As years end slowly approaches, so does the end of another NFL regular season. It seemed like just yesterday that Tom Brady made history by leading the New England Patriots to their fifth championship in Super Bowl LI.
New England proved in their comeback conquest of Atlanta just how important it is for teams to stay focused on the present and let the figure fall into place. I’m sure if you asked Bill Belichick about the Pats’ chances in Super Bowl LII, his answer would be very reminiscent of Jim Mora circa 2001, but with more disappointment in his voice. That is assuming Belichick actually gives a response instead of turning the reporter into stone.
We football fans aren’t patient enough to see what happens in the rest of the season before making our predictions. Injuries (Aaron Rodgers), suspensions (Ezekiel Elliot), and teams that didn’t live up to the hype (Oakland, anyone?) have already ruined a number of Opening Super Bowl contenders.
With only seven weeks remaining in the regular season, I took a look at some of the teams Vegas heavily favors to win the big game in Minneapolis on February 4, 2018.
Current odds as of November 14, 2017, from the Westgate Las Vegas Super Book.
OH, HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN
Before examining the teams with the best odds to become Super Bowl Champions, I wanted to bring attention to teams that were heavily favored in the Opening but aren’t any longer.
Green Bay Packers
Opening odds: 12-1
Current odds: 80-1
Opening odds: 20-1
Current odds: 500-1
Opening odds: 25-1
Current odds: 500-1
Opening odds: 25-1
Current odds: 2000-1
THE CURRENT FAVORITES
New England Patriots
Opening odds: 6-1
Current odds: 5-2
Let’s not pretend you were expecting any other team to be atop the Vegas favorites. Tom Brady is a winner, plain and simple.
How many times have the NFL’s resident Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader proven that even with the odds stacked against them, Belichick and Brady still succeed? Brady didn’t even play in the first four games last season and the Pats still won the Super Bowl.
Just when the rest of the league thought the dynasty was over, the Patriots start the season 7-2 with a 40-year-old quarterback and half the roster on the IR.
Brady is leading the league in competitions and passing yards and has a good chance at being the season’s MVP. Former Saint Brandin Cooks has taken over the Patriots receiving core in the absence of Julian Edelman.
Belichick uses his deep backfield to keep opponents guessing. Mike Gillislee and Dion Lewis have each notched at least three touchdowns on the season with James White and Rex Burkhead also present to move the chains.
New England’s 409.4 yards per game leads the NFL, while the Pats defense has allowed the third most yards to opponents this season.
Opening odds: 10-1
Current odds: 4-1
Along with Tom Brady and the now-retired Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger has been a staple of the AFC Championship for the better part of two decades.
Big Ben’s Steelers hold a comfortable three game lead over Baltimore in the AFC North and are tied for the best record in the AFC. Other than a Thursday night match-up with Tennessee and a potential barn burner with New England in December, Pittsburgh should have no trouble winning out.
Le’Veon Bell leads the NFL in rushing yards as well as attempts. Bell has made it to the end zone seven times this season, including twice in the air.
In addition to standout receiver Antonio Brown, who boasts the second most receiving touchdowns in the league, Roethlisberger has benefited from the rise of JuJu Smith-Schuster. The rookie out of USC leads all Steeler receivers with five touchdowns and averages 18 yards per catch.
Pittsburgh’s defense is another reason for the team’s success. The Steel City defense has allowed the fewest yards this season and the second-fewest points. Even when Big Ben struggles on offense, the Pitt D has made up for it.
Opening odds: 60-1
Current odds: 5-1
The one team in the NFC East that has better odds now than at the season’s start is Philadelphia.
Carson Wentz has improved leaps and bounds in his sophomore year and is a front-runner for MVP at only 24 years of age. Wentz has lead Philly to a league-best 8-1 record. The Eagles’ lone defeat came in Week 2 against Kansas City.
Wentz has thrown for a league-high 23 touchdowns, four more than Brady. Three receivers (Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor) have at least five touchdown receptions. Five additional Eagles have scored in the air as well.
Philly has continued to build their roster in hopes of winning the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory. The Dolphins’ Jay Ajayi made his way to the City of Brotherly Love in exchange for a fourth-round pick. Ajayi joins LeGarrett Blount in the backfield.
The Eagles have the second-highest scoring offense, with only the LA Rams ahead. Philly also ranks 10th in total defense and points allowed.
With no signs of slowing down amid a seven-game winning streak, Philadelphia looks to be the team to beat in the NFC.
New Orleans Saints
Opening odds: 80-1
Current odds: 6-1
Returning to the trend of veteran-led teams, the Saints are another team that has gone from zero to hero this season. New Orleans has already tied its win total for each of the past three seasons at 7-2.
Their seven-game winning streak shocked the league considering the Saints started 0-2. In that span, the Saints outscored opponents 229-100
Despite having a future hall-of-famer under center, the Saints have been winning games primarily with rushing and defense. The duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have rushed for nearly 1,100 yards and scored 11 rushing TDs.
Brees is still making waves despite not being the focal point of his team. The QB is completing a league-best 71.7 percent of passes. Brees has thrown for 2,398 yards and 13 touchdowns.
New Orleans has allowed the fifth fewest points while scoring the third most. This combo makes the Saints a dangerous team come playoff season.
Something that may cause trouble for NOLA is their schedule. Of their seven remaining games, four teams are at or above .500. The remaining three are no more than two games under .500. The Saints may have to settle for a Wild Card if they fail to stay toe-to-toe with Carolina.
Kansas City Chiefs
Opening Odds: 20-1
Current Odds: 10-1
The Chiefs looked unstoppable in the opening weeks of the season. Kansas City was the last remaining undefeated team at 5-0, defeating teams like New England and Philadelphia.
Kareem Hunt, a 22-year-old rookie from the University of Toledo, has the second most rushing yards in the league. Hunt has four of KC’s six rushing touchdowns as well as two receiving TDs.
Alex Smith’s arsenal rivals any receiving core in the league. Smith has the third-highest yards per game in the league. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill have both surpassed the 600 yard and four touchdown mark receiving. Seven Chiefs have scored a receiving touchdown this season.
KC has lost three of their last four, but only have one remaining game against a team above .500. Barring a late surge by the Raiders, consider the Chiefs the winners of the AFC West.
CLOSE, BUT NOT CLOSE ENOUGH
Los Angeles Rams
Opening Odds: 100-1
Current Odds: 12-1
Opening Odds: 25-1
Current Odds: 14-1
Opening Odds: 12-1
Current Odds: 14-1
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith