NFL Top 6: Biggest stories of the offseason
Writer and sports enthusiast Chuck Klosterman said the NFL is more popular in the U.S. than every other sport combined on the B.S. Report podcast with Bill Simmons. Hard to argue with him.
Even though NFL games are only played between August and February, people never stop talking or thinking about pro football during its six-month absence.
Training camps are opening for NFL teams this week, so we thought we'd rehash the biggest stories in the league’s offseason and how it could affect bettors when the season begins in September.
Some of these are obvious and have been talked about to death already, some are flying under the radar. There was other news out there that was big but doesn’t affect bettors, like Tom Brady’s new haircut (OMG!).
New Orleans Saints – Bountygate
Maybe that deflating loss to the 49ers in the NFC playoffs was an omen of more bad things to come. Roger Goodell decided to make an example of the Saints in light of the league’s emphasis on player safety.
The league commissioner said he told the Saints to knock it off with bounties on opposing players, and the coaching staff ignored his threat. The result was a banishment for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, a one-year suspension for head coach Sean Payton, a half season suspension for GM Mickey Loomis and a six-game suspension for interim head coach Joe Vitt.
You got that all?
Back when all the news on the suspensions was coming out in April, offshore sportsbooks opened the Saints as 6-point favorites against the Washington Redskins in Week 1 while a Vegas book posted New Orleans as 11-point chalk. The consensus now seems to be a double-digit spread as the Saints are favored by 10 offshore.
Denver Broncos – Peyton’s new home
No one is really sure what to expect from Peyton Manning this season. Will he be healthy and just as productive as 2010? Or, will he be rusty, not at full strength and play like an average starting QB in the NFL? Probably somewhere in the middle.
Sportsbooks protected themselves from the former scenario. The Broncos went from 75/1 to 8/1 to win the Super Bowl after news broke in March Manning was going to Denver. PinnacleSports.com now has the club at 15/1 to lift the Lombardi Trophy.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Big Ben and new OC
Ben Roethlisberger was not happy when the Steelers parted ways with former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. The Steelers had become more of a passing team in the last year or two with Arians calling the plays, something Roethlisberger liked and head coach Mike Tomlin did not.
Enter new OC Chuck Haley, formerly head coach in Kansas City, to take the reins in Pittsburgh. Haley is known for rubbing some players the wrong way and Roethlisberger might not get the same special treatment from Haley that he grew accustomed to under Arians.
At the same time, you can understand Big Ben’s reluctance to respect Haley. The Chiefs were the second-lowest scoring team in the NFL in 2011.
New York Jets - QB/drama department
Did the New York Jets trade for Tim Tebow to gain a proven winner who’ll push starting QB Mark Sanchez every day practice or did they grab Tebow just to win the back pages war with the Giants?
For good and for bad the Jets have two young, quarterbacks with experience as starters in the league. We’ll all have to wait and see if Sanchez responds well to the extra competition in camp or whether he melts under the pressure.
Player arrests – There’s been a lot of them
There have been 29 NFL player arrests and counting this offseason. Seven of those belong to guys on the Detroit Lions roster. Meet the new Cincinnati Bengals, right?
Suspending players isn’t something Goodell is gun shy about. The one to watch closely is Dez Bryant. The Cowboys receiver is accused of getting physically violent with his mother. That ain’t cool.
Bryant is a playmaker on the outside and the Cowboys suffered when Bryant got hurt last season. Others worth mentioning: Nick Fairley, Kenny Britt, Marshawn Lynch and Justin Blackmon
NFL locking out referees
Replacement referees, it’s a possibility. You think the officials right now are clueless, wait until we see some college ones get the call up to the big show. Something tells us we’re going to be hearing a lot about the officiating if the NFL doesn’t get the professionals back in time.