Green Bay Packers Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
by Alan Matthews - 7/21/2014
It's hard not to envy the way the Green Bay Packers go about their business, no matter what team you are a fan of. The Packers are owned by the people, play in the most historic stadium in the NFL and in front of the most rabid fans in the league's NFL's smallest market by far. They almost never make a huge splash in free agency (Reggie White aside), preferring to build from within and the draft and the occasional trade (Brett Favre). It's just a really smart organization.
It all nearly came unhinged last year when the apocalypse happened: Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in a Week 9 Monday night home loss to the Bears. The season was supposed to be over, and it looked that way for a while. Counting that Bears game as Rodgers was hurt on Green Bay's first drive, the Packers were winless over their next five games (one tie). The season looked lost at 5-6-1 following a 30-point blowout in Detroit on Thanksgiving. But then Matt Flynn, signed off the street a few weeks before, rode to the rescue -- and it certainly helped that neither Chicago nor Detroit was running away with the division.
Flynn led the Pack to one-point wins against Atlanta in Week 14 and the next week in Dallas, rallying the team from a 29-10 third-quarter hole. A Week 16 defeat at home to Pittsburgh looked crushing, but Green Bay's season was kept alive when the Bears lost later that night to the Eagles. That led to a winner-take-all for the division in the finale at Soldier Field. Bears fans knew there was no way Rodgers wouldn't return, and they were right. He did so in style with a game-winning 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb on fourth down with 46 seconds left. It was the Packers' third straight NFC North title and fifth straight playoff berth. The 49ers ended Green Bay's season at Lambeau in the wild-card round. The Packers haven't been back to the NFC title game since winning Super Bowl XLV.
I think an argument can be made that Rodgers is the most important player to his team in the NFL. He would have put up fine numbers stretched over 16 games last year and was a solid 6-2 as a starter (in games he finished). The losses came by a combined 10 points at San Francisco and at Cincinnati, two pretty tough places to win for anyone. In a way, Rodgers' injury was overdue. The Packers haven't needed a good backup for about two decades because Brett Favre never got hurt and Rodgers had been very durable since taking over as starter.
One good thing did come from Rodgers' absence: more carries for Eddie Lacy, who was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Lacy finished the regular season with 1,178 rushing yards and 11 TDs, leading all NFL rookies and setting Packers franchise rookie records. Look for more of Lacy this year as the team wants him "more involved in all aspects of the game," according to offensive coordinator Tom Clements. Lacy played about 65 percent of the Packers' snaps last season but did come off on many third downs because he wasn't a great receiver or pass-blocker. So expect more than 35 catches this year.
Head coach Mike McCarthy wants the Packers to play faster this season, averaging 75 plays per game. The Packers ranked 11th with 1,074 total plays (67.125 per game) last year but around 69 plays in the games Rodgers finished. Green Bay didn't really add anyone of note on offense other than second-round pick Davante Adams, a receiver from Fresno State. They lost once-excellent tight end Jermichael Finley, No. 3 receiver James Jones and center Evan Dietrich-Smith. This will be the fourth season in a row the Pack break in a new center.
Green Bay has one of the most respected defensive coordinators around in Dom Capers, but it generally hasn't been a great unit the past few years. The Pack ranked 25th in total defense, 25th in rushing, 24th against the pass and 24th in scoring (26.8). The Pack allowed 125.0 yards per game on the ground, second-worst in team history. In the final 11 games (including playoffs), Green Bay allowed 153.9 rushing yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry. The Packers finished the year allowing 4.63 yards per carry, which ranked 29th. Green Bay also allowed eight running backs to eclipse 100 yards, its highest total since 1997. The Pack moved B.J. Raji to defensive end, and he had his worst season. He moves back to tackle, where he generally thrived as a run-stuffer.
To be fair to Capers, it does seem a few major injuries hit this unit every year. In 2013, playmakers Clay Matthews and Casey Hayward missed significant time because of injuries. Matthews is a stud, but he hasn't played all 16 games since his rookie year. The Packers struggle to get to the QB without Matthews, so they signed former Bears defensive end Julius Peppers. Yes, he looked well past his prime in most games a year ago, but the Packers think they can keep him fresh by playing multiple positions. Sometimes as an end, sometimes as an outside linebacker.
2014 Green Bay Packers Schedule Analysis
The Packers have the 13th-toughest schedule in the NFL as their opponents went a combined 128-126-2 last season, a winning percentage of .504. It's the toughest in the NFC North, which it should be considering the Packers have a first-place schedule. Green Bay's home slate (.520) looks quite tougher than on the road (.488). The Packers kick off the season on Thursday, Sept. 4 at Seattle as 6-point underdogs, with a total of 45. Of course, we all remember the last time the Packers and Seahawks played there. It was Week 3 of the 2012 season, and the Packers lost 14-12 on a Hail Mary pass that really wasn't caught by Seattle's Golden Tate, but the clearly overwhelmed replacement officials ruled Tate did get it. The embarrassed NFL quickly worked out a new deal with the normal officials, and they were back Week 4. Good luck to Green Bay in this one considering Seattle has lost just once at home under Russell Wilson. But if there's one QB who won't be bothered by the extreme noise it's Rodgers. And I suppose if there's one good time to play Seattle it's with all offseason to prepare.
Green Bay could open 1-3 as the Packers should beat the visiting Jets in Week 2 but then go to Detroit and Chicago. I project a three-game winning streak after that, at home to Minnesota (short week), at Miami and vs. Carolina, before a Week 8 loss in New Orleans before the bye. The Pack get four of their first five off the bye week at home: Bears, Eagles, at Vikings, Patriots, Falcons. No reason they can't win all those. That Patriot game will be the first time Tom Brady and Rodgers have started against one another. That's hard to believe. Also probably be the last unless they play in the Super Bowl. The final three games also are all winnable: at Bills (Packers won't mind cold), at Bucs, vs. Lions. Detroit hasn't won in Wisconsin since the Stone Age.
2014 Green Bay Packers Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
Odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag . The Packers are +1400 to win the Super Bowl, +750 to win the NFC championship and -125 favorites to win the NFC North again. Green Bay has a wins total of 10.5, with the "over" a -130 favorite. It is -225 to make the playoffs and +180 to miss out. Rodgers is the +650 second-favorite to win his second NFL MVP Award and +600 to lead the league in passing yards. Lacy is +2500 to top the NFL in rushing yards. Nelson is +3000 to lead in receiving yards and Cobb is +5000. Adams is +2500 for Offensive Rookie of the Year and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is +2500 for the defensive honor.
2014 Green Bay Packers Picks and Predictions
Rodgers proved just how important he is to this team last season when he was out compared to the arch-rival Bears, who for the most part kept playing at the same level when Jay Cutler was hurt. The offense should be terrific, although it's darn shame that Finley suffered that serious injury because he was one of the best at tight end. The defense is still a question mark in my mind, but Clinton-Dix was a nice pickup.
I already recommended the Bears as the NFC North champs largely because they were such good betting value at +333. And I still say that. Green Bay is just as good, however, and probably has a higher ceiling if everything breaks right. I'm going to say this is a 10-6 team that takes one of the wild-card spots (Bears win division by tiebreaker). Can't recommend any of the individual props.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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