Training camps are underway and the Hall of Fame Weekend kicks off Thursday, which means the NFL season is right around the corner. For many bettors, Thursday is the beginning of the season as we start to get our first look at how the teams have changed. That makes the next couple of weeks the best time to find some value in terms of NFL futures.
It shouldn't be a surprise that the New England Patriots are the early favorites to repeat at +375 after winning their fifth Super Bowl. Sure, they lost a few players - including the recently retired Rob Ninkovich - but many people feel the Patriots actually won the offseason. Remember that they brought in receiver Brandin Cooks from New Orleans, signed top cornerback Stephon Gilmore, added running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee, and acquired defensive end Kony Ealy and tight end Dwayne Allen.
The Green Bay Packers are the favorite in the NFC and are at +750 to win Super Bowl 52. As per usual, it is all about Aaron Rodgers for them. The Packers struggled last season as he took a while to get going, but then Rodgers went on a wild run in the second half of the season and took the Packers to the NFC title game where they lost to Atlanta. They signed Martellus Bennett, who was in New England last season, as another target for Rodgers. The defense has to be much better than they were last season, finishing 22nd in total defense.
The next wave of teams includes the likes of Dallas, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Oakland at +1200. The Cowboys should have beaten Green Bay in last year's playoffs had it not been for a miracle, but that was then and this is now. Tony Romo is out of the picture and Dak Prescott enters the year as the clear-cut leader of the team. Ezekiel Elliott needs to stay out of trouble off the field but he can't seem to stay out of the news.
The Seahawks need Earl Thomas to be back and healthy as the leader of what is still a very good defense, but the offense has to get a little better. They have to find a way to run the ball effectively (25th in NFL) and protect Russell Wilson, who was sacked the second-most times of any quarterback last season (41). Their former star, running back Marshawn Lynch, came out of retirement but he left for Oakland. The Raiders hope he has something left in the tank after a year off. There's no question that he's joining one of the best offenses in the NFL but can their defense, which allowed 24.1 points per game (20th in NFL), improve? They need to find a way to pressure opposing quarterbacks after generating the fewest sacks in the league last season (25).
The Steelers are a veteran bunch that could be flying under the radar after making it to the AFC Championship Game last year. Their revamped defense allowed just 20.4 points per game last season (10th) and their offense should be just fine with the Big B's of Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
The last team inside of 20/1 are the Falcons at +1600. Many wonder if last year was their best chance to win a Super Bowl. How will Matt Ryan and company bounce back from losing a 28-3 lead? This season will be more about mental strength from the Falcons than anything else as they return mostly the same roster.
There are a number of intriguing bets in the next tier as we see teams like Houston, Denver, the New York Giants and Carolina are all rated at +2200. The Texans are interesting as their defense is great but they've been hampered by terrible quarterback play. If first-round pick Deshaun Watson is the solution - or is at least modestly serviceable - this team will be in contention.
The Denver Broncos seem to be in the same boat as they're a quarterback short of making it work. As for the Panthers, maybe they'll bounce back after a tumultuous season for their team and star quarterback, Cam Newton.