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Super Bowl 2015: Odds and Predictions for AFC and NFC Favorites

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2015

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 20:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates a touchdown in the third quarter against the New York Giants during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

With just two weeks remaining in the 2015 NFL regular season, the playoff picture has become clearer and teams are really starting to separate themselves from the pack. The question now is which teams are setting themselves up the most for a run to the Super Bowl.

There seems to be less parity this season than usual, with only 11 teams currently having a winning record. The good news is at least the leaders in the NFC East and AFC South have gotten back to .500 to help set up what could be an exciting playoffs throughout.

However, we have seen plenty of instances in recent years where record doesn't necessarily guarantee playoff success. In the past five seasons, No. 4 seeds Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants have won Super Bowls as well as the No. 6 Green Bay Packers. The Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers have also won games despite posting losing records going into the playoffs.

No team should be counted out when it comes to potentially making a run at the Super Bowl. With that in mind, here is a look at the latest odds to win a championship and a breakdown of the favorites and sleepers in each league.

Odds to Win Super Bowl 50
TeamOdds
New England Patriots+333
Carolina Panthers+400
Arizona Cardinals+650
Seattle Seahawks+650
Pittsburgh Steelers+650
Green Bay Packers+1000
Denver Broncos+1400
Kansas City Chiefs+1800
Cincinnati Bengals+1800
Minnesota Vikings+5000
Washington Redskins+6600
New York Jets+7500
Houston Texans+7500
Philadelphia Eagles+7500
New York Giants+7500
Indianapolis Colts+10000
Jacksonville Jaguars+50000
Atlanta Falcons+50000
via Odds Shark

AFC Breakdown

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Winslow Townson/Associated Press

For a brief moment in the regular season, the New England Patriots were vulnerable. They had lost back-to-back games to the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles and had dropped to No. 3 in the AFC standings. This now seems like a long time ago.

With two wins in a row, New England is back in first place in the AFC with a clinched first-round bye. With the rest of the conference struggling to keep up, it's clear this team is once again the favorite to at least reach the Super Bowl, if not win it.

The only challenge has been injuries, as Rich Hill notes how many players have been used this season:

Rich Hill @PP_Rich_Hill

The Patriots have had 70 players take a snap this season, the most in the entire league. And they're the best in the AFC. Improbable.

As long as Tom Brady remains under center and Bill Belichick is on the sidelines, though, the Patriots will remain in good shape. The payoff isn't great for a bet on them now, but this is clearly the safest pick on the books.

The next two teams in the standings are much bigger mysteries at this stage, both due to quarterback concerns. The Broncos have lost two straight with Brock Osweiler and are now hoping for Peyton Manning to hurry back, although he wasn't playing exceptionally well when he was injured. Andy Dalton is surprisingly a bigger loss for the Cincinnati Bengals, and it is unknown whether AJ McCarron can keep the team winning in his absence.

A Week 16 matchup between these two teams will tell us a lot about what to expect in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the biggest threat for New England might be a team still struggling to get a spot in the postseason. The Pittsburgh Steelers sent a message with their 34-27 win over the Broncos, showing that a great offense can beat a great defense. Terry Bradshaw of Fox Sports might be biased, but he believes this team is winning the Super Bowl:

FOX Sports: NFL @NFLonFOX

ICYMI: Terry Bradshaw thinks the @Steelers are headed to the Super Bowl AND they're going to win! https://t.co/NXFN1RL24F

With Ben Roethlisberger connecting to Antonio Brown, it's difficult to count them out.

One potential sleeper to pick could be the Kansas City Chiefs, winners of eight in a row after a 1-5 start. The key has been a dominant defense allowing just 13.5 points per game during the winning streak and an offense that can run the ball and avoid mistakes.

Not many have faith in Alex Smith to lead this team to a championship, but the talent is there throughout the squad to make a serious run.

NFC Breakdown

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The obvious pick here is the Carolina Panthers, which have swept through the regular season to this point and sit in first place with a 14-0 record. Somehow, despite an undefeated season, the group is underrated, with doubters expecting a drop at any moment.

Carolina really isn't going anywhere with a defense featuring elite talent at every level. Josh Norman and Luke Kuechley have been the team's biggest playmakers, but a great defensive line and steady veterans in the secondary have kept opposing offenses in check. Meanwhile, Cam Newton has led an offense that now leads the NFL with 32.1 points per game despite few noteworthy weapons at skill positions. There are a lot of MVP candidates, but Newton is the clear favorite at this stage.

Of course, getting to the Super Bowl won't be easy with the Arizona Cardinals playing just as well over the past few months. 

Thanks to eight wins in a row, Arizona has clinched the NFC West title with its sights on a first-round bye. While the players did celebrating the division championship, head coach Bruce Arians still wasn't satisfied:

Around The NFL @AroundTheNFL

Arians on Cards' division title: 'Clinching the West isn't the goal' https://t.co/edLmuOjPZq

The coach and the players all want something bigger, and they expect to be contending for a Super Bowl this postseason. They certainly have the offensive talent with Carson Palmer playing as well as anyone in the NFL and rookie running back David Johnson providing plenty of balance. The big question is how the defense will respond after losing Tyrann Mathieu to an ACL tear, per Andrew Siciliano of NFL Network.

Arizona will suffer in the secondary without the Honey Badgers, who had become a legitimate candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year award.

There is a clear drop-off after the top two teams in the NFC, but that doesn't mean there aren't sleepers available. The Seattle Seahawks are obviously a group to be scared of regardless of their seed based on their talent and experience in the postseason, although the oddsmakers are clearly on the same page.

One much deeper sleeper could be the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that still controls its own destiny for the playoffs despite a 6-8 record. Even after a blowout loss to the Cardinals, Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus notes the team isn't too far off:

Mike Clay @MikeClayNFL

I'd argue the Eagles played better than the score tonight. Yes, the 3 huge turnovers count, but correct them and you're right there.

Sam Bradford actually looked good aside from some mistakes, and the offense moved the ball well. Considering this is the only team to win in New England, there is clearly plenty of ability on this roster.

While it isn't likely this group turns things around to win a Super Bowl, the upside at the current price is there for those looking to take a risk.

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