The National Football League preseason will begin in just over two weeks, kicking off August 3 with a game between the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills. Does that mean it’s too early to start looking at which teams will be left standing next February? Absolutely not. It’s never too soon to start analyzing favorites and the teams that Vegas has picked out as the most likely winners at the very outset of football season. All odds are courtesy of Bovada.
8. Indianapolis Colts, 16-to-1
Calling Andrew Luck a precocious talent seems a little incongruous after the Colts suffered a 43-22 loss in their last NFL game of the season, but the Colts, who went 11-5 in 2013, have to appreciate his growth and his arm. Plus, he hung 335 yards and two touchdowns on a better-than-advertised New England defense, even if their D was paper thin by the time the playoffs came around.
7. Chicago Bears, 16-to-1
Shifting to a West Coast offense that saw them break even in 2013 (they went 8-8), the Chicago Bears witnessed the breakout sophomore campaign of Alshon Jeffery, as well as strong showings from Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte.
6. New Orleans Saints, 14-to-1
Their putrid performance against the Seattle Seahawks, who were the eventual Super Bowl champions, didn’t seem to sway Vegas’s thoughts on the Saints, who are usually a lock to put up big numbers regardless of the team they’re facing (although the knock has always been that they play best in a dome). Hopefully they’re able to reach an amicable agreement with Jimmy Graham.
5. Green Bay Packers, 11-to-1
Last seen battling the San Francisco 49ers on the icy tundra of Lambeau Field — that was the game with all the snow and the endless shots of players on both sides clinging to any kind of warmth possible — Aaron Rodgers and company lost 20-23 but still looked like they could go all the way next season, provided they see a little bit more from their depleted receiving corps.
4. New England Patriots, 9-to-1
Was any team ravaged harder by injuries and general roster reshuffling than the New England Patriots? Running on their fifth and sixth options on offense (nothing illustrated that better when they went to the run and LeGarrette Blount against the Colts) and with a defense that looked to be made out of papier mache, the Pats still made it to the AFC Championship game and look to be better than last year.
3. San Francisco 49ers, 7-to-1
After three straight deep trips through the postseason, Colin Kaepernick and company aren’t taking anyone by surprise anymore: 7-to-1 odds for the Bay Area squad sounds about right, and we expect them to return to the conference finals, if not the Super Bowl.
2. Denver Broncos, 13-to-2
The purveyors of the best offense the NFL has ever seen felt the rough edge of the beatstick when they put up an utterly ineffective performance against Seattle in the Super Bowl, but the any given Sunday cliche cuts both ways, and Denver could very easily carve up defenses all the way to a title next season. The odds are set accordingly.
1. Seattle Seahawks, 13-to-2
It is extraordinarily difficult to become a back-to-back Super Bowl champion. The last three teams to do it — the Patriots, the Broncos, and the Cowboys — cover the last two decades of NFL history (shout out to the ’88 and ’89 49ers, who are next in line). Seattle could do it, for sure: That defense isn’t going anywhere and their receiving corps is better, but this line seems to be a tip of the hat to the defending champs.