As we put the finishing touches on the first edition of the 2010 Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly NFL Preview magazine and set our sights on soon finishing the Pro Football Weekly / Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football Guide, I'm looking ahead to September, and how can't I — we just had our first mock draft on Tuesday.
Yes, the offseason is starting to slip away from us, and I'm particularly hung up on these 10 NFL data points:
5-1: The Jets' odds to win Super Bowl XLV, per MGM Mirage as of Tuesday. Only the AFC champion Colts, who sit atop the betting board at 4-1, are a shorter price to win the Super Bowl than the Jets. These seem like exceptionally low odds for a team that didn't even win its own division a season ago, but the odds are a function of the public's perception of a team as well as its popularity. The Jets, who play in the United States' biggest media market and have a fervent fan base, have undoubtedly had a productive offseason after their surprising run to the AFC title game in '09, and many believe they will overtake the Patriots and capture the AFC East this season.
The Jets weren't always such a short price. When the Mirage began taking bets on the Super Bowl XLV winner, the Jets were 20-1 on the board. Now, at that price, the Jets would have been very attractive to me. But Gang Green supporters have spoken with their wallets, and 20-1 is long gone at MGM Grand, The Mirage, Mandalay Bay, etc. Good for those who got their bets down early.
10-1: The Saints' odds to repeat at Super Bowl champions, per MGM Mirage. A horse that opens at 8-1 on the board and floats up to 10-1 would be called "dead on the board." Such a term doesn't necessarily signal a horse can't win; it's merely used to indicate it is getting less money bet on its nose than expected. But it does make some bettors fairly nervous.
Such is the case with the Saints, who are a suspiciously attractive price at MGM Mirage — the same odds as the Redskins, who are 10-1 off a 75-1 opening line! I'm not sure what bettors are afraid of — it can't be that an NFC South champion has never made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, can it? All I know is that 10-1 on the Saints, who boast an elite quarterback and a defense that stepped up in a big way in Super Bowl XLIV, doesn't seem like a bad gamble to me.
8: Number of teams with shorter odds than the Saints at MGM Mirage, with the Cowboys (7-1), Vikings (7-1), Chargers (8-1), Packers (8-1), Ravens (8-1) and Patriots (8½-1) joining the Colts and Jets on the list.
9: Number of starts Cowboys WR Miles Austin had last season en route to capturing the NFC receiving-yards title in 2009. If you like the Cowboys at 7-1 to win the Super Bowl, the prospect of rookie Dez Bryant adding another big-play threat to the Dallas offense only makes you feel better about your wager.
15: The draft pick I used on Bengals RB Cedric Benson in our 12-team mock draft on Tuesday. Benson, whom I selected in Round Two, was the No. 72 overall pick on our draft board last year, or 63 spots behind Brandon Jacobs — whom I took in Round Six (No. 63 overall) on Tuesday. Bonus stat: Per MockDraftCentral.com, it took me 22 seconds to settle on Jacobs. That's just enough time to check a bye week, throw your hands up and say, "What the hell?"
27: Jay Cutler's TD passes last season. A pessimist will point at the four touchdowns in each of back-to-back games to end the '09 campaign, including the season finale at feeble Detroit, claiming they padded Cutler's stat line. An optimist will wonder if 30 TDs is in Cutler's scope considering how out of sorts he appeared at times last season. I'm in the second camp on this one.
34.4: The average team sack total for NFL clubs last season. Interestingly enough, the Ravens, known for a strong rush over the years, notched just 32 sacks. This number jumps off the page to me — and helps explain why the club figures to get OLB Sergio Kindle onto the field early if he's healthy and can pick up the defense. With two key cornerbacks (Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb) coming off knee injuries, the Ravens' pass rush needs to be strong.
218: Number of pounds new-Seahawks RB LenDale White weighed in at upon arriving in Seattle, according to head coach Pete Carroll. If White is quicker and can maintain his power at a lower weight, he could be a big part of the offense.
371: Number of rushes attempted by the 49ers last season. Only Arizona (365) and Indianapolis (366) attempted fewer. We know the Colts' excuse — something about Peyton Manning — and the Cardinals had Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin to propel their passing attack. The 49ers, with their offensive line bolstered by two first-round picks, need to take the air out of the ball a little more in 2010.
440: Number of rushing yards Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart racked up in the final three games of the 2009 season. I like DeAngelo Williams, and I might draft him in a fantasy league or two ... but I will be scared.
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