Musburger: The preseason NFL storylines I'm watching


Welcome to the year of the Moving Van Quarterback. Eleven NFL teams -- more than a third of the league -- will open with a new signal-caller. Denver (Russell Wilson), Indianapolis (Matt Ryan), Washington (Carson Wentz) and Carolina (expecting Baker Mayfield to beat out Sam Darnold) will be starting quarterbacks who opened on other teams a year ago. And I expect Jimmy Garoppolo to be starting somewhere before the season hits Thanksgiving, if not sooner.

The AFC East is the only division without a new starting QB on one of its four teams.

The Moving Van Quarterback headlines handicapping 2022.

A year ago, I liked the Los Angeles Rams to contend in the NFC because of the addition of quarterback Matt Stafford, but in the AFC, I didn't give the Cincinnati Bengals a chance of making it to the Super Bowl. I underestimated Joe Burrow.  My best bet of the year was nailing a Rams' December future wager to win the Super Bowl and then taking the Bengals and the points in the game itself. A rare middle which offset some of the losses during the season. Your friendly reminder: Don't just bet favorites.

The Detroit Lions finished 3-11-1 but against the spread they cashed 11 times against six losses. Only the Dallas Cowboys (13-4) and the Green Bay Packers (12-5) were better ATS, and both made the playoffs. As the season progresses, keep an eye on undervalued teams like the Lions, remembering that 90% of losing teams will have a better ATS record than won-loss record. Make jokes about bad franchises -- like Jacksonville -- but don't automatically bet against dogs, as several howl every week.

Speaking of Burrow, remember that only one Super Bowl loser (Dallas) ever made it back to the big game the following year. The hangover is real and, unfortunately, Burrow already underwent surgery to remove his appendix. Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs started 2-3 after their Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay. I'm looking beyond Cincinnati this season.

The Los Angeles Chargers are my pick to make a serious run in the AFC. Quarterback Justin Herbert is one of the best young guns in the NFL. In the 35-32 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders -- which ended Los Angeles’ playoff hopes, Herbert was unbelievable down the stretch. After a field goal put the Raiders ahead, 29-14, with 8:29 remaining, Herbert converted six fourth downs, including fourth-and-21 for a touchdown. For the season, he threw for 5,014 yards and 38 touchdowns. Add Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson to the defense and the Chargers can upset the Chiefs in the brutal AFC West.

In the NFC, I'm backing the Dallas Cowboys as a serious contender. The media obsesses about the failures of head coach Mike McCarthy but his staff includes Dan Quinn (DC), Kellen Moore (OC), Jerry Philbin (O-line), John Fassel (special teams) and Doug Nussmeier (QBs). The staff is simply one of the best in the league.

A year ago, the Cowboys went 6-0 against NFC East rivals. They outscored Philadelphia, Washington and the Giants by a combined score of 240-to-107. That's domination and I don't see a serious challenger in the division.

Dak Prescott came back strong from a compound fracture of his right ankle, throwing for 4,449 yards and 37 touchdowns. The Cowboys traded Amari Cooper and his $20 million dollar salary, but owner Jerry Jones watched the success of the Rams, acquiring Odell Beckham and Von Miller during the season. Look for Jones to open Dallas’ hefty wallet before the trade deadline.

Like you, I can't wait for Thursday, Sept 8 and Week 1. Cash some tickets because that's what it's all about!

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