Proud franchises became even prouder over the course of the last week. Perennial Super Bowl contender New England cemented itself as the favorite for the Lombardi Trophy. Oklahoma City and San Antonio have won a combined 13 consecutive games. Manchester City held off its little brother to take a commanding lead in the Premier League. And the Dodgers are making no secret about their willingness to spend whatever it takes to secure another world championship.
As a result, future odds just became a whole lot more interesting (all odds provided by Sportsbook.ag):
New England Patriots (+250) – Statement game. New England hammered previously 11-1 Houston on Monday night, and the Super Bowl odds moved accordingly. The Pats are considerable favorites, and they are now in position for a first-round bye and a shot at the AFC’s top seed.
San Francisco 49ers (+450) – Get your popcorn ready for another primetime showdown, this one on Sunday between New England and San Fran. With two tough games left (including at Seattle), the 49ers really need it if they want to hang onto a first-round bye in the NFC.
Denver Broncos (+600) – Only one team boasts a current winning streak longer than that of Tom Brady’s Patriots, and it’s none other than Peyton Manning’s Broncos with eight in succession. Denver, which has one difficult matchup remaining (this week at Baltimore), is surrendering the No. 2 seed tiebreaker due to an early-season loss in Foxboro.
Houston Texans (+600) – The Texans got to play Manning before the Broncos had gelled, and they benefited from facing Baltimore right after the Ravens were depleted by injuries. As such, their two toughest games have come against Green Bay and New England…and they lost those by a combined 84-38. Houston, we have a problem.
NBA Western Conference
Oklahoma City (+200) – It took the Thunder just a little a while to adjust to a beardless existence, but they are positively rolling now. OKC has won eight in a row—the longest current winning streak in the NBA—to improve to 17-4. Kevin Durant (second in points at 27.0 per game) and company are No. 1 the league in scoring, pouring in 106.0 per game.
San Antonio Spurs (+250) – It could be an epic battle for the top seed in the Western Conference between the Thunder and Spurs (Memphis is also hanging around at the moment). San Antonio has won five straight to stay a half-game up on the defending conference champs. Tony Parker recorded the first triple-double of his career on Monday to upstage Jeremy Lin.
Los Angeles Lakers (+350) – Despite a horrific start to the season, the Lakers are the third favorites to win the Western Conference. They are, however, nine places below that in the standings. That’s right, L.A. is tied for 11th with Portland; it is three games and three teams away from a mere playoff spot. The thinking, of course, is that Pau Gasol may be back (if he’s not shipped elsewhere), Steve Nash will be back, and Kobe Bryant can still carry a team on his back.
English Premier League
Manchester United (-187) – The 164th installment of the Manchester derby won’t soon be forgotten. Playing on the road in Etihad Stadium on Monday, United squandered all of a two-goal advantage but recovered in stoppage time with a game-winner from Robin van Persie. The victory puts United (13-3-0) six points clear of City atop the Premier League standings through 16 games.
Manchester City (+200) – That was a heartbreaker of the highest order for Roberto Mancini’s squad, but all hope is not lost. There are 22 games left in the season, and City (9-1-6) gets another shot at Sir Alex Ferguson’s club on April 6 at Old Trafford. It must be noted that Man City was eight points behind Man U with just six games remaining last season but overcame its most hated rival in thrilling fashion to capture an improbable title.
Chelsea (+1200) – Chelsea won the 2012 Champions League title by stunning Bayern Munich on May 19. Things have not been as good since then, as Didier Drogba now plays for some team called Shanghai Shenhua, and the Blues have already been eliminated from contention in this season’s Champions League. They are not eliminated by any means in the EPL, but they aren’t in good shape, either. Chelsea (8-3-5) has just three losses in 16 games, but it has also won only half of its 16 games. It needs to start winning and it needs to start now.
Detroit Tigers (+700) – Stop the presses! At the Winter Meetings, the Tigers acquired Ramon Cabrera! And Kyle Lobstein! And a Rule 5 player! And another Rule 5 player! General manager Dave Dombrowski is now reportedly planning conquests of Germany, Russia, China, and Japan! Okay, okay; the Tigers didn’t do much last week, but they didn’t have to. They are the defending American League Champions and they still have Justin Verlander.
Los Angeles Dodgers (+700) – On the contrary, it really does look like Magic Johnson’s group may be plotting world domination. The Dodgers recently signed South Korean southpaw Ryu Hyun-jin and one-upped that move by landing Zack Greinke. Greinke’s six-year, $147 million is the largest-ever contract for a right-handed pitcher. L.A. now has not one, not two, not three, not four…but eight starting pitchers under contract for next season.
Washington Nationals (+800) – Speaking of rich pitching staffs getting richer, Washington signed Dan Haren to a one-year deal during the Winter Meetings. Haren now headlines a rotation that already includes Gio Gonzalez and an all-too-rested Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals posted baseball’s best record last season at 98-64 before an epic Game 5 collapse against St. Louis brought an abrupt end to the season in tough-to-stomach fashion.