No Conspiracy, Just Over-Thinking the Obvious in Super Bowl XLIX

Lockette
Lockette
Lockette could only look on as the Patriots' celebrated an interception that probably should have never happened.

There’s no way Marshawn Lynch could be the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLIX if you listen to some of the conspiracy nuts out there. I mean, can you imagine the horror on National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell’s face upon seeing Lynch get the award?

Lynch has been nothing short of a pain in the side of Goodell most of the season and most recently in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. There were many thoughts late Sunday night that the reason Seattle went to the ill-fated pass was to keep Lynch from getting the MVP Award. Some also believe it’s why Lynch didn’t get the ball more in the second half.

While I love a good conspiracy theory, let’s just imagine for one second how this would look if the media ever got a hold of it. A conspiracy like this would have made “deflate-gate” look like brief news item at the end of a news telecast.

What happened at the end of Super Bowl XLIX is no less incredible though when you really think about it. There were the Seahawks lining up for a second and goal play with under a minute to play. They had just seen Lynch power his way to the one-yard line on a four yard carry. His play, followed one of the more miraculous plays in Super Bowl history where Jermaine Kearse caught a deep pass while laying on his back.

Carroll
I can't imagine Pete Carroll is going to sleep well for the next few months.

With one timeout remaining (more on that in a second), the Seahawks were a yard away from wrapping up back-to-back Super Bowl titles. With that one timeout, the Patriots knew that Seattle could afford to run the ball one more time among a potential final three plays. It’s obvious now that Pete Carroll thought the same thing.

Of all of the pass plays to call however, why, why, why would Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell take the ball out of Russell Wilson’s legs? Yes, you read that right. Here you have a quarterback with the best running ability in the league and instead of using him in play-action or on a roll out, you drop him straight back on a timing throw?

Of course if Wilson completes the pass it’s the greatest call in Super Bowl history but even had that happened, we would have to raise questions wouldn’t we?

If there is one thing about 99% of offensive and defensive coordinators share, it’s the unique ability to over-think situations. Their job is not easy, but at the end of the day it’s to call plays that they feel will create math-ups favorable to them. We can accept arguments that Bevell actually did this as the Patriots stayed with their goal line personnel.

The problem was that this was not a place or time for over-thinking the situation. This is where you go with what you know works. Had Bevell chosen to go with the read option to the left, his quarterback would have been isolated one-on-one with linebacker Donta Hightower. With just one yard to go, I’ll take Wilson’s legs to get me that yard every time.

Better yet, why not just give it to Lynch again? He was clearly getting stronger and was moving the pile. Perhaps if Seattle had one of their two wasted timeouts available things could have been different. At least one, if not both of those timeouts were wasted because of personnel issues.

While it’s easy to pin this loss on Carroll and Bevell, credit must go to the Patriots and Tom Brady too. Brady picked apart the Seahawks’ secondary when he needed to most trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter.

That will be forgotten though because this Super Bowl will always be remembered for what should have happened rather than what did.

Super Bowl Sunday Bullets From Across the Sports World

Serena
Serena
Serena Williams captured another grand slam and moved closer to Steffi Graf's career record.

Super Bowl Sunday is upon us and I’m tackling a number of stories that have developed in recent days.

-If you haven’t placed a wager yet on Super Bowl XLIX, then you may want to add a bit of research before doing so. So much action has been coming the Seahawks’ way that most Vegas sports books have moved the game to a “pick’em” selection.

-Congrats to Serena Williams for her victory in the Australian Open. She is now three grand slam titles away from tying the great Steffi Graff.

-If you ever needed further proof about just what kind of person NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is then I give you his “State of the Game” Presser on Friday. CNN’s Rachel Nichols asked a very direct question related to the conflicts of interest regarding investigators the NFL has chosen to run its’ investigations. Goodell was clearly annoyed and couldn’t even look Nichols in the eye as he gave a condescending answer. He even badgered her at the end of the his diatribe.

-My dreams of an unbeaten NCAA Championship Game in college basketball went out the window last night. Duke went into Charlottesville and knocked off second-ranked Virginia 69-63. Now I can only hope that Kentucky gets there unbeaten to give the game just a little more added flavor.

Bus
Jerome Bettis was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night along with seven other worthy candidates.

-Congratulations to the eight men selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame yesterday. Junior Seau, Will Shields, Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown and Charles Haley were the modern-era selections. All in my opinion are worthy and should come with no debate whatsoever. Also elected were Mick Tingelhoff who was elected by the Seniors’ Committee and team executives Bill Polian and Ron Wolf.

-This is one of the rare Hall of Fame classes that should come with no debate across the board.

-UFC 183 saw Anderson Silva return from a 399-day layoff to defeat Nick Diaz in a unanimous decision. The bout was an odd one with Diaz taunting Silva throughout and even faking a knockdown at one point. Last we saw Silva, he suffered that horrible broken leg against Chris Weidman. At 39 years old, Silva is considering retirement but has announced nothing at this time.

-Tiger Woods shot a career-worst 82 Friday and finished dead-last and missed the cut at the Phoenix Waste Management Open. Heading into the tournament, Woods was very excited about his newly crafted swing and added length off the tee. To his credit, Woods didn’t give the typical excuses we’ve become used to after his poor rounds. He instead went with humor and even resorted to Marshawn Lynch’s “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” comment.

-Speaking of golf, how can you not love the atmosphere around the 16th hole? Golf purists of course find it to be a disgrace to the game, but the arena style par three is fantastic for fans and makes great television. Are there people a bit out of control at the 16th? Of course, but then again this isn’t a major so let’s just take a deep breath and enjoy it.

-Aaron Rodgers won his second Most Valuable Player Award last night and J.J. Watt became the first-ever defender to unanimously win the Defensive Player of the Year Award. I can’t argue too much with the selection of Rodgers but if Watt can’t win the MVP with the year he had then I don’t see a defender ever winning the award again. Watt wasn’t just a great defender though, he was a great player who probably deserved better.

Breaking Down Super Bowl XLIX

Brady
Brady
I believe Super Bowl XLIX will come down to a final drive and Tom Brady will be under center for it. Will he be successful?

My favorite part of the the two weeks leading up to the playing of the actual Super Bowl is… The playing of the actual Super Bowl.

On Sunday night, we will be able to finally stop worrying about deflate-gate, what Marshawn Lynch says or doesn’t say and whether Idina Menzel has messed up the national anthem or not. In short, it will finally be time to play football.

Choosing who to go with in Super Bowl XLIX has not been easy. There are so many factors that must be considered for both teams and of course we can never predict turnovers or how the game is called by the officials. Nevertheless, I think I have a good read on this game so see whether you agree or not by reading on.

Super Bowl XLIX New England Patriots (-2) vs Seattle Seahawks (O/U 47.5) – Let’s take everything off the field off the table. That means let’s focus on the two teams and not deflate-gate or Marshawn Lynch’s hat.

Tom Brady is making his sixth start in a Super Bowl and he’s lost his last two which were both against the New York Giants. In the prior five Super Bowls, the game has come down to the final drive and I feel this one will be no different.

Seahawks
Look for both Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas to be involved with covering Rob Gronkowski.

If we analyze both of the Patriots’ losses, the Giants were able to get consistent pressure up the middle on Brady and most of that pressure came from just the front four defensive linemen. The Seahawks are significantly better than the Giants were in the secondary but can they get the same type of pressure the Giants did?

My assumption is that the Patriots will learn from Denver’s struggles last year in the Super Bowl and they will not abandon the run. The problem is whether Josh McDaniels chooses to use LeGarrette Blount or another running back like Jonas Gray. Seattle must also decide how they are going to cover Rob Gronkowski. Will they attempt to keep a linebacker on him or will Kam Chancellor or Earl Thomas be stuck with that assignment?

When the Seahawks are on offense, they will know that Bill Belichick typically likes to take away his opponent’s best player. Common sense points us to that being Russell Wilson or Marshawn Lynch. Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will be prepared and I think you’ll see more read-option from Seattle than we’ve seen recently from them this season.

If they find any success with that, the passing game will open up, especially on the edges and to the tight ends. Will that be enough to keep New England on it’s heels defensively?

Obviously the one area we can’t forget is special teams. Turnovers or major mistakes here are likely to be disastrous as close as I expect this game to be.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in six of New England’s last eight games… Seattle is 6-2 straight up in their last eight games against New England… The Patriots are 2-6 against the spread in their last right games against the Seahawks… Seattle is 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight games.

Key Injuries: NE C Brian Stork QUES/Knee, CB Brandon Browner QUES/Knee… SEA S Earl Thomas QUES/Shoulder

The Pick:  No one holds a lead as well as the Seahawks but I think they will fall behind early. Tom Brady has an opportunity to seal his legacy as an all-time great with a win and to do it, he’ll need a touchdown to win the game late. I think Seattle takes its’ first lead in the second half and holds on to win 27-23. Take the Seahawks and the points and take the OVER.

Super Bowl Special Prop Bets Because You Deserve to Win Money on Ridiculous Things

SB XliX
SB XliX
Prop bets are a great way to watch the Super Bowl even for the most average of fans.

I honestly can’t tell you when the first prop bet occurred but it would only seem right if it were during a Super Bowl. I laid out the history of betting the Super Bowl earlier this week and hopefully you took that to heart before laying your dough on either the Patriots or Seahawks.

Prop bets can essentially be wagers on just about anything related to the event. If Dick Vitale were doing the Final Four, there would be a prop on how many times he says one of his famous phrases. When Jim Nantz does The Masters, a prop bet could be home times he mentions the azaleas or other flower.

Prop bets have even started to creep their way into popular culture. You can actually wager on things like the Academy Awards and what color will Meryl Streep be wearing. Yes my friends, we’ve clearly gone off the deep end. The prop bets featured today are just a small sampling of the type of prop bets you can make. But the great news is that you have options.

If you’re attending one of the millions of Super Bowl parties around the country then get creative! Bring in the Super Bowl commercials and you can do that in a number of ways. From the most ads, to the ones with celebrities and so on.

The bottom line is that with prop bets, you can do just about whatever you want. Have fun with them and enjoy the guy.

Today I’m giving you special prop bets from our friends at Bovada. I hope you enjoy these props and my picks for each. My best bets have an * next to them.

Length of the National Anthem by Idina Menzel

Two Minutes 1 Second OVER -120, UNDER -120

Will Idina Menzel forget or omit at least one word from the National Anthem?

Yes +450, No -700

Will Marshawn Lynch grab his crotch after scoring a touchdown?

Yes +600, No -1000

Which coach will be mentioned first by name after the opening kickoff on TV?

Pete Carroll EVEN, Bill Belichick -140

Hoodie
Got thoughts on what style hoodie Bill Belichick will be wearing? You can wager on that.

What color will Bill Belichick’s hoodie be?

Gray -150, Blue +110, Red +700

How many times will Katy Perry be mentioned before halftime?*

Over 2 -110, Under 2 -130

Will Bill Belichick smile on TV cameras during the game?

Yes +150, No -250

Bill Belichick hoodie type

sleeves cut -175, sleeves intact +135

What will Katy Perry be wearing when she begins her halftime show?

Pants (below knees) +275, Shorts (above knees) +225, Skirt or Dress -175

How many times will Gisele Bundchen be shown on TV during the game?

Over 1.5 EVEN, Under 1.5 -140

Who will be shown more on TV during the game?*

Robert Kraft -250, Paul Allen +170

Will Al Michaels mention during the broadcast the spread, total, odds or prop bets during the game?

Yes +170, No -250

What will the Nielsen rating of the game be?

Over 47.5 -120, Under 47.5 -120

Who will the Super Bowl MVP mention first in his interview?

Teammates 3/2, God 2/1, Fans/City 15/2, Owner 12/1, Coach 15/1, Family 15/1, Does not mention any of the above 5/2

How many viewers will the game have?

Over 113 million -140, Under 113 million Even

How many times will “deflated” balls be mentioned during the game?

Over 3 -140, Under 3 Even

 

 

 

Super Bowl Facts and Figures

Super Bowl XLIX kicks off on Sunday February 1 in Glendale, Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.

Before the kickoff, bettors will have loads of data to peruse to help them decide the best opportunity they will have to walk away a winner at the betting window.

Here are a number of Super Bowl facts to consider.

  • New England has not won the Super Bowl in 10 seasons. In each of New England’s three Super Bowl victories, the team built leads of double-digits during the game. In each of their four losses, the Patriots never had a lead of over 8 points.
  • The Patriots were OVER in 11 games this season. However, against four NFC opponents, the Patriots were over only once.
  • Tom Brady the star quarterback for the Patriots wears No. 12. Including the five Super Bowls he has played in, quarterbacks sporting No. 12 on their jerseys are 14-12 in Super Bowls, with the last winner being Aaron Rodgers in Super Bowl XLV for Green Bay.
  • This is the 13th appearance by a team currently playing in the NFC West. The previous 12 were 7-5.
  • Head coaches that are appearing for the second time in the Super Bowl have an all-time record of 14-8. This is Pete Carroll’s second trip.
  • In the previous 48 Super Bowls, the underdog has won outright 15 times. The largest upset was in 1969 in Super Bowl III when the Baltimore Colts lost to the New York Jets 16-7. The Jets were underdogs by 18 points.
  • Seattle gave up 16.3 points per game this season, which was No. 1 in the NFL. Seattle was also the league leaders last season in scoring defense.
  • Seventeen Super Bowls have been played inside a dome or a stadium with a retractable roof. In those 17 games, the favorite is 12-5 straight up and 9-6-2 against the spread. The UNDER has gone 10-7.
  • Brady and Bill Belichick have won 20 postseason games since 2001. Over that span of playoff appearances, New England is 20-8 SU but just 12-15-1 ATS.
  • In its past eight games played, Seattle has given up a combined 78 points. Seattle is 8-0 SU and 7-1 ATS in those eight games.
  • The OVER has cashed 24 times in the previous 48 Super Bowls. In the last four Super Bowls, the OVER is 3-1.
  • Quarterbacks have won the Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl 26 times and four of the past five.
  • Seattle allowed just 27 touchdowns in their 16 regular season games, which was second in the league. In the postseason, they have allowed three with none on the ground.

Hit the Ground Running With Super Bowl, MVP Odds Already

SB
SB
Super Bowl XLIX Odds are out as well as those for MVP. Choose wisely.

Super Bowl XLIX is nearly two weeks away but not only is the line for the game out there for your consideration but so are odds for the game’s Most Valuable Player. Today I’m giving you both and my early thoughts on both the game and my best MVP bets.

Super Bowl XLIX New England (-1) vs Seattle – Already, we’ve seen the spread move from the Patriots +1 to the Patriots -1. That sends numerous messages about the way Las Vegas is already looking at this game. My best guess right now is that concerns over Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas have to be the key factors. Both were scheduled to have MRIs yesterday.

Obviously Sherman’s absence would have a significantly higher impact on the line than would Thomas but that shouldn’t bemoan Thomas’ value to the Seahawks’ defense. It’s just that Vegas tends to see star players and their abilities much more up close than other players and for the most part that makes sense.

New England is relatively healthy for this time of year. Their biggest question mark will be at center where rookie Brian Stork did not play on Sunday due to injury. His backup played well and therefore if that stays as is, I expect little influence on the line.

The only possible exception to that however is the fact Seattle is much better on the front line than Indianapolis was so that should be factored in here.

I think one other key area favoring the Patriots is that their secondary did pretty well against better receivers than they’ll see from Seattle. That’s arguable, but I don’t see a clear distinction between the receivers from either team really. Vegas will have to take into consideration just awful the Seattle receivers looked for three and half quarters on Sunday.

Unless the news on Sherman is him having to sit out then I don’t expect this line to move a whole lot in the coming days.

Avril
Betting The Field means a guy like Cliff Avril could win the MVP Award with some sacks and forced turnovers.

Super Bowl XLIX MVP – Odds to Win      

Tom Brady                                        3/2

Marshawn Lynch                        15/4

Russell Wilson                             15/4

Rob Gronkowski                            9/1

LeGarrette Blount                        12/1

Richard Sherman                        25/1

Doug Baldwin                              33/1

Kam Chancellor                          33/1

Julian Edelman                          33/1

Darrelle Revis                             33/1

Earl Thomas                               40/1

Bobby Wagner                            50/1

Brandon LaFell                          66/1

Jermaine Kearse                        66/1

Byron Maxwell                           66/1

K.J. Wright                                 66/1

Shane Vereen                             75/1

Danny Amendola                    100/1

Patrick Chung                           100/1

Jamie Collins                            100/1

Dont’a Hightower                    100/1

Devin McCourty                        100/1

Rob Ninkovich                          100/1

Luke Willson                             100/1

Stephen Gostkowski                 150/1

Steven Hauschka                      150/1

Malcolm Smith                          150/1

Field                                                25/1

It’s very clear to me that Vegas thinks Seattle will win on the legs of Marshawn Lynch rather than behind quarterback Russell Wilson. That said, Wilson will be a strong candidate to win the game’s Most Valuable Player because of one simple reason; Bill Belichick always looks to take away the opponent’s best player. This would be Lynch which means Wilson will need to produce.

I’m going to go ahead and tell you not to even think about laying your cash on a kicker. In 48 previous Super Bowls, one has never been selected MVP. Choosing a defensive player as MVP isn’t as ridiculous as it might sound. Nine times a defender has been chose the games MVP and in one of those instances it was in a losing effort (Chuck Howley, DAL).

The Field might be a nice play in this one if you are thinking of going away from the mainstream. I can see a guy like Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril having a couple of sacks and maybe a forced fumble or two. I would also say the same of the Pats’ Vince Wilfork who could cause some serious problems for the Seattle running game.

Never rule out a back-up tight end or fullback either which makes The Field an interesting play.

 

Early Line and Trends for Super Bowl XLIX

The Super Bowl is set. The New England Patriots will play the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015.

The line has made a dramatic move already on the game. On Sunday night, Bovada and sportsbook.com had Seattle as the short favorite at -2.5. The line never increased and was quickly bet down to New England -1.

The point total was opened on topbet and betonline at 48.5 and has remained steady at that figure.

The New England Patriots arrived at this point after defeating the Baltimore Ravens 35-31 in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. The Pats were 7-point favorites in that game

The Pats then routed the Indianapolis Colts by 38 points, 45-7. New England was the favorite in that game by 7 points as well.

As 13.5-point favorites, Seattle defeated the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional playoffs 31-17.

The Seahawks rallied on Sunday to overcome a 16-0 deficit to defeat Green Bay 28-22 as an 8.5-point favorite.

New England will be appearing in its eighth Super Bowl. In the Pats previous seven, the club is 3-4 SU and 3-3-1 ATS. Each of the three wins for New England was by three points. In the seven prior Super Bowls the UNDER was 4-3.

Prior to this Super Bowl, Seattle had played in two. The Seahawks are 1-1 SU as well as ATS. The over/under was also 1-1.

Since 2008, the Patriots and Seahawks have played head to head just twice. In 2008, New England beat Seattle 24-21 in Seattle as a 7.5-point favorite. The OVER in that game was 43.

In 2012, Seattle defeated New England 24-23 in New England as an underdog of 4 points. The OVER in that game was 42.5.

For the 2014 NFL season, the Patriots are 14-4 SU and 10-8 ATS. Seattle is 14-4 SU and 11-7 ATS.

The OVER/UNDER for New England was 11-7 and for the Seahawks 10-8.

Trend to Think About

The underdogs have covered the spread in 6 of the past 7 Super Bowls. That includes outright wins in each of the past three Super Bowls by Seattle, Baltimore and the New York Giants.

Since the 2002 season, the underdogs are 10-3 ATS in the Super Bowl.

Over the past 4 Super Bowls played, the OVER is 3-1.

This is the third Super Bowl to be played in Arizona.

The game is 13 days away. Coaches and players will be preparing for the game, as will the bookmakers.

Last year, Super Bowl XLVIII took in the largest single handle for a Super Bowl in Las Vegas with over $119.4 million wagered.

Two Picks to Consider for Super Bowl XLIX

The NFL futures are a great thing. The NFL season has been over for just two weeks yet talk about next season has already started.

Last year at this time, the teams with the lowest futures on odds for the Super Bowl were San Francisco, Denver, New England and Seattle. Of course, football bettors know those were the last four NFL teams standing heading into the Conference championships last month.

While betting on Bovada or topbet on the futures is not without risks, the futures book does have interesting opportunities available for those willing to take the risk.

As the offseason starts, there are two big questions bettors for next year’s Super Bowl need to ask themselves.

If Seattle wins the NFC, can a long shot on betonline or sportsbook.com win the title in the AFC and set up a hedge opportunity?

Is Seattle even beatable in the upcoming Super Bowl?

The questions require NFL handicappers to look over the strength of the top contenders in the NFL as well as the quality of the AFC from top to bottom, as that conference looks weaker than the NFC.

Here is a pair of teams that might be interesting to consider when you decide to make a futures pick on one of the top online sports books such as Bovada, betonline, sportsbook.com or topbet.

Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers (15 to 1) are, when playing their best, the top threat to Seattle and San Francisco. They have had their problems with the 49ers, losing 4 straight in two seasons, but both defeats in 2013 were by fewer than 7 points.

With a strong running attack and a strong-arm, mobile quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, whose accuracy is nearly untouchable, Green Bay could make it back to the big game.

Some would argue that the 15 to 1 odds are too short as Green Bay’s defense is a big concern. In addition, the Packers are just 1-3 over their past four postseason games and this in Rodgers’ prime.

Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens (35 to 1) are also a good choice to consider for a futures pick. The Ravens defense is very strong. On offense, Joe Flacco their quarterback won the MVP of the Super Bowl just over a year ago. The front office has in the past and will in the future address the roster needs of the team, as they are one of the best in the league.

There is a reasonable amount of certainty that in August Baltimore will be a better team than they currently are in February.

On the downside is that during their poor season in 2013 in the AFC, Baltimore did not even reach the postseason. They lost the AFC North by three games to Cincinnati.

Offensively the Ravens were disappointing. The running attack with Ray Rice never could get out of neutral. Flacco’s passing attack was lacking one or two receivers and better protection.

The Ravens added Gary Kubiak as their offensive coordinator and that should help, but much work needs to be completed before September arrives.

Nevertheless, taking longer numbers on the Ravens could prove beneficial in early February 2015.

Super Bowl XLIX Odds Because You Know You’re Dying for Them

Rodgers
Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers face some tough games at home and on the road in 2014.

For all I know the World Champion Seattle Seahawks haven’t even arrived back in the state of Washington yet and already they are big-time favorites to repeat as Super Bowl Champions next season. It’s only right after all considering they are young and have most of their key players back. Obviously they must be careful to not be too complacent but I don’t think that will be an issue with this team.

Because I wrote in the blog that yesterday is the worst Monday of the year due to football being over, I want to give you one last little shot of it so here are the top five teams heading into next year while I’ll focus on some long shots later this week.

Wilson
Wilson's Seahawks will host their Super Bowl foes the Denver Broncos in 2014.

Seattle Seahawks 9/2 – I have no doubt that Pete Carroll will do whatever is necessary to make sure this team is not resting on its’ laurels heading into the 2014 season. Russell Wilson will return at QB and he will have most of his firepower with him. Defensively, the roster is in good shape as well and with youth on it’s’ side. The schedule will be a bit more daunting than 2013.

Seattle will have home games against Dallas, Denver and Green Bay plus division opponents Arizona, San Francisco and St. Louis. The champs must travel to Carolina, Kansas City and Philadelphia.

San Francisco 49ers 15/2 – Lost in all of the talk about Seattle’s dominating performance Sunday night is the fact that San Francisco was very close to beating the Seahawks in their own building in the NFC Title game. Jim Harbaugh returns his quarterback Colin Kaepernick who has a very good playoff record already in his career. With a healthy Michael Crabtree and his other weapons, the Niners should be good offensively, but I wonder if age is creeping up on certain parts of the defense though.

The Niners get playoff teams Philly, KC and San Diego at home while hitting the road to New Orleans, Denver and Dallas.

Denver Broncos 17/2 – It’s hard to really say the Broncos had a great season because of the way the season ended but overall it was pretty darn successful. The big issue will be Eric Decker who enters free agency and will likely get very lucrative offers. The Denver secondary seems like it needs improving and I’ll be honest; I’m not 100% convinced that Peyton Manning’s arm strength is all there. He rarely threw the ball deep in 2013 and it get less as the season wore on.

The home schedule features tough games against Arizona, the Niners, Miami and Indianapolis. On the road, Denver goes to Seattle, Cincinnati and New England.

New England Patriots 14/1 – I’m really surprised to see the Patriots in this position. I see it as a credit to Tom Brady and not much else. The Patriots must find weapons to build around Brady and in a hurry. The running game is in good hands and the defense is solid if it can stay healthy. Look for New England to address some of their deficiencies in free agency and then to add depth in the draft.

The Pats get Denver, Cincinnati, Chicago and Detroit in Foxboro but they have tough road games at Green Bay, San Diego, Kansas City and Indy.

Green Bay Packers 16/1 – Despite making the playoffs and hosting a wild-card game, the Packers’ season was defined by Aaron Rodgers’ injury and a lack of big plays from the defense. Part of that problem was the poor health of Clay Matthews who needs to prove he can stay on the field in 2014. The running game is in great hands with Eddie Lacy but it’s likely the Pack will need to replace JerMichael Finley at tight end.

The Packers get New England, Carolina, the Jets and the Eagles. Away from Lambeau, Green Bay gets New Orleans, Miami and Seattle.