We are currently in the closest thing to an offseason that the NFL has these days. Players are working out and coaches are scheming, but for the rookies have been drafted, and most of the significant free agents have new homes. We have the best sense we’ve had yet of what teams are going to look like next year, so it only makes sense that this is a good time to look at the Super Bowl futures that are available to see what is interesting. There are three teams that stand out to me as being lousy bets, and three more that are at least a little interesting that their current prices (all odds are from Bodog):
Denver Broncos (50/1) – Do I think that the Broncos are going to win the Super Bowl? No. Do I think that they have a better shot at it than these odds indicate? Absolutely. This price has them in the depths of the serious longshots, but they are better than that. There is a lack of clarity at the quarterback position right now, but what they don’t lack is depth. A lot is being made of the loss of Brandon Marshall, but the team is free of the distraction that was a part of his presence, and they still have some nice receivers – Eddie Royal is very legit, Brando Stokely is a seasoned veteran, and Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are nice newcomers. What I like best about this team, though, is their coach. Josh McDaniels is a legitimately talented young coach, and now he’s in the second year of implementing his philosophy. He’s obviously not afraid of making a bold move, and I expect him to have earned the respect of the core of his team this year. Last year had its bright spots, and this year should be more consistent.
Cincinnati Bengals (30/1) – I really don’t like Marvin Lewis, so for me to say that his team is undervalued is really saying something. The offense is going to be solid again, and if they can stay healthy they have a chance to be better than that. Defensively, they are going to be very hard to throw against – no team has a better core of cornerbacks. This team has failed to reach their potential for years, but maybe this is the time they finally do so. There are 16 teams with lower odds than the Bengals, but I’m not at all convinced that there are 16 teams with a better chance of getting lucky in January.
San Francisco 49ers (30/1) – The Niners are at the same price as the Bengals, and many of the same arguments apply here – I’m also not convinced that their chances should be in the bottom half of the league. Mike Singletary seems to have very good buy-in from his team, they had a strong offseason and a good draft, Michael Crabtree is around all year, and the defense is more than slid. A lot of the concerns around this team are based on Alex Smith, but I’m a Smith believer, and I love this price.
New York Jets (10/1) – I just don’t understand all the love that the Jets are getting right now – and I like Rex Ryan a lot. They made some big-name moves, but I’m not convinced that the team is nearly as improved as people think as a result. The running game won’t be as good as last year unless LaDainian Tomlinson is a guy he hasn’t been for three years. Antonio Cromartie is a big risk, and it’s far from a safe bet that he can stay out of trouble living in New York. Santonio Holmes is just as much of a risk. The AFC East is going to be tougher this year thanks to improved teams in New England and Miami, and this team isn’t going to sneak up on anyone this year. On top of all that, Mark Sanchez really wasn’t very good last year, and it takes more of a leap of faith than I will comfortably make to assume he is going to be Super Bowl worthy this year.
New Orleans Saints (9/1) – The Saints were a great team and a great story last year. The previous Super Bowl winner didn’t even make the playoffs last year, and many Super Bowl teams struggle with focus the next season – especially because the offseason is short, the draft isn’t as helpful as it can be because of the low picks, and the team has a target on its back. Add to that the fact that this team has the whole pill conspiracy hanging over them and you have a team who could encounter some rough spots. There’s no good reason why this team should be favored to repeat in my eyes.
Pittsburgh Steelers (20/1) – I’ll keep this one short and to the point. This team had focus issues last year, they had the offseason from hell, and they are without their QB for at least a month. This price doesn’t reflect the difficulty of overcoming all that.