The NFL preseason is underway and we’ve had our first look at the 2017 versions of the 32 teams. There has been a lot of optimism surrounding the young quarterbacks as last year’s first overall pick, Jared Goff, looked decent in opening action while this year’s incoming quarterback crop, Mitch Trubisky (Chicago Bears), Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans) and DeShone Kizer (Cleveland Browns) all showed well. As we move into the second week of preseason action, let’s take a closer look at some futures along with the odds to win the divisions.
New England is the biggest favorite in the league to win their division at -1000, with Miami coming in at +1200, Buffalo at +1200 and the New York Jets at +5000. The Patriots were always going to be favored and Miami was their biggest threat, but Ryan Tannehill is out for the season and the Dolphins have Jay Cutler under center. On top of that, the Patriots have had a banner offseason where they acquired playmaking receiver Brandin Cooks and top cornerback Stephon Gilmore to bolster their Super Bowl-winning roster. You can basically write the Patriots down for their 15th division title in 17 years.
Pittsburgh is the favorite at -150 with Cincinnati at +300, Baltimore at +350 and Cleveland at +2500. The Steelers are the defending champions but Ben Roethlisberger is getting older and Le’Veon Bell wants a new contract. The Steelers’ Big B’s – along with a revived defense – make them the steadiest bet in the division. The Bengals might be a good bet, but they seemed to take a step back last season. Baltimore is the wild card – if Joe Flacco is healthy – but their offensive line has already suffered multiple major injuries.
Houston and Tennessee are co-favorites at +200, with Indianapolis at +250 and Jacksonville at +550. The Texans have the best defense in the division but they’re not set at quarterback. Typically, the best quarterback leads the way in the NFL but in this division it would seem that the Titans and Colts – when Andrew Luck is healthy – have the best passers. It seems like Tom Savage is merely a placeholder until first-round pick Deshaun Watson is ready. Tennessee and Indianapolis have their quarterbacks, but they need help everywhere else. Jacksonville just needs Blake Bortles to not be terrible and they could be a problem as well. Their defense is stout and they should be able to run the ball with Leonard Fournette.
Oakland is favored at +160, with Kansas City at +240, Denver at +350 and the Los Angeles Chargers at +400. The Raiders have to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke. There aren’t many questions with their explosive offense – especially after adding Marshawn Lynch – but the defense has to be better. They finished 26th in total defense last season. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are steady but unspectacular. Will that be good enough? The Chargers could be a better team on paper if they can run the ball and protect quarterback Philip Rivers. However, that’s been a problem over the last handful of seasons. As for Denver, they might have the best defense in the division (finished fourth overall last season) but their offense is unsettled due to shoddy quarterbacking. They need either Trevor Siemian to be consistent or for last year’s first-round pick Paxton Lynch to prove that he’s ready.
Dallas and the New York Giants are co-favorites at +200 with Philadelphia coming in at +250 and Washington at +500. The Cowboys have to make it through the first six weeks without Ezekiel Elliott, which opens things up for the Giants. The Giants could have the best defense in the division (allowed the second-fewest points per game last season) and their offense looks improved too. They added some receiving weapons for Eli Manning with Brandon Marshall and tight end Evan Engram, who was the team’s first-round pick. The Eagles got some help for Carson Wentz with receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. They started 3-0 last season but faded as Wentz did. The hope is that they sustain their success now that he has more help. Speaking of help, it seems like Kirk Cousins lost a lot of it this offseason as the Redskins retooled their receiving corps.
Green Bay is favored at -200, while Minnesota comes in at +325, Detroit is at +600 and Chicago is at +2000. Aaron Rodgers still plays for the Packers, therefore, they’re the deserving favorite because the rest of the division can’t get out of their own way. The Vikings offense still looks like it’s several bricks short of a load. As for Detroit, they have to prove they can beat winning teams. They only beat one such team last year, which was the Redskins, who were 8-7-1. Lastly, there’s the Bears, who are clearly in rebuilding mode.
Atlanta is favored at +170 while Carolina sits at +225, Tampa Bay is at +350 and New Orleans is at +400. The Falcons have to get over their meltdown in the Super Bowl and that could open the door for the Panthers, who are fresh off a disastrous season. If they – and Cam Newton – can regain their swagger, they could be the team to beat. However, Tampa Bay is on the rise with a young roster that’s improving by the day while the New Orleans Saints still have Drew Brees and therefore a window of opportunity.
Seattle is the favorite here at -275 with Arizona at +300, the Los Angeles Rams at +1200 and San Francisco at +1800. The Seahawks are the clear-cut favorite as their defense is still stellar and the offense still goes with Russell Wilson at the helm. Is their passing game and offensive line good enough to lead them to a Super Bowl? That question will be answered in the coming months but they should be the best team in the division. Arizona is the closest to them but they have to prove that 37-year-old Carson Palmer isn’t finished. He contemplated retirement after a rough season. The hope is the Cardinals – and Palmer – regain their 2015 magic when he led them to the NFC Championship Game. As for the 49ers and Rams, they are clearly rebuilding.