We’re talking sleepers here, and we’re talking about them really, really early. Only teams at 20/1 and higher are considered sleepers in my book, so let’s get right to it.
Pittsburgh Steelers (20/1)
Yes, I know that Roethlisberger will be out for the first set of games. But Rashard Mendenhall and an experienced offensive line will help carry the load for the placeholder quarterback (either Dennis Dixon, Byron Leftwich, or Charlie Batch) and leadership from veterans like Hines Ward will help this team weather the storm. If they can make it through the Roethlisberger-less games close to .500, look out.
Atlanta Falcons (22/1)
The Falcons went 9-7 last year against a tough schedule (NFC East and AFC East) and with injuries to Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and many other key players on both sides of the ball. The schedule lightens up considerably this year (AFC North and NFC West) and the defense adds Dunta Robinson and 2010 1st round draft pick Sean Weatherspoon to a unit that really struggled in 2009. I expect the Falcons to be a much-improved team in 2010 and make a serious run through the playoffs.
San Francisco 49ers (40/1), Arizona Cardinals (50/1), Seattle Seahawks (50/1), St. Louis Rams (150/1)
Last time I checked, one of these teams is guaranteed to make the playoffs from the NFC West. I don't think a Super Bowl run by any of these teams is likely, but one of these teams will make the playoffs and if they get hot at the right time, then anything can happen. Just look at the Cardinals and their run through the playoffs two years ago for proof. I say pick the team you like most from this division and ride ‘em. Probably want to avoid the Rams though.
Odds courtesy of VegasInsider.com on May 25, 2010.