By Dan Leach/Follow Dan on Twitter @dtmleach
You can smell the pigskin and fall foliage in the air and it signals that one of the greatest times of the year is upon us: FOOTBALL SEASON. Over the next few weeks leading up to the 2014 Thursday Night NFL Kickoff, I will take a look at your best bets to win the Super Bowl, Conferences, and Divisions as we gear up for what is sure to be an epic NFL year. Here we go!
DENVER BRONCOS +$650- Peyton and company have had to deal with that sting from last year’s blowout SB loss for months now and are chomping at the bit to get back on the field. This is still a loaded team that will be even better on D with the arrival of DE DeMarcus Ware and CB Aqib Talib and any team led by Peyton Manning is going to have a shot to win it all. The Welker question mark slows the offense down a little bot, but not enough to make you worry more than a long wait at the drive thru for an Egg McMuffin.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS +$750 The Pats felt they had a SB winning team last year, but ran into the buzz saw that was the pre Super Bowl Broncos. Terrific Tom Brady will hopefully have a 100% healthy Rob Gronkowski, whose presence simply can’t be overstated. The defense lost CB Aqib Talib, but gained CB Darrelle Revis and S Patrick Chung and should be even more aggressive than last season. As Brady moves closer to the end of his career, this is the type of year where it will feel like the Pats are all in to get another title and have the talent on both sides of the ball to do so.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS +$750 Jim Harbaugh’s Niners have come oh so close to a title the past few years and have the best balance on both sides of the ball in the entire league. QB Colin Kaepernick continues to develop into one of the NFL’s best and he couldn’t be happier with gaining WR Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd and rookie RB Carlos Hyde who could make a push for rookie of the year. This is a team that knows they have what it takes to win it all and can back it up with a punishing brand of football.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS +$750 Last years’ champs will absolutely be in the mix again, but we all know how tough it is not only to repeat as champions, but to even get back to the postseason with the so-called “Super Bowl Hangover”. The good news for Hawks fans is they have a true genius on the sidelines in Pete “Christmas” Carroll, one of the league’s best young signal callers in Russell Wilson and what should be a top 5 defense yet again. The biggest hurdle Seattle has to overcome is the loss of many of the key players that helped them run to the title last year in WR Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, CB Brandon Brower, and LB Chris Clemons who have all moved on.
**DTM BEST VALUE BET- SAN FRANCISCO +$750**
“THIS COULD BE THEIR YEAR”
GREEN BAY PACKERS +$1000 The Pack have a team that seems to have enough talent to make a SB run, but the last two years has come up short due to not having that killer instinct that championship teams have to have. QB Aaron Rodgers is top three in the game and the emergence of WR Randall Cobb as a true deep threat will help. It will be questions about the Packers D once again that will be the difference between them being a legit contender or a pretender. Having DE Julius “Green” Peppers come into the fray definitely won’t hurt.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS +$1200 The Saints did lose a lot of their depth with the departures of RB Darren Sproles, WR Lance “Less is” Moore, LB Jonathon Vilma, and S Roman Harper, but still are loaded on offense and have a D that will cause a ton of turnovers. Bringing in S Jairus Byrd, the prize of free agency to many, and 12 Pro Bowler Champ Bailey will help with both leadership and driving opposing QB’s nuts. If the Saints can get better on the road the sky is still the limit for this team.
CHICAGO BEARS +$1400 Yes Da Bears added some important talent and depth to their squad this season with DE Jarod Allen among others, but I just do not believe in Jay Cutler’s ability to lead this team anywhere close to a SB and think they are extremely overrated on both sides of the ball. Losing Peppers and Hester will be much bigger then many Bears fans except it to be.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS +$1400 The new Captain Comeback Andrew Luck continues to progress as one of the better young QB’s in recent memory and this team’s offense is truly scary and got even better with former Giants WR Hakeem Nicks. It will be how much the D can improve from last season that will tell how far this team can go.
**DTM BEST VALUE BET- INDY +$1400**
ATLANTA FALCONS +$4000 – The Dirty Birds were about as disappointing as any team in recent memory last season , but still have a foundation that could turn this team around as fast as it sunk. This was a squad that went to the NFC title game two years ago and has a signal caller in Matt Ryan that is capable of taking a team on a postseason run.
BALTIMORE RAVENS +$4000 Ravens D isn’t what it once was, but still will be formidable. QB Joe Flacco proved he was good enough to take a team to a title two years ago and it will be up to him and a reworked offense that brings in newcomers in WR Steve Smith and TE Owen Daniels, that could really bring the offense back to its Super Bowl level glory.
CINCINNATI BENGALS +$4000 The Bengals have seemed to be on the edge of greatness for the last few years and have some of the best pieces in certain positions like WR and DL, in the entire league. Is Andy “Red Herring” Dalton capable though of being the type of QB that can win games for his team when they matter most. That will be one of the most important questions for the Cats’ this season.
**DTM BEST VALUE BET- CINCY +$4000**
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES +$2500 Eagles are a truly fascinating team that could win 10 games and go on a run or win 6 and completely implode. Love what head coach Chip Kelley brings to this team and the NFL in general, but the staying power of his gimmicky NFL offense that he brought over from the University of Oregon will be tested in year two of his stewardship. They will definitely be a fun team to watch, but will they be able to truly control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball will be the key for its chances to make a move towards true contending status
PITTSBURGH STEELERS +$2800 Pittsburgh was definitely down last season in what was a true rarity for one of the NFL’s most consistent franchises over the past decade. They will rebound this year, but don’t have the offensive depth or defensive prowess anymore to truly be considered a threat.
DETROIT LIONS +$3300 Lions have a new man in charge, an Elite offense, and possibly finally the D that they need to become a true contender. QB Matt Stafford has a lot to prove, but has shown he is on the edge of elite over the past few seasons. Look for the Lions to come out of the gate fast and signal to the league they are no longer the Same Old Lions. The addiction of WR Golden Tate might end up being one of the biggest acquisitions for any team during the offseason and the front 7 led by Ndamukong Suh, second year stud DE Ziggy Ansah, and LB’s Stephen Tulloch and Deandre Levy, coming off a Pro Bowl year, could be one of the NFL’s best.
ARIZONA CARDINALS +$4000 The Cardiac Cards of one of those types of teams that on paper seem like they won’t be anywhere near true contention for a Super Bowl, but when examined closer have a bunch of pieces that if playing at an optimal level give this team a chance to make some waves.
CAROLINA PANTHERS +$5000 Think the Panthers are one of the more undervalued teams in the league and at 50-1 there is no way you can’t see some value in them. QB Cam Cam Newton is one of the most exciting players in the league and if Carolina can stay healthy they could be right back in the hunt in the NFC. Problem is they haven’t stayed healthy enough in the Newton era to really give you any type of faith on that front.
ST. LOUIS RAMS +$5000 Love what Jeff Fisher brings to this team. Bradford going down is devavsting, bit lions fans finally have their wish and get to see just how good Shaun “king of The” Hill is. They have drafted well the past couple years and are definitely on the rise. Look for the Rams to get some big wins in 14’ and work towards being a contender over the next few seasons
WASHINGTON REDSKINS +$5000 Skins, sorry Washington’s Football Club, will go as far as RG3 can take them, and sadly there are just too many questions on that front to believe they can make a move towards a championship this season.
**DTM BEST VALUE BET- DETROIT LIONS +$3300**
“SNOWBALLS CHANCE IN……..”
NEW YORK GIANTS +$4000 Giants in full rebuild mode and even with Eli Manning who has proven time and time again he is good enough to win a title, won’t be nearly enough with their losses and deficiencies on both sides of the ball.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS +$4000 Chargers still several pieces away from being able to be considered a team to watch.
DALLAS COWBOYS +$5000 Two Words……TONY ROMO
HOUSTON TEXANS +$6600 Texans will be much better then in 13’, but still a couple years away from being back to a contending type of level.
MIAMI DOLPHINS +$6600 Unless Dan Marino and Mark Duper come out of retirement…..
**DTM BEST VALUE BET- HOUSTON TEXANS +$6600**
NEW YORK JETS +$6600 At least Rex Ryan is in much better shape these days.
TAMPA BAY BUCS +$6600 Miracle that Greg Schiano lasted till the end of last season in T.B. Lovie Smith will have success with the Bucs, but not this season. I do love the Pirate Ship at Raymond James Stadium
CLEVELAND BROWNS +$7500 Johnny Football already elected to the Hall Of Fame before even throwing an NFL pass that counts. So at least they have that going for them in C Town.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS +$7500 Teddy Ballgame is going to be an elite QB someday, so the future is bright in Minny, but still at least 2 years at minimum for the Vikes to get back into the playoffs.
BUFFALO BILLS +$10000 Love what the Bills are building on offense, but have lost way too much on defense recently to even consider them as a team on the rise right now.
OAKLAND RAIDERS +$10000 They are the Raiiiiiiders….What else do I need to say.
TENNESSEE TITANS +$10000 At least you can hear some great music if you’re a local Titans fan near Nashville after the game, cause the music on the field is going to be rotten.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS +$25000 Blake Bortles is an absolute beast and will bring great times for the Jags in the years ahead. This year though it will be a lot of growing pains for their overall #3 pick and the rest of the team.
**DTM BEST VALUE BET – SAVE YOUR MONEY AND TAKE YOURSELF OR YOUR LADY OUT FOR A FINE SEAFOOD DINNER**