Super Bowl Odds: Analyzing the lines for 2016 season

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Super Bowl LI odds were released by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook — you know, for all the degenerate gamblers out there who can’t wait to lose their money one year in advance — and the odds range from 8-1 to 200-1. The Bears, as expected, fall somewhere in the middle of the pack with 40-1 odds to win the Super Bowl in 2017.

Here’s a look at those Super Bowl odds from worst to first and an analysis of why I think each team is slotted where they are.

Cleveland Browns — 200-1

If you’ve been following me on Twitter long enough, you know I just love taking jabs at the league’s ceremonial punching bag. The compassionate side of me feels for the fans of the Browns who are loyal to their team, but the competitive side of me couldn’t help but laugh when I saw these odds. The Browns have the only triple-figure odds of any team in the league and they are 140 points behind the second-worst team. This franchise is a complete mess. Their organizational structure is on shaky ground, they hardly have any building blocks for the future, and the fact that they drafted Johnny Manziel only exemplifies their sloppy mess. One positive: if the Browns do indeed release Manziel, as is the rumor, their odds just improve dramatically (you know, to like 153-or-so).

San Francisco 49ers — 60-1

The Niners are in a state of flux. They fired Jim Tomsula — a great sound byte but a horrific head coach — after just one season and replaced him with the enigmatic Chip Kelly, who made a disaster in Philadelphia by ridding the organization of talented players to bring in his own crop (needless to say, he ruffled a lot of feathers). Kelly won’t have the same power with the Niners that he had with the Eagles, but you know he’ll pressure the organization into giving him the pieces he desires for his up-tempo offense. Currently, the Niners are operating with a toolbox of square pegs for Kelly’s playbook of round holes.

Tennessee Titans — 50-1

Marcus Mariota flashed moments of promise in his rookie season and is a nice building block moving forward. Tight end Delanie Walker caught 94 passes for 1088 yards and 6 touchdowns and earned a Pro Bowl spot. But the run game finished in the bottom fourth of the league and the team could use some upgrades along the offensive line and at the receiver position. The defense actually had a nice season, finishing 7th in the league against the pass and 18th against the run. With new head coach Mike Mularkey on board, the Titans are pointed in the right direction, but are a long way from the finish line.

Los Angeles Rams — 50-1

The Rams may have a new place to call home, but they still have a few too many missing pieces to be serious Super Bowl contenders. The Rams traded quarterback Sam Bradford to the Eagles last year for Nick Foles — who had one great season in 2013 when he threw 27 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions, but who looked like one of the worst quarterbacks in football last year before being benched after 11 games. The Rams have a great building block moving forward in running back Todd Gurley, who finished third in the league with 1,106 rushing yards. Assuming he stays healthy, the Rams can stay competitive in most games. They also have a solid young defense that is only a few pieces away from being one of the top units in the league.

Oakland Raiders — 50-1

Don’t look now, but the Raiders can see the light. After being buried for years following their Super Bowl XXXVII appearance in 2003, new head coach Jack Del Rio led them to a 7-9 record in 2015. Quarterback Derek Carr had a fantastic season with 3987 yards, 32 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions, and he very well could be the next big thing at quarterback if the Raiders continue to surround him with talent. One of those talents he has at his disposal is wide receiver Amari Cooper, who had 72 catches, 1070 yards and 6 touchdowns in his rookie season, and will continue to terrorize opposing secondaries for years to come.

Jacksonville Jaguars — 50-1

The Jaguars, with the Browns, are one of the more enjoyable punching bags in the league. For starters, it has to sting for that organization to see the Carolina Panthers — who came into the league with the Jaguars in 1995 as expansion franchises — participate in Super Bowl 50. Clearly, one of those franchises has been competitive in their 21 years of existence while the other has been a perennial doormat. A second reason to poke fun at the Jaguars is because of their horrible uniforms. Seriously, who thought it would be a good idea to have a multi-colored helmet? It’s almost as if they started spray-painting a black helmet gold and then ran out of paint midway through. But the third and most important reason to judge the Jaguars is their inability to put together a winning football team. The Jaguars might have something going with key pieces like quarterback Blake Bortles, running back T.J. Yeldon, and wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. But they have a long way to go to become Super Bowl contenders.

Miami Dolphins — 50-1

The Dolphins were supposed to be a team on the rise that could challenge the New England Patriots for AFC East supremacy, but that dream died quickly in 2015. The team had head coach Joe Philbin on a short leash and fired him after a 1-3 start, clearly demonstrating how high their expectations were and how the team underperformed. They hired former Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase in the offseason to help work with young quarterback Ryan Tannehill and they have some nice pieces in wide receivers Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker, plus tight end Jordan Cameron. The Dolphins have a solid defense in place that finished 8th in the league last year after the addition of free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The Dolphins need to add some more pieces and they might be hampered by the huge contract given to Suh.

San Diego Chargers — 50-1

The Chargers are clearly headed in the wrong direction — and no, I’m not talking about a potential move to Los Angeles. The Chargers finished 4-12 in 2015 and hold the third pick in April’s draft. Questions have surrounded quarterback Philip Rivers about his ability to win big games. The team finished 31st in rushing offense, averaging just 84.9 yards per game. Tight end Antonio Gates is getting closer to using his AARP card, and the Chargers hardly had enough bodies to slot at wide receiver by the end of the season. Keenan Allen had a great half-season until he suffered a season-ending lacerated kidney. Defensively, the Chargers finished 20th in the league last year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers — 50-1

So much for the Lovie Smith stability plan in Tampa Bay. One of the reasons the organization hired Smith was because of his ability as a players’ coach and to instill some semblance of stability in the organization. Smith was on a short leash and was fired after two seasons. The Bucs think they’ve found their answer at quarterback with Jameis Winston. The volatile rookie was named to the Pro Bowl after tossing 4042 yards, 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The Bucs had a strong ground game as Doug Martin finished second to only Adrian Peterson in total rushing yards with 1402. The Bucs finished 10th in total defense.

Houston Texans — 40-1

One would think that a reigning division champion would have better odds than 40-1, but if you saw how bad the AFC South was, you’d understand. Houston is known for its defense, of course. Defensive end J.J. Watt contends for MVP votes each year even though it traditionally goes to an offensive player. The Texans were 5th in the league in sacks and seventh in defensive scoring, yielding only 19.6 points per game. The problem, of course, is their putrid offense. They have a disaster at quarterback — just refer to game film of their 30-0 wild card loss to the Chiefs for evidence.

New Orleans Saints — 40-1

Have we witnessed the end of the Saints as we know them? The Saints, one of the most feared offensive juggernauts in the NFL since the Rams of the “Greatest Show on Turf” era, flopped in 2015 due to a horrendous defense. They allowed the second-most yards and gave up the most points per game in the NFL at 29.8. Despite another successful offensive season — most yards per game and eighth-most points per game — it’s kind of hard to win games when you can’t score more than your opponent. Sean Payton was on the hot seat after the season but will reportedly remain with the team. Drew Brees is 37 years old and is running out of time to win another Super Bowl, and I’m not sure there is a succession plan in place.

Washington Redskins — 40-1

The Redskins were one of the surprise teams of 2015 — thus, I’m not surprised their odds are as bad as they are. I’m not a believer in quarterback Kirk Cousins. I do believe in tight end Jordan Reed, though, who is a beast for defenses to cover. The Redskins had a better-than-average rushing attack, finishing 11th in the league in 2015. Their defense is in need of improvement, though, as it ranked 28th in the league.

Baltimore Ravens — 40-1

Baltimore has been a perennial contender under head coach John Harbaugh, but the team took a major step backward last year, finishing 5-11 and in third place in the AFC North. They lost veteran wide receiver Steve Smith — who was off to a very hot start — to a torn Achilles after seven games. Running back Justin Forsett played in only 10 games before breaking his arm. But for all the injuries on the offensive side of the ball, it’s the defense — a staple of the Ravens organization for many years — that failed them most. The Ravens finished 24th in the league in points allowed per game with 25.1. They also failed at taking the ball away, finishing dead last in the NFL with just six interceptions. If the Ravens can add a few pieces, I wouldn’t sleep on this value.

Detroit Lions — 40-1

The Lions cleaned house in the front office in the middle of this past season, but the head coach will remain in place. The team will retain Jim Caldwell — and I couldn’t be happier as a Bears fan. Okay sure, the Lions have beaten the Bears in the last six meetings, so why would I be excited about that? For the most part, those games have been close and it’s been more a problem with talent differences than any great coaching that Caldwell has done. There’s also nothing better than a struggling rival choosing to remain status quo. This Lions team will not win a Super Bowl with Caldwell as head coach, so at least that buys the Bears some time. Reports out of Detroit say that wide receiver Calvin Johnson told Caldwell that he intends to retire. While that’s not official yet, that is an alarming note for Lions fans. How will they replace that production?

New York Giants — 40-1

Normally, I’d lick my chops at odds of this value for an always competitive and underrated Giants team, but with the departure of long-time coach Tom Coughlin, I don’t want to touch this line. The Giants promoted offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to head coach to try to maintain some continuity on offense, but I don’t feel good about the hire. Eli Manning just turned 35 and I think the two Super Bowl titles he’s acquired will be his last. The Giants had a mediocre rushing attack last year and were woeful in defending against it. The Giants also ranked dead last against the pass and have to shore up their secondary.

Atlanta Falcons — 40-1

The Falcons have to feel awful about how their 2015 season ended up. After starting the season 5-0 — and then extending it to 6-1 — the Falcons collapsed in the second half of the season to finish 8-8. Normally that would be grounds to fire a head coach because playoffs were near certainty after that start, but the team had just hired former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn prior to the season. There are far worse options at quarterback than Matt Ryan, who has been a steady player throughout his career, but he has never proven to be a clutch player. The Falcons had one of the top run games in the league led by running back Devonta Freeman, who finished seventh in the league with 1056 yards. He also scored 11 touchdowns. The Falcons have a lot of work to do on defense to become championship contenders.

Philadelphia Eagles — 40-1

Given how poor of shape that Chip Kelly left this organization in, I’m actually surprised the Eagles’ odds aren’t any worse than this. Sam Bradford is a serviceable, yet underwhelming option at quarterback. The Eagles — specifically Kelly — blew it by underusing running back DeMarco Murray a year after he led the league in rushing with the Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles had the third-worst defense in the NFL and gave up 26.9 points per game — fifth-worst in the league.

Chicago Bears — 40-1

Despite only a one game improvement in the win column, the Bears showed marked improvement in overall play from the 2014 season. Jay Cutler had his best season since his Pro Bowl year in 2008. The Bears had one of the best run games in the league behind the duo of Matt Forte and rookie Jeremy Langford. And the Bears’ run defense actually finished 10th in the league. The problem is that there are still so many holes to fill after years of bad drafting, and when paired with the uncertainty surrounding the futures of Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, and the switch in offensive coordinator from Adam Gase to Dowell Loggains, it’s difficult to give them better odds than this.

New York Jets — 30-1

Arguably one of the biggest surprises of the 2015 season was the ascension — followed by the late-season collapse — of the Jets. Under new head coach Todd Bowles, the Jets played phenomenal defense — Bowles’ specialty — and also surprised some by their offensive success. Brandon Marshall had an excellent season with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing him the ball. And Chris Ivory was a fantasy stud and breakout performer at running back. But after winning five straight games — including an upset of the Patriots in Week 16 — the 10-5 Jets needed only to beat the lowly Bills in the regular season finale to secure a postseason berth — but failed miserably. The Jets are clearly headed in the right direction, but I wouldn’t put any money on a team with a quarterback like Fitzpatrick.

Buffalo Bills — 30-1

How’s this for pressure? Head coach Rex Ryan reportedly must make the playoffs or be relieved of his duties in 2016. The playoffs-or-bust ultimatum is not a new concept, but it certainly is unique for a second-year head coach. But extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures, and the fact that the Bills have an NFL-high 16-year playoff drought qualifies as extraordinary. Rex has pulled out all the stops and has hired his brother Rob to coach the defense. Considering I don’t think the Bills will have any shot at making the playoffs in 2016, that certainly means putting your money on them to win the Super Bowl is a poor investment.

Minnesota Vikings — 20-1

I had the hardest time giving the Vikings any credit this season, mostly because their offense lacks the necessary firepower to win a Super Bowl. Teddy Bridgewater — who made the Pro Bowl this year due to injury withdrawals — is not a Super Bowl quarterback. He is very average and his Pro Bowl berth says more about the joke that is the Pro Bowl than it does about his talent. The Vikings do have a solid defense that could take that step to become great in 2016. Adrian Peterson, a year after missing most of 2014 due to suspension, led the NFL in rushing and seems like he is aging gracefully.

Indianapolis Colts — 20-1

The oddsmakers are putting tremendous faith in the resurgence of quarterback Andrew Luck with these odds. Luck battled injuries all of 2015 and did not look like the elite quarterback he was becoming prior to the season. The Colts had problems on both sides of the ball, though. They had the 26th-ranked defense and the 28th-ranked offense. When healthy, Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and the Colts are a tough team to defend. So the question for 2016 is can Luck return healthy? Even so, the Colts will have to improve their defense if they want to win it all next year.

Kansas City Chiefs — 20-1

Credit is certainly due to quarterback Alex Smith, whose leadership and steady play was one of the driving catalysts behind the Chiefs’ 11-5 season and divisional round finish. After starting the season 1-5, the Chiefs rallied and reeled off 10 straight wins to make the playoffs. Considering that four of their five regular season losses were against playoff teams — Denver, Green Bay, Cincinnati, and Minnesota, with the fifth coming to the Bears — I’d say their season looked all the more impressive. While I don’t think Smith is that great a quarterback and it’s hard to envision him winning a Super Bowl, I think the fact that they have a well rounded team with an attacking, aggressive defense gives them good value.

Denver Broncos — 20-1

Considering Peyton Manning is more than likely to retire after this season, if you wager on the Broncos to win Super Bowl LI, you’re putting your money on backup quarterback Brock Osweiler. Even though the Broncos have a Super Bowl defense, perhaps the best in the NFL, I’d be hesitant to wager my money on an unproven commodity like Osweiler — he only beat the Bears 17-15, after all. The Broncos also need a much-improved run game. They finished just 17th in rushing in 2015.

Dallas Cowboys — 14-1

What is with this love affair with the Dallas Cowboys? 14-1? Really? This is perhaps the worst value of any of the Super Bowl odds out there for 2017. Tony Romo is coming off a fractured collarbone that cost him most of the season. The Cowboys do not have a professional running back in their backfield. Jason Witten is older than dirt. Aside from Dez Bryant, the Cowboys don’t have a proven wide receiver. And their defense is no better than average. Look elsewhere, players.

Carolina Panthers — 12-1

It’s hard to believe the Panthers do not have the best odds in the league to win the Super Bowl next year. They’re young and hungry and were playing the best football in the league at the right time this year. Maybe the oddsmakers think the Panthers will win this year and it’ll be difficult to repeat? I have a hard time giving Cam Newton credit because he’s not a good pocket passer and his legs are responsible for making him an MVP candidate. But he’s still darn good and will give the Panthers a shot to win week in and week out. The Panthers have one of the top defenses in the league led by Luke Kuechly and they feast off turnovers. Win or lose Super Bowl 50, 12-1 odds are pretty good value on the Panthers next year.

Cincinnati Bengals — 12-1

I would never put my money on the Bengals with Andy Dalton leading the team. Dalton, while he has the ability to be a stud fantasy football player, always crumbles in the postseason and in crucial moments. The Bengals have a solid defense — they gave up just 17.4 points per game, second-fewest in the NFL. And they have a solid 1-2 punch in running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Quite a good football team, but put your money elsewhere.

Green Bay Packers — 10-1

We’re getting into the territory of the odds where quarterback plays a key factor. The Packers are tied for the second-best odds but are not among the five best teams in the league. In other words, 10-1 odds are not good value for this team. The team was without wide receiver Jordy Nelson all season, but they have holes they need to fill. Offensive line was a source of struggles for them and running back Eddie Lacy — all 600 pounds of him — had a subpar year given the huge expectations thrust upon him. The Packers run defense has holes like swiss cheese — see what I did there? — and they’ll need to shore that up if they want to make a further run in next year’s playoffs.

Arizona Cardinals — 10-1

For much of the season, the Cardinals were arguably the best and most well-rounded football team in the league. Then they got trounced by the Seahawks in Week 17, just barely squeaked past the Packers in overtime of the wild card round, and then were bounced out of the playoffs by the Panthers in the conference title game. They looked like posers by that point. The Cardinals have a solid defense with playmakers on every level, but could obviously use upgrades to close the gap with the Panthers. On offense, Carson Palmer had a solid season but crumbled in the big games when it mattered most. The Cardinals had the eighth-best rushing attack and will need to continue that in 2016.

Pittsburgh Steelers — 8-1

The Steelers are tied for the best Super Bowl odds for 2017. Go figure. They had an incredible run and were one of the hottest teams entering the playoffs — which is the right time to get hot. Their offense was explosive and their receivers were difficult to defend. Where the Steelers struggled was rushing the football after Le’Veon Bell was lost early in the season and then DeAngelo Williams got hurt entering the playoffs. If the Steelers solidify their defense, it’s easy to see why they have the odds that they do.

Seattle Seahawks — 8-1

I’m actually quite surprised in how highly the oddsmakers are thinking about the Seahawks. They’ve fallen from grace a little bit since their back-to-back Super Bowl run and it took a second-half resurgence from Russell Wilson just to make it to the playoffs in 2015. When healthy, the Seahawks have one of the toughest defenses in the league, but is their offense explosive enough? Marshawn Lynch could be done in Seattle, and while Thomas Rawls looked great in Lynch’s absence, he’s not exactly “Beast Mode.”

New England Patriots — 8-1

It’s no surprise that the Patriots have the best odds to win Super Bowl LI. They finished with a 12-4 record despite battling multiple injuries and Tom Brady is showing no signs of slowing down. When you have the quarterback and coach in place, you’re competitive every year. If they shore up their offensive line — which got Brady bruised and battered in the AFC Conference Championship against the Broncos — and they add some talent to the defense, they could win it all. Thus, the value is not good here unless you put big money on them.

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