Saints, Panthers in a Key NFC South Showdown While the Seminoles Visit Louisville in College Football

Newton
Newton
Cam Newton needs to engineer some points if the Panthers are going to beat the Saints tonight.

Thursday night brings two very big games to us with one fro the National Football League and one from College Football. Even though both teams are under .500, tonight’s game between New Orleans and Carolina is for the lead in the NFC South.

Meanwhile, the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles invade Papa John’s Stadium to play ACC newcomer Louisville. If anyone is expecting the ‘Noles to walk out with an easy win then they need to remember the Cardinals are not exactly new to the big game scene.

New Orleans (-3) at Carolina (O/U 48.5) – I take no pride in saying the NFC South is the worst, or at least the most disappointing, division in professional football. At 3-4-1, the Panthers currently lead while the under-achieving Saints are 3-4. New Orleans appears to have gotten back on track now with a big win over Green Bay but that was in the Superdome where the Saints always play well.

This game is on the road though and if the Panthers’ defense plays as well as they did against Seattle then they’ll have a fighting chance. The problem is the inconsistency on offense. New Orleans is going to score at some point but the Panthers must score some points of their own and not put all the pressure on their defense to keep in the game.

Look for Carolina to try and establish the running game early to give Cam Newton more time to find his receivers. Saints’ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will of course be bringing the heat so the Panthers’ offensive line has to be up to the task.

Trends: New Orleans is 3-9 against the spread in their last 12 games against Carolina… The Panthers are 4-2 straight up in their last six games at home against the Saints… The total has gone UNDER in nine of New Orleans’ last 11 games on the road against Carolina… The total has gone UNDER in 10 of the Panthers’ last 14 games at home.

Key Injuries: NO – Jimmy Graham Shoulder QUEST, CAR – DeAngelo Williams Ankle QUEST

The Pick: As bad as the Saints have been defensively, I think they are starting to put some things together. Take them to cover and the UNDER.

College Football

Fisher
I think Jimbo Fisher and his Seminoles are in for a battle tonight.

Florida State (-3.5) at Louisville (O/U 50.5) – When I initially started writing this piece, the ‘Noles were favored by as many as seven points. I’m not sure what is causing the rapid drop other than the issues with running back Karlos Williams but I’m not sure even that has the power to move the line like this.

Either way, I expect FSU to struggle with the Cards. Louisville is no stranger to big games and Bobby Petrino isn’t either. The Cards most recent of their two losses was 23-17 at Clemson. The Seminoles needed overtime at home to defeat Clemson by the same exact score albeit was without Jameis Winston.

Cards’ QB Will Gardner has a completion percentage under 55% but has thrown for 11 touchdowns versus just two interceptions. If takes care of the ball Louisville will be right there in the end.

Trends: The Seminoles are 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games… The Cardinals are unbeaten in their last five games at home… The total has gone OVER in seven of FSU’s last eight games on the road… The total has gone UNDER in five of Louisville’s last seven games at home.

Key Injuries: FSU C Austin Barron, Out-Arm

The Pick: I suspect the Seminoles will have some “Notre Dame hangover” but I think they score late to cover. Take the UNDER as well.

Saints Unbeatable at Home This Season

A showdown on Bourbon Street takes place this week as the San Francisco 49ers visit the New Orleans Saints in an NFC showdown. San Francisco has not done well of late against top competition, while the Saints have been unbeatable at home.

Eventually the public will come around and bet on the Saints, as betting against New Orleans at home is not a solid bet of late.

Nevertheless, the Saints opened on sites such as Bovada as a favorite by less than 3 points over the visiting 49ers, who are suffering with offensive issues.

This season the Saints are undefeated at home and have covered each of the past 14 spreads at home as a favorite under Sean Payton as head coach. The Saints are 21-5 ATS overall in their past 26 games at home.

The 49ers come to New Orleans following a touch physical loss to Carolina at home. Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback has had difficulty against the better defenses he has played against this year.

San Francisco is 6-3 SU. Their three loses have been against Carolina, Indianapolis and Seattle.

The current line has New Orleans favored by 3 points with the point total sitting on 47.5.

Check the odds right up to game time on sites like topbet, betonline and sportsbook.com as both teams have players injured who might miss the game.

San Francisco has defeated New Orleans the last two seasons. At home during the 2011-12 playoffs, the 49ers won 36-32. Last season, during the regular season, the 49ers beat the Saints 31-21 in New Orleans.

The 49ers are 10-4 ATS over their past 14 games following a loss. The OVER has cashed out in 15 of the past 20 San Francisco games.

The 49ers have lacked a passing attack this season but are averaging over 147 yards a game on the ground. On defense, the 49ers are No. 9 versus the pass and No. 12 versus the run.

If Drew Brees does not get sacked or overly pressured, the Saints will be able to move up and down the field. The running game for the Saints has come to life, which helps the passing attack as well.

On defense, the Saints are weak against the run as they allowed 198 yards by the New York Jets.

The Saints are beating opponents at home by an average of 20 points, while the 49ers are having problems with playoff caliber teams. The 49ers are 1-3 against those opponents, and have just a combined 19 points in their three losses.

Pick: Saints 35-27

I Expect a Lot of Points in the Games I Like in the NFL Today

Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger
The Steelers must protect Ben Roethlisberger in order to beat Buffalo today.

I’ve got four games I’m watching today and I expect a lot of points to be scored in all of them. Check them out.

Buffalo (+3) at Pittsburgh – The last time the Buffalo Bills left the city of Pittsburgh with a victory, a guy named O.J. Simpson had just reeled off over 200 plus yards rushing. That’s the mid-1970’s for those scoring at home. I find that tidbit interesting because the Bills come into Heinz Field today with a very good rushing attack and the Steelers are having all kinds of trouble stopping the run.

The positive for the Steelers is that despite a porous defense, coordinator Dick LeBeau is 16-2 against rookie quarterbacks and E.J. Manuel gets the start today after missing several weeks with an injury.

Buffalo enters 0-5 against the spread in their last five trips to the Steel City. Pittsburgh’s inability to protect Ben Roethlisberger and the Bills’ running attack tells me otherwise though. Take the Bills in Pittsburgh.

Dallas (+7) at New Orleans – Saints’ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan welcomes his former team to the Big Easy today. Dallas comes in with the NFC East lead which might not be saying a whole considering how bad the division is. Dallas pulled out a huge win last week over Minnesota in the final seconds while the Saints were struggling to keep Drew Brees protected in a loss to the New York Jets.

Ryan has worked wonders with the Saints defensively and his unit will be challenged by Tony Romo and a crew of good receivers. The Saints will be happy to be back in the dome where the offense clearly runs better. Dallas is 1-5 against the spread in their last six games on the road in New Orleans.

I expect a lot of points and with the over/under listed at 50 take the over. The Cowboys seem play close games so I like them with the points but New Orleans to win the game.

Lynch
I expect large doses of Marshawn Lynch today in Atlanta.

Seattle (-4.5) at Atlanta – This match-up had so much potential back at the beginning of the season but my how things have changed. This is a rematch of a great divisional playoff game from a year ago won by the Falcons but I don’t see that happening today.

The Seahawks top-rated defense will continue to cause problems for Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan who has been a turnover machine of late. He is supposed to get Roddy White back today but I don’t know how healthy he really is. Offensively for Seattle, I expect large doses of Marshawn Lynch and a nice game from Russell Wilson because Atlanta just can’t pressure the quarterback.

The Falcons enter at 2-6 against the spread in their last eight home games against Seattle. Despite the one o’clock start, I expect the Seahawks to cover today.

Denver (-7) at San Diego – We really don’t know quite what to expect from the Denver Broncos today. They come off their bye-week with their head coach John Fox in Charlotte. He is recovering from heart surgery. That means defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is the interim coach. What I think you’ll see happen is that Peyton Manning will take even more control of the offense.

San Diego is coming off of a very frustrating overtime loss to Washington. Philip Rivers is playing much better under offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt than he did in previous years under Norv Turner. Look for balls to be flying most of the day in Southern California because both defenses give up significant passing yards.

The over/under today is 55 and you’d be wise to go with the over. The Broncos are 5-9-4 against the spread in their last 18 games in San Diego. Look for lots of points today and take San Diego to keep it within seven.

My Super Bowl Picks for Your Consideration

Brees
Brees
I like Drew Brees and the Saints to get hot late in the season and make a run to the Super Bowl.

Predicting the Super Bowl participants used to be a fairly easy proposition. Long before the days of free agency and the salary cap, all one had to do was look at rosters, consider coaches and make their selection. In the 1960’s, the Green Bay Packers were always a safe bet. In the ’70’s, you could pick amongst the Steelers, Dolphins, Raiders and Cowboys and feel confident.

In the decade of the 1980’s, you felt good about San Francisco and Denver and then in ’90’s teams like the Redskins, Bills and Cowboys would give you cause to sleep well at night.

My how things have changed in the National Football League. No longer do we just consider the best roster or the best coach. We know must consider injuries more than ever because of weak depth charts and we must consider ‘strength of schedule’ as well.

Perhaps more important than all of those things though is trying to figure out what teams will be the hottest when the playoffs start. Back in 2005, the Pittsburgh Steelers had to win their final five games just to make the playoffs. They did and then won three playoff games on the road before winning Super Bowl XL.

Not long after, the New York Giants accomplished the same feat and the Green Bay Packers rode a wave of momentum to a Super Bowl XLV victory. The Packers (and Patriots) also serve another point. Both teams recently had historical regular seasons only to be knocked out of the playoffs or Super Bowl by ‘hot teams.’

Baltimore was just such a team last season and although it took a blown coverage in Denver and the usual Peyton Manning choke-job to do it, the won their second Super Bowl title.

For the 2013 season, there are once again a handful of suspects that everyone has on their list of potential Super Bowl participants. San Francisco, Atlanta and Seattle are popular picks in the NFC while Denver, New England and Cincinnati are garnering lots of attention in the AFC.

Fox
John Fox and the Broncos should take advantage of a weak division and roll to a big regular season.

My two participants are a combination of a team I believe will get hot and one that I believe will roll to a great regular season record and home-field advantage.

In the AFC, I like the Denver Broncos to emerge from the pack and represent the conference in Super Bowl XLVIII. Despite the fact that they have to play the NFC East, I believe their division in the AFC West is extremely weak. Although Kansas City will be improved, I still see the Broncos going 6-0 in their division.

While the defense will miss Von Miller for the first six games, the offense should carry them. Denver has five of their first eight games at home and then the schedule lightens up late in the season despite being on the road in four of the final six. They’ll get the Titans, Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders in that span.

I believe you’ll see Denver hosting New England in the AFC title game and advancing with a win.

In the NFC, I like a team to catch fire late and the team I like is the New Orleans Saints. Make no mistake about it; Sean Payton and company have not forgotten their lost season due to ‘BountyGate.’ The offense behind Payton and Drew Brees is loaded with talent at running back, wide receiver and tight end.

The defense will not be dominant but they won’t have to be because of the offensive prowess. Team leader Jonathan Vilma is not 100% and it will take him some time before he is. If they can return to the form that helped to create all those turnovers en route to Super Bowl XLI then I really like them to get back there.

San Francisco and Seattle will both be very good, but I think they will peak early as will Atlanta. I can envision a scenario where New Orleans wins on the road in San Francisco and then defeats Atlanta in the Georgia Dome to advance.

It’s a bit of a long shot, but I like the Saints and Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

New Orleans will make NFC South competitive again

This season, the NFC South will be nothing like it was last season when the Atlanta Falcons dominated.

With the Bounty Scandal behind the New Orleans Saints and additions made to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers, this division could be one of the most competitive in the NFL.

The Falcons remain the favorite to win the division, but one team to look out for is the New Orleans Saints. For the past four seasons, the Saints have alternated the South division title with the Falcons.

Last season New Orleans finished 7-9 and in a three way tie, six games behind the first place Falcons at 13-3. The Saints were 8-8 against the spread and on the over/under finished 10/6.

Starting this season online sportsbooks such as Bovada, topbet, betonline and sportsbook.com have the Saints at 15 to 1 to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy as Super Bowl Champions, 7 to 1 to win the NFC Championship and 15 to 1 to win the NFC South, while the win total for the Saints has been set at 9.

On offense, the Saints are a joy to watch. They have one of the two best offensive units in the NFL. With Drew Brees at quarterback, the team knows their aerial attack is one of the league’s best. Brees just continues to set new records. This season the offense should even improve, if that is possible, with the return to the sideline of Sean Payton the Saints Head Coach.

Brees is an elite quarterback, but has had to press due to his defense not being able to stop opposing offenses. If he is forced to press, he can make mistakes.

This season look for New Orleans to focus more than last season on the running game, as their rushing attack was No. 25 last season, after being No. 6 in 2011. The receiving corps to start the season is not what Brees is used to and that could work against him.

Defensively last season the Saints were horrendous. They did not play the defense they were capable of and ended up giving up more yardage during the season than any other NFL defense in the history of the NFL.

The Saints had problems stopping the most basic rushing and passing plays the entire 16-game schedule.

Things may not get good that quick. The Saints hired Rex Ryan to run the defense, which means it will now be a 3-4 base instead of 4-3. The 3-4 puts a great deal of responsibility on the linebackers and that is where the Saints have been the weakest. Without any good pass rushers in the 3-4 set, the Saints could be giving up huge chunks of yards again come September. At least they cannot get any worse, as that was what they were last season.

Even though the Saints were only 7-9 SU and 8-8 ATS, they did it with no defense to speak of and an offense that knew they needed to score nearly every time they touched the ball.

The Saints division will be tougher this season but they have three tough interdivisional games on the road against New England, Seattle and Chicago.

If I had to bet the wins total of 9.0, I would take the UNDER and I would lay money against them winning the NFC South.

Broncos, Niners Favorites for Super Bowl XLVIII

San Francisco may have fallen at the final hurdle on Sunday night, but bookmakers have installed the team as joint favorites (with Denver) to win next year's Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey.

Before the dust has even settled on the spectacle that was Super Bowl XLVII, bookmakers have released odds relating to Super Bowl XLVIII, to be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Feb. 2, 2014.

Sunday night’s game in New Orleans proved to be something special. From the opening anthems – including a poignant performance by the Sandy Hook Elementary School Choir – through Beyonce’s love it/hate it halftime performance, from a 34-minute power outage to the confetti raining down on the champions, this was a Super Bowl that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

San Francisco and Baltimore put on one heck of a display, with the Ravens jumping out to a 28-6 lead on the first play of the second half, before San Francisco mounted another unthinkable comeback. It came down to the last seconds of the game, with the Ravens managing to hold off the Niners, ultimately going on to lift the Lombardi Trophy.

But football betting is fickle, and before the Ravens can even enjoy the sweet taste of victory, bookmakers are putting a new spin on things and offering odds on next year’s super event.

As it stands, Denver and San Francisco have been installed as the favorites to follow in Baltimore footsteps next season.

After a long and tough season, San Francisco almost made good on 9/1 preseason odds this season. The Northern California side advanced to the Super Bowl – and came within touching distance of a win – having been eliminated at the conference championship stage last season.

Odds makers believe Jim Harbaugh’s side will do even better next year, assigning the team 7/1 odds of winning Super Bowl XLVIII. The Niners will again be in search of Super Bowl victory No. 6, tying that record achieved by Pittsburgh.

The Niners are not alone though. Denver has also been assigned 7/1 odds of winning it all next season.

After a season that showed Peyton Manning – the eventual runner up in MVP voting – still has it and that the Broncos are stacked with talent, bookmakers like the Mile High City side to improve on this year’s conference championship appearance. A win would secure Denver’s third Super Bowl championship.

Third on the bookies’ list is perennial Super Bowl favorite, New England. By the time Super Bowl XLVIII rolls around, it will have been nine years since the Patriots last hoisted the Lombardi trophy aloft, but Brady and Co. are still expected to make noise this coming season.

New England is 15/2 to win next season’s Super Bowl, which puts the side marginally behind the odds (11/2) assigned to the team ahead of this past season.

Another perennial favorite takes the number four spot on the NFL Futures list. Green Bay is considered 10/1 to win the championship. The Packers were not as dominant as some expected this season, but with Aaron Rodgers under center there are few that wouldn’t expect the Wisconsin side to contend at the very least. Another Packers-Niners playoff clash wouldn’t go amiss either.

The top five is rounded out by a pair of sides with 12/1 odds: Baltimore and Seattle.

Baltimore may have won it all on Sunday night but bookmakers believe that the “Team of Destiny” used up most of its luck during the 34-31 victory over San Francisco. But then again, the bookies took a big hit thanks to Baltimore’s horrendous play ahead of the post season that saw the team 28/1 to win the Super Bowl after Week 15. There’s no way the bookies want the Ravens to win again.

It’s hard to imagine Baltimore won’t get a deal done that keeps Joe Flacco under center, but without Ray Lewis – and perhaps Ed Reed (retirement?) – the side will have a few spots to bolster if it’s to make a push.

Meanwhile, Seattle is a surprise entrant in the top five (which is actually a top six). Behind rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks were certainly one of the surprise packages this season, but most will be questioning whether Pete Carroll’s side can repeat this season’s success. Odds makers apparently believe they can.

The NFL Futures’ Top 10 is rounded out by Houston (14/1), Atlanta (18/1), New Orleans (18/1), and Pittsburgh (18/1).

Elsewhere on the Futures list, bookmakers expect Kansas City – this season’s worst team – to improve under the tutelage of Andy Reid. The Chiefs are considered 50/1 to win Super Bowl XLVIII, which makes them tied for 22nd place on the list.

Jacksonville is expected to be the league’s worst team next season. The Jaguars have odds of 150/1 to win it all. Buffalo and Oakland are second worst on the list, with odds of 100/1.

 

Odds to Win Super Bowl XLVIII

Denver Broncos 7/1

San Francisco 49ers 7/1

New England Patriots 15/2

Green Bay Packers 10/1

Baltimore Ravens 12/1

Seattle Seahawks 12/1

Houston Texans 14//1

Atlanta Falcons 18/1

New Orleans Saints 18/1

Pittsburgh Steelers 18/1

Chicago Bears 20/1

New York Giants 20/1

Dallas Cowboys 25/1

Washington Redskins 30/1

Indianapolis Colts 33/1

Cincinnati Bengals 35/1

Detroit Lions 35/1

Minnesota Vikings 35/1

Philadelphia Eagles 35/1

San Diego Chargers 35/1

New York Jets 40/1

Carolina Panthers 50/1

Kansas City Chiefs 50/1

Miami Dolphins 50/1

St. Louis Rams 50/1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 50/1

Arizona Cardinals 66/1

Cleveland Browns 66/1

Tennessee Titans 66/1

Buffalo Bills 100/1

Oakland Raiders 100/1

Jacksonville Jaguars 150/1

Odds supplied by Bovada

NFL Week 16 Games to Watch

In Seattle's biggest game of the year, Russell Wilson will look to lead the team to a win over the 49ers.

The penultimate week of the NFL’s regular season kicks off Saturday night with Atlanta’s trip to Detroit.

The Falcons (10-2, 5-2 road) can secure the No. 1 berth in the NFC with a one win from its final two, while the Lions (4-10, 2-4 home) is looking for the season to be over as quick as possible.

Whilst this particular matchup isn’t likely to set any ratings record, the NFL schedule this weekend does include some must see action, all of which will be pivotal to the playoff pictures.

Here’s Casino Review’s pick of this weekend’s schedule.

 

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks (Sunday, 8:20 PM ET)

Sunday Night Football features what is arguably the biggest clash on the schedule. San Francisco (10-3-1, 5-2 road) looked to be runaway winners of the NFC West early in the year but a surprising Seattle (9-5, 6-0 home) is still within touching distance of last year’s division champions.

The Niners will head to CenturyLink Field knowing that the Seahawks are unbeaten at home and currently in beast mode. The ’hawks have run off 50-point outings the past two weeks, albeit against Arizona and Buffalo, two of the league’s weaker sides.

San Francisco can secure the division by being the first team this season to win in Seattle. The Seahawks can’t win the division this weekend, but a win in this one sets up a must win scenario in Week 16, as the Niners host Arizona and the Seahawks host St. Louis.

Favorite: EVEN Spread: EVEN Total: 40

 

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET)

The Bengals’ trip to Heinz Field could decide which of these sides heads to the postseason. There’s still a possibility that both could, but with the surprising Indianapolis Colts visiting Kansas City this weekend, it looks like the Colts will wrap-up one of the Wild Card berths.

Pittsburgh (7-7, 4-2 home)has struggled of late, dropping four of five, but the Steelers currently have an advantage an advantage over Cincinnati (8-6, 5-2 road); a 24-17 win in Week 7. If the Steelers win this weekend they will leapfrog the Bengals in the standings and lockup two important tiebreakers; the head-to-head and division record.

Cincinnati won’t be rolling over for its division rival though, and with a superior record on the road and five wins in the last six, the Bengals could finish the Steelers for the season, ensuring both they and the Colts play come January.

Favorite: Pittsburgh Spread: 4 Total: 44

 

New York Giants @ Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, 4:25 PM ET)

Not only can Cincinnati secure a postseason berth, there’s still a chance that Cincinnati can win the AFC North. To do so would be at the expense of the Baltimore Ravens.

Already assured of a playoff berth, Baltimore (9-5, 5-2 home) needs a win over the Giants (8-6, 3-4 road) this weekend or a win over Cincinnati next weekend. John Harbaugh’s team would prefer it to be this week.

The Giants meanwhile are in the thick of an NFC East battle that cannot be decided until next week. Tied with Washington and Dallas at 8-6, but tellingly trailing in the divisional record tiebreaker, the Giants need to win this weekend just to keep pace.

Separating these sides is not easy, as shown by the opening odds. Baltimore has lost three straight whilst New York has dropped four of its last six. The Giants however have more riding on this game.

Favorite: EVEN Spread: EVEN Total: 47

 

Washington Redskins @Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET)

Washington (8-6, 4-3 road) can cement its place as division frontrunners with a win over NFC East bottom feeders, Philadelphia (4-10, 2-5 home). A victory would give the Redskins an insurmountable 4-1 record within the division, enough to beat either the Giants or Cowboys were it to come to a tiebreaker. The Eagles will be playing to finish off the bottom of the NFC standings.

Favorite: Washington Spread: 7 Total: 45½

 

New Orleans @ Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET)

Winners of five of the last six, Dallas (8-6, 4-3 home) will simply look to make it to a Week 17 matchup with Washington in a position to win the NFC East. That means matching the Redskins’ result this weekend.

New Orleans (6-8, 2-5 road) is no longer alive in the playoff race but will be looking to secure a .500 record to close out the season. However, the Saints are 1-6 against teams with a winning record this season, which puts the advantage squarely on the side of Dallas. Still, this one is most definitely a make-or-break game for the Cowboys.

Favorite: Dallas Spread: 3 Total: 51

 

Week 16 Schedule

Saturday: (8:30 PM ET) Atlanta @ Detroit

Sunday: (1 PM ET) Oakland @ Carolina | New Orleans @ Dallas | Tennessee @ Green Bay | Minnesota @ Houston | New England @ Jacksonville | Indianapolis @ Kansas City | Buffalo @ Miami | San Diego @  NY Jets | Washington @ Philadelphia | Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh | St. Louis @ Tampa Bay; (4:05 PM ET) Cleveland @ Denver; (4:25 PM ET) Chicago @ Arizona | NY Giants @ Baltimore; (8:20 PM ET) San Francisco @ Seattle

Texans Defeat Sees Patriots Top NFL Futures

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have regained the top spot on the NFL Futures list.

New England’s 42-14 drubbing of Houston on Monday night has seen the side take a solitary lead in the NFL Futures.

Tied with the Texans at 9/2 to win Super Bowl XLVII before the contest, the Patriots are now considered 3/1 favorites to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy on Feb. 3, 2013.

The move sees Bill Belichick’s side become lone favorites to win the Super Bowl for the first time since heading into Week 3. At 11/2, the Patriots were preseason favorites.

New England (10-3, 5-1 home) will be able to build on those odds this weekend as San Francisco (9-3-1, 4-2 road) makes the trip to Foxboro, Mass.

A victory over a second consecutive top-level opponent will almost surely see those Futures odds shorten even more. The Patriots opened as three-point favorites to win the Sunday Night Football clash.

Meanwhile, Houston’s loss means that for the first time since leapfrogging the Patriots ahead of Week 3, the Texans do not have at least a share of the Futures lead. A 5-0 start to the season and 11-1 record after 12 games translated to Houston being the perennial frontrunner this season.

Odds of Houston winning the Super Bowl have now fallen to 6/1. Gary Kubiak’s side finds itself tied with both Denver and San Francisco for second place on the NFL Futures list. All three sides saw their odds drop after last week’s action.

For Denver and San Francisco – two sides that came out of Week 14 with a win – this was more a result of the performance the Patriots put on than their own shortcomings. For Houston, it was a combination of the Patriots’ dominance and the team’s own deficiencies.

Houston (11-2, 5-1 home) faces a tough divisional challenge this weekend as the upstart Indianapolis Colts (9-4, 3-3 road) visit Space City.

The surprising Colts have made steady progress on the NFL Futures. The team’s Super Bowl XLVII odds fell from 75/1 in the preseason to 50/1 last week. Last Sunday’s win over Tennessee saw another 10 points lifted from those odds; the Colts are now 40/1 to win the Big Game.

A win for the Colts will not only put them one step closer to thwarting what looked like a guaranteed division title for the Texans, but it will also see the side rise on the NFL Futures again.

Like Indianapolis, Seattle and Washington have both seen their stock rise as we get that little bit closer to the end of the regular season.

The Seahawks enter Week 15 with 20/1 odds of winning Super Bowl VXLVII. That marker represents an improvement on last week’s 33/1 and the preseason’s 45/1.

The Redskins are just behind with 35/1 odds entering play this weekend. That’s an improvement on last week’s 40/1 odds and the preseason’s 65/1.

Seattle (8-5, 2-5 road) heads to Toronto this Sunday to play Buffalo (5-8, 3-3 home), while Washington (7-6, 3-3 road) travels to Cleveland (5-8, 4-3 home). Both sides have division titles and the postseason on their mind.

At the other end of the NFL Futures, seven more sides were pulled off the board, joining Kansas City and Jacksonville.

Infamously, one of those sides was Philadelphia.

Despite a win over Tampa Bay snapping an eight game losing streak, the Eagles (4-10) found themselves out of the playoff hunt and off the board. Remarkably, Andy Reid’s side had been fourth favorite (at 11/1) in the preseason to win the Super Bowl. A loss to Cincinnati on last night’s edition of Thursday Night Football only adds to what has been a truly horrible season.

Also being ripped off the board were New Orleans (5-8) and Detroit (4-9). Both sides had relatively short Super Bowl odds at the beginning of the season – 18/1 and 25/1 respectively – and like the Eagles, will be looking to end a miserable season.

 

Odds to Win Super Bowl XLVII

New England (3/1)

Denver (6/1)

Houston (6/1)

San Francisco (6/1)

Green Bay (7/1)

Atlanta (9/1)

NY Giants (10/1)

Seattle (20/1)

Baltimore (22/1)

Pittsburgh (30/1)

Chicago (35/1)

Washington (35/1)

Dallas (40/1)

Indianapolis (40/1)

Cincinnati (75/1)

Minnesota (150/1)

St. Louis (250/1)

NY Jets (300/1)

Tampa Bay (500/1)

San Diego (750/1)

Miami (1000/1)

Buffalo (1000/1)

Cleveland (1000/1)

The following sides have been taken off the board:

New Orleans

Detroit

Philadelphia

Tennessee

Arizona

Oakland

Carolina

Kansas City

Jacksonville

Bountygate Player Punishments Quashed

Jonathan Vilma will no longer serve a suspension for his alleged role in the 'Bountygate' scandal.

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned the suspensions handed out to four players as a result of the ‘Bountygate’ scandal, it was revealed Tuesday.

After months of legal wrangling between the league, the players, lawyers and the NFLPA, Tagliabue – brought in to act as a ‘judge’ in the convoluted affair – deemed the New Orleans Saints guilty of offering bounties for ‘big hits’ but decreed that players should not serve the suspensions administered by current NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell.

The decision clears the way for linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith to continue playing this season with New Orleans.

Scott Fujita – now with the Cleveland Browns – was added to the injured reserve list at the end of October with an injured shoulder and will miss the rest of the season despite now being eligible to play.

The fourth player originally reprimanded in the scandal, Anthony Hargrove, is currently a free agent having been released by the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 24.

Vilma had been due to serve a season-long suspension, with Smith (eight games), Hargrove (seven) and Fujita (one) set for shorter bans.

Tagliabue’s findings deemed that the entire ‘Bountygate’ scandal had “has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.”

His ruling went on to state: “[the Saint’s] coaches and managers led a deliberate, unprecedented and effective effort to obstruct the NFL’s investigation.”

The decision appears to completely lay the blame on the Saints organization, which has already been punished having run out of appeal channels.

Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire season. His only appearance this season came in the stands on the day Drew Brees passed Johnny Unitas for the most consecutive games with a touchdown pass.

General manager Mickey Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt were suspended for eight games and six games alike. Both terms have been served.

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was banned from the league indefinitely.

Tagliabue’s decision to overturn Goodell’s player sentencing but validate his claims that the Saints as an organization were guilty as charged has been seen by many as a copout. Many feel that the league office now realizes that it went about its business wrong, and is simply looking to get out of the fight.

The fight isn’t over though. Vilma still has an outstanding defamation lawsuit against Goodell, and there is no indication just yet as to whether the linebacker will rescind the case. The chances are he won’t, and Goodell and Co. will face another long and winding legal journey.

For the Saints though, the damage is already done.

With the slow and laborious pace of the legal proceedings, Vilma and Smith have contributing to the Saints for much of the season, but the distractions have led the Saints to field the worst defense in the league.

New Orleans has given up a league-worst 436.9 yards per game. This includes 152.4 yards on the ground (another league worst) and 284.5 yards through the air (30th). The team has conceded 29.2 points per game. Only Tennessee and Oakland have given up more.

The result of this irksome performance is a 5-8 record and virtually no shot at the postseason. Mathematically still alive in the hunt, the Saints would need to win out with a slew of other sides losing all three games left on the slate. Such is the unlikelihood of this actually happening, the Saints have found themselves removed from the NFL Futures board over the past week.

New Orleans will host Tampa Bay at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this weekend, entering the game as a four-point favorite. The following week the side will travel to Dallas before closing out the season with a home game against fellow NFC South strugglers, Carolina.

Whilst the impact of Sean Payton’s absence will never be truly known, it seems reasonable to consider the head coach and the Saints organization happy with Tagliabue’s decision. After all, Vilma will now be available to play next season, when it just so happens he’ll be playing for a new contract. And we know what contract years can give a team.