Are you ready for some football?
The 2016 NFL season is just about to kick off, and to ready ourselves for another crazy year, we’re going to take a look at the three teams Bovada pegs as Super Bowl favorites, along with a couple of savvy dark-horse candidates for good measure.
New England Patriots (+600)
It’s going to be extremely awkward when the New England Patriots aren’t favorites to win a Super Bowl. Though, to be honest, that day might not ever come at this rate.
Seriously, there is nothing that slows down this team. Injuries permeated the roster last season, and the Patriots still rattled off 12 victories and deployed the 12th best offense in football. This year, star quarterback Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season. And if that won’t derail their odds, surely the fact that he’s 39 will.
Or maybe not.
Look, we know how this story ends. The Patriots will go at least 2-2 without Brady, then start winning like out a bat out of hell upon his return. They will amass between 10 and 13 victories, if not more, and finish with a top-five offense and top-12 defense.
There’s no use pretending otherwise. This is the Patriots’ world, and we’re all still just living in it.
Green Bay Packers (+850)
Watching the Green Bay Packers is going to be far more interesting this season. Top wide receiver Jordy Nelson has returned from a torn ACL, running back Eddie Lacy is in the best shape of his NFL career, and Davante Adams has had an entire offseason to cure his rampant case of the dropped-catches syndrome.
To really complete the rich-getting-richer feel, the Packers have assembled the second-scariest tight end duo in football, just behind the Patriots’ coupling of Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett: Richard Rogers and Jared Cook. Their defense, which finished 12th in points allowed per game last season, hasn’t lost anyone to severely compromise that standing.
Oh, and then there’s Aaron Rodgers. He had an off year last season, in large part due to all of Green Bay’s injuries, but still managed to post the second-best interception rate among starting QBs, behind only Tom Brady, despite his complete lack of consistent, and healthy, options.
Give him a full-strength cast on the more glamorous side of the ball, and all offensive hell stands to break loose. Don’t be surprised when the Packers’ offense goes from the 15th-place attack it was last year to a top-five powerhouse that spearheads a push for the best record in the NFC.
Seattle Seahawks (+1100)
After a slow start to the season last year, the Seattle Seahawks are hoping for blistering beginnings this time around. And there’s little reason to think they won’t destroy teams right out of the gate.
Despite beginning the 2015 schedule under .500, the Seahawks still carved out 10 victories while finishing fourth in points scored per game and first in fewest points allowed. The defense is basically guaranteed to live up to that again; it’s what the Seahawks do. Any and all questions lie with the offense.
Marshawn Lynch scampered off into retirement, leaving Seattle with the capable, albeit inferior, Christine Michael in the backfield. The Seahawks also need to hope the otherworldly chemistry developed between quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receiver Doug Baldwin carries over into this season.
That shouldn’t be a problem for Wilson. He was one of the best players under center in general last year, not just when throwing to Baldwin. He ranked second in touchdown percentage, trails only Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers, and completed a greater percentage of his passes than anyone not named Drew Brees or Kirk Cousins.
Expect the Seahawks to champion a similarly balanced attack this time around, only without the waiting period from last year.
New York Giants (+2200)
The New York Giants should be on every bettor’s list of potential dark horses, their shoddy showing throughout the preseason be damned. They have one of the most potent offenses in the NFL on paper, and Eli Manning remains one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the game.
To wit: Just one quarterback has thrown for more than 4,300 yards while posting a touchdown percentage north of five and interception rate south of 2.5 in each of the last two seasons. Any guess who it is? Tom Brady maybe? Drew Brees perhaps?
It’s Eli Manning.
So long as the defense doesn’t once again finish 30th in points allowed per game and dead last in passing yards relinquished, Manning is the vessel through which the Giants can storm the NFC East, sneak into the playoffs, and make some unexpected, but very real, noise.
Kansas City Chiefs (+2800)
Ah yes, it’s that time again—time to talk about how criminally underrated the Kansas City Chiefs remain.
Any other team that ticked off 11 victories, finished 3rd in points allowed and placed ninth in points scored during the previous season would be generating a ton of noise. But not the Chiefs, not even as they welcome back Jamaal Charles, who is arguably their best player when healthy.
The Chiefs’ running back rotation alone is enough to love them. Charles, Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware make for an unparalleled trio. And Alex Smith, much like Eli Manning, is among the most underappreciated quarterbacks in the league. He seldom ranks in the top half of total passing yards and touchdowns, but he’s a game manager—someone who can differentiate between the need to air it out and the need to control a game with conservative playmaking. That’s hard to find in today’s league of gunners.
Throw in a defense that still figures to contend for top-five status, along with the fact that Kansas City plays in an AFC sector barren of powerhouses outside of New England, and you have justified cause to view the Chiefs as one of the NFL’s top dark horses this season.
AFC Champion: New England Patriots
NFC Champion: Seattle Seahawks
Super Bowl Champion: New England Patriots