This year is, for me, turning out to be mostly an exercise in proving that making Super Bowl predictions is not easy. This is the fourth time that I have set out to make predictions since May. That first time was after the draft and free agency had settled down. I picked Carolina to beat Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl back then. Needless to say, that seemed like a better idea then than now. Next, I revised the picks in early September, just as the season was about to get started. Things had shifted somewhat by then - I had Pittsburgh beating Green Bay in the Super Bowl. I guess that that is a little better than the first pick, but still far from good. The last incidence before this was in Week 6. Things had remained partly consistent - I still had Pittsburgh winning it all, but this time it was Minnesota that I had winning the NFC.
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Now, just over a month later, all I know is that I am not sure what I know. There are several things I once thought that I don't know. For example, I once thought that the Colts were an intriguing contender that offered nice value at a mid-range price. Now I think that they are garbage. Like many, I also thought that Green Bay was going to be good and that Aaron Rodgers would play better than your average high school QB. Here, though, is the closest to clarity that I can manage at this point (Odds to win the Super Bowl are from BetOnline):
New England Patriots (+200): Nothing has really changed in how I view this team. They are the best coached and most consistently quarterbacked team in the league, and they could very easily win it all, but at this price they are a ridiculous bet. They were ridiculous before the season at +700, more ridiculous a month back at +400, and totally preposterous now - mere days after they lost at home to Seattle - at this price. They are the best team in the AFC, but it is no cruise in the park to win the division, and a few very good NFC teams - not the least of which being that same Seattle team - loom as well. They are far from a perfect team, and a team would have to be really perfect to justify this kind of price when they still have seven regular-season games and at least three playoff games remaining. I don't have a strong sense of who is going to win the AFC, but I know that at least two teams offer much better value than this one.
Dallas Cowboys (+600): It's hard to argue with what they have been doing this year, and Tony Romo deserves a giant medal for valuing unity over his own ego. I get nervous backing a rookie quarterback, but their depth at the position helps. I also question the coaching when things get serious. They are easily one of the two best teams in the NFC, but when push comes to shove I have to imagine them losing to the next team on the list.
Seattle Seahawks (+650): In each of the prior three reports I have given this team respect but felt like they were going to take a step back this year. Lately, though, I have felt like they are past that. Their offense is imperfect, but they find ways to get it done. The defense is strong. And they have all of that experience to draw on - which should be the difference here. I would obviously feel comfortable the more home games they get in the playoffs, but that isn't the same concern that it once was as the effort in Foxboro showed. At this moment I will take Seattle at this price not just to win the NFC but also the Super Bowl.
Kansas City Chiefs (+1400): This is one of those AFC teams that I mentioned that offers nice value. They have won five in a row and seven of nine, and believe in themselves unlike any team outside of Arlington right now. They aren't flashy - especially on offense - but they have that it factor. I'm not going to pick them to win the AFC, but I wouldn't be shocked if they did.
Denver Broncos (+1600): Nope. Not even sort of tempting. The defense is solid as expected. No question there. The offense just isn't good enough to trust ultimately, though, and they don't have a quarterback around that can fix things this year. I don't hesitate to overlook this team at all.
Oakland Raiders (+1600): I really hesitate to pick this team at this point in their arc - they are relatively immature in terms of their development, and they will get better with time. I love how they have been playing in the last three weeks, though, and they have that swagger that a contender needs. They have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, too. And I really love that they are 5-0 on the road this year - they are tough and determined. I don't know that they are the most likely winners of the AFC, but at this price they are certainly the best value. That makes them my pick to win the conference - and lose to Seattle in the big game.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+1800): I obviously have long liked this team this year. Yet here they sit at 4-5, having dropped four in a row. Ugh. That is far from fatal here because they are only a game out of the divisional lead, but the wild card is likely out of reach. It's hard to get excited about them, so it's tough to get excited about this price. I hold out hope that those versions of me from the past weren't all wrong about this team, and much of what I liked is still there, but they have some fixing to do, and I'm not entirely convinced that they can do it.
Atlanta Falcons (+1800): I hated this team before the season began. I had to question my hatred earlier in the season. Now I am all good with it again. They have some version of the same issues that they have had all along, and that will be their downfall. Horrible value at this price.
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