The NFL teams that are most likely to win the Super Bowl are not necessarily always those that are dominating by mid season. In the NFL, more than any other sport, it is about a team getting hot at the right time, and getting on a roll heading into the postseason.
Whether we will see an underdog go on a Wild Card playoff run, similar to that of the Giants in 2007 or the Packers in 2010, is anybody's guess. However, if there's one thing that is certain, its that the contenders in the NFC heavily outweigh those in the AFC, and it's not even close.
With that being said, for all of the betting folk out there, here are the five safest bets to win Super Bowl XLVII.
5. Houston Texans
With the way that defense has improved in the past few seasons, and is now playing under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the Houston Texans may finally be ready to take the next step and get to the Super Bowl.
The defense, led by JJ Watt and a dominant front seven, is among the league's best. Teaming that unit with a consistent, well balanced offense that can beat you both through the air and on the ground, the Texans could be the most well rounded team in the NFL.
With the AFC providing little competition of note, if the Texans stay the course, they could find themselves right upon a relatively clear path to their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
4. Chicago Bears
If the Bears continue to take the ball away on defense at the rate that they have thus far, they could be in for a record setting year. Their defense has been a marker of consistency over the years, and seems to have gotten even better in 2012.
For the Bears, it will be about whether their offense can keep up. They no doubt have the weapons to do so, with one of the NFL's better QB-RB-WR combinations in Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, and Brandon Marshall.
Essentially, it will come down to protecting the football, and thus the offensive line protecting Cutler. If they can do just that, anything is possible with the way that the defense is playing.
3. San Francisco 49ers
The old saying is "defense wins championships." Last season, and well into this season, the 49ers have proven that they are one of the best defensive units in the NFL.
That defense, as well as the entire team for that matter, is stacked. With a punishing ground game helping to control the clock, and also setting up the play action pass, the 49ers are in good position to win every week.
If Alex Smith can play well come time for the playoffs and take care of the football, the 49ers could easily find themselves back in the NFC Championship position they were in last season. For them, it will be about taking that next step. If they do, there aren't many NFL fans that would be surprised.
2. Green Bay Packers
As many know, the Packers did experience some struggles at the outset of this 2012 season. Even though they sit at just 5-3, and behind the Bears in the NFC North, it seems as though they may be back on track, playing like the 15-1 team that we saw last season.
Aaron Rodgers is quite possibly the best quarterback in the game right now, and leads a Packers offense that can strike from anywhere on the field. If the injuries in the receiving core are cleared up by playoff time, the rest of the NFC could be in trouble.
Combine the high powered offense with a defense that is back near the middle of the pack after struggling in 2011, and can force its fair share of turnovers, and it could be dangerous.
The Packers have a great coaching staff, a great offense, and an opportunistic defense. That recipe, much like we have seen from them for the past two seasons, should spell success.
1. New York Giants
It is not too often in the NFL that we see back-to-back Super Bowl Champions. Then again, it is not too often that teams build a team as well as the Giants have.
With Eli Manning at QB, arguably the best in the business during the fourth quarter, wins are rarely out of reach. Teaming him with breakout star WR Victor Cruz, and a hopefully healthy Hakeem Nicks by the time the playoffs roll around, their offense is in great shape.
Add in a defense that can get after the quarterback with the best of them, and you've got yourself a perennial Super Bowl contender.
With the Giants, their advantage is that they've "been there, done that" twice in the past five seasons. If there was any doubt in their prospects for this season in a tough NFC, they surely dispelled that notion with their statement 26-3 win over the 49ers on Oct. 14.
Narrowly missing the list are the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.
The Patriots' issues on defense might outweigh how dominant their offense can be, but with Tom Brady at quarterback, anything is possible.
The Falcons, likely a surprise omission to some, need to establish some playoff success before they can be considered a possible lock. This may very well be the year in which they do that, but much of their undefeated record so far can be related to a quite favorable schedule to start the season.
If by season's end, one of these five listed teams is crowned the Super Bowl XLVII Champion, not many will be surprised.
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