Some of the remaining squads have elite defenses, others have top quarterbacks and a few simply have the ability to win in the trenches and dominate from there. Although injuries and inconsistency can derail any of these teams, every one has the talent capable of winning three more games—all that is necessary to bring home a championship.
The challenge will be predicting which of these teams can thrive in the next few weeks. Here is a look at the latest Super Bowl odds, courtesy of Odds Shark, and a breakdown of the best picks available.
|New England Patriots||+450|
|Kansas City Chiefs||+900|
|Green Bay Packers||+1200|
Source: Odds Shark
Best Value: Carolina Panthers (+500)
Considering the Carolina Panthers were the best team in football throughout the regular season, getting them at the third-best odds is quite a value.
Along the way to a 15-1 record, a lot of the discussion was about the defense. The front seven is among the best in the NFL with Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis patrolling the middle of the field and stopping the run at a high level. Cornerback Josh Norman also keys the pass defense by shutting down the opponent's top receiver.
Despite this strong play, it was actually the offense that carried this team throughout most of the year, leading the NFL with 31.3 points per game. There might be questions about the receivers and pass blocking, but quarterback Cam Newton is headed to his first MVP award for a reason.
The quarterback played at a high level all season and is incredibly difficult to defend thanks to his ability to beat teams with both his arm and his legs. Even with a challenging upcoming matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, this is still the team to beat in the NFC.
With a relaxed attitude and tons of talent, doubting the Panthers at this point would be a mistake.
Sleeper: Kansas City Chiefs (+900)
It's not easy to fly under the radar with only eight teams remaining, but the Kansas City Chiefs are still not getting the respect they deserve.
The Chiefs have won 11 games in a row thanks to a defense that is seemingly only getting better each week. During this stretch, the team has allowed just 11.6 points per game, including a shutout of the Houston Texans to win the franchise's first playoff game since 1994.
With Justin Houston and Tamba Hali healthy and once again creating an elite pass rush, even a quarterback like Tom Brady could struggle to throw the ball against this unit.
Meanwhile, Chiefs signal-caller Alex Smith runs the offense to perfection while taking care of the football, helping the team lead the AFC in turnover margin during the regular season. With so many question marks with every top AFC contender, Kansas City has as much of a chance as any of surviving the next couple of weeks and getting to the Super Bowl.
Health remains a question mark, but the payoff remains a good bet for the Chiefs.
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals (+425)
The Arizona Cardinals are currently the favorite to win the Super Bowl, but it is for good reason. This team has played as well as any team in football and has everything it needs to win a championship.
Carson Palmer might not win MVP, but in many ways he has been the best quarterback in football this year. Pro Football Focus rated him this way based on his play:
Carson Palmer was the only QB to not have a single negatively graded game this season, and finished with the highest QB grade— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 12, 2016
The biggest difference with him and Newton is that he has much more respected receivers between Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown and others. He also has a much-improved offensive line this season that not only keeps him upright, but also helps pave the way for a great rushing attack regardless of who is in the backfield.
This all takes a lot of the pressure off Palmer, which reduces his value, but it also means this is a much more dangerous offense. All of the talent has led the quarterback to believe this team can go all the way, as he wrote in the Players' Tribune:
This team really is in a unique situation. You hear some teams say before the season that it’s “Super Bowl or bust.” That couldn’t be more true with this group, because we remember that feeling we had last season. We know we had what it took to make a run. But we’re a fighting group, and that’s why we’re right back in the position we were in a year ago. We have an extremely big challenge ahead of us, but when we play our best football, nobody can beat us. We know that. We expect to beat everybody we play. And at this point, there is no “next year.”
The Cardinals believe they can go the distance, and there is no reason to doubt them. They have a high-powered offense and an aggressive defense that can stop anyone. If they play to their ability, they will raise the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 7.
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