Kickoff for the 2016 NFL season is just two months and two weeks away, and preseason action is just over six weeks away, but who’s counting? It’s hard to believe that football season is so close – especially since many of us still have the memory of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos hoisting the Lombardi Trophy so fresh in our minds.
Speaking of the Broncos (+1800), they’re not favored to repeat as champions. That shouldn’t be a huge surprise as no team has won in consecutive seasons since the New England Patriots in 2004 and 2005. The Broncos have some personnel challenges to overcome as they might enter the season with either Mark Sanchez or rookie Paxton Lynch as their starting quarterback. The Broncos could have a tough time winning their own division as the Kansas City Chiefs share their odds (both at +180) to win the AFC West while the Oakland Raiders aren’t far behind (+275).
The favorites in each conference on the odds to win Super Bowl 51 are the New England Patriots (+700) and the Seattle Seahawks (+800). Both teams have some flaws but that hasn’t deterred the oddsmakers from putting them in such good standing.
The Patriots are always among the favorites and a couple of offensive acquisitions could make them an even more dangerous unit this year. Guard Jonathan Cooper should bolster the offensive line while pass-catchers Martellus Bennett, Nate Washington and Chris Hogan, who has been very impressive in mini camps, could give Tom Brady more ammo with which to work.
As for the Seahawks, they’ll have to replace heart-and-soul running back Marshawn Lynch and find a way to protect franchise quarterback Russell Wilson, but if they can do that they’ll be among the frontrunners in the NFC. Those two elements were mostly absent last year yet they still made it to the conference championship game. With a healthy Thomas Rawls and Jimmy Graham, along with the addition of young draft picks along the offensive line, the Seahawks should be the team to beat.
Rounding out the teams inside of 20/1 are the Pittsburgh Steelers (+1000), Green Bay Packers (+1000), Carolina Panthers (+1100), Arizona Cardinals (+1200) and Cincinnati Bengals (+1800).
Given the Carolina Panthers’ rise from the lower ranks last year – at one point a 75/1 dog – a lot of people are looking at sleepers that might surprise this year. The Tennessee Titans boast similar odds (+7500) and they have question marks after having the worst record in the league last season, but they have had a strong offseason. First-round pick Jack Conklin should bolster an offensive line that should be paving the path for new running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to pound opponents on the ground. Quarterback Marcus Mariota flashed superstar potential in his rookie season, so he should be even better with more help in his sophomore year.
The Los Angeles Rams (+6600) have also been bandied about as being a team on the rise. For years, experts have been saying they’re just a quarterback away, well now they have one; they used the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to select Jared Goff. If the defense remains stout and running back Todd Gurley continues to run wild, they could be a surprising team in 2016.
From the mid-range of teams, expect a lot of bettors to eye the Dallas Cowboys (+2000) and the Indianapolis Colts (+2500) as reasonable predictions. Both teams were battered by injuries last year but when healthy should be in the running to win their division.
Expect a lot of these odds to hold steady through July, but once training camps begin in August along with preseason action we’re going to see a lot of moving around.