NFL - US Sports: Phil Agius' antepost preview
The 2022 NFL season starts on 8th September and Phil Agius, NFL expert at The Racing Post, has picked over the markets and found some value bets.
Super Bowl LVII outright winner
Bettors might be keen to look a little further down the Super Bowl odds list this season after the amazing run by 150/1 shots the Cincinnati Bengals last season, although the overachieving outsiders fell at the final hurdle to the Los Angeles Rams, who had the good fortune to be hosting the big game and playing at their home stadium.
There are a decent number of top-quality candidates this season, with the AFC race in particular looking set to be fiercely contested and only three teams in that half of the league (Jets, Texans, Jaguars) can easily be quickly ruled out.
The AFC West and AFC North in particular are hotbeds of talent, but a new contender may well emerge from the west-coast cauldron to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy and scratch their name off the list of teams that have never won a Super Bowl.
The Los Angeles Chargers have a lot going for them as they bid to achieve what Cincinnati just failed to do last year and lift the trophy for the first time.
Playing in the AFC West alongside perennial contenders the Kansas City Chiefs, the much-improved Denver Broncos and last year's playoff qualifiers the Las Vegas Raiders, means the Chargers are a bigger price at 21.00 than we might have seen if they were housed in a weaker section.
The one thing you'll note about the teams at the top of the market is that they all have that essential ingredient for success - an elite quarterback.
The teams led by Josh Allen (Bills), Tom Brady (Buccaneers), Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), reigning champion Matthew Stafford (Rams) and Aaron Rodgers (Packers) are the only ones ahead of the Chargers in the betting and that's because LA quarterback Justin Herbert has every right to be named in that company.
The third-season passer has looked like a top-quality performer from the moment he stepped into the league.
He has had the Chargers offense buzzing and they were the fifth-highest scorers in the NFL last season, despite missing the playoffs with a 9-8 record that could have been so much better.
Five of their losses were either by three or fewer points or in overtime, and they have made the defensive improvements that can turn those close losses into solid wins.
Star pass-rusher Joey Bosa is joined by Khalil Mack, who has arrived in a trade from the Bears, and the Chargers also picked up a brilliant cornerback in former Patriot JC Jackson. With young defensive players Derwin James and Asante Samuel Jr. also of the highest quality, there's much less chance of the Chargers' defense throwing away Herbert's good work this year.
The Chiefs have lost top wide receiver Tyreek Hill but they, the Baltimore Ravens and favourites the Buffalo Bills all have solid chances in the AFC, while the Rams look set to make another strong run to retain their title from the NFC.
In that conference, the Green Bay Packers have greatly improved their defense but QB Aaron Rodgers has lost his favourite target, WR Davante Adams, who was traded to the Raiders. The Buccaneers still have Tom Brady after he changed his mind about retiring but he's 45 now and head coach Bruce Arians has moved upstairs.
The Eagles are interesting outsiders in the NFC at 4.00 to win their conference after making great progress in their first season under Nick Sirianni and adding wide receiver AJ Brown.
Division winner bets
The Indianapolis Colts look a great bet to win the AFC South at 2.60, with their chief divisional rivals Tennessee set to take a step back after wasting the AFC No. 1 seed by losing their first playoff game last season.
The Colts have acquired veteran QB Matt Ryan from the Falcons and running back Jonathan Taylor led the league in rushing yards by a distance last season.
The Ravens are worth backing to emerge from the AFC North scramble ahead of the Bengals and the Browns, whose new quarterback Deshaun Watson is facing a lengthy suspension.
Defensive Player of the Year
There's no real incentive to get involved in the MVP market, which has been won by a quarterback for the last nine seasons, including Rodgers in the last two years.
A player worth backing for the Defensive Player of the Year award, however, is emerging Dallas Cowboys talent Micah Parsons. Last season's Defensive Rookie of the Year winner came second to Pittsburgh's TJ Watt for the senior award.
If he can finish ahead of superstars such as Aaron Donald while he was finding his feet in the league as a rookie, the sky's the limit for him in year two. He is on offer at a nice price at 13.00.
Team win totals
Let's finish up with a couple of bets for the individual team win totals - remember that as of last year teams now play 17 games per season.
The Colts' standard line is set at 9.5 wins, but we can push that a little further and take over 10.5 wins to get better odds currently at 2.10. That doesn't look too dangerous given the strength of their roster and the weakness of the AFC South.
The Steelers have never had a losing season under head coach Mike Tomlin, whose team have gone 8-8 or better in his 15 years at the helm. Long-serving QB Ben Roethlisberger has retired now though, and with no top-level replacement having been secured, taking under 7.5 wins for the Steelers has some appeal.
By Phil Agius