The NFL released the 2015 schedule on Tuesday, one of the great offseason days for a football fan. We both know that you (and I) went through every game on your favorite's teams schedule and said either "win" or "loss." Amazing how every fan has his team winning at least 11 games. I guess that's what the offseason brings: (sometimes silly) optimism. Here I will look at the top-four contenders to win Super Bowl 50on Bovada along with Week 1 opening odds from BetOnline. Expect 2015 win totals at sportsbooks soon after the draft.
Russell Wilson and Co. remain 11/2 favorites to win a second Super Bowl in three seasons -- no schedule was going to change that. Will Wilson have a new contract by training camp? I assume yes so it's not a distraction through this season. Seattle opens with a tough one at St. Louis as a 4-point favorite. The Rams' defense is about as good as the Seahawks, and now St. Louis might have a functional and healthy quarterback in Nick Foles, acquired in the Sam Bradford trade. I also think the Rams will add a receiver high in the draft. They could be easily pull the upset. The Seahawks better beat the Rams because they could be staring at 0-2 with a prime-time trip to Green Bay in Week 2. They won't be worse than .500 after Week 4 with almost sure home wins vs. Chicago and Detroit in Weeks 3-4. Seattle got a great bye week in Week 9. I don't see Seattle losing at home, with the toughest game probably Pittsburgh in Week 12. The division could be up for grabs in Week 17 at Arizona. There are nine games against 2014 playoff teams.
Green Bay Packers
A very tough four-game opening stretch for the four-time NFC North winners, who are 7/1 to win the Super Bowl. The Packers open at the Bears in Week 1 as 4-point favorites. True, Green Bay has owned Chicago since Aaron Rodgers became the team's starter, but maybe new Bears coach John Fox can change things. The Bears almost always win their home opener (but didn't last year). Then you have a crucial Week 2 visit by Seattle. Yes, I say crucial Week 2. You never know when an early-season game could determine playoff home-field advantage. Remember that Seattle and Green Bay tied at 12-4 last year, and the Seahawks got to host the NFC title game against the Pack thanks to a Week 1 victory. Think the Packers are hungry for payback just a little from that amazing NFC Championship Game loss? Then the Chiefs visit in Week 3 before a trip to San Francisco. Other highlights: Week 8 in a possible Super Bowl preview at Denver, only the second time Rodgers has started against Peyton Manning; Week 12 vs. Chicago as Brett Favre's jersey will be retired in that Thanksgiving Night game; Week 13 at Detroit could end up being the key division game as it's Green Bay's last in the NFC North until closing Week 17 with what should be a win at home vs. Minnesota.
New England Patriots
The Pats are 7/1 to repeat as Super Bowl champions. As I think everyone expected, they will kick off the season Thursday, Sept. 10, at home against Pittsburgh. The Patriots opened as 6-point favorites and won't have to worry about Steelers star running back Le'Veon Bell, who is suspended the first three games of the season. Pittsburgh isn't the same without him; the team did sign DeAngelo Williams this offseason, but that doesn't do much for me. New England won't have suspended tailback LeGarrette Blount, who was arrested in the same incident with Bell last summer. That's not much of a loss. One thing that clearly stands out for New England is that Week 4 bye, which is way too early. The Pats should be 3-0 entering it but have tough games at Dallas and Indy right out of it. Then four of the next five are home with only a short trip to the Giants in Week 10 in there. Week 12 at Denver is Game No. 17 all-time between Brady and Peyton Manning, and I think it's the last one ever in the regular season. I don't see Manning playing in 2016. The Pats close with back-to-back division games at the Jets and at the Dolphins but probably have the AFC East wrapped up again by then.
The Colts, who had a busy offseason in terms of adding veteran offensive talent around Andrew Luck, are 8/1 to win the Super Bowl. If Indy wins Week 1 at Buffalo as a 2.5-point favorite -- if you have to play at Buffalo, better September than December -- then I expect it to be 5-0 entering Week 6 against the visiting Patriots in an AFC title game rematch. Tom Brady has spanked Luck in every meeting thus far in the NFL. Think there will be any talk of under-inflated footballs in that one? Then Luck has to face Drew Brees and the visiting Saints in Week 7 and Peyton Manning and the visiting Broncos in Week 9. Tough stretch of Hall of Fame quarterbacks. I only see one potential cold-weather game, which is nice break for the indoor Colts: Week 13 at Pittsburgh. It's a very easy schedule overall with six games inside the AFC South and playing all four NFC South teams. That could be 10-0 right there. Could Indy get home-field advantage for the playoffs? Don't rule it out even with potential losses to the Patriots, Broncos and Steelers, who all beat the Colts last regular season.
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