May 20, 2024

Caddyshack is widely regarded as one of the best comedic films of all time. Between Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray and a whole cast of other characters, it stands the test of time.

I’m sure everybody has their own personal favorite scene or moment from the film; mine is Bill Murray’s monologue as he takes aim at some flowers. The delivery is on point, as is the narration of him “getting all of that one” with a 2 iron and hitting it 105 yards. A Cinderella story, coming out of nowhere, about to become the Masters champion (while highlighting the irony of a groundskeeper literally destroying the grounds he’s working on).

But he’s right. Everyone fantasizes and dramatizes the tale of the underdog. The best sports movies and beloved sports stories tend to come from unheralded players and teams making the most of their opportunity on the biggest stage.

Which is why the Joshua Dobbs story could very well be the story of the 2023 NFL season. I’ve spent a few days trying to decide which part of his story I like best, and I still can’t pick because every piece makes the story that much better.

  • Maybe it’s because he’s a 28-year old journeyman QB finally getting his first chance as a full time starter and thriving

  • He’s also a rocket scientist that interned at NASA while on the Jaguars practice squad a few years ago (NASA has now dubbed him “the Passtronaut” which is one of the best nicknames ever)

  • His TikTok game is elite, including a montage of his incredible play with the Vikings accompanied by Creed’s “Higher”

  • Or is it the fact that his 368 rushing yards ranks second among QBs, only behind Lamar Jackson?

Or maybe it’s because he’s replacing Kirk Cousins on a team with playoff aspirations and is 2-0 – including an upset win where he was thrown into action and hadn’t taken a single snap with his new OL after being with the team for 4 days.

Or is it the fact that this isn’t even the biggest upset he’s pulled this season, having beaten the Cowboys as double-digit underdogs to give the Cardinals their first win of the season and cause chaos in survivor pools nationwide?

The 28-year old phenom has been on 7 teams in his 7-year career, including 5 in the last calendar year. His first career touchdown came in December. And now he has the Vikings at 6-4, riding a 5-game winning streak, just 1.5 games out of first in the division.

Dobbs is currently +550 to win Comeback Player of the Year, and somehow 100-1 to win MVP (tied with A.J. Brown and Justin Herbert for the 14th-shortest odds). Can we ride with the Passtronaut when award season rolls around? How can we handicap the Vikings futures?


Is it a trap?

Comeback player of the year

The only players ahead of Dobbs in the CPOY market are Damar Hamlin at -200 and Tua Tagovailoa at +320. In fact, those are the only players under 20-1, with good reason. You’ll notice that 5 of the top 6 are quarterbacks; that’s likely because a signal-caller has won the award in 5 straight seasons and 11 of the last 15.

Baker Mayfield fits the mold of Geno Smith‘s win from last season, but Smith led the league in completion percentage and hadn’t been a starter in 7 seasons. He also had the season-opening narrative on Monday Night Football where he delivered the epic line “They wrote me off… I ain’t write back though”. Mayfield has started 10+ games every year and is league-average at best this season.

Aaron Rodgers won’t win the award off 1-2 games regardless of how well he plays. This is a regular-season award and if the Jets are still in playoff contention, their defense will be carrying them. And Lamar Jackson only missed 5 games last season and played relatively well – there’s no “narrative” or media build-up to back him.

So it’s a three-player race. Tua only missed 4 games, but the discourse all offseason was about how he’d be able to return to the field and if his career was over. All he’s done since then is lead the NFL in passing touchdowns on the league’s most prolific offense.

And that’s where I think +550 is a little thin to bet on Dobbs winning the award. The story is amazing, and I’m rooting for him to keep up the pace. But he still went 1-7 with Arizona and is a longshot to finish the season with a winning record, and his underdog story exists because people were unaware of him, not because people had written him off. Peyton Hillis and Kurt Warner didn’t win the award when they rose from obscurity either.

Dobbs was a 100-1 longshot at ESPN BET before being traded to the Vikings, having played all season as a starting QB and pulling off the biggest upset of the season. He moved to 9-1 after the Falcons win, an increase from 1% implied odds to 10%. After the Saints win, +550 odds now imply a 15% chance. But the Vikings were only 3.5 and 2.5-point underdogs in those games. ESPN Analytics gave Minnesota a 49% and 50% chance to win those games.

With 2 players coming back from much more serious adversity (the kind that traditionally wins the award), and one of them ranking among the league’s elite QBs, I would still want closer to 15-1 or 20-1 odds if I were to bet on Dobbs to win Comeback Player of the Year.

NFC North Forecast

No need to fret, I’m still more than happy to take a crazy bet on Dobbs continuing his success!

The Vikings are 1.5 games out of first place, and they play the Lions twice in the final 3 weeks. The division will likely still be up for grabs at that point, since Minnesota has an easier rest-of-season schedule than the Lions (next 3 games: Broncos, Bears, Raiders).

All 4 of the team’s losses have come by 1 score (hello regression!) and Justin Jefferson should be back in the coming weeks as well. ESPN Analytics gives the Vikings a 22% chance to win the North, which is great value on the 11% implied odds we get from +850 (and the Lions aren’t finishing 3rd/4th).

Think of it this way: if Dobbs is going to win Comeback Player, he’s going to need to keep winning games. And if he keeps winning, I’ll happily take the +850 instead of the +550 listed above, especially since there’s a chance Minnesota wins the division but the voters have already decided Damar Hamlin is winning the award (he is the odds-on favorite, after all).


The Bets to Make

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns (-1, 32.5)
Sunday 1 p.m. ET, First Energy Stadium, Cleveland

The Browns could really use a QB like Dobbs with Deshaun Watson out for the rest of the season. Both teams are 6-3, a half-game out of first, and are fighting tooth-and-nail for every win.

Instead, we have a total currently set at 32.5 over at ESPN BET, which would be the 2nd-lowest total of any game in the last decade. Only last season’s Saints-Browns game on Christmas Eve was lower (32) and the temperature was 6 degrees at kickoff.

I’m leaning towards the under and the Steelers ML (+100). Dorian Thompson-Robinson looked overmatched against the Ravens in his NFL debut (0 TD, 3 Int, 4 sacks) and the Steelers will bring at least that much pressure. Pittsburgh is 2-3 against teams averaging 20+ PPG (including the Browns), and 4-0 against teams under that mark. With such a low total, my only worry for the over would be a Steelers defensive touchdown, which we saw 2 of in the first meeting.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5, 45,5)
Monday 8:15 p.m. ET, GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

Wow, another “game of the year!” Whether you call it the Taylor Swift Bowl, the Kelce Bowl, the Andy Reid Bowl, or just the Super Bowl rematch, it’s almost certain to live up to the hype.

I know we’ve been riding the primetime under trend (25-7 this season and 10-1 on MNF), but this total is a LOT lower than we would traditionally expect from these two teams and I think the public narrative is finally hopping on board to steam this total down.

That being said, I think the Eagles playing without Dallas Goedert, coupled with Jalen Hurts playing at less than 100% (a bye week may help longterm but he’s not 2022 Jalen) has me leaning to Kansas City covering the 2.5-point spread (-115). The Chiefs defense is outperforming Patrick Mahomes, allowing the 2nd-fewest points per game in the league, and is even better at home, where they’ve held opponents to just 4 offensive scores prior to the 4th quarter all season.

If you’re not as confident in the Chiefs to cover, but think it will be a close game, try this same-game parlay out: Chiefs +5 and Mahomes over 1.5 Pass TD (-120). Mahomes has thrown for multiple scores against every team except the Jets and the Broncos, and the Eagles tilt opponents to the air. Tacking on a relatively safe leg to a 7-point swing in the spread for roughly the same juice as the original bet? I’ll take that every day.

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