With the 2015/2016 NFL season only a few weeks away, here at USAbetting, it’s time to put on our prognosticating lenses, go into the chamber of solitude and emerge with two teams who we advise putting money on to win it all. We start here with our NFC preview and betting picks.
Last year’s defending NFC Champion, the Seattle Seahawks, could repeat as conference champions. They’ve done everything to show they’ve gotten better and that they have put that 1st and goal miscue from last year’s Super Bowl behind them. While Seattle did lose a few pieces, notably cornerback Byron Maxwell, the team extended QB Russell Wilson and provided him a new target to throw to in one of the league’s best tight ends, Jimmy Graham.
Seattle enters the year, according to most sportsbooks’ betting lines, as not only the favorites to win the NFC (+300), but also to take home the trophy at Super Bowl 50. Bovada, one of the outliers, ranks the Seahawks (+300) as joint favorites for the NFC, with the Green Bay Packers.
Speaking of those Packers, they are the team that lost to Seattle in last year’s conference championships by just six points. They are also the team that boasts the best quarterback currently in the game, defending NFL MVP, Aaron Rodgers (pictured). Rodgers was loaded with weapons to disperse his 38 TD and over 4,300 yards to last season and still has many of those players now. Additionally, the Packers are looking to build off of Eddie Lacy’s strong finish (six of final eight weeks – including postseason – he rushed for over 95 yards). Defensively, the Packers will likely still give up points, but offensively, it is hard to find a team in the NFC that can match them.
If such a team did exist, that team would likely be found in the NFC East and with the Philadelphia Eagles. Ranked eighth in the betting lines at +2000 with BetOnline to win it all the Eagles, under head coach Chip Kelly, have not shied away from playing a brand of fast-paced and high-scoring football. Last season, the Eagles finished third in the NFL in points per game (29.6), behind just the Denver Broncos (30.1) and that top-scoring offense in the Packers (30.4). Philly was fifth in yards per game and total yards as well.
But this was a team that in the offseason, lost their quarterback, Nick Foles, their top receiver, Jeremy Maclin, and their top rusher, LeSean McCoy. All they did however, was replace that trio with an even better RB, DeMarco Murray, a rookie wide receiver who looks like Maclin-lite, Nelson Agholor, and a passer, who if healthy, is an upgrade at the position.
What cost the Eagles last season and kept them out of the playoffs was a defense that ranked 22nd in points per game allowed and 28th or worst in every pass defense category that is measured. That said, the Eagles added Maxwell from Seattle and have looked like a different team thus far in the preseason, having not allowed a single pass play of more than 20 yards. It is only preseason, but if defense was all that was keeping the Eagles from a playoff spot, then this year could tell a very different story.
Before getting to the NFC Championship however, the Eagles have to get past their own division, which perhaps surprisingly enough, is not theirs to win. According to the odds, last year’s NFC East champs, the Dallas Cowboys are joint-favorites with Philly at +140 apiece with Bovada and that round out the top five of Super Bowl favorites (+1200 with Betonline, +1400 with Bovada).
The Cowboys lost Murray to the Eagles, who was a big part of the team’s success. However, last year also marked one of the best in the career of QB Tony Romo and was undoubtedly his best in the final stretch of the season. Romo’s Cowboys lost to the Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs but like the other teams mentioned, have improved. The team still boasts one of the best offensive lines in football, something that should bode well for Joseph Randle, who slots in as Murray’s replacement.
Dallas finished right behind Green Bay and Philly in yards per game, was second to Seattle in rushing yards per game and rounded out the top five teams, top three in the NFC, in points per game. A lot of that was dependent on Murray, but a lot of it had to do with Romo, Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten as well, both of whom are back again this year.
Rounding out the top 10 in the outright winner Super Bowl odds are the Arizona Cardinals (+2500 with BetOnline but +4000 at Bovada) of the NFC West. Led once again by veteran QB Carson Palmer and breakout running back, Andre Ellington, the Cardinals look strong to finish second in the division (+400 to Seattle’s -275). While surpassing Seattle is unlikely, Arizona did manage to win 11 games last year and challenged for the NFC West early in the season.
But given their offense was and still looks to be, mediocre at best, wrestling that top spot away from the Seahawks and their elite-level defense will be no simple task. The Cardinals could look to earn a spot in the wildcard however, with perhaps only the Atlanta Falcons (+3300 to win the SB at Betonline, +4000 at Bovada) and Carolina Panthers (+5000 with Betonline, +4000 with Bovada) in the NFC South and Minnesota Vikings (+3300) as viable competitors for those two spots.
Our NFC Preview’s Outright Winner Betting Pick
Overall, the it looks like the NFC will be won by one of five teams, two of whom are in the same division, three of whom (depending on the results of GB’s Jordy Nelson’s MRI on his knee) may be without their top weapon from last season and one of which just gained another team’s top weapon.
- So that said, our NFC preview’s pick is Seattle Seahawks as the best bet to win the NFC @ +300 (that’s 3/1) with Bovada. This is not new territory for the Seahawks and despite losing Maxwell, the Legion of Boom is still looking as strong as ever. And as mentioned, the addition of Graham is going to boost the offense tremendously. Wilson hasn’t lost a step and RB Marshawn Lynch is coming off one of his best seasons in years. So take the Seahawks to top the Packers, the Eagles, the Cowboys and everyone else in route to their third consecutive trip to football’s biggest game.
Check back here at USAbetting.com next week for our take on the AFC and our betting pick on who looks to emerge as the conference champion.