keep in mind about the Chiefs is that they might carry a lead into the fourth quarter on many occasions this season, which will lead to a lot of running plays and an attempt to milk the clock. Mahomes might throw for a lot of yards in two and a half quarters, but he might ease off if the Chiefs have a lot of late leads.
The two best options on the board here are Dak Prescott and Josh Allen. Prescott, before he got injured last season, threw for large numbers of passing yards because the Cowboys trailed by large margins in multiple games, and Prescott had to throw on virtually every down. He racked up massive statistical totals. The Cowboys struggled as a team, but Dak piled on the yards. That’s the kind of player and situation most tailored to a high number of passing yards.
Another situation conducive to a lot of passing yards is in Buffalo, where the Bills very clearly were willing to throw the ball a lot and entrust games to Josh Allen. The Bills had less balance than the Chiefs, but the formula generally worked out for them over the course of the larger season.
The Chiefs were the better team, but the Bills made their first AFC Championship Game in 27 years because they didn’t overrate balance. They knew the passing game was their strength and they leaned into it.
Allen should throw for a ton of yards this year, and with the New England Patriots likely being stronger than they were last season, Buffalo should have competitive four-quarter games against the Pats and the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East, which should mean Allen will have to continue to throw the ball in the fourth quarters of games, probably more than Mahomes will. Allen is the best value here, and Prescott is the second-best choice, followed by Mahomes in third.
Most Interceptions Thrown (Odds via DraftKings)
Ben Roethlisberger +600
Sam Darnold +650
Tua Tagovailoa +950
Carson Wentz +1000
Jalen Hurts +1200
This is a very interesting prop to evaluate. Fitzpatrick is known as a gunslinger, a guy who will take risks and hit his share of big plays. That is the profile of a quarterback who will rack up a lot of interceptions, so it makes complete sense to take Fitzpatrick here. However, Fitzpatrick is playing with a very strong defense in Washington. He will be asked to play field position and not make mistakes. He knows that Washington’s best chance to win games is with its defense. This makes it less likely that Fitzpatrick will be careless with the ball. He’s not a great quarterback, but this is a different situation compared to several of his previous stops as an NFL quarterback. He might be top-five in the NFL in INTs, but number one will be a challenge for him.
Ben Roethlisberger is another solid candidate. The Steelers rely on their passing game and ask Big Ben to throw the ball a lot. Given the large number of passes he throws, he will naturally be more likely to throw a lot of interceptions. The limitation here is that Big Ben is a good quarterback.
He will make his share of mistakes, but there are other worse quarterbacks in the NFL who are likely to make even more bad choices. The Steelers are still a good team, and they have quality receivers. That’s not the kind of situation in which a quarterback is likely to finish No. 1 in most interceptions.
The two best choices here are Sam Darnold and Tua Tagovailoa. Darnold enters a new team with a new offense. He will get all the snaps. The Carolina Panthers are fully invested in developing Darnold and making him a better quarterback after a terrible tenure with the New York Jets.
This new arrangement might work in Charlotte, but Year 1 might be a bumpy ride as the player adjusts to a new team and the coaching staff learns what does and doesn’t work with Darnold. In 2021, this is the kind of situation which could lead to an NFL-leading interception total for a quarterback.
The Miami Dolphins’ situation also lends itself to a big interception total. Tua Tagovailoa no longer has Ryan Fitzpatrick to help him out in Miami. He will be asked to carry a huge workload for the Dolphins. His offensive line is weak, which is a big contributor to bad throws and turnovers. Also, since the Dolphins play the Buffalo Bills twice and figure to get competitive games against the New England Patriots, they will be tied or trailing in fourth quarters, which means Tua will have to make a lot of passes under pressure.
You might wonder why Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts aren’t bigger threats to lead the NFL in interceptions. With Wentz, the Indianapolis Colts like to run the ball. Their run-pass mix will limit the amount of passes Wentz attempts each game. That will work against him in terms of increasing his number of interceptions.
Jalen Hurts is a running quarterback. He will throw some interceptions, but the Philadelphia Eagles will try to use him as a runner on draws and quarterback sweeps. There will be a lot of running plays for Hurts, which will reduce the amount of pass attempts he throws this season.
Most Receiving Touchdowns (Odds via BetMGM)
Travis Kelce +850
Davante Adams +850
Stefon Diggs +950
Calvin Ridley +950
Tyreek Hill +950
You can see that the receivers are bunched up here, with very little separation among them. What might offer a clue or a suggestion which might enable one pass catcher to separate himself from the others?
It’s certainly easy to think Kelce will lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns. He has a big body and can make catches in traffic. On third and goal from the 3-yard line, he might be the best target out of anyone on this list, with D.K. Metcalf being the other really good option.
However, while Kelce has the brawn, Stefon Diggs and Davante Adams have speed and agility. They can make quick bursts of movement which make a difference in red-zone situations. It’s a really tough call.
One important point here is that Kelce and Hill are both on the same team. That means they are likely to split their total number of touchdowns. Adams, Metcalf and Diggs are more likely to get more TDs for themselves, so they are probably the three best choices.
Metcalf’s Seahawks have a weak offensive line and probably won’t score as much as Adams’ Packers or Diggs’ Bills. Given that Buffalo wants Josh Allen to throw as many passes as possible, Diggs probably is a slightly better choice than Adams, but it’s a close call.
Most Receptions (Odds via BetMGM)
Stefon Diggs +420
DeAndre Hopkins +460
Travis Kelce +600
Davante Adams +750
Darren Waller +1700
Tyreek Hill +1700
As noted above, the Bills want Josh Allen to win or lose games for them, so Stefon Diggs makes a lot of sense as the best choice here. If you’re looking for value, go with Adams at the listed price, since his rapport with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay is really strong. He’s a dominant receiver who gets what he wants in most games.
DeAndre Hopkins might not get all that many receptions this year because the Cardinals know they need to run the ball better and spare Kyler Murray – they need to protect their quarterback more and reduce the number of hits he takes. Adams is the best choice here, followed by Diggs.
Most Rushing Yards (Odds via FanDuel)
Derrick Henry +400
Dalvin Cook +600
Christian McCaffrey +600
Nick Chubb +850
Jonathan Taylor +1100
Joe Mixon +1600
Don’t overthink this one. This is a case where going for a No. 3 player for value makes less sense than voting for the top choice. This is an instance in which the favorite is very likely to win. Tennessee has a strong offensive line, a central key in this kind of discussion. Dalvin Cook’s O-line in Minnesota isn’t nearly as good as the Titans’ front. Christian McCaffrey is playing behind a suspect offensive line with the Panthers. Nick Chubb has a great O-line with the Browns but must share carries with Kareem Hunt, which will reduce his own output. Jonathan Taylor will probably suffer as a result of Carson Wentz’s limitations at quarterback with the Colts.
Derrick Henry is the right call.
Most Sacks (Odds via DraftKings)
Aaron Donald +600
T.J. Watt +600
Myles Garrett +650
Chase Young +1200
Joey Bosa +1300
Danielle Hunter +1600
Aaron Donald is the best defensive player in the NFL, and now he has an offense with Matthew Stafford, which should give the Rams fourth-quarter leads more often. Donald can and will feast in those situations, so he is the best choice. The good value choice lower on the list: Chase Young, who is part of an emerging Washington defense and – with Ryan Fitzpatrick giving the Football Team an upgrade at QB – should have more fourth-quarter leads to protect this season. He can go wild as a late-game pass rusher.