The haymakers had scarcely stopped flying at the conclusion of New England’s Super Bowl win when Las Vegas was already posting odds for Super Bowl 50 or Super Bowl L. The favorites generally in most books around town were Seattle at 5-1 and New England at 6-1. But pre-season favorites which makes it to the Super Bowl champion’s podium have already been a rare breed lately, Seattle notwithstanding in 2013. New England in 2010 rated no higher than a 15-1 backing in the preseason and after an awful start that even had reporters asking Bill Belichick if he was considering replacing Tom Brady the Patriots were a tepid 12-1 into October.
Before that the last preseason favorite to capture a National Football League championship were the Indianapolis Colts who pranced into the growing season as 7-1 favorites and survived allowing Peyton Manning to touch his only Lombardi Trophy. So there’s value to be found in preseason odds of 20-1 or less. So what can we expect from these pretenders in the 2015 NFL season?
Green Bay is a popular short-odds team after coming agonizingly close in this year’s NFC championship. Nevertheless the oft times inconsistent Packer defense was incapable of cash the conservative checks coach Mike McCarthy was writing on offense and that theme could likely play out again in 2015. And of course league MVP Aaron Rodgers must escape untimely injuries that have affected him in past couple years, also this year’s hobbling through the playoffs.
The Cowboys have already been posted at 10-1. Romo and-running back-wide receiver trio of Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant is without peer which undoubtedly has sparked optimism. Romo will soon be 36 years of age in 2015 but has only played ten years and is coming off a Pro Bowl season that has been his first since 2009. Last season was the very first Murray could stay healthy for many 16 games (a heavily-taped broken hand from Game 15 did not sideline him) and he shouldered huge work load, toting the rock almost 25 times a game. The toll of that grind will bear watching but whether Dallas is truly a Super Bowl L contender is determined by its young, overachieving defense that has been roundly considered the worst in football entering the 2014 season but repeatedly silenced doubters through the campaign. It’s time for contract negotiations with Bryant and Murray go based on Dallas plans.
Denver is really a solid 12-1 generally in most Vegas books but it’s too early to share with how Peyton Manning will mesh with new coach Gary Kubiak. Or whether Manning will soon be around for Kubiak to mesh with at all. The record-holding quarterback suffered through a dismal second half of the growing season when his effectiveness plummeted, his arm strength was questioned and injury concerns were rumored. Denver could cover for Manning’s sharp decline with a punishing defense and a spirited running game so with or without Manning fans can get to see a different Bronco eleven in 2015.
If this year’s Super Bowl demonstrated anything it had been the worthiness of an entire roster. The brutality of today’s 20-game schedule puts a premium on roster depth and when you can never be certain to truly have a game-changing fifth-string cornerback from West Alabama (Malcolm Butler) or contributions from a Canadian Football League reject (Chris Matthews) organizations matter. In Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly has engineered an electric play to get complete control over personnel matters and fans must wait to see what he does with it. One position he must stabilize is quarterback as fans wait to see if an ironclad commitment to Nick Foles is on tap. As a result of uncertainty Eagles backers will find odds from 12-1 to 20-1 in early Vegas postings.
One team without quarterback concerns is Indianapolis, which includes moved forward in every one of Andrew Luck’s three seasons, culminating in a AFC Championship appearance this year. But it’s hard to point out an energy elsewhere on the Colts roster which will keep their preseason odds hovering in the 15-1 range.
Of course questions swirl around each one of these pretenders given some other shot at Super Bowl L. Can Pittsburgh get back to there top defense after the departure of sideline guru Dick LeBeau that may compliment the transcendent talents of running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown? Can Detroit ever obtain a potential-fulfilling year from quarterback Matthew Stafford to take some pressure off its game-changing defense? Will Coach of the Year Bruce Arians manage to keep a quarterback healthy to back up their own raucous defenders in Arizona? Can anyone find out New Orleans that was torpedoed by non-existent defense in 2013 and sabotaged by the no-show of its high-powered offense in 2014?
For sleepers, what about those New York football Giants who purloined two Super Bowls before decade at odds of 20-1 and 30-1. Eli Manning spent most of 2014 learning a brand new offense and the team was dead and forgotten by mid-season and Tom Coughlin was assumed to truly have a limousine to retirement waiting outside Giants Stadium. But somehow Coughlin, with a large boost from rookie phenom Odell Beckham, resurrected a dead clubhouse and the Giants were as tough an out as any team in league down a meaningless stretch. Coughlin is back this season and New York may be as well.