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Final Super Bowl Odds Before the Regular Season Begins

Nick KostosContributor IJanuary 13, 2017

Final Super Bowl Odds Before the Regular Season Begins

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    We made it! Ladies and gentlemen, we made it! Football is back, and not a moment too soon!

    The goal for each of the 32 NFL franchises is the same: to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February at MetLife Stadium. But the odds of some teams achieving that prize are pretty low.

    It's time to examine the final Super Bowl odds for each team, courtesy of Bovada, as the regular season gets set to kick off.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Odds: 300/1

    The Jacksonville Jaguars enter the 2013 season as the team with Vegas' worst odds to win the Super Bowl—and with good reason.

    While new general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley have the team moving in the right direction, there isn't enough talent on the 53-man roster to merit any serious playoff discussion. There are some good young players (receiver Justin Blackmon, offensive weapon Denard Robinson and safety Jonathan Cyprien, among others) to go along with veteran running back Maurice Jones-Drew, but it won't be enough to have the Jaguars anywhere near Super Bowl XLVIII.

    The main problem holding back Jacksonville? Its quarterback situation, as third-year signal-caller Blaine Gabbert is once again the starter. Gabbert has been below-average since being selected in the first round of the 2011 draft, and until he proves that he's a capable NFL quarterback, the Jaguars have no chance of contending for an AFC playoff berth, much less the Super Bowl.

Oakland Raiders

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    Odds: 250/1

    What's that smoke off in the distance? It smells like something's burning out West.

    Oh, wait. It's just the 2013 Oakland Raiders, a veritable dumpster fire. The team is an outright disaster and is surely ticketed for a top-three pick in next April's draft.

    The quarterback situation is a mess. The team signed Matt Flynn to be the presumptive starter, but his lack of throwing velocity and arm fatigue has gotten him benched in favor of Terrelle Pryor. And if you think Pryor is going to win a bunch of football games, there's an island for sale in the Caribbean you should look into.

    The offensive line is, well, offensive, unable to protect Flynn throughout the preseason. The defense is extremely suspect and is seemingly unable to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

    But other than that, the team is great.

    This could be the last stand for both head coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie. It's not likely that the team will perform well enough for either man to keep his job.

Tennessee Titans

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    Odds: 150/1

    Despite the low odds, there is optimism surrounding the Tennessee Titans, as the team performed very well in its third preseason game, a 27-16 victory over Atlanta. The new-look offensive line has been solid, and quarterback Jake Locker is starting to come on.

    With that said, questions still abound in the Music City. Is Locker good enough to compete with the likes of Texans quarterback Matt Schaub and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck? Can running back Chris Johnson regain the kind of form he flashed in 2009, when he rushed for 2,006 yards? Can the defense generate a pass rush with any kind of consistency?

    If the answer to all of those questions is "yes," then head coach Mike Munchak, squarely on the hot seat entering 2013, won't have to worry about his job security.

    But if the answers aren't as favorable, expect owner Bud Adams to clean house at season's end.

     

Cleveland Browns

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    Odds: 150/1

    There is a renewed sense of optimism in Cleveland, one that hasn't been felt since the Browns' 10-6 season in 2007.

    New head coach Rob Chudzinski put together an all-star coaching staff, with Norv Turner coordinating the offense and Ray Horton the defense. Plus, second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson both looked very good in the preseason—a great sign for the team's emerging offense.

    The problem for Cleveland is that it plays in one of football's toughest divisions, the AFC North. It's hard to envision a scenario where the Browns would finish ahead of the Bengals, Ravens or Steelers. 

    Even though it's likely that they're a last-place team, Browns fans should feel good about the direction of the franchise. There is good, young talent on both sides of the ball, and with a year of solid coaching and more experience, the Browns should be ready for prime time in 2014.

Buffalo Bills

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    Odds: 150/1

    The Buffalo Bills are a team on the rise, with a talented new head coach (Doug Marrone) and starting quarterback (rookie EJ Manuel). Running back C.J. Spiller is one of the most dynamic weapons on all of football, and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is fantastic at his job.

    There's no doubt that the team has the pieces in places to eventually be a contender.

    But that probably won't happen in 2013. The offensive line, which lost guard Andy Levitre in free agency to Tennessee, is shaky, and the loss of emerging cornerback Stephon Gilmore for six to eight weeks with a wrist injury is an absolute killer.

    Still, this should be a fun season in western New York. If Manuel can progress nicely and finish the season strong and the defense plays up to snuff, the Bills are capable of making some noise in December and should be poised to make a playoff push in 2014.

New York Jets

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    Odds: 125/1

    In recent weeks, the New York Jets have been called by many (including yours truly) a circus, with head coach Rex Ryan serving as the clueless, inept ringmaster. On behalf of writers everywhere, I'd like to apologize to everyone who works in a circus, particularly ringmasters, for this heinous insult.

    The Jets are an embarrassment, and it starts with Ryan. His decision to insert presumed starting quarterback Mark Sanchez in the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game, only for Sanchez to get hurt, ranks among the most baffling and ridiculous decisions ever made.

    Now, it looks as if the team belongs to rookie signal-caller Geno Smith, though believe it or not, that's actually the right move. Sanchez is done as a starting quarterback in this league, and everyone knows it. The team might as well turn the reins over to Smith now.

    The problem for Smith? The roster is largely devoid of talent, specifically on offense. If the Jets' plan is to win every game 6-3, well, it still probably wouldn't happen, because the defense isn't that great either. Where is the pass rush going to come from? 

    In all likelihood, this is Ryan's last year as coach. While that's good news for Jets fans, the bad news is that they have to endure yet another miserable campaign. This team is one of the very worst in football.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Odds: 125/1

    In 2012, the Arizona Cardinals trotted out the worst quarterback trio in the history of recorded civilization: Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley. The three combined to form football's version of a defective Voltron, and its special power was throwing interceptions and incomplete passes at an alarming rate.

    This season, the team has an experienced and capable signal-caller in Carson Palmer to go along with a new head coach, Bruce Arians. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald should be the primary beneficiary of Palmer's steady play, and the team will be better as a result. 

    Plus, it definitely has some players on defense. Defensive end Calais Campbell is a force, and cornerback Patrick Peterson is one of the most versatile players in the league. It's also fair to expect a nice impact from rookie defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, as the "Honey Badger" dazzled in the preseason.

    But the offensive line, a major issue in 2012, took a significant hit with the season-ending leg injury to guard Jonathan Cooper, the team's first-round pick. Couple that with the fact that the team plays in the best division in football, the NFC West, and the Cardinals will struggle to reach 8-8.

Carolina Panthers

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    Odds: 66/1

    This is a make-or-break season for Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who needs to win in order to save his job.

    For Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the stakes aren't as dire; barring something unforeseen, he'll be the team's signal-caller in 2013 and beyond. Still, for Newton, the owner of a 13-19 record through two seasons, this campaign is a critical one as he seeks to dispel the notion that he can't win in the NFL.

    New offensive coordinator Mike Shula has promised to return the unit into a run-first group, and running back DeAngelo Williams is primed for a big season. But the receiving corps behind star Steve Smith is a mess and likely won't provide Newton with much help.

    The front seven of the defense does look stout, keyed by second-year linebacker Luke Kuechly, who could challenge for Defensive Player of the Year, but the secondary is questionable at best.

    The Panthers do have talent, and the team finished 2012 in strong fashion. Will it equate to a positive 2013? That will determine if Rivera returns for a fourth season in 2014.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Odds: 50/1

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano turned last season's main deficiency, the secondary, into a strength, trading for cornerback Darrelle Revis, signing safety Dashon Goldson and drafting cornerback Johnthan Banks.

    Running back Doug Martin is an absolute beast, and receiver Vincent Jackson is a physical marvel. There is certainly talent on both sides of the ball, and the roster appears ready for a run at the postseason.

    The major issue lies at quarterback, as starter Josh Freeman is entering the final year of his rookie contract. This offseason, the team made no attempt to extend him, a telling sign, especially when considering that the organization drafted North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon in the third round of April's draft.

    There's no question that the Bucs are a playoff-caliber team if they can coax a solid season out of Freeman, but make no mistake about it: If Freeman doesn't get the job done, don't be at all surprised if the team turns to Glennon.

San Diego Chargers

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    Odds: 50/1

    The 50/1 odds seem a little generous for the San Diego Chargers, who possess one of the worst 53-man rosters in all of football.

    New coach Mike McCoy has his work cut out for him. The offensive line was an absolute sieve in 2012, and while the team drafted right tackle D.J. Fluker in the first round of April's draft, the position still appears to be a major issue, which isn't good news for quarterback Philip Rivers.

    The defense appears way too dependent on production from 33-year old pass-rusher Dwight Freeney. San Diego will have a hard time reaching the opposing quarterback.

    While McCoy and general manager Tom Telesco have the team moving in the right direction, it won't compete for a playoff spot in 2013.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Odds: 50/1

    The Philadelphia Eagles enter 2013 as perhaps the NFL's most intriguing team, largely due to the presence of new head coach Chip Kelly, as many are waiting with bated breath to see how his up-tempo offense translates at the game's highest level.

    Quarterback Michael Vick is once again the starter, and he appears to be a solid fit for Kelly's attack. Meanwhile, running back LeSean McCoy and receiver DeSean Jackson should both have big seasons. While the team did lose receiver Jeremy Maclin for the season with a torn ACL, the offense shouldn't be the team's problem.

    Rather, the problem is the defense, which was awful in 2012 and doesn't appear to be much better as 2013 draws neigh. New coordinator Billy Davis has his work cut out for him as the team transitions to a 3-4, and the unit should experience its fair share of growing pains.

    If the Eagles are to make a playoff run, they'll need to win a bunch of shootouts.

    If Kelly's offense works out the way it could, that's a definite possibility.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Odds: 50/1

    Following their miserable 2-14 finish in 2012, the Kansas City Chiefs cleaned house, and the early returns on the new coaches and players brought in have been promising.

    New coach Andy Reid brings a winning attitude and pedigree to Kansas City, and the team has a brand-new quarterback in Alex Smith. Smith is joined by running back Jamaal Charles and receiver Dwayne Bowe in what could be an explosive offensive unit.

    There is definitely talent on both sides of the ball, and the Chiefs play in the weak AFC West, so even though the team was among the worst in football in 2012, don't be shocked if and when Kansas City is in the playoff hunt come December.

St. Louis Rams

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    Odds: 40/1

    For the first time in years, there is significant reason to be bullish about the St. Louis Rams.

    Head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have done a wonderful job injecting the roster with talent on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Sam Bradford finally has some weapons to work with as he enters his fourth year. Rookie receiver Tavon Austin has the potential to be a stud, and tight end Jared Cook should provide Bradford with a security blanket over the middle of the field.

    The defense should be stout as well, as the unit has the ability to get after the opposing quarterback and create turnovers.

    The only thing holding St. Louis back from being a true contender in the NFC is that it shares a division with heavyweights San Francisco and Seattle. But it's important to remember that the Rams went 4-1-1 against the division a year ago, so it's not outside the realm of possibility that St. Louis could surprise in 2013.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Odds: 40/1

    The Minnesota Vikings are coming off a 2012 season that saw the team make a surprise trip to the postseason, buoyed by the performance of running back Adrian Peterson, last year's NFL MVP.

    For the Vikings to return to the tournament, the team will need a more consistent season from quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder came on late last season, but he must play better if Minnesota is to take the next step.

    The defense, led by end Jared Allen, is capable of performing well against some of the league's better offenses, and it will need to do so in 2013, as the team's division, the NFC North, is loaded (Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions).

    Still, no matter how well the defense plays, Ponder's performance will dictate where the team finishes. That prospect can't be reassuring to Vikings fans.

Miami Dolphins

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    Odds: 40/1

    Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland was the most aggressive personnel man in the league this offseason, lavishing exorbitant sums of money upon free agents to lure them to South Beach. The result is an upgraded roster that could be ready for a postseason run.

    Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill has all the physical ability to ascend to the next level, and it'll be up to coach Joe Philbin to coax it out of him. Receiver Mike Wallace, signed as a free agent, should provide the deep threat that the team has sorely lacked, and running back Lamar Miller appears ready to break out.

    But the offensive line is a concern, as the team lost left tackle Jake Long in free agency. New left tackle Jonathan Martin must prove he's up to the challenge of protecting Tannehill's blind side.

    On defense, if rookie defensive end Dion Jordan can pair with fellow defensive end Cameron Wake to form a devastating one-two punch rushing the passer, the Dolphins could be in the mix for a wild-card spot.

     

Indianapolis Colts

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    Odds: 40/1

    The Indianapolis Colts are coming off a 2012 season in which they improved by a staggering nine games from 2011, finishing 11-5 and qualifying for the playoffs in stunning fashion. Much of this was due to the superlative play of their neophyte signal-caller, Andrew Luck.

    As Luck enters his second season as the team's starting quarterback, he should be even better than he was a season ago—a scary prospect for the rest of the AFC.

    Receivers Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton will both have monster campaigns, and the offensive line should be better in 2013 than it was in 2012.

    While there are question marks surrounding the defense, notably the pass rush (or lack thereof), Indianapolis should find itself in contention for a playoff berth come December.

Detroit Lions

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    Odds: 40/1

    The Detroit Lions failed the restore the roar from 2011's 10-6 playoff team, finishing a miserable 4-12 in 2012 and leaving coach Jim Schwartz squarely on the hot seat.

    For Detroit to make a playoff push in 2013, the offense must establish more balance. The team cannot hope to win if quarterback Matthew Stafford attempts 727 passes as he did last year. New running back Reggie Bush should help in that regard, and receiver Calvin Johnson is an absolute stud.

    The defense should be improved, as the team drafted defensive end Ziggy Ansah and cornerback Darius Slay in the early rounds of April's draft. But is the unit good enough to stop some of the more potent offenses in the NFC?

    If Detroit doesn't make a legitimate playoff push, expect this to be Schwartz's last season in Motown.

Washington Redskins

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    Odds: 33/1

    The Washington Redskins are coming off the franchise's best season in years. The 2012 iteration won the NFC East with a 10-6 record behind the stellar play of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

    While Griffin tore his ACL in the team's wild-card loss against Seattle, he's been cleared to start the team's opener this Monday night against Philadelphia, a major positive for the club.

    Coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen have transformed the roster into a force. Running back Alfred Morris and receiver Pierre Garcon are tremendous weapons, and on defense, end Ryan Kerrigan and linebacker Brian Orakpo strike fear into the hearts of opposing offenses.

    Much of the team's success will be predicated on the health of Griffin. If he stays healthy for 16 games, the Redskins could easily find themselves playing deep into January.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Odds: 28/1

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of a disappointing 2012 campaign that saw them finish 8-8 and out of the postseason—a largely foreign concept to head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

    This year, if the Steelers are to return to the playoffs, the offensive line must do a better job of protecting Roethlisberger, and the run game must be stronger. The team drafted running back Le'Veon Bell in the second round, but he's nursing a foot injury and is slated to return sometime in September. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Roethlisberger must do a better job working in concert.

    The defense, coordinated once again by the ageless Dick LeBeau, should be solid, but it remains to be seen if the unit can perform at the high level that Steelers fans are accustomed to seeing.

    As it stands now, the Steelers look like the third-best team in their own division, behind Cincinnati and Baltimore. That won't be good enough to qualify them for the postseason.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Odds: 28/1

    The Baltimore Ravens are looking to become the first team since the '03-04 Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champions. While the team certainly lost some excellent players (linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed, receiver Anquan Boldin, among others), the 2013 iteration looks poised to make a significant amount of noise.

    Quarterback Joe Flacco entered the "elite" stratosphere of signal-callers with his virtuoso performance in the 2012 postseason, culminating in a Super Bowl MVP award. Running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are excellent, and receiver Torrey Smith is a game-changer.

    The defense could be even better in 2013 than it was in 2012. Pass-rushing demons Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs should menace opposing quarterbacks, and cornerback Lardarius Webb will return from a torn ACL.

    Bet against coach John Harbaugh and Flacco at your own risk. The Ravens will likely be a playoff team yet again.

New York Giants

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    Odds: 25/1

    The New York Giants are coming off of a 9-7 season that saw them miss the postseason, and there is definitely more cause for concern for Big Blue fans.

    The offensive line is a question mark, and though the team drafted tackle Justin Pugh in the first round of April's draft, the unit appears shaky at best. The defense is totally predicated on rushing the passer, but the unit collapsed down the stretch in 2012, and the team will require better performances from defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck to return to prominence.

    But, as always with the Giants, New York will largely win or lose based on the performance of quarterback Eli Manning, and he usually delivers the goods. Plus, coach Tom Coughlin is among the best in football at his job.

    Because of Manning and Coughlin, come December, expect the Giants to be in contention for a playoff berth. 

Dallas Cowboys

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    Odds: 25/1

    The Dallas Cowboys had an offseason of turmoil, starting at the Senior Bowl, when owner Jerry Jones proclaimed that head coach Jason Garrett would no longer be calling the offensive plays. That announcement sparked months of speculation and confusion, as it appeared that Jones and Garrett weren't on the same page.

    The situation did sort itself out, though, with new offensive coordinator Bill Callahan calling the plays. The team also features a new defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, and a brand new 4-3, Tampa 2-based scheme. 

    Dallas features one of the game's better quarterbacks in Tony Romo, and receiver Dez Bryant is poised to have an absolutely beastly campaign. But the offensive line is still a work in progress, and that unit held the team back in 2012.

    The first-team defense played well in the preseason, not allowing a single touchdown, but it remains to be seen how the unit plays once the actual season gets underway.

    If Garrett is to keep his job, Dallas must qualify for the postseason. 

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Odds: 25/1

    The Cincinnati Bengals enter 2013 as one of the trendiest playoff picks, a stark departure from the team's dark ages of the 1990s and 2000s, and that's largely due to the talent assembled throughout the 53-man roster.

    Quarterback Andy Dalton has led the team to the postseason in each of his first two years, While he needs to improve for Cincinnati to reach the next level, Cincinnati has the weapons on offense to help him do so. Receiver A.J. Green is a force to be reckoned with, while rookie tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Gio Bernard should provide pop and sizzle.

    The defense is loaded as well, starting with defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The unit could dominate in 2013.

    Head coach Marvin Lewis hasn't always gotten the job done, but his staff is exceptional, with Jay Gruden coordinating the offense and Mike Zimmer the defense. Both men could (and should) be head coaches in 2014.

    Anything short of a playoff berth and trip to the divisional round would be a disappointment in the Queen City. 

Chicago Bears

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    Odds: 25/1

    Despite their 10-6 record a season ago, the Chicago Bears missed the postseason. General manager Phil Emery then made the decision to fire head coach Lovie Smith, sending tremors throughout the Windy City.

    The pressure was on Emery to deliver in his first head coaching hire, and he made an inspired call by naming Marc Trestman the team's new coach. Don't believe anyone who tells you that Trestman, who came from the CFL, can't coach in the NFL. He is more than capable of getting the job done.

    Trestman's primary task will be to elevate the play of mercurial quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler has weapons to work with, notably running back Matt Forte and receiver Brandon Marshall, and the offensive line should be improved to the point where Cutler isn't running for his life multiple times per game.

    The defense will be without middle linebacker Brian Urlacher for the first time since 2000, but new coordinator Mel Tucker should have the unit humming at a high level.

    Chicago is definitely a legitimate playoff contender in 2013.

New Orleans Saints

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    Odds: 18/1

    The New Orleans Saints endured a miserable 2012 campaign, finishing 7-9 without their head coach, Sean Payton. The defense was statistically the worst in the history of the NFL, a staggering nugget that likely had Payton putting his fist through walls last fall.

    This year, Payton is back on the sidelines, and that's bad news for the rest of the NFC. Quarterback Drew Brees leads the potent offensive attack, and there is simply no way the defense, now coordinated by Rob Ryan, could be any worse in 2013 than it was in 2012.

    Expect the Saints to be right back in the playoff hunt this year behind the genius of Payton and Brees.

Houston Texans

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    Odds: 16/1

    The Houston Texans are coming off of back-to-back AFC South titles, but the team has yet to advance past the divisional round of the playoffs. So anything less than a trip to the AFC title game would be a disappointment.

    Head coach Gary Kubiak and quarterback Matt Schaub spearhead one of the league's most balanced offensive attacks. The one-two punch at running back is strong with Arian Foster and Ben Tate, and the team may have finally found a capable No. 2 receiver behind Andre Johnson in rookie DeAndre Hopkins.

    Meanwhile, the defense, coordinated by Wade Phillips, is excellent, led by reigning Defensive Player of the Year, defensive lineman J.J. Watt. Don't be shocked if Watt repeats as the DPOY; he's that good.

    The coaching staff and roster are good enough to guide Houston deep into January. A Super Bowl berth is not out of the question.

Green Bay Packers

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    Odds: 12/1

    The Green Bay Packers have lost the divisional round of the postseason each of the last two seasons, so anything less than a trip to the NFC title game would be a disappointment.

    Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the best player in football regardless of position, the maestro of the Packers' offensive symphony. Coach Mike McCarthy is tremendous as well and serves as an excellent play-caller on offense. And the defense, led by star linebacker Clay Matthews, should be better than it was in 2012.

    The Packers are good enough to win their third consecutive NFC North title, but their season will be judged on how far they advance in the postseason.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Odds: 12/1

    Last season, the Atlanta Falcons came within a play of reaching the Super Bowl, so their expectations in 2013 are clear: Get to the big game and win it.

    Quarterback Matt Ryan leads a superior offensive attack, with receivers Julio Jones, Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez serving as his primary pass-catchers. Running back Steven Jackson was an inspired signing in the free-agent period, and he'll add much-needed toughness to the unit.

    Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is a wizard, and the team added defensive end Osi Umenyiora to bolster the pass rush. Finally, first-round draft pick, cornerback Desmond Trufant, should help solidify the secondary.

    The Falcons are certainly capable of making a run at the Super Bowl, and anything less would be a failure.

New England Patriots

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    Odds: 10/1

    Despite starting the season without their top five pass-catchers from 2012 (Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead), the New England Patriots find themselves with excellent odds to win the Super Bowl.

    Why?

    It's because of the perennial greatness of quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick. The two men have presided over an era of unprecedented success, as the team is in search of its 11th consecutive season with double-digit wins.

    The offense looks like it will be just fine. The offensive line is solid, and running back Stevan Ridley is excellent. The aerial attack looks to be in good hands with receivers Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman and running back Shane Vereen. Plus, the team is targeting a late-September return for Gronkowski.

    The defense looks like it'll be better than in previous years as well, as pass-rusher Chandler Jones is ready to emerge and cause havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

    Expect the Patriots to win a very weak AFC East and once again contend for a Super Bowl berth.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Odds: 17/2

    The Seattle Seahawks are coming off one of the most remarkable runs in franchise history, one that saw them come oh-so-close to a berth in the NFC title game, and it was largely keyed by the performance of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson sparkled in his neophyte campaign, and there's no reason to believe he won't do so again in year two. 

    The roster, built by general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, is an embarrassment of riches. Both sides of the ball are positively loaded.

    The only thing that could potentially hold Seattle back is the injury to star receiver Percy Harvin, acquired this offseason from the Vikings. It's unknown when Harvin will return, and his absence could cost the Seahawks home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

    This roster is too good to expect anything less than a playoff berth.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Odds: 6/1

    The San Francisco 49ers came tantalizingly close to a Super Bowl title, falling in the final seconds to the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII

    But don't expect a Super Bowl hangover with this team. Coach Jim Harbaugh is too good at his job, and the roster is too solid for that to occur.

    Quarterback Colin Kaepernick should be even better than he was in his stellar run last year, and while the team lost star receiver Michael Crabtree with an Achilles injury, there should be enough talent on offense to make up for it.

    Led by linebacker Patrick Willis, the defense will be stout yet again. And pass-rusher Aldon Smith will be a handful for opposing offenses.

    Mark it down, right now: The 49ers are going to the playoffs, and they will absolutely contend for the NFC title.

Denver Broncos

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    Odds: 6/1

    Despite an exceptional 2012 regular season that saw the team go 13-3, the Denver Broncos' campaign ended in heartbreak, as the team lost an overtime thriller at home in the divisional round to the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens.

    Quarterback Peyton Manning and coach John Fox will accept nothing less than a title this year.

    While the team should be able to win a weak AFC West, there are significant question marks on the roster.

    Can the running backs, Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball, carry the load and provide adequate pass protection for Manning? Can the defense generate enough of a pass rush in the first six games when it's without suspended linebacker Von Miller? Can star cornerback Champ Bailey stay healthy? These are queries that the Broncos must answer as they navigate through the regular campaign.

    Anything short of a Super Bowl title has to be considered a disappointment in the Mile High City.

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