In the NFL world, it's never too early to start talking about next season.
And while next season may very much be in doubt because of the labor negotiations and a possible lockout that could extend into the season, that doesn't mean there aren't odds on next season already. Sure, teams might not be able to make any transactions, but that doesn't mean expectations aren't high, either.
Already, sites like Bodog.net and BetUS.com have posted their NFL and Super Bowl XLVI odds. So it is time for myself to do the same and post odds for each NFL team for making the Super Bowl.
Of course, this could all be rendered moot by the lack of a collective bargaining agreement and the possible lack of, you know, a season. But that's a different discussion for a different day.
Read on to see where your favorite team slides in.
32. Carolina Panthers. The Panthers aren't as bad as they were last season, but they're not Super Bowl-bound either. They won't be until they make a decision on a quarterback. Odds: 150/1
31. Buffalo Bills. One of these days the Bills have to be better. Right? Odds: 145/1
30. Arizona Cardinals. Just like Carolina, the Cardinals need to find a quarterback. Once that happens and the defense gets rebuilt, they'll be on their way again. Odds: 130/1
29. Denver Broncos. John Fox has already said Kyle Orton would be the starter over Tim Tebow. Either way, quarterback is the least of the Broncos' problems. Odds: 120/1
28. Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals seem to be either bottom-dwellers or division champs under Marvin Lewis. This year's leaning towards the former. Odds: 115/1
27. Cleveland Browns. It's starting to get better in Cleveland with Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis. There's still a long way to go, however. Odds: 100/1
26. Washington Redskins. Mike Shanahan's thumbprints will be on this year's team more than last year. It still won't make a big difference. Odds: 100/1
25. St. Louis Rams. The Rams made some big strides last season, but one has to think they'll slip a little bit this year. But considering it's the NFC West, who knows. Odds: 95/1
24. Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville's starting to put some nice pieces in place. But the Jaguars have to start learning how to put games away. Odds 85/1
23. Tennessee Titans. Some of the pieces are already in place. But it'll all depend on whether the Titans can find a quarterback to take the pressure off Chris Johnson. Odds: 75/1
22. Oakland Raiders. Raiders had a nice season last year, but they have quarterback issues too. We'll see if they slip back a little this season. Odds: 70/1
21. Seattle Seahawks. Seattle somehow won the NFC West and then won a playoff game to boot. The Seahawks will be the favorite, but that's the NFC West again. Odds: 60/1
The Dolphins are one of those frustrating teams in that they have talented players all over the roster but haven't been able to put it together consistently.
If the Dolphins can decide on a quarterback and also decide on the type of team they want to be, then they can go from there, and that will dictate what the team does going forward and how they use Brandon Marshall.
The 49ers are arguably the most talented team in the NFC West yet were never able to live up to the expectations under Mike Singletary. Now there's a new sheriff in town in Jim Harbaugh, and he'll be charged with leading the 49ers back to the postseason for the first time since 2002.
I wouldn't expect too much out of the 49ers considering they're trying to get over the hump. But considering the talent on both sides of the ball and being in the NFC West, a division title is not an unreasonable expectation.
And hey, once you get into the playoffs, you never know.
In their brief history, the Texans have shown flashes of taking that next step to becoming a great team. But every time this franchise seems poised to make a move, something happens.
The pieces are there, at least on offense, to be a great team with Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and the emergence of Arian Foster. But now is the time for this franchise to finally take that next step and start moving forward instead of spinning its wheels.
And hey, you can't win the Super Bowl until you make the playoffs.
The Lions are an interesting case because they definitely showed a lot of promise last season and could be this year's surprise team.
Then again, they're still the Lions. But if you're a Lions fan, you at least have to be pleased that it looks like the franchise is finally heading in the right direction. They won't compete for a Super Bowl this season, but a winning record and possibly even the Wild Card is not out of the realm of imagination.
Let's put it this way: For the first time in a while, the Thanksgiving Day game will have playoff significance for the Lions.
The Chiefs were that surprise team last season, taking the league by storm and winning the AFC West. They won't have the element of surprise this season, and they will have to get tougher, but they have the ability to be a difference maker in the AFC.
They won't be a favorite because the Patriots, Steelers, Jets and Ravens still run the conference, and you have to go through them to come out of the AFC. But the Chiefs have the potential to be a dark horse, or at worst, be a very tough team to play against.
Surprise, surprise, another team with quarterback issues. But this team is in much better shape than some of the other teams with quarterback issues. Any team with Adrian Peterson would be in better shape.
I think Minnesota and Dallas fall into the category of "not as good as predicted but not as bad as the final record." What Minnesota does this season will really depend on what they do at the quarterback position (because they will need a quarterback) and how the team responds to Leslie Frazier over a whole season.
But, at least for now, the Super Bowl window is probably closed.
The Buccaneers had a remarkable 2010 campaign, winning 10 games and just barely missing out on the NFL playoffs. It was a team that came a long way from 2009 when some were wondering aloud if Raheem Morris was the right coach for the job.
The future is definitely bright in Tampa Bay, but the Super Bowl isn't a realistic expectation for this year considering how volatile the NFC South has been historically and how competitive the division should be this season with Tampa, New Orleans and Atlanta.
The playoffs are a reasonable expectation, but the truth is the Super Bowl window probably doesn't open for this team until 2012.
The Colts are still considered a favorite since they're the best team in the AFC South, and they have Peyton Manning. But the truth of the matter is the Super Bowl window is starting to close on the Colts.
They have problems staying healthy, the running game is inconsistent, the defense is starting to regress and the key players are getting older. Yes, even Peyton.
Now, after saying this, they'll probably go 13-0 to start the season. But the Colts don't have many more opportunities.
Considering the talent on both sides of the ball, last year was a very disappointing year in San Diego.
But remember, this is a team that will have Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson for a full season (which the Chargers didn't have last year), plus an improved running game and Philip Rivers.
Don't be surprised to see the Chargers take back the AFC West, but this is a team that has to do something in the playoffs. If they want to be included in the discussion with the AFC powers, it's time to get to that level.
The Cowboys fall into that previously mentioned boat with Minnesota—not as good as they were predicted to be but not as bad as their final record showed.
Jerry Jones finally got his man Jason Garrett to be the head coach, and the Cowboys seemed to respond to him. Now the question is if the Cowboys respond this season. If they can upgrade the secondary and the offensive line, they can be right back in the Super Bowl hunt.
The Bears came from out of nowhere last season to win the NFC North and make it all the way to the NFC Championship Game, but one has to think they'll slip back this season a tiny bit.
Under Lovie Smith, the Bears have been good for a year or two, but they've never been able to really be consistent. In fact, only once this decade have the Bears had two winning seasons in a row; that was in 2005 and 2006. If Jay Cutler can be the quarterback he's shown flashes of being and he can be protected, then the Bears have a shot.
But they're also in a competitive conference, which could push them back this season.
You can project a Giants season under Tom Coughlin like clockwork every year. A somewhat slow start in September, absolutely on fire in late September/October, then collapsing down the stretch in November and December before either missing or backing into the postseason.
The Giants were able to win a Super Bowl in 2007 with Coughlin, but the fanbase is getting sick of watching every season play out the same way and paying top dollar to do so. Unless things change and Coughlin can make another magical run, this might be his last year in New York.
That being said, they have the talent to make noise in the NFC.
It's now been two consecutive seasons that the Jets have gotten into the playoffs as a Wild Card and won two games on the road before falling short in the AFC Championship Game. One would have to think that eventually the Jets will break through (law of averages, right?).
The talent is there on both sides of the ball, and especially with the age of some of the players on that defense, if the Jets want to finally break through with Rex Ryan, now might be the time to do so.
The Saints came into the last season as the Super Bowl champs and left as victims of one of the biggest upsets in recent playoff history. You can bet that didn't sit well in Drew Brees' craw.
If the Saints can find a running game and a running back that will stay healthy, that will help vault them back into the Super Bowl picture in the NFC. Of course, any team with Drew Brees and that offense is going to be dangerous, but the Saints will need help from the guys around Brees to really have a great chance.
That being said, they're still one of the best teams in the league.
The Baltimore Ravens always come close.
Every year, we hear about how this is the year for the Ravens, and then every year they fall short. This season was the second time in three years that the season ended in Pittsburgh.
Like the Jets, eventually the Ravens will have to put up or shut up. And especially with Ray Lewis perhaps entering the twilight of his career, the Ravens' window might be starting to close. So if there was any year the Ravens need to finally break through, this is the year.
The Falcons had one of their best seasons in franchise history, but one which ended unceremoniously for them with a blowout loss to Green Bay in the Divisional Round at home. The Falcons' window will still be open for a while, but there are other factors for them to worry about.
They'll have to fight with the Saints and the Bucs for the NFC South—and consider it is the NFC South, which has been one of the most volatile divisions in football in terms of turnover. So the Falcons will be hard-pressed to repeat.
But they'll have the opportunity to do it, especially since the expectations have now been raised.
It might be a little surprising to see the Eagles this high, considering they still have major holes to fill on the offensive line and in the secondary.
But right now, the sports books are pretty high on the Birds. BetUS has them at plus-1400, and Bodog has them at 16/1.
And the fact of the matter is when this team is rolling, they have the potential to be that good. But in a city where the pressure to win is so high, anything other than a deep playoff run and possibly a Super Bowl run will be seen as a disappointment.
The Steelers are consistently consistent, if that makes any sense. It seems like you can always pencil them in for double-digit wins most years.
So is anyone surprised that the Steelers will be near the top of this list again this season, considering they'll have a full season of Ben Roethlisberger, plus a healthy Troy Polamalu and a deep-ball threat in Mike Wallace?
They still have to prove they can beat the Patriots when it counts, but there's nothing internally to suggest they won't be in the hunt for the Super Bowl again in 2011.
The defending Super Bowl champions will definitely have the bullseye on their backs entering 2011 after the way they bulldozed through the NFC in late December and January to win the title. But perhaps the most heartening thing for Packers fans (and perhaps disheartening for the rest of the NFL) is that the Packers will be back.
The key pieces on this team are relatively young, and if the rash of injuries proved anything, it's how deep the Packers are to boot. I'm not going to use the d-word (dynasty) because they've only won one. But they have the potential to become one.
Who else would it be?
Every year, it seems like the Patriots are in this position, and every year, they end up as one of the favorites to go to the Super Bowl. They've lost some of their invincibility since the shocking loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, but they are always among the best teams in the league every season.
And with a young defense, two first-round draft picks and some veteran talent, there's no reason to suggest this year won't be any different.
Oh yeah, there's that Brady guy, too.