Before you know it the Super Bowl will be here and this year’s NFL champion will be crowned. So, who has the best chance of taking this down? Let’s take a look at the Vegas favorites to see what they think.
New England Patriots (+180): Tom Brady might be playing the best football of his decorated career, and New England’s third-ranked scoring offense can carve up opponents through the air or bludgeon them on the ground. Throw in the fact that Bill Belichick can come up with schemes to confuse any offense, and the Patriots are the most complete team in the playoffs. New England had the best record in the NFL for a reason, and Brady and company are the safest and smartest bet if you are going with one of the frontrunners.
Dallas Cowboys (+450): Led by star rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott and the NFL’s best offensive line, the Cowboys grabbed the top seed in the NFC. Home-field advantage and a first-round bye certainly count for something, but it is worth noting that no rookie quarterback has ever led a team to a Super Bowl title. How Prescott handles the pressure remains to be seen, and the road to Super Bowl 51 is much tougher in the NFC than in the AFC. If I’m betting on a favorite, it isn’t going to be the Cowboys.
Green Bay Packers (+700): The Packers and Aaron Rodgers are red hot entering the playoffs. Green Bay has won six straight, and Rodgers has 15 touchdowns and no interceptions in that span. Yes, Green Bay’s secondary is a MASH unit, but the Packers are 10-1 when allowing 30 points or less. If the defense can just be mediocre, Rodgers and company will do the rest. I’d rather bet the Packers than the Cowboys at their current odds.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+800): Believe it or not, the Steelers will have Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell on the same field for a playoff game for the first time ever this postseason. It’s easy to fall in love with Pittsburgh because of all the offensive firepower, but the defense is average, especially in the secondary, and Roethlisberger has struggled on the road, tossing nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Steelers will be on the road after wild-card weekend, and I think they are a little overvalued at their current odds.
Kansas City Chiefs (+900): Kansas City tends to get overlooked because quarterback Alex Smith is just a game manager, but the Chiefs have some playmakers on offense this year. Travis Kelce has become the best tight end in the game, and do-it-all speedster Tyreek Hill can turn any touch into a touchdown. Kansas City also boasts one of the most opportunistic defenses, and the Chiefs led the NFL in non-offensive touchdowns. They should be well rested after a first-round bye, and Arrowhead Stadium provides one of the better home-field advantages. If I’m betting on an AFC team that isn’t the New England Patriots, it’s going to be the Chiefs.
Atlanta Falcons (+900): Quarterback Matt Ryan should win the MVP this season, and the Falcons’ top-scoring offense is loaded with weapons and hasn’t been stopped all year. The concern is a beatable defense that ranked 27th in points allowed, and it is hard to win shootouts every week in the playoffs. Don’t fall in love with the Falcons.
New York Giants (+1200): It’s impossible to forget Eli Manning’s two previous Super Bowl runs, but don’t bank on a third. Yes, New York’s defense has been one of the best in the league the last couple of months, but this offense doesn’t scare anyone. In fact, the Giants haven’t scored more than 28 points in a game all year.
Seattle Seahawks (+1400): Anyone waiting for the Seahawks to flip a switch and make a Super Bowl run is going to be waiting a while. The vaunted defense isn’t the same without Earl Thomas, and Seattle’s power running game has disappeared behind a patchwork offensive line that features a converted basketball player at left tackle. Russell Wilson can only carry this team so far.
Houston Texans (+6600): The Texans have a good chance of advancing out of wild-card weekend because of a friendly matchup, but this is not a good team, at least on the offensive side of the ball. Brock Osweiler has been a $72-million mistake under center, and despite a stout defense, Houston won’t be able to keep pace with the true AFC contenders.
Miami Dolphins (+7500): Miami caught a bad break when it lost starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but the Dolphins are solid in the trenches on both sides of the ball. They also own a win against their wild-card opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Don’t get me wrong, I expect a first-round exit for the Dolphins. However, I’d much rather throw a few bucks at Miami than Houston, Oakland or Detroit if I’m taking a flier on an underdog.
Oakland Raiders (+7500): As if losing Derek Carr to a broken leg wasn’t devastating enough, the Raiders also lost backup Matt McGloin and missed out on a division crown and a first-round bye despite going 12-4. The Raiders now have to open the playoffs on the road with third-stringer Connor Cook under center. The Raiders are going to be one and done in the playoffs.
Detroit Lions (+7500): The Lions are limping into the playoffs on a three-game losing streak, Matthew Stafford hasn’t been the same quarterback since injuring his finger, and Detroit can’t run the ball. The Lions open the playoffs on the road against Seattle, and the Seahawks rarely lose at home. Don’t waste your money.