It’s almost here, the regular season opener of the NFL season is in just a few days time. Last week, to prepare for the 2015/2016 campaign, we chose our NFC betting picks. Now, we’ll visit the AFC and the top teams vying for their spot in Super Bowl 50.
The Super Bowl favorites are from the NFC, being the Green Bay Packers (+550) and Seattle (+650). But the third favorite is the Indianapolis Colts (+850), the team that along with the New England Patriots (at around +350 apiece) heads the betting lines to be AFC conference champions and make their first Super Bowl in the Andrew Luck (pictured) era.
Since Luck played his first NFL season in 2012, the 25-year-old quarterback has driven his team to increased postseason success each year. In 2012, the Colts lost in the first round, in 2013, they made it to the second and in 2014-15, they went all the way to the AFC championship only to lose in deciding and later revealed, controversial fashion, to the eventual Super Bowl winning New England Patriots. If history is to serve as any indication, the next logical step for the Colts and Luck is to reach the Super Bowl.
Behind Luck (2014 stats: 96.5 RAT, 4,761 YDS, 40 TD) and the receiving corps, especially fourth year pass-catcher TY Hilton (2014 stats: 82 REC, 1,345 YDS, 7 TD) and tight end Coby Fleener (2014 stats: 51 REC, 774 YDS, 8 TD), the team looks primed to do just that. However, Indianapolis is razor thin at running back after losing both Daniel Herron and Vick Ballard in the preseason.
They did make the wise play to sign veteran Frank Gore in the offseason, replacing the hole left by the disappointing Trent Richardson, but Gore is 32 and hasn’t carried the ball more than 280 times in a season since 2011. But to be fair, Gore has played in all 16 games in each of the last four seasons as well. He’s never had his durability be a question. The Colts will look to him and hope the same is the case. Otherwise, it is possible the team could lean on Luck even more than usual.
And then there’s the defense which is the team’s biggest area of weakness and one that does not look much improved as the 2014-15 squad that finished as the 18th ranked rushing defense and surrendered the 19th most PPG (369). Against some of the high powered offenses of the NFC that Indianapolis could face in the Super Bowl, and even against the AFC powerhouses, this could lead to the Colts’ downfall.
If that is the case, enter the Patriots. The defending champions enter the regular season with the news that their quarterback Tom Brady, has in fact had his four-game suspension removed for the time being and will be starting the first game and every game after for the year. This announcement bumped the Patriots back up in the sportsbooks as the team sits as fifth favorite (+900) to win the Super Bowl again and joint- favorite (circa +350) to win the AFC.
Working in the favor of New England is of course Brady’s overturned suspension. For a while, it looked as if Jimmy Garappolo would be starting the first four games of the season and this was not exactly a promising prospect for the Patriots. But as it stands, it will be Brady feeding Rob Gronkowski and together the two of them can and should be one amazing, dynamic duo.
Gronkowski (2014 stats: 82 REC, 1,124 YDS, 12 TD) is one of the best receivers in the game and that’s saying something given he is a tight end. The Patriots were on the cutting edge, a few years back, in the movement that has really made the tight end a relevant and important position in the NFL. With Gronk, not only do they have that special weapon, but they have someone who is the best at his position hands down.
The Patriots are returning much of that Super Bowl winning team and much of the elements from one of last year’s biggest surprises at the running back position. Following a one-game suspension, LeGarrette Blount looks to take over the rushing duties, a role he performed quite well in down the stretch last year. With a strong offensive line and commitment to the run, this could even be Blount’s break-out year, meaning just one more weapon New England’s opponents will have to contend with.
Bringing up the rear so to speak of the AFC’s top five, are the Denver Broncos (+1400, +600 to win AFC), Pittsburgh Steelers (+2000, +1000 to win AFC) and Baltimore Ravens (+2000, +1000 to win AFC). Each of these teams has their strengths and of course weaknesses.
The biggest battle here could be in the AFC North, home of the Steelers and Ravens. Pittsburgh is returning all of the pieces from last year’s top-tier offense and will once again look to Antonio Brown (2014 stats: 129 REC, 1,698 YDS, 13 TD), Le’Veon Bell, following a two-game suspension, (2014 stats: 290 ATT, 1,361 YDS, 8 TD) and Ben Roethlisberger (2014 stats: 103.3 RAT, 4,952 YDS, 32 TD). Baltimore will hinge their long-awaited Super Bowl return on a defense that looks to shake off last year’s secondary woes and once again return as one of the top defenses in the NFL.
Denver meanwhile has Peyton Manning and he has no shortage of guys to throw the ball to. The Broncos aren’t that far off from the team they were a few years ago when they dominated the AFC and fell to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Expect them to win their division and make some noise in the AFC playoff picture.
Our AFC Preview’s Outright Winner Betting Pick
There is no shortage of talent in the AFC and led by these five teams, the conference should be entertaining to watch all year long. But there will only be one that emerges at the top and as it stands, our pick is for the Colts to be that team.
Indianapolis finally looks ready to put it all together and this could be an MVP year for Luck as he is currently the oddsmakers’ favorites (+300) to take home the award over last year’s winner, Aaron Rodgers (+500). Luck has got even more weapons this year with the addition of Gore and Andrew Johnson and behind his already talented cast, it is possible the offense could hide some of the defensive deficiencies much the way the New Orleans Saints did when they won their Super Bowl in 2009.
- So our betting pick is with the Indianapolis Colts to top the AFC @ best betting odds of +350 with BetOnline Sportsbook and to meet the Seahawks in Super Bowl 50.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.