It's getting close to the last chance to place your bets on the Super Bowl predictions, and it’s, as usual, not an easy choice to pick your favorite. While it’s probably safe to look at the Colts and Saints once again, but because we haven’t had a repeat champ since the Patriots four years ago, that’s not a lock.
All lines are the opening lines given out just after the Super Bowl last season. And while most of these will change, even slightly, before the final odds are published, it’s still good to see where the safe, risky, and longshot bets are according to this list.
Safe Money – Baltimore Ravens (10-1)
Even before and during the Super Bowl win for the Baltimore Ravens early in the 21st century, the offense has been a cause for concern and not one of the better ones in the league. However, their defense has been outstanding since and during that time, and it hasn’t shown signs of leaving the Top 10 of the NFL.
The biggest difference between the old Ravens and the new ones? A Pro Bowl level quarterback in Joe Flacco. Flacco, along with a three-headed monster at running back and enough depth at receiver and tight end, should be among the Top 10 on offense as well. Combine the two plus a young coach makes the Ravens my pick to win the AFC.
Safe Money – Minnesota Vikings (14-1)
This pick is entirely hinging on Brett Favre returning. Although rumors and “reports” have claimed that Brett Favre is leaning towards retirement, the fact that he could be at the helm of the most complete (arguably) offense in the NFL.
With the leagues top power running back, a powerful and deep offensive line, and a young receiving corps, the offense should be extremely productive. That, coupled with one of the top defensive lines and deepest secondaries in the NFL could lead to Favre and the Vikings redeeming their heart-breaking loss to the eventual champ Saints.
Risky Bets – San Diego Chargers (10-1)
I would assume this line would go drastically down by the season’s opening, but either way, don’t bank on the Chargers doing anything come playoff time, if they make it that far this season.
The quarterback and running back situation is adequate and is playoff worth, but the receiver and offensive tackle disputes with Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeil respectively and the Chargers brass, that problem could linger throughout the season. Also, the defense still has question marks at outside linebacker, nose tackle, and safety still.
Risky Bets – Dallas Cowboys (10-1)
One of the top ranked team’s coming into the season base on talent, I’m not sold that this is the year the Cowboys get out of their almost ten year funk. The offensive line is the most obvious place to start, and Doug Free at left tackle will be a huge determining factor in their success.
Also, the receiver position isn’t in that top tier quite yet compared to the rest of the league. Miles Austin had one good season, Roy Williams hasn’t had one since coming to Dallas, and Dez Bryant is still a rookie. While Austin and Bryant should be successful, the chemistry and consistency could be a concern.
Longshots - Miami Dolphins (35-1)
This will likely rise by the start of the season, but either way, I think the Dolphins have a legitimate chance to surprise this season. Brandon Marshall makes this receiving corps great, the running back position is deep, the offensive line is young and one of the best in the AFC, and the defense is young and deep across the board.
The season likely hinges on Chad Henne at quarterback. With Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez in the division, Henne will have to play outstanding for the Dolphins to make the playoffs and be Super Bowl contenders, but they have the horses and maybe worth the risk.
Longshots – Houston Texans (30-1)
Viewed as one of the top offenses in the NFL, the Texans season and it’s final result may hinge on the play of the defense and more importantly, the secondary. Matt Schaub looks like he will emerge as a Top 10 quarterback in the league, and with Andre Johnson and a host of solid running backs and receivers, the offense should stay among the tops in the NFL.
The defense has some question marks, with suspect depth at defensive tackle, outside linebacker (until Brian Cushing returns to the lineup), and at cornerback and safety. If the Texans can hold teams like the Colts and other passing powerhouses under 350+ yards a game, they could make a surprisingly deep run in 2010.