NFL Training Camp Betting - Key position battles
NFL Training Camp betting: Lots of key starting jobs up for grabs
- Ray Rice could be a breakout star in Baltimore
- The Mark Sanchez era may begin in Week 1
- Jeff Garcia breathing down JaMarcus Russell’s neck
Arizona Cardinals starting running back – Chris “Beanie” Wells vs Tim Hightower
Make no mistake: the Cardinals drafted the bullish runner Beanie Wells to be their starting running back. He’ll win the job eventually, probably in the first half of the season, but Hightower may have the opening day edge. Wells is battling a sprained ankle and that may delay his development.
Baltimore Ravens starting running back – Le’Ron McClain vs Willis McGahee vs Ray Rice
The Ravens claim to be employing a running back by committee this season, but I’m betting Ray Rice wins the lion’s share of the carries. Willis McGahee has no identity – he’s no longer a breakaway speed guy and he’s too brittle to be a power guy – and McClain is more of a goal-line back. Rice is an all-around back who can catch passes, so his NFL training camp odds should prevail in one of the more intriguing battles.
Cleveland Browns starting quarterback – Derek Anderson vs Brady Quinn
Few training camp battles are tougher to predict than Anderson vs Quinn. Derek Anderson is just two years removed from a 29-touchdown season and may have a higher short-term ceiling, but Quinn has the inside track. Eric Mangini likely wants to see what he has with the first-round pick out of Notre Dame and should give him a shot.
Detroit Lions starting quarterback – Daunte Culpepper vs Matthew Stafford
You can bet at the offshore sportsbook that Stafford will start at least a few games in 2009, but his NFL training camp odds of starting in week 1 are slim. There’s no reason for the Lions to rush him, so Culpepper should get the nod early on.
Indianapolis Colts starting running back – Joseph Addai vs Donald Brown
Colts’ first-round pick Donald Brown is raising a lot of eyebrows, as he has a similar versatile skill set to Addai and may be tougher, but reports around camp suggest the job is still Addai’s to lose. Behind a healthier O-line, he should play better in 2009. Brown will get plenty of touches, though.
Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback – Tarvaris Jackson vs Sage Rosenfels
The Vikes are stuck between a rock and a hard place in NFL training camp betting after Brett Favre opted to say retired. Tarvaris Jackson seemed to have the edge, as he’s the better athlete and flashed some brilliance late last season, but a knee sprain last week virtually derailed his hopes to start week 1. Rosenfels should get the nod and it’s anyone’s guess as to how he performs.
New England Patriots starting running back – Laurence Maroney vs Sammy Morris vs Fred Taylor
The three-headed monster in New England is listed among training camp battles but may not have a true winner. It looks like Sammy Morris will get the most carries, including the coveted goal-line handoffs, but you can bet all three of these guys will be both busy and effective.
New York Giants starting wide receivers No. 1 and No. 2 – Ramses Barden vs Domenik Hixon vs Mario Manningham vs Sinorice Moss vs Hakeem Nicks vs Steve Smith vs David Tyree
With Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer gone, the starting wideout jobs are wide open. Hixon, who looked capable starting in Burress’ spot last season, is almost a shoo-in for the No. 1 spot. My NFL training camp odds on Nicks winning the second job are good. He’s the type of big, athletic, surehanded receiver that an inaccurate pivot like Eli Manning needs.
Edge: Hixon and Nicks
New York Jets – All offensive skill positions except tight end
Few teams’ NFL training camp odds are tougher to figure out than the Jets, as just about every offensive position is up for grabs. I like Mark Sanchez to beat out Kellen Clemens for the starting quarterback job. Clemens has already failed as a starter, Sanchez has won management over with his leadership, and new coach Rex Ryan is comfortable with rookie starters after watching Joe Flacco in Baltimore last season.
At running back I’m betting disgruntled Thomas Jones starts in week one. Super scat back Leon Washington should see his usual 10 or so touches per game, while Shonn Greene will steal goal line carries as the season progresses.
It doesn’t really matter who starts at WR2 opposite Jerricho Cotchery, but Chansi Stuckey reportedly is getting first-team reps right now.
Edge: Sanchez (QB), Jones (RB), Cotchery and Stuckey (WR1, WR2)
Oakland Raiders starting quarterback – JaMarcus Russell vs Jeff Garcia
In theory, there’s no reason why Russell should be threatened after he showed improvement last season. However, coach Tom Cable is thought to favor a West-Coast offense, and that setup caters much more to Garcia than it does to Russell. Expect Russell to edge Garcia on day 1 but he could lose the job quickly.
San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback – Shaun Hill vs Alex Smith
This is one of the most interesting battles in NFL training camp betting. Hill flashed some potential late last season, helping the 49ers win four of their final five games. However, the toolsier Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick, reportedly looks fully recovered from his serious shoulder injury. Expect Hill to win out on the strength of last year’s performance, but he’ll have a short leash.
San Francisco 49ers starting wide receivers – Isaac Bruce vs Michael Crabtree vs Josh Morgan
It’s only a matter of time before Crabtree gets a long look as a featured wideout, but he’ll be punished for holding out. It would be a shock if he starts in Week 1.
Edge: Bruce and Morgan
Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback – Josh Freeman vs Byron Leftwich vs Luke McCown
Perhaps the most publicized battle in NFL training camp betting may become the least relevant, as the Bucs will suck no matter what this season. Freeman is the quarterback of the future but management doesn’t want him starting early. The Bucs will probably give McCown the first shot at starting according to camp buzz, but his hold on the job is hardly strong.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting running back – Earnest Graham vs Derrick Ward
There’s probably no real loser in this battle. Both guys will get touches – Graham around the goal line and Ward in the passing game – but the starting running back workload is up for grabs. Graham reportedly has the edge right now but I think the more talented Ward will overtake him by week 1.
For more on NFL training camp odds and sports betting lines, keep reading the Betting Edge at betonline.com.
Stan Simmons first tasted football through the college game, but his football handicapping has strictly focused on the professional sport. Not many people devote as much time to the NFL as Simmons. For six days a week he works, labors and handicaps the sport, and on the seventh he rests as the games play out. Thoughts or questions?