NFL Predictions: Expert 2021/22 NFL Tips

Our NFL guru will be sharing his NFL predictions right throughout the 2021/22 season. Our NFL Analyst will have comprehensive previews for each prime-time match in the regular season, as well as the Playoffs and the Super Bowl.

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WEEK 12


Line: Seattle +1

Total Points: 46.5


Week 12 comes to a close with the Washington Football Team hosting the Seattle Seahawks. Washington’s win over Carolina last week made it two in a row after losing their previous four, taking their record to 4-6 and keeping their playoff hopes alive. Seattle went down to division rival Cardinals last week, leaving them with a record of 3-7 at the bottom of the division.

The return of Russell Wilson hasn’t provided the boost to the offense the Seahawks were expecting, with the star quarterback completing 50% and 53.8% of his passes for 161 and 207 yards with no touchdowns in his two games back from a finger injury. It’s the first time Wilson has had back-to-back games with no touchdown passes since 2016. The Seahawks are also struggling with injuries at the running back position, with veteran starter Chris Carson now ruled out for the season with a neck injury and backups Rashad Penny and Travis Homer both out for this game. Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll has always been one to lean on the run as a first preference, but it might be time to let Wilson air it out.

The Seattle pass defence has been inconsistent throughout the season, getting picked apart by Arizona backup Colt McCoy a week after they held reigning MVP, Aaron Rodgers, without a touchdown and to only 13 points. One thing that has been consistent is the inability to keep the opponent’s offense off the field, with the Seahawks now averaging 17.8 fewer offensive plays than their opponents. The differential is the biggest in the league and more than 10 higher than the next closest (Houston at -7.2). Seattle has managed to run 60 offensive plays just twice all year, a figure all but one other team averages more than.

Quarterback Taylor Heinicke has put together arguably the best two-game stretch of his career over the last fortnight, throwing for a combined 462 yards at a completion rate of 77.77% with four touchdowns and quarterback ratings of 110.4 and 141.3. Washington could also get a boost in the passing game with the return of their starting tight end Logan Thomas, who has been removed from the injured reserved and returned to practice this week after missing the previous seven games. Thomas scored two touchdowns in the three games he appeared in to start the season.

The Washington defence hasn’t lived up to the expectations set a year ago, with the pass rush that was considered amongst the league’s best struggling. WFT rank 23rd in sacks (20) and 19th in pressure rate (24.6%) while blitzing at the fifth-highest rate (32.2%), compared to last year where they ranked sixth in sacks, eighth in pressure rate while blitzing at the 13th highest rate. The struggles to generate pressure has affected the pass defence, who rank last in TD percentage allowed (6.6%) and in the bottom 10 for yards per attempt (7.7), interception percentage (1.6%), and quarterback rating allowed (106.0).

A matchup with the WFT pass defence could be what a struggling Russell Wilson needs to get the Seahawk’s season back on track. With one of the better 1-2 punches at wide receiver in the league in D.K Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, Seattle should have too much firepower for WFT.

Key Stats

SeattleRank WashingtonRank
19.424Points per game21.221
20.97Points all. per game26.728
5532Plays per game63.813
72.832Opponent plays per game62.313
42.0015Rush %44.0411
58.0018Pass %55.9622
42.1721Opp. Rush %38.366
57.8312Opp. Pass %61.6427
5-5Against the spread3-7

Betting Strategy

BACK — Seattle at the line (+1)


FUTURES

The Kansas City Chiefs start the season as favourites and rightly so. The most exciting offense in football brings back all their important pieces and shores up an Offensive Line that was overpowered by the Bucs in the Super Bowl. The Bucs are another team that didn’t lose anyone in the offseason, returning all 22 starters from the Super Bowl win. If they can keep healthy, the Bucs will no doubt be in contention when the playoffs come around. Of the two favourites, I prefer the Chiefs to go all the way. The consistency shown by Andy Reid’s squad over the last five years, especially the last three years with Patrick Mahomes, gives confidence the Chiefs will be around when games move into late January.

But I see the value in what I believe will be the teams battling it out for the NFC West and AFC North. Both the Rams and 49er’s project to have dominant defences and have two of the most creative offensive minds in the game calling the plays. While in the AFC North, the Browns and Ravens will have two of the best running offenses in the league and could end up with top 10 defences. All four of these teams sit between $15.00-$17.00 and I would be surprised if at least one wasn’t in the Super Bowl come season’s end.

The 49er’s and Cleveland would be my picks of that bunch, with the Browns my favourite value bet for the Super Bowl to start the season. With a matchup against the Chiefs at Arrowhead stadium to open up the season, 17/1 could be the highest the odds the Browns see with a win to start the season.

BACK — San Francisco 49ers to win the SuperBowl

BACK — Cleveland Browns to win the SuperBowl

The MVP award has belonged to Quarterbacks in recent years, with 10 of the last 11 winners coming from the position. All 10 were on teams that won the division and earned a first round bye in the playoffs, with 8 of the 10 being the number 1 seed in the conference. Matt Ryan in 2016 won with 11 wins for the year, all others have had win totals of 12 or more. Passing touchdowns and Quarterback Rating/QBR have also been a consistent factor amongst winners, with all 10 in the top 3 for touchdowns and only Cam Newton in 2015 outside the top 3 in the two rating metrics. These consistent factors can be used to narrow the field to around half the starting Quarterbacks in the league, with these factors varying from likely to possible.

Voter fatigue is also a real thing in a lot of American sports, who’s season long awards are usually voted on by the media. There hasn’t been a back to back winner of the MVP award since Peyton Manning in 2008/2009. Comeback stories and narratives can have a real effect on the award, with the ‘Russell Wilson had never received an MVP vote’ narrative taking off early last year before his play dropped off in the second half of the year.

The Favourites

  • Patrick Mahomes: $6.00
  • Aaron Rodgers: $11.00
  • Tom Brady: $13.00
  • Josh Allen: $14.00

Mahomes starts the year favourite for the award, and rightfully so. Mahomes is widely regarded as the best QB in the league and the Chiefs are projected to win the most games in the league. It’s worth noting that the Chiefs face three tough matchups to begin the year, vs the Browns, at the Ravens and against division rival Chargers. A slow start could see Mahomes odds increase, but a 3-0 start could mean the $6.00 odds are the shortest they will be all year.

Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers return to the Packers sees him move into second favourite. While Rodgers is in a strong situation, his offensive line will be in worse shape than last year. Last season’s combination of touchdown percentage (9.12%) and Quarterback Rating (121.5) is only rivalled by his own 2011 season and Peyton Manning’s 2004 season, which both resulted in MVP wins. That sort of production isn’t something that can be relied on year on year.

Off the back of another Superbowl win, there has been plenty of discussion of Brady’s status of the GOAT this offseason. Another MVP run at age 44 would garner plenty of clicks and airtime, something that definitely has an effect on the MVP vote that is cast by sportswriters. The Bucs bring back all the pieces from last year’s team and could face less competition in their division and overall, so 13+ wins is definitely a possibility. With that kind of success, it’s likely that Brady is in the mix.

Last year’s longshot pick Josh Allen started last season with odds of 66/1, in a winnable division with a stronger supporting cast than he had previously in his career. While the size of jump in passing efficiency was a little unexpected on his way to a 2nd place finish in voting, Allen’s situation to start last season was amongst the best. With longer odds than multiple RB’s (Henry, McCaffrey, Barkley) and similar other QB’s in far less desirable positions (Carr, Stafford, Cousins were all extremely unlikely to win their division), it shows value can be found in some of the higher priced options. With a division that should offer a little more competition this year, I’m not liking Allen’s value as much as a year ago.

The Next Tier

  • Dak Prescott: $18.00
  • Lamar Jackson: $18.00
  • Matthew Stafford: $18.00
  • Justin Herbert: $21.00
  • Russell Wilson: $21.00
  • Kyler Murray: $23.00
  • Baker Mayfield: $23.00

This next tier can be split into a few groups. I don’t see too many scenarios where Prescott or Herbert can win the award. With Prescott, the Cowboys have a real chance to win the division but I’m not sure they are good enough to rack up the win total needed, especially on defence. He is also returning from a serious leg injury suffered last year, one that could see him start slowly. For Herbert, it’s unlikely the Chargers win their division. The Chiefs are favourites for the Superbowl and it would take some turnaround for the Chargers to pick up 7 wins over the Chiefs. A bet on Herbert is basically a bet against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, something I’m not willing to do at this point.

Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray were both in the MVP discussion early last year, before slowing down in the second half of the season. But I have the Rams and 49er’s above both the Cardinals and Seahawks in the NFC West, which has me looking elsewhere. If you expect either the Cardinals or Seahawks to win the division, which you’d expect to take at least 12 wins, a bet on their QB is good value at these odds.

The last group contains some options I like more. The Browns and the Ravens look to be two of the best teams in the AFC, with 12+ wins a good possibility for both. Mayfield’s chances would require more of a jump in production, in an offensive system that has historically been more about passing efficiency than passing volume. If all goes to plan for the Browns, they will still be a run first team which may make things complicated for Baker Mayfield. The Ravens won 14 games in Lamar Jackson’s MVP season two years ago, before struggling with injuries and Covid (including Jackson himself contracting the virus) in last year’s 11 win season. With a few new passing weapons, we could see Jackson take the league by storm again this year. Matthew Stafford is an interesting option, known as a gunslinger since entering the year, but has been stuck on a bad Lions team for the last few years. This year he will work under one of the most creative offensive minds in the league, Sean McVay.

The Rams offense performed well last year before they entered the red zone, where they didn’t seem confident in previous QB Jared Goff to make the touchdown throws. The Rams were 11th in offensive yards gained, but 20th in offensive touchdowns, only 15% of their touchdowns came from outside the redzone (second lowest in the league). When in the red zone they ran the ball 61% of the time (4th most), that figure moving up to 71% when inside the 10 yard line (only behind the Patriots, who used Cam Newton as a rusher almost exclusively on goal to go looks) and around 70% inside the 5 yard line. Stafford’s passing ability could change this approach completely and result in high passing touchdown numbers.

BACK — Lamar Jackson to win the MVP

Best Of The Rest

  • Tua Tagovailoa: $61

Tua is one of my favourite MVP bets for this season at odds in the 60’s. One of the highest rated QB prospects in college before suffering a dislocated hip in his last year of college, entering the NFL while still recovering. Now fully healthy with a training camp under his belt, I expect to see a big jump in Tua’s play. The Dolphins won ten games last year and added serious speed and downfield threat to a pass catching group that really struggled to create separation last season. The main weakness on this team is the offensive line, but has considerable draft capital invested into it over the last couple of years. It would take a jump in production from Tua and some regression from the Bills, but the Dolphins have a realistic path to one of the more competitive divisions in the league.

BACK — Tua Tagovailoa to win the MVP

Prior to 2010, the Offensive Rookie of the Year had only been won by Quarterbacks on 4 occasions, with three of those between 2004 and 2009. Since then, 6 of the last 11 have come from the QB position, showing a change in philosophy across the league when It comes to starting a rookie QB. Of the QB’s to win the award since 2004, only two have been drafted outside the top 6, Ben Roethlisberger (11th overall) and Dak Prescott (4th round). With there being 5 first round QB’s selected in this year’s draft, Mac Jones and Justin Fields would fall out of that very top end range that usually takes out the award. But both may have been nearer the top of other drafts, with this year’s crop of passers deeper than most other years.

  • Trevor Lawrence: $5.05
  • Mac Jones: $5.50
  • Justin Fields: $7.80
  • Trey Lance: $8.10
  • Zach Wilson: $8.10

Of the five selected, three now have been named starters for week 1. Mac Jones odds were out closer to 11/1 when training camp started, but early reports of him outperforming Cam Newton had those odds coming in. Newton was cut from the roster, which saw Jones move into second favourite. Jones’ situation is amongst the best, slotting into a team with a strong defence and an established playbook for an accurate passer who never leaves the pocket. If Jones and the Patriots put up good win numbers, voters could have visions of a young Tom Brady which could get Jones over the line. Zach Wilson has been the presumed starter since the start of camp, but the lack of true talent and a below average offensive line around him could limit his chances. Not as mobile as some of the other candidates, if the O Line doesn’t hold up it could see Wilson take some hits. Number 1 pick Trevor Lawrence never really had his starting position in doubt, but the trade of backup Gardiner Minshew cemented that. With the Jags Offensive Line looking poor in preseason, coupled with Mac Jones winning the starting job, Lawrences odds for the award have moved from around 3/1 to 5/1.

Two of the five have yet to be named starters, which makes things a little more difficult. The 49er’s made a Super Bowl run with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm  and don’t appear to be in a rush to hand over the reins just yet, especially considering Trey Lance only started a total of 19 games in college, including only one in 2020. The situation in San Francisco would be as near to perfect as any highly drafted rookie would see, if he were to win the job early enough in the season he could realistically become the favourite for the award. Justin Fields is the other QB still listed as the backup, but all the talk from Chicago is “when” not “if”. Fields’ performances in preseason had the Bears crowd chanting his name when starter Andy Dalton saw the field, that change looking more likely to happen earlier and earlier. The Bears could just be looking to protect Fields from a week 1 matchup with the Rams and their feared defensive front, who should be no match for a Bears O Line that projects to be amongst the worst in the league. Even behind that line, Fields scrambling and rushing ability should create plenty of highlight plays which could catch the eye of the voters.

Unlike the MVP, the other skill positions do get a chance in this award. Last year WR Justin Jefferson received 9 of the 50 votes in a season where he broke the receiving yards record for a rookie, losing out to Chargers QB Justin Herbert, who broke a number of rookie passing records himself.

  • Najee Harris: $10.20
  • Kyle Pitts: $12.25
  • Javonte Williams: $21

Of the Wide Receivers taken early in the draft (Chase, Smith, Waddle), I don’t see any getting the volume and consistent Quarterback play to put up the type of numbers Jefferson was able to last year. One pass catcher who might see that volume is Tight End Kyle Pitts, who was taken 4th overall. Tight Ends don’t usually produce much in their rookie year, but Pitts is a different beast and possibly the most hyped Tight End prospect ever. With Julio Jones leaving Atlanta, there are plenty of targets available and he should see solid QB play from former MVP Matt Ryan. Pitts would likely need something in the region of 1,000 yards and 10 TD’s to take the award, both would be the best returns for a rookie Tight End since 1961.

Of all the RB’s, Najee Harris looks set for huge volume this season. The Steelers were unable to run the ball at all towards the end of last season and spent a first round pick to bring some talent in at the position. The Offensive Line is poor in Pittsburgh which could lead to average efficiency for Harris, but by the end of the season he could have accrued the type of raw numbers that are hard to ignore if there are no other stand outs for the award. The other running back prospect I like for this award is Javonte Williams, who currently sits behind Melvin Gordon on the Broncos depth chart. Gordon has shown little since moving across to Denver, leading to trade chatter and talks of possibly being cut prior to the season. Williams showed elite elusiveness and tackle breaking ability in college, which led to the Broncos trading up to draft him, usually a good indicator that the team is willing to give the player a larger role in the offense. The Broncos also face one of the weakest schedules of run defences, giving Williams a chance to win control of the backfield and put up strong numbers as the season goes on.

With the talent at QB taken in the first round, I think the winner will come from that group of five. I was high on Mac Jones’ at the longer odds when training camp started, but can’t see the value at $5.50 for someone who has a considerably lower ceiling than the others. I think Lawrence now presents the best value after spending most of the preseason at 3/1, now out to 5/1 without any real change in his environment. Outside of the QB’s, I like the narrative Pitts can create with no other Tight End ever winning the award.

BACK — Trevor Lawrence to win Offensive Rookie of the year

BACK — Kyle Pitts to win Offensive Rookie of the year

The last ten years of this award has seen six edge rushers win the award, all of which were drafted in the first half of the first round. The previous two winners were both taken with second overall pick and were pure pass rushers. Two Cornerbacks have won the award in that span, but Corners usually rely on interceptions and defensive touchdowns when winning accolades, two things that are usually hard to predict. Marcus Peters had 8 interceptions and 2 defensive touchdowns in 2015, Marcus Lattimore had 5 interceptions and 1 touchdown in 2017. They were career highs in both statistics for both players.

  • Micah Parsons: $7.00
  • Jamin Davis: $8.50
  • Patrick Surtain II: $8.50
  • Jeremia Owusu-Koramoa: $10.00
  • Jaelen Phillips: $11.00
  • Kwity Paye: $11.00

With no edge rushers taken in the first half of the first round in the draft, the odds see some Middle Linebacker’s as favourites. With that position usually racking up the most tackles it can become a position that wins the awards when there are no other standouts. I don’t love the fit at the position within the defence for either Parsons or Davis, with both the Cowboys and WFT having some talent at the position which could lead to a reduced number of snaps, not ideal if both are looking for high tackle numbers. Owusu-Koramoa also falls into this category with Cleveland.

The two highest pure pass rushers were Jaelen Phillips and Kwity Paye at pick 18 and 21 respectively. Phillips has had concerns with concussions in his college career, even temporarily retiring from the game due to injuries. Any missed games would put serious doubts over his ability to win the award. Paye should start for the Colts, but on a Colts Defensive Line that lost its top two rushers in Justin Houston and Denico Autry, which could see Paye double-teamed if he has success.

  • Azeez Ojulari: $18.00
  • Nick Bolton: $34.00

Azeez Ojulari had one of the highest draft grades amongst pass rushers and led the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss, but a questionable medical report on his knee had his draft stock slide. He should start for a Giants defence that has other dominant talent on the defensive line, which should allow him to rush one on one on most snaps. If he can stay fit, Ojulari could have the highest sack numbers in the rookie class. A Linebacker who was taken in the second round but should see plenty of playing time is Nick Bolton. He should be in line to start in week 1 for a Chiefs team that has been weak against the run for years now, which leads to high tackles for the Middle Linebacker’s. The Chiefs also play a high number of nationally televised games, an interception or a touchdown in one of these high profile games would go a long way. With one of the weaker defensive drafts in recent years, I see more value in the longshots for this award.

BACK — Azeez Ojulari to win the Defensive Rookie of the year

BACK — Nick Bolton to win the Defensive Rookie of the year


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