Though we’re not positive when the NFL will come back, there’s belief among oddsmakers that when it does a Detroit Lions star could be fixing for a nice comeback of his own.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is listed among the favorites to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year this fall, rating with top five odds for the award at three major US sportsbooks.
New Tampa Bay tight end Rob Gronkowski is the favorite to win the award, according to William Hill and DraftKings, with FanDuel listing Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the best bet.
Stafford won the award in 2011, the last time he was rebounding from missed time. Quarterbacks have won the award for two straight seasons, as Andrew Luck of Indianapolis won in 2018 and Ryan Tannehill of Tennessee won last season.
Stafford was rolling until back injury last season
Although Stafford maintained all last season that they were unrelated, a back injury hampered the quarterback for a second straight year.
Last fall, Stafford had his streak of 136 consecutive starts snapped, missing the final eight games of the season.
At the time, Stafford was playing some of the best football of his 11-year career. His quarterback rating of 106.0 was a career-high as was his 8.6 yards per passing attempt.
Stafford threw 19 touchdowns last season and only five interceptions.
The Lions, meanwhile, were 3-4-1 with Stafford shining and did not win a game in the entire second half of the season with No. 9 sidelined.
Stafford armed with weapons for 2020 season
The broken bones in Stafford’s back healed slower than anticipated, but he’s reportedly made a full recovery.
In addition, the Lions have boosted his array of weapons, adding running back D’Andre Swift in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, a fellow Georgia alumnus.
Swift is added to a talented crop of targets including wide receivers Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola, running back Kerryon Johnson and tight end T.J. Hockenson, who could be primed for a breakout after injuries hampered his rookie season.
Offensive line will have to take shape with newcomers
Stafford’s offensive line has undergone a shuffle on the right side, as starters Graham Glasgow at guard and Rick Wagner at tackle signed elsewhere as free agents.
General manager Bob Quinn added some candidates to replace them with tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai signing from Philadelphia in free agency and drafting a pair of guards in consecutive picks: Jonah Jackson of Ohio State (third round, No. 75) and Logan Stenberg of Kentucky (fourth round, No. 121).
In-house candidates for both spots include Tyrell Crosby, Kenny Wiggins, Oday Aboushi and Beau Benzschawel.
The unit allowed 43 sacks last season, 19th-most in the NFL and three more than the league average.
Other candidates could be primed for comeback
Gronkowski is back after a year-long retirement, while Roethlisberger played two games last season before an elbow injury shelved him.
Other candidates for a comeback, according to oddsmakers, include J.J. Watt, Cam Newton and Alex Smith.
Watt, the three-time Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year for the Houston Texans, had his season end early last year because of a torn pectoral. His odds to win Comeback Player of the Year are plus-600 at William Hill (third), plus-550 at FanDuel (third), and plus-700 at DraftKings (tied third).
Newton is still a free agent but the former MVP played just two games last season because of a foot injury after shoulder injuries derailed him in 2018 for the Carolina Panthers. He’s plus-1,000 at William Hill (sixth), plus-750 at FanDuel (fourth) and plus-2,000 at DraftKings (tied eighth).
Smith hasn’t played since a gruesome injury with the Washington Redskins in 2018. The quarterback is not with a team but is listed with 22/1 (William Hill), 14/1 (FanDuel) and 7/1 (DraftKings) odds.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown, still not with a team after a tumultuous 2019 calendar year, is listed at 25/1 by William Hill and FanDuel, and is tabbed at 20/1 by DraftKings.