by Trevor Whenham - 03/28/2006
The NFL regular season doesn't kick off for more than five months and every team will look quite different by then since there are still lots of free agents to sign and players to draft. That doesn't have to stop the speculation, however. The first major round of free agency is over. Some teams have gotten dramatically better while others have not. Here are three teams that have made changes offensively that could make their futures odds attractive and three that have not improved enough to make their odds worth a look. All odds to win the 2007 Super Bowl are from Bodog.
Miami Dolphins (15/1 odds to win the 2007 Super Bowl) - 15/1 in a 32-team league isn't necessarily a bargain, but this team is better in my mind than several of the teams with lower odds. Daunte Culpepper wasn't a free agent, but the trade they made for him is huge. The team ended the season with six straight wins, despite having to rely on Gus Frerotte, the definition of a journeyman QB, to run the offense. As long as Culpepper's knee stays healthy and he can stay away from party boat cruises, he can take this team to the next level. They have an excellent running game and solid receivers for Culpepper to use. The guy has shown what he can do when he's healthy and right. Most significantly, though, Nick Saban has already proven himself to be among the coaching elite. If everyone stays healthy (and drug-free), this team could make 15/1 look like a bargain.
Arizona Cardinals (40/1 odds to win the 2007 Super Bowl) - The Cardinals haven't lacked a passing game for several years now, but they have still failed to challenge for the playoffs. Two big changes in the offseason could see that change. An addition by subtraction was letting Josh McCown go to Detroit. He's a solid QB with lots of upside, but the uncertainty at QB hurt the team last year. Now it is unquestionably Kurt Warner's team and I think he will thrive in that situation. He'll have some help that has been unfamiliar recently in Arizona, too - a running game. Edgerrin James will force the opposition to consider the run, which will only open up the passing game more. I've been burned by hyping the Cards in the past, but that won't stop me from doing it again. They are poised for an offensive explosion.
Detroit Lions (70/1 odds to win the 2007 Super Bowl) - At some point, the ridiculous amount of offensive talent has to start producing. They have had so many blue-chippers at wideout that it's embarrassing. Finally, Matt Millen has made some moves that could help this team put some points on the board. The biggest was cutting Joey Harrington loose. He never showed enough to be trusted with the ball for the long term. By bringing in Jon Kitna, Josh McCown and Shaun King, the team has assembled a stable of QBs who are all talented enough and have something to prove. There is no better coach to get the most out of them and the wide receivers than new offensive coordinator Mike Martz. He'll create an offense that can score and will be exciting to watch. The team may very well not improve enough to be a major threat this year, but at the very least they should be better than they have been since Barry Sanders went AWOL.
San Diego Chargers (11/1 odds to win the 2007 Super Bowl) - The Chargers underachieved in a big way last year. They had the ugliest schedule in the league, but they still should have made the playoffs. This year should be friendlier to the team, but they may not be poised to take advantage of it. Almost all of the pieces of the mostly impressive offense will be back. The glaring hole, though, is obviously Drew Brees. The decision to let him go to New Orleans will be questioned until the team goes deep in the playoffs. Philip Rivers was highly regarded when he was drafted two years ago and I think he will eventually be very good, but he has attempted only 30 passes in two years. Unless he can capture some of the same magic that draft classmate Ben Roethlisberger did in his first year, it will take a while for Rivers to find his stride. Long enough, probably, that 11/1 isn't enough value to make a play. If he does falter, his backup is A.J. Feeley. That will give no one confidence.
Cincinnati Bengals (18/1 odds to win the 2007 Super Bowl) - I still cringe every time I think of the hit that Carson Palmer took on his knee in the playoff game against Pittsburgh. Ugly. This team is powerful and exciting, with a solid running game and Chad Johnson, one of the two or three best receivers in the game, catching balls. But Palmer might not be back to start the season and even if he is it will take a while for him to be back to full performance. That's why it is almost incomprehensible that they have ignored their backup QB position up to this point. Jon Kitna was allowed to leave, and neither Doug Johnson nor Craig Krenzel are good long-term solutions. Unless and until they get a legitimate No. 2 QB signed as an insurance policy, I don't see value in these odds.
Oakland Raiders (40/1 odds to win the 2007 Super Bowl) - This is, to me, the least accurate of odds on the board. I can't think of a question for which Aaron Brooks is the answer. He was incredibly inconsistent at QB over his whole career in New Orleans and there is no reason to think that he will be any better in Raider nation. He's turned into an interception factory lately and his leadership skills have been openly berated by his teammates. It would be one thing if he was going into a decent, stable team, but that is far from the case. The Raiders were a mess last year. They only won four games, including just one of the last nine. The rushing game was mostly terrible and Kerry Collins had to try to do it all himself. He couldn't manage it and he is a more well rounded QB, in my mind, than Brooks. That's not really a compliment. Art Shell as coach will likely be an improvement, but the team has done very little else to get better. There likely isn't a price that would make the Raiders attractive, but 40/1 certainly isn't it.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's NFL picks service.