Super prospects lie in NFL newcomers

Feb 10, 2009 5:03 PM
Pigskin Picks by Andy Iskoe |

With Super Bowl XLIII just more than a week behind us thoughts of most pro football fans turn towards the upcoming scouting combines, free agency and the April draft of collegiate talent.

While here in Nevada most fans will also turn to futures betting at odds that are likely the most attractive of the year. Who will win Super Bowl XLIV next February?

Now the prices are not nearly as attractive as they were a few years ago and even less than a decade ago. But the right opinion can still provide you with potential Super Bowl champions at double-digit odds.

The place to start is to look for teams you think will make the playoffs. Wild Card teams have realistic chances to win it all. The most recent example of this was just two seasons ago when the New York Giants won three straight road playoff games to make the Super Bowl and then defeated unbeaten New England.

Since 1990 there have been 18 seasons in which teams could repeat a playoff appearance from the season before. In the first eight, more than half the playoff field repeated the following season seven times. Only once did as few as six manage to repeat making the playoffs.

But in the 10 seasons since 1998 it’s been a far different story. Only twice have seven teams returned to the playoffs the following season and five times less than half (5) repeated. In three of the past four seasons just five returned to the playoffs. In fact, seven new teams made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons!

Now that’s parity!

And the future book odds reflect this. In looking at recently released odds for Super Bowl XLIV from the Las Vegas Hilton only two teams are listed at single digit odds – New England and Pittsburgh each 8-1. There were seven at odds ranging from 10-1 to 12-1 with another team 14-1.

A total of 19 teams, more than half the league, are 30-1 or greater with the longest odds of 100-1 shared by Oakland, Kansas City, St. Louis and Detroit. And, even those 100-1 odds on Detroit might appear short after the Lions went 0-16 in 2008.

A decade ago when the St. Louis Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV they could have been had at odds of 200-1 or higher at the start of the regular season. And the Rams were not even perceived as the weakest team in the league at the start of that season!

 In looking for teams that may make the 2009 Playoffs after having missed out this past season we can look at two different types of teams:

 • Those making the playoffs in either of the two seasons prior to 2008, but missing out last year due to injuries or other factors.

 • Those showing some steady progress in the past year or two and on the verge of breaking through with another win or two next season.

In the first case, we see Dallas and Seattle. With Dallas, the loss of QB Tony Romo in midseason likely cost the Cowboys the one game they would have needed to make the playoffs. Dallas remains a very talented though somewhat dysfunctional team at odds of 12-1. They have borderline value but are just two seasons removed from 13-3 and have had four straight winning seasons.

Seattle’s chances might appear too bleak for consideration in going just 4-12. The Seahawks will have a new head coach following the previously planned retirement of Mike Holmgren. But before dismissing the Seahawks note that we observed a somewhat similar situation with the Baltimore Ravens in 2008. At the Hilton, Seattle is 50-1 to win Super Bowl XLIV.

Another team to consider is New Orleans. After making the playoffs in 2006 with a 10-6 record, the Saints fell back to 7-9 in 2007 and 8-8 this past season. QB Drew Brees nearly broke Dan Marino’s yardage record and will have a talented cast around him in 2009. The defense should show that improvement in their second season after major upgrades. At 25-1, the Saints are attractive.

Another to consider is Houston. The Texans joined the NFL in 2002 and after posting losing records in each of their first four seasons have now fashioned back-to-back 8-8 campaigns. Houston has an improving defense and one of the NFL’s top receivers in Andre Johnson. At 40-1, the Texans might be an attractive option, especially if you think division rival Indianapolis might miss head coach Tony Dungy more than anticipated.

Buffalo also presents interesting possibilities. After starting 4-0 and 5-1 the Bills faded fast and finished 7-9. The early start shows the talent and preparation is there but perhaps not the depth. True they play in the same division as New England, but at 40-1 the Bills could supplant Miami as a playoff team and earn a Wild Card berth in 2009.

Finally there may be a couple of teams that made the playoffs in 2008 that you feel will again make them in 2009. Most of those teams have fairly low odds for Super Bowl XLIV. In fact, 8 of the 12 from the 2008 playoffs are priced at 12-1 or lower. Arizona, Atlanta, Miami and Minnesota are each 25-1 or greater. There’s a good chance one of the four teams will be back in 2009.

That team could be Minnesota. The Vikings do have QB issues but they also have a top flight defense and an outstanding running back (Adrian Peterson). At 25-1 the Vikes are a nice option as they appear the most complete team in the NFC North with both Green Bay and Chicago having more concerns. Detroit was 0-16 in 2008, but unlike Miami there is no solid foundation in place for the Lions to show significant improvement in 2009.

As mentioned above, Atlanta and Miami might fall back after unusually big leaps forward from 2007 to 2008. And Arizona has the normal concerns that surround teams that appear in the Super Bowl. The most noteworthy is a long standing history of Super Bowl losers failing to make the playoffs the following season.

Only in 2006 did the previous season’s Super Bowl loser make the playoffs the following season. And that was because Seattle played in the weak NFC West where its 9-7 record was good enough to win the division title. Still, the Seahawks fell back four games from their 13-3 record in their Super Bowl season.

Clearly, teams such as New England, Pittsburgh and the New York Giants seem likely to make the 2009 playoffs. However, their relatively short odds do not warrant tying up your money for nearly a year.

Taking a flyer on teams such as Buffalo, Houston, Minnesota, New Orleans and Seattle (each 25-1 or higher) could put you in a favorable hedging position should one or two of these teams make the playoffs. Standing pat on 25-1 or better will represent a very healthy return for a year of waiting.