If you have followed these weekly NFL props stories I have done this season, you know I get giddy about predicting the futures of NFL head coaches. Well, for Week 17 Bovada has one more head coaching prop, so let’s get to that first. How many head coaches will be fired or resign by the time the first playoff game kicks off: “over/under” 6.5.
There absolutely will be more coaches than 6.5 let go this offseason. But this obviously has a very specific timeframe – “Black Monday” is usually when the vast majority of them are canned. Here are the head coaches likely in trouble or at least should be worried: Andy Reid (Eagles), Jim Schwartz (Lions), Lovie Smith (Bears), Ron Rivera (Panthers), Ken Whisenhunt (Cardinals), Jason Garrett (Cowboys), Rex Ryan (Jets), Chan Gailey (Bills), Pat Shurmur (Browns), Mike Mularkey (Jaguars), Mike Munchak (Titans), Romeo Crennel (Chiefs), Dennis Allen (Raiders) and Norv Turner (Chargers).
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You can take Garrett off this list if the Cowboys beat the Redskins for the NFC title on Sunday night. You can take Smith off if the Bears get into the playoffs as well. You also have to consider the team owner when determining when a coach might get fired. There’s the old-school, family-run organizations like the Bears or Steelers – they aren’t impetuous. But then you have the new guard like Jerry Jones who see no reason to hesitate. And there are teams under brand new ownership like the Browns and Jaguars. Those guys may want to make a quick change to get ahead of the pace in hiring a big-name coach like a Chip Kelly or Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher.
With all that said, my guess would be under that 6.5 before the wild-card playoffs. I think Reid, Turner and Crennel are locks to go before then and probably Whisenhunt. But the rest might hang on for a few weeks as their owners ponder things.
Meanwhile, the awards races for MVP and Offensive Rookie of the Year appear to be going down to the wire. Bovada lists Peyton Manning as the 1/2 favorite for MVP and Adrian Peterson at 3/2. I mentioned last week that I believed Manning would win the award unless Peterson broke Eric Dickerson’s rushing record. Now that’s not looking likely. Peterson’s consecutive 100-yard games streak ended at eight last week in Houston as he was held to 86 yards on 24 carries (Vikings still won). He now has 1,898 yards, 207 from tying Dickerson’s mark.
Bovada offers two props on Peterson this week against Green Bay in a must-win for the Vikings: Will he break Dickerson’s record (“no” -500, “yes” +300) and will he reach 2,000 yards (yes -300, no +200). Peterson had 210 yards when he faced Green Bay on Dec. 2 in Lambeau. You would think playing on the Metrodome turf would only help Peterson’s speed this Sunday. But I like no on both. Green Bay has just as much to play for Sunday: a first-round playoff bye. Peterson will finish with around 90 yards, just short of 2,000 and well off Dickerson’s mark.
As for the Rookie of the Year, this was a two-man race most of the season between the two top picks in the draft, the Colts’ Andrew Luck and Redskins’ Robert Griffin III. Both have led their teams to amazing turnarounds and likely playoff berths (Colts are in, Skins will be with a win Sunday). And they are the OROY favorites, with Luck at 5/6 and RG3 at 3/2.
But coming on like gangbusters is Seahawks third-rounder Russell Wilson. He has Seattle playing as well as anyone other than Denver. The Seahawks have scored an incredible 150 points over the past three games. Wilson is way ahead of both Luck and RG3 in touchdown passes with 25, which is one short of Peyton Manning’s rookie record. Wilson is 3/1 to win the OROY award, and that he breaks Manning’s mark is -175 and that he doesn’t is +135.
Seattle hosts the Rams this week, and Wilson has been unbelievable at home: a 121.5 rating with 16 touchdowns and two picks. When Wilson faced the Rams in St. Louis on Sept. 3 he had a terrible game, throwing three picks with no TDs and a rating of 45.8. But he has been a different guy since then. Wilson won’t win OROY (RG3 will if Skins win NFC East) but will throw two scores to break Manning’s mark.
Finally, will Houston defensive end J.J. Watt break Michael Strahan’s NFL record of 22.5 sacks? No is -300 and yes +200. Watt, the likely Defensive Player of the Year, has 20.5 heading into Sunday’s meaningless game against Indianapolis. Watt did have three sacks against the Colts two weeks ago. But the Texans seem likely to pull some of their stars at some point with the AFC’s top seed locked up. Thus, I don’t see Watt getting enough snaps to get the 2.5 sacks necessary.
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