The NFC Conference is without a doubt the superior of the two on paper, and according to bookies who favour an NFC winner in Super Bowl XLIX betting. So let’s look at some burning questions which will help you decide what the best futures pick will be.
Defending Super Bowl champions, Seattle Seahawks (13-3-0), are the favourites to win outright at +300 while divisional rivals San Francisco 49ers (12-4-0) are tipped as the second favourites at +400. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) and New Orleans Saints (11-5-0) come in as co-third favourites at +800 while Philadelphia Eagles (10-6-0) and the Carolina Panthers (12-4-0) are matched at +1200 and +1600 odds, fourth and fifth favourites to win it all. The surprise contender in this group must be the Atlanta Falcons (4-12-0) that are matched at +1600, making them co-fifth favourites with the Panthers, all while the Arizona Cardinals are snubbed at +1800 to win outright (seventh favourites) and former Super Bowl champions New York Giants are drifting on +2200 odds (tenth favourites overall).
Will the NFC be the Winning Conference?
Yes; that is, according to bookies who match the NFC at favourable -150 odds to AFC’s +120 odds to win Super Bowl XLIX betting markets. If this holds true, here’s a look at some of the potential contenders and the burning questions they must deal with in order to come through on the favourable outlook in the broad spectrum of NFL betting.
NFC East: Have New York Giants Improved Enough to Win the Division? Is Nick Foles a One-Hit Wonder?
Finishing the 2013 season with seven wins in their last ten games notwithstanding, the Giants responded with some significant moves in the offseason to their offense, secondary and backfield. Still the burden of responsibility for their atrocious start on the 2013 season falls on the shoulders of Eli Manning who threw 27 interceptions to 18 touchdowns. Arguably, those changes will mean naught if Eli Manning is off colour and off form in 2014.
It remains to be seen whether those changes will take the pressure of the Super Bowl winning quarterback. If they don’t, Nick Foles and Chip Kelly’s attractive, high-octane offense will be more than happy to reassume the NFC East reins. In fact, as it stands, the Philadelphia Eagles are matched at +140 to win the NFC East while the Giants are matched at +300, level with the Cowboys.
Pessimists quick to dismiss Foles as a one-hit wonder, the 9-1 record he totted up at centre with the Eagles, which included 27 touchdowns in ten starts, a fluke he’ll be hard pressed to repeat this season over the course of Eagles’ title defense campaign, have to concede it’s not entirely improbable. Washington Redskins are in flux and questions surround RGIII’s validity as a bona fide star, while the aging Dallas Cowboys strike an unassuming pose in the NFC East. So it really comes down to a shootout between Foles and Manning to win the division title.
NFC North: Can Packers Win a Fourth Divisional Title and the NFC Conference?
Yes. As the Minnesota Vikings continue to search for their identity all the while flirting with three different quarterbacks and wasting Adrian Peterson’s talent; the Detroit Lions come to terms with a new system under Jim Caldwell; and the Chicago Bears defense hopes for a renaissance, one has to believe the Green Bay Packers have more than a probable shot to retain their divisional crown. Heck, they managed to accomplish the feat without Aaron Rodgers for the better half of the late stages of the 2013-2014 season.
Winning a fourth NFC North title in row isn’t going to be considered a success for a team that is essentially one of the top favourites in Super Bowl XLIX betting markets. Success is going to be winning the NFC Conference, if not the Super Bowl itself.
For the Packers to win the NFC Conference (+800), they must have Aaron Rodgers at 100%, otherwise their offense is pedestrian. He’s at its potent heart, and without him an enduring campaign towards an NFC title isn’t possible, never mind the Super Bowl. Short of a crystal ball, we can’t know what the future holds for Rodgers. But if he remains injury free, the Packers could prove the savvy NFL pick to win the NFC.
Check out my other handicapping article which answers AFC's Burning Questions
NFC South: Can Carolina Panthers Repeat as Divisional Champions?
The resounding answer would appear to be no. Cam Newton has lost some of his favourite offensive targets in the offseason, not to mention he’s coming off ankle surgery. It remains to be seen what the significantly weakened offense will be able to produce in the upcoming season, but it does seem highly unlikely it would be as good as their 12-4 NFC South winning run. This makes the Panthers an iffy NFL pick at +275 at sportbooks like BetDSI.
If there were a clear favourite in this section it would be New Orleans Saints, matched at +125 to win the NFC South title. They were unbeatable at home finishing 8-0 last season. If they figure out their road woes (3-5 away in 2013), watch if they don’t rock the NFL betting markets. Indeed, they’ve made some key moves in the offseason on the defense side of the ball that have them primed for the No.1 seed in the NFC Conference, if not to clean up entirely.
The Falcons (+275) and Bucs (+650 at ) are floating under everybody’s radar, mainly because of their respective failures and disasters on the 2013 seasons. Certainly, bookies expect a turnaround of sorts from the Falcons, mainly because the essential parts remain the same to the Falcons that topped the table in 2012. The caveat here: so long as they remain injury free. Where the Bucs are concerned, they aren’t holding out much hope despite a great coach in Lovie Smith and some key changes that could prove surprising.
NFC West: Can Seattle Seahawks Repeat as Super Bowl champions?
It’s not likely. Firstly, because historical trends suggest otherwise: the last back-to-back champions were the Patriots over a decade ago (2004-2005). Since then, it’s been a string of one-hit wonders, save for the New York Giants (2008 and 2012) and Pittsburgh Steelers (2006 and 2009). Secondly, it’s been an offseason filled with distractions, from negotiating new contracts, commercial deals and promotions to public relations engagements and parties and much, much more; basically everything that comes with newfangled fame and popularity and seemingly very little to do with preparations for the upcoming season. The egos were on full display the night they won the coveted Lombardi Trophy and it’s hard to imagine those have tempered since. The hangover is notoriously hard to recover from in time to refocus and reenergize for a new season – the one-hit wonders in the champion’s circle are case-and-point. What’s most concerning, though, is Russell Wilson’s personal life. The recent announcement of his divorce can’t possibly be a good thing, prompting some NFL bettors to wonder where his thoughts and attention might really be in the coming season.