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Drew Brees, Le’Veon Bell Favorites in NFL Season Leader Props

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When it comes to betting props on NFL individual leaders, the tried-and-true works for picking a passing yards leader while rushing and receiving leaders are a little more random.

With training camps set to open in a matter of days, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a +300 favorite to lead the NFL in passing yards at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Brees has led (or co-led) the NFL in aerial yards five times in the last six seasons, with the lone exception coming in 2013 when Peyton Manning complied a NFL-record 5,477.

Brees will still have Willie Snead and Michael Thomas as outlets for his passes and, assuming the Saints’ defense stays near the bottom of the league, will have the opportunity to get into a few offensive shootouts.

The Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan (+400) and New England Patriots’ Tom Brady (+500) are the next two on the board. Ryan and the Falcons are likely to face a tougher schedule than what it turned out they had in 2016. Brady has only led the NFL in yards once, in 2007, and would be the oldest player to do so if he succeeds this season.

Based on 2016 won-loss records, the Indianapolis Colts and QB Andrew Luck (+1400) have the easiest schedule in the league, which could lead to Luck putting up some big numbers against softer competition. Another valid darkhorse play is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston (+1600), since he will have a 1-2 punch at receiver with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson and a team that still relies on being pass-heavy.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell (+300) and Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott (+350) are tightly bunched atop the NFL rushing champion futures board. Bell will no doubt be among the leaders in yards from scrimmage per game, but he’s only played 16 games once in four seasons. While there hasn’t been a back-to-back rushing leader in 10 years, Elliott will be running behind an excellent Dallas offensive line.

The Los Angeles Rams’ third-year workhorse Todd Gurley (+2000) will be in a new offensive system and, hopefully for the Rams, will be better complemented by second-year QB Jared Goff in the passing phase. That would give Gurley a fairer shot at breaking big runs on the regular.

Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (+400) and Atlanta’s Julio Jones (+400) are co-favorites on the odds to tally the most receiving yards, with the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham (+500) also coming in highly touted. Brown had two fewer targets per game in 2016 than in ’15, meaning he might be a less high-volume receiver now that he is 29. Jones has a receiving title from 2015, but last season the Falcons were most efficient when they spread the ball around.

Last year, the Indianapolis Colts’ T.Y. Hilton (+1200 this year) led the league in yards after being listed at +3300 in the preseason. Among the potential 2017 replicants are New England’s Brandin Cooks (+3300), who is expected to be the field-stretching target the Patriots have managed to do without since the Randy Moss days a decade ago. The aforementioned Mike Evans (+1200) is also close to a sure thing to get 11-12 targets per game in Tampa Bay and the continued development of Winston could make him a 1,500-yard receiver.

The last 12 league leaders in receiving yardage have been less than 30 years old at the start of the season. That trend has been consistent dating to the mid-1990s, with 19 of the last 21 receiving leaders being players who were no older than 29 at the start of the season.

The 146th Open Championship Odds Preview

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Being the favorite is a millstone more often than not at the British Open, which should give one pause when looking at Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at the top of the futures board for the third major tournament of the season.

Johnson and Spieth are 1A and 1B to win the year’s third major at Royal Birkdale this weekend, with each listed at +1400 on the odds to win the British Open at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

However, no pre-tournament favorite has won the British Open – or the Open championship as Britons call it – since 2001. With its tight fairways, Birkdale puts a premium on driving accuracy more than distance and also rewards good putting.

The latter has been Johnson’s bugaboo this season, plus he hasn’t finished higher than ninth at the British Open since 2011. Spieth has struggled with accuracy off the tee – where he’s ranked 121st on the PGA Tour – and that bodes poorly for winning at Birkdale.

Rickie Fowler (+1600), with six career top-fives in majors, seems ready for a breakthrough and, of course, is very straight off the tee. Fowler is probably the best player to never win a major now that Sergio Garcia (+1800), who has traditionally played well at this event, has a green jacket from the Masters. As always, what will make or break Garcia is his putting.

Usual suspects such as Jon Rahm (+1600), Rory McIlroy (+2000), Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Rose (+2000) are also high up on the board at online betting sites.

It might be a little much to expect the 22-year-old Rahm to stay even-keel across four rounds on a very challenging course. Within that price range, Matsuyama might be the best play – the consensus is that winning a major is just a matter of when for the Japanese star, and Birkdale could be bountiful for a player in the top 10 of the PGA in greens in regulation, holes per eagle and birdies average.

Tommy Fleetwood (+2200), who grew up two miles from Birkdale, has had a meteoric rise to 14th in the world rankings, but being the hometown rooting interest often means a more intense spotlight that can unravel a golfer mentally.

Defending champion Henrik Stenson (+2500) is being offered at an enticing price because he’s missed the cuts in four of his last five PGA events. However, Stenson’s Swedish countryman, Alexander Noren (+4000), is a bona fide darkhorse who has six wins on the European Tour over the last two years. Noren is the better play of the two Swedes.

Brooks Koepka (+3300) will be playing his first tournament since winning the U.S. Open a month ago, so it’s hard to know how sharp he’ll be technically. Observers across the pond see similarities in game between Koepka and Peter Uihlein (+12500), who’s among the darkhouses.

One small trend of note is that the last three players to win the British Open at Birkdale finished seventh or higher in the Masters that year and made the cut at the U.S. Open. Garcia, Paul Casey (+3300), Matt Kuchar (+5000) and Kevin Chappell (+15000) are the only ones teeing it up this week who meet that criteria. With his four top-12 finishes since March and some sharp work with the irons all season, Casey could surprise.

MLB Home Run Derby odds boil down to Stanton, Judge

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The combination of a home ballpark and being the only returning power hitter in the field has put Giancarlo Stanton atop the MLB Home Run Derby futures board – albeit barely.

Defending champion Stanton, of the hometown Miami Marlins, is listed as a +165 betting favorite to capture MLB’s annual contest of clout at Marlins Park on Monday night at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

New York Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge, who has an MLB-best 30 home runs and is threatening to take down Mark McGwire’s rookie record, is listed right behind at +175. By virtue of having had more home runs on June 15, Stanton is the No. 1 seed, whereas Judge is No. 2.

Eight players will be participating in a bracket-style timed event, where each player has four minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. Hitters get another 30 seconds if they hit two home runs measured at more than 440 feet.

Stanton, who bashed 61 big flies during the 2016 contest at San Diego’s Petco Park, will try to become just the third repeat champion and third player to win in his home park. Judge will try to be the first rookie to win since 1986.

Either player is a worthy play, but there’s far, far greater value in picking one of the darkhorses. For the quarter-finals, Staton faces that other Yankees rookie, Gary Sanchez (+1400 to win). Sanchez has the longest average home-run distance in the field (422 feet to Judge’s 415 and Stanton’s 410) and could be an early bracket-buster. Upsetting Stanton would throw the field wide-open.

The Minnesota Twins’ Miguel Sano (+1000) and Kansas City Royals’ Mike Moustakas (+1400) meet in the other quarter-final in the “Stanton region” of the bracket. Sano (average home run distance of 414 feet) should also be considered a darkhorse.

Judge faces the other Marlins representative, Justin Bour (+1400), in his quarter-final. Bour has an average home-run distance of 398 feet – tied with Moustakas for lowest in the field – and might be a bit of a sacrificial lamb up against Judge.

Meantime, Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger (+900 on the 2017 Home Run Derby odds) and the Colorado Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon (+2000) meet in an all-NL West quarter-final. Bellinger has enlisted his father Clay Bellinger as his pitcher and will be the fourth competitor to have his dad serving up meatballs. One of the other three (Robinson Cano in 2011) won and another (Bryce Harper in 2015) was runner-up.

Blackmon, meantime, faces a potential Bellinger-Judge tag team just to make the final, so his high price is probably a red herring.