National Football League
2024-25 NFL odds: Can Sam Darnold complete redemption story?
National Football League

2024-25 NFL odds: Can Sam Darnold complete redemption story?

Published Jun. 19, 2024 9:09 a.m. ET

By Will Hill
FOX Sports NFL Betting Analyst

Every February, the NFL holds its awards ceremony the week of the Super Bowl, handing out the MVP of the league, the Rookie of the Year on offense and defense, and crowning a Coach of the Year. There’s also an Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year. 

Those awards can be debated. Sure, reasonable (and unreasonable) minds can differ on who is worthy of winning in each category. 

But there’s one award that is above all when it comes to controversy and disagreeing opinions, and that's the Comeback Player of the Year.


Last year, Bills safety Damar Hamlin was as high as -1000 odds (you had to risk $10 to win $1) at certain books during the middle of the season. Hamlin famously returned to the field after suffering cardiac arrest on Monday Night Football the previous season, an accomplishment that many assumed would clinch the award.

However, around Thanksgiving, the Browns signed veteran quarterback Joe Flacco, a transaction most fans probably weren’t even aware of when occurred. After all, it was only a deal for Flacco to join the practice squad. 

But a couple of weeks later, Flacco saw the field for the first time on Dec. 3 against the Rams in a 37-19 loss in L.A. The following week, Flacco notched his first win, and eventually Flacco, who was a 250-1 moonshot to win this award, was named Comeback Player of the Year after helping the Browns reach the playoffs.

The prior year, the two main candidates for this award were Saquon Barkley and Geno Smith. Barkley was coming off of a season-ending injury and led the Giants to the playoffs with an outstanding season. Smith wasn’t really coming back from anything other than a handful of mediocre seasons. 

Smith won the award anyway. 

As we look ahead to this year, the lesson is that Comeback Player of the Year is vague. There are no defined criteria, so it’s hard to handicap, but it’s fun to bet because the lack of guidelines makes for a wide-open race. 

Aaron Rodgers has the shortest odds entering this season at just slightly above even money (bet $10 to win $10). With how unpredictable this award is, I don’t want to take the favorite. 

Let’s look a little further down the board. 

Sam Darnold is 20-1, and according to Draftkings Sportsbook, is a strong favorite to start at quarterback in Week 1 for the Vikings. Maybe rookie J.J. McCarthy eventually unseats Darnold, but there have been reports out of Vikings camp that the team sees untapped potential in Darnold. 

J.J. McCarthy 'squarely behind' Sam Darnold on Vikings depth chart

Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell has a reputation for being able to develop quarterbacks and maximize their potential, and Darnold has the surrounding weapons to flourish, with wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison, as well as free-agent addition Aaron Jones at running back.

The Vikings defense also played extremely well under coordinator Brian Flores in 2023, so whoever plays quarterback will be in position to succeed. 

We’ve learned from the history of this award that it’s open to interpretation and the best story is what is often what wins it. It’s been six years now since the Jets traded up to draft Darnold with the third pick of the draft, and this is now Darnold’s fourth team. 

If Darnold can win the job and lead the Vikings to the playoffs with a talented roster alongside him, he is going to be viewed as a great redemption story, and will have a very realistic chance of winning the award at 20-1. 

Smith won the award in 2023 as a quarterback who turned his career around years after being drafted by the Jets. Let’s see if Darnold can replicate that path.

PICK: Sam Darnold 20-1 (DraftKings Sportsbook) 

Will Hill, a contributor on the Bears Bets Podcast, has been betting on sports for over a decade. He is a betting analyst who has been a host on VSiN, as well as the Goldboys Network.

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