Many people believe this weekend is the best of the year in the NFL with two divisional-round games each on Saturday and Sunday. I tend to agree. Here's a look at the updated Super Bowl futures odds for each club still alive.
NFC No. 1 Seed Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks opened the season as the Super Bowl favorites at sportsbooks but lost it for a while, especially after starting 3-3 and suffering back-to-back shocking losses to visiting Dallas in Week 6 and at St. Louis in Week 7. A Super Bowl repeat looked unlikely and surely Seattle wouldn't catch Arizona for the NFC West title. Yet the champs lost just one more game the rest of the way and ended on a dominant six-game winning streak. They are now +200 favorites on NFL odds to repeat as Super Bowl champions on Feb. 1 in Arizona. Phoenix would be the furthest East the Seahawks will have to travel the rest of the year. Bovada also offers a yes/no will win Super Bowl prop. Seattle is that +200 to win and -260 to come up short.
AFC No. 1 Seed New England Patriots
It's not often these days that both No. 1 seeds reach the Super Bowl, although it did happen last year in New Jersey with the Seahawks and Denver Broncos. The Patriots are currently +333 second favorites to win the Super Bowl. Of course Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have reached the big game five times, winning three rings. The Pats were the last team to repeat, in the 2003-04 season. In New England's past two Super Bowl trips it was a sizable favorite over the New York Giants and lost close games in both. The Pats have lost only one home game since the beginning of the 2013 season and that was a meaningless Week 17 matchup this year against Buffalo. The Pats, who won't have to leave Foxboro except for the Super Bowl, are -450 on the yes/no NFL prop not to win the Super Bowl.
NFC No. 2 Seed Green Bay Packers
Green Bay took a winner-take-all Week 17 game against Detroit to earn the second seed and a much-needed bye week because superstar QB Aaron Rodgers is dealing with a fairly severe calf injury. He might not practice at all before Sunday's game against Dallas. If anyone could not practice and still perform at a high level, it's Rodgers. The Pack were a dominant 8-0 at home this season and certainly will be rooting for Carolina to pull a huge upset in Seattle on Saturday night. The Pack are +550 to win the Super Bowl and -900 not to.
AFC No. 2 Seed Denver Broncos
Denver replaced Seattle as the Super Bowl betting favorite at sportsbooks early this season. The Broncos started 6-1, with the only loss in overtime in Seattle in Week 3. It looked like this team was even better than last year's record-breaking club. However, Denver had three bad losses in the second half of the season and Peyton Manning slowed down a bit. He has been battling various injuries, as has star tight end Julius Thomas. The bye week was much needed. Denver will know when it takes the field Sunday against the Colts whether it would host the AFC title game against Baltimore with a win against Indy or if it would have to go back to New England. The Broncos were routed there 43-21 in Week 9. Denver is +600 to win the Super Bowl and -1000 to come up short.
NFC No. 3 Seed Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have a major challenge in Green Bay on Sunday, but Dallas was the NFL's only team to go unbeaten on the road this year. However, just one of those away wins was against a 2014 playoff team: the Week 6 upset in Seattle. In fact, only two Cowboys wins all regular season were against playoff teams, that Seattle game and Week 16 against a Colts team that had little to play for. The Cowboys got a bit of a gift last week from the officials in the wild-card win over Detroit to advance. Dallas is +700 on NFL odds to win the Super Bowl and -1400 not to.
AFC No. 4 Seed Indianapolis Colts
It's Andrew Luck's third season in the NFL and also his third postseason. He and the team seem to be growing incrementally. In the 2012 wild-card round, the Colts didn't put up much of a fight in a 24-9 loss at eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore. Last season, Indy staged the second-biggest playoff rally ever to win at home vs. Kansas City before losing by three touchdowns in the divisional round. Can the Colts take that extra step again this year? How fitting would it be for Luck to face New England's Tom Brady in the AFC title game after dispatching Manning, the guy he replaced with the Colts. Indy is +1600 to win the Super Bowl and there isn't a "no" option.
AFC No. 6 Seed Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore is +1800 to win the Super Bowl and taking a pretty good amount of long-shot action at sportsbooks. Bettors are well aware what the Ravens can do in the playoffs. They won two road playoff games as a No. 4 seed on the way to the Super Bowl two seasons ago, upsetting Denver and New England in the AFC. The Ravens may have to go in the opposite order this time as they visit the Patriots on Saturday. Baltimore has won two of its past three playoff trips to Foxboro and probably should have won the third.
NFC No. 4 Seed Carolina Panthers
To no surprise bringing up the rear is Carolina at +2800 on NFL odds as the Panthers are just the second team to make the playoffs with a losing record in a 16-game season. For sake of comparison, the other was the 2010 Seahawks. They did win in the wild-card round at home against New Orleans but then lost by 11 at Chicago in the divisional round. Carolina has played Seattle very tough in the 2013 & '14 regular-season meetings but those were in Charlotte. A win in Seattle on Saturday night would be perhaps the biggest playoff upset this decade with the Panthers at +11 on NFL odds.