Folks, we made it. Football is officially BACK. Though the calendar might say that summer doesn't end until Sept. 23, the return of the NFL is the official nail in summer's coffin. It's time to put away the boat, lock up the beach house and trade in the White Claws for pumpkin-flavored beers. (If White Claw makes a pumpkin flavor, we must revolt.) Your Saturdays and Sundays are now reserved for kicking back, eating wings and becoming extremely tight with Scott Hanson. Say it loud for the people in the back, Scott:
Before the Packers and the Bears get this party started on Thursday, we scoured our handy-dandy DraftKings app for some intriguing prop bets for the 2019 season. Here are eight of our favorites that will help pay for next year's mortgage, or this year's RedZone subscription, depending on which thing is more important to you.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars to win the AFC South (+250)
People forget the Jags were a few bogus calls away from beating the Pats in New England and punching their ticket to the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl in 2017. That AFC Championship-losing hangover had a clear effect on the entire team in 2018, but mostly Blake Bortles, who went from "Wow, maybe this guy can be serviceable enough" back to "Nope, he still stinks" in a blink. Unfortunately for the hilarious Blake Bortles Facts Twitter account, the Bortles era is over in Jacksonville, as he's moved on to back up Jared Goff in L.A. It's Nick Foles time in JAX now, and there is no reason he can't thrive with a healthy, refocused Leonard Fournette and a solid receiving core that includes Dede Westbrook and Marqise Lee. The championship-level defense from 2017 is poised for a bounce back as well, and with Andrew Luck out of the picture in Indy, the Jags suddenly have great value at +250 to take the AFC South. The Texans will be good, but I wouldn't count on them matching their win total of 11 from a year ago. 9-7 or 10-6 should get the job done in this division, and the Jags should be right there if Foles can rekindle the Philly magic in South Florida.
2. Seattle Seahawks over 8.5 wins (-139)
You've got to lay $139 to win $100, but it's worth it to back Russell Wilson to have a winning record. The last time the Seahawks didn't win nine-plus games was in 2011, which was, you guessed it, the year before Wilson took over under center. Since then they've had a double-digit win total in all but one year, and that year was 2017, when they still went 9-7 but missed the playoffs. The buzz around Seattle (besides the addition of Jadeveon Clowney, which is a plus) is that the offensive line will be better, but anything would be an improvement from the past few years. Even with no protection, Wilson still has the ability to carry them, so I can only imagine what he'd do with a little bit of time to operate. You can hand them two wins against the Cardinals and then assume they go 6-1 or 5-2 in their other seven home games, and just like that they're already at seven or eight wins. One or two road victories could be all it takes to cash this one.
3. Buffalo Bills under 6.5 wins (+160)
The Bills' actual O/U win total is 7.5 at -118, but DraftKings also offers "alternate" bets for certain teams and props. The Bills are one of those teams, and you can get them at plus odds to win fewer than 6.5 games. What has changed about this 6-10 team from 2018? Is Josh Allen going to make a HUGE leap? Is Ed Oliver going to carry a defense in his rookie year? Can they split with the dominant Patriots and the much-hyped Jets? All big questions, and all of them point to a 5-11 or 6-10 season. A quick peak at their schedule would show you that 1-4 is a very likely scenario for the Bills heading into their bye week, and they'll still have road games at Cleveland, Dallas, Pittsburgh AND New England. Plus, though they are always good for a few stunners in Orchard Park, they get Philly, Denver and Baltimore at home this year, all losable games for a team that's lost a LOT of games since 2000. I'd love to be wrong, because Bills Mafia holds a special place in my heart, and no fanbase deserves it more. But if the Bills win seven or eight games this year they should throw a parade and break all the tables they can.
4. Miami Dolphins under 4.5 wins (-125)
If naming Ryan Fitzpatrick the starter and trading away his best offensive lineman and one of his top targets wasn't enough of a glaring "WE'RE TANKING FOR TUA" sign for you, then I don't know what to tell ya. This is a 3-13 team, and that's if everything goes right for them.
5. Kirk Cousins over 4,125.5 passing yards (-110)
Captain Kirk is the King of padding stats. Just look at his last four seasons, in each of which he's thrown for over 4,000 yards and 25-plus TDs while struggling to go 8-8. He might not win many big games or do anything remotely clutch, but he's not afraid to air it out. Toss a fully healthy Dalvin Cook into the mix and Cousins will be dumping it off to Dalvin, slinging to Stefon and throwing it to Thielen and racking up a ton of yards along the way. Maybe he'll even give us "YOU LIKE THAT?!" part two before getting embarrassed in the wild-card round.
6. Patrick Mahomes over 37.5 passing touchdowns (-110)
As is the case with all of these player props, they are dangerous ones to take because of the possibility of injury. But the reigning MVP gets the ball out quick and doesn't take a ton of big hits. For those reasons, I don't see why he can't get close to his touchdown total of 50 from a year ago. Though 37.5 would be a ridiculous O/U number for many of the league's QBs, it seems low for Mahomes. If you believe Travis Kelce, Kansas City's offense is going to "take it up a level" this season, which is a terrifying thought for the rest of the NFL. Only way this doesn't hit is if K.C. goes 14-0 and rests Mahomes the last two weeks (and it still might hit considering he had 37 by Week 12 last year).
7. Saquon Barkley to be the rushing leader (+350)
Barkley almost accomplished this feat as a rookie a year ago with an absolute joke of an offensive line in New York. This year the O-line is much-improved, and Saquon might receive an even heftier dose of touches with Odell Beckham Jr. out of the mix. With Ezekiel Elliott's contract situation still in limbo and Todd Gurley's health in question, the door is wide open for Barkley to finish the season on top in this statistic.
8. Carson Wentz to win Comeback Player of the Year award (+700)
If you look at the top four favorites, Wentz has by far the most value at these odds (Cam Newton at +1400 ain't too bad either). The favorite is Jimmy Garoppolo, who has never started more than five games in a season. Then Le'Veon Bell, who'd be the first to tell you he's ready to carry the load for Gang Green. The third favorite? Josh Gordon at +500. Those are not nearly good enough odds for a player who has not shown the ability to play a full year since 2013. That brings us to Wentz, who was on his way to an MVP season in 2017 before tearing his ACL. Wentz returned last regular season, but it was clear he was still not fully healthy. It still remains to be seen that he can stay healthy, but if he does Philly is in position to make another Super Bowl run, and if it's some version of 2017 Wentz that gets them there then you have to love his chances to win this award.