Get ready for an understatement or two, starting...now.
Sports betting is big business. Super Bowl betting is the biggest of that very big business. It is also risky business: more so now because of free agency and because of the way the NFL schedules the toughest teams from the prior year against one another, giving the teams with poor records an easier path to contention because their non-divisional games are played against other weaker teams.
2011 Super Bowl betting has been made precarious by the unexpected implosion of favorites like the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings and the unforeseen meteoric rise of the Atlanta Falcons.
But you know what they say: No risk, no reward.
Who could have guessed 16 weeks ago that the current favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLV would be the Atlanta Falcons while the Cowboys would have fallen to 5–10 and in contention for a top ten draft pick, but not in contention to play in the Super Bowl they will host in a few weeks?
A quick check of the odds this morning shows Tom Brady's New England Patriots leading the pack at 5/2 odds. The Falcons come in at 11/2, while the Philadelphia Eagles (the NFC East team that was supposed to be in a bit of a rebuilding season) come in at 6/1, followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers at 7/1.
Besides going 2–6 in their billion-dollar home stadium, what do you suppose is the worst nightmare for Cowboys fans? How about waiting 45 years to host their first Super Bowl and, when it finally arrives, it features two of their most hated rivals over the years? Imagine how irksome to Jerry Jones and all of north Texas if the Philadelphia Eagles should face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Jerry World!
It is not very far-fetched, is it?
(I just threw up a little in my mouth.)
Back to 2011 Super bowl betting. As of this writing, the current AFC divisional leaders are as follows: The New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs. Jacksonville is tied with the Colts, record-wise and San Diego is only a game back of the Chiefs. The Baltimore Ravens are 1/2 game back of the Steelers in the standings in the AFC North.
The NFC shakes out like this. The divisional leaders are the Philadelphia Eagles, the Chicago Bears, the Atlanta Falcons, and the St. Louis Rams. The Bears have clinched their division, while their bunk mates, the Packers and the Vikings—the two teams that were supposed to duke it out for the Black and Blue Division—are slumping toward elimination altogether.
The ridiculous West Division is lead by two 6–8 teams, the Rams and the Seattle Seahawks. This may well be the first time in NFL history that a team in a non-strike season wins a division with a losing record.
The New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants seem to be the best bet to secure wild card spots in the NFC.
So, who will win Super Bowl XLV?
I do not know. Check back with me after week 17, when the playoffs are set and I will give you my fool-proof predictions. Not one minute sooner.
Sorry. This Super Bowl prediction business is tougher than it looks. Odds are the current odds will be different before this day is done.
I like to hedge my bet by at least knowing who the contestants will be; therefore, I will give my predictions when the playoff picture is set, thank you very much.
The one sad thing I know with absolute certainty is this: it will not be the Dallas Cowboys. To the heart that pumps silver and blue blood, that is a tough pill to swallow.