There hasn’t been a single snap of regular-season NFL action yet this year, but there’s still no shortage of content circulating in the news cycle. Not all of it is bound to have a betting impact (we’re still trying to figure out if Aaron Rodgers on psychedelics makes a difference, FWIW), but we’ll look to pull some of the league’s most pertinent storylines to help as you place your bets for Week 1.
Dawson Knox signed a four-year extension with the Buffalo Bills to make him the sixth-highest paid tight end in the NFL.
He’s fresh off a breakout season, where he totaled 587 receiving yards and nine touchdowns and now sits happily with a 4-year, $53.6 million deal, including $31 million in guarantees. The news comes just ahead of their Week 1 matchup to open the 2022 season.
How you can use it: Knox should enter SoFi Stadium feelin’ hot Thursday night — and not just because of the current excessive heat warning in LA and lack of AC in the stadium (who thought that one through?). Knox’s over/under on receiving yards sits at a cool 35.5 (with odds at -114 — AKA, bet $114 to make $100), a yardage total he hit in 8 of 15 games in the 2021 season. Perhaps Josh Allen will look to feature his newly paid tight end with some targets to hit the over in what Vegas is projecting as one of the highest-scoring matchups in Week 1.
New Panthers QB Baker Mayfield will also face his former team to open the season, as the Browns travel to face the Panthers on the road in Week 1.
Mayfield and the Browns went through one of the more contentious breakups this offseason after the team mortgaged their future to acquire a franchise quarterback that some argued shouldn’t even have the privilege of seeing an NFL field again. They eventually honored his trade request, sending him to the Carolina Panthers for a likely meaningless 2024 conditional pick, giving him a fresh start with the team — and a big ass chip on his shoulder.
How you can use it: Even with Jacoby Brissett under center in Week 1, they still feel like the better football team on paper. However, it’s worth noting that the Browns haven’t won a Week 1 matchup since the 2004 season (yes — you read that correctly) and now will open the season on the road, facing their former quarterback that we know always brings swagger to the table. Expect Baker Mayfield to come out with a giant chip on his shoulder, with more motivation than ever for the win. He’ll have a healthy Christian McCaffrey in tow and undoubtedly one of the best wide receivers he’s played with to date in D.J. Moore. To quote Russell Wilson, “Let’s Ride” with the Panthers to win in Week 1.
Mitch Trubisky has officially been named the Steelers starting quarterback for Week 1.
If Steelers fans had it their way, they’d probably have inducted rookie QB Kenny Pickett into the Hall of Fame by now, but alas, the team has other plans. Trubisky will see his first game action as a starter since January of 2021 on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
How you can use it: I’m a (very pessimistic) Steelers fan, but I’m interested to see if they can keep it close enough against the Bengals to cover the spread (Steelers +6.5) with Trubisky under center. However bleak the narrative about Trubisky’s level of talent, the guy has proven he can win some football games — especially with a solid defense to complement his skills as a game manager. Plus, he’s gotta be an upgrade on 2021 Ben Roethlisberger… right? Right?????
On the Bengals side of things, it’s worth Joe Burrow underwent surgery in late July for a ruptured appendix, missing some time before eventually returning to team drills in mid-August. He didn’t see any preseason action, and it feels conceivable that this team might need to shake off some rust. Throw in T.J. Watt, Myles Jack and Minkah Fitzpatrick with the Steelers defense for good measure, and it seems conceivable that the Steelers could cover the spread and keep it within a touchdown.
49ers TE George Kittle missed practice Wednesday with a groin injury.
The injury was reportedly suffered in Monday’s practice, now putting his Week 1 status in question. It’s unfortunate news for Kittle, who’s been plagued with health issues over the past couple of seasons, having missed 11 games over the past two seasons.
How you can use it: If Kittle is out, look for increased usage from WR Brandon Aiyuk. After a slow start in 2021, Aiyuk finally made his way out of Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse, averaging 4.3 receptions for 71 yards per game in the final eight games of the regular season. Look for a potential value play on Aiyuk’s receiving yard prop bet, having finished with 55 or more receiving yards in eight of his 12 games to close out the 2021 season. Kittle out (or even limited) should mean an increased role for Aiyuk, especially after a strong showing in training camp.
Saints WR Michael Thomas (hamstring) is “progressing” in return from injury and could play in Week 1.
I’m literally trying to remember what life was like the last time Thomas was considered healthy and a lock to play. Was Tik Tok even a thing yet at that point in our lives? Nope. What were we up to? Were beards an absolute must for any man that could grow one yet? Were we already inundated with HelloFresh ads while we listened to podcasts, or was that just on the horizon? Nobody remembers.
Thomas missed the entire 2021 season after suffering a setback. Of course, after so much time off, what else could we expect but another lower body injury? For what it’s worth, even if he doesn’t suit up in Week 1, Thomas seems to have some confidence in his potential for the 2022 season — always a plus.
Need a reminder of what he’s capable of when healthy? We probably all do. Thomas broke the NFL record for most receptions in a single season (149) in 2019 with 1,725 receiving yards and nine scores to boot.
How you can use it: Keep an eye on the receiving prop bets for new Saints’ WR Jarvis Landry. To close out the preseason, Landry was targeted on two of his three total routes run this preseason, managing two catches for 35 yards on those looks. With a willing gunslinger under center in Jameis Winston, there’s certainly upside for yardage and volume heading into Sunday’s contest. Landry — the master of the slot — has seen five or more targets in 22 of his 43 active games since 2019. Now, with Thomas presumably a bit rusty and not at 100% health just yet, Landry’s volume could be significant against Houston — with or without Thomas on the field.
The status of Seahawks rookie RB Ken Walker remains “up in the air” for Week 1.
The Seahawks drafted RB Ken Walker in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and it seemed sure he’d be a big part of the game plan from the jump, especially considering Russell Wilson’s departure this offseason.
How you can use it: Penny could be in the mix for a significant workload in Week 1, so keep an eye on his rushing totals at the sportsbook for a potential value play. Penny has had 100 or more scrimmage yards in each of his seven career games with 12 or more rush attempts. He’ll match up against the Broncos, who ranked dead last among all teams in PFF rushing defense grade during the preseason. Granted, it was the preseason and they were sitting their starters, but still — it’s worth at least a nod of consideration before we see what their starting unit looks like without much live action ahead of time.