Patriots’ Super Bowl odds lead the pack as NFL preseason gets underway

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The recent track record with the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl odds suggests their price today might be as high-yield as it gets, barring an unanticipated stumble.

With the NFL preseason beginning this week, the defending champion Patriots are listed at +375 on the Super Bowl 52 champion board at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Their price is half that of the nominal second favorite, the Green Bay Packers (+750), while four other teams with championship aspirations — the Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks — have a +1200 price tag.

The preseason favorites prior to the 2015 and 2016 NFL seasons had +600 odds. But New England is coming off a championship season where it upgraded both its passing game and pass defense, adding deep threat WR Brandin Cooks and Pro Bowl CB Stephen Gilmore respectively.

Last year, the Patriots were at +650 before the season and their price dropped each week as they got off to a hot start, falling to +375 after only four games. With an early schedule that has only two 2016 playoff teams in the first six games (the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 and Houston Texans in Week 3), Tom Brady and the Patriots could again shoot out of the gate quickly.

Those inclined to seek out a higher price — or opposed to picking New England, perhaps on general principle — certainly have options. The Packers are always a threat as long as they have Aaron Rodgers, who guided Green Bay to the NFC Championship Game last season without a healthy running back.

If New England is to be dethroned, the culprit might come from within the AFC, meaning either the Raiders with Derek Carr, or the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger (and Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown). It is worth noting that, based on the 2016 records of their slate of opponents, the Raiders’ schedule is rated fourth-toughest in the NFL and the Steelers’ is rated the sixth-easiest.

That might mean Pittsburgh has a better shot at the 13- or 14-win season it would take to wrestle home-field advantage throughout the playoffs away from the Patriots. It’s not as if being forced away from Foxboro in January drains the Patriots of their dominance, but it has made a difference.

It’s probably best to fade the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons (+1600), who had arguably the worst collapse in American sports history when they blew a 25-point lead against New England in the Super Bowl. Teams that blow that kind of opportunity are seldom awarded a second chance.

Football is back! Here are five things to watch this NFL season

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After an offseason filled with players returning from retirement, celebration rule changes, and Gronk being Gronk, football is back!

Before the Hall of Fame game gets underway, here are five storylines to watch as the new football season approaches.

Heavy is the head that wears the Star

Dallas entered last season with a rookie backup quarterback that wasn’t expected to see a lot of time until Tony Romo got injured and a rookie running back that was supposed to make an immediate impact. Now, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott enter this season with expectations the size of Texas. The Cowboys are looking to win the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995, or when TLC’s “Waterfalls” was the No. 2 song on the Billboard charts.

Undefeated Patriots? It could happen…

Even Seahawks fans can admit that Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever and Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches of all time. The amazing thing about the Patriots is their ability to reload (specifically from the Buffalo Bills, but that’s a longer story). Lose Martellus Bennett? Bring in Dwayne Allen. Lose LeGarrette Blount? Pick up Rex Burkhead. Top it off with an electric Brandin Cooks and the NFL’s best offense may be even better in 2017.

Falcons’ Super Bowl hangover recovery

28-3. The rallying cry of Patriots fans everywhere that makes Falcons fans cringe and want to crawl into a hole. Everyone talks about the Super Bowl hangover, but will a series of changes, including offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan departing to run his own team in San Francisco, be enough for the Falcons to return to the Super Bowl? Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will have a major role in that.

Kaepernick’s role

As of this post, Colin Kaepernick is still without a spot on an NFL roster. That could change at any moment. Kaepernick potentially has two landing spots: Miami Dolphins or Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco has been dealing with a back injury in camp, and the Dolphins are fearing the worst with Ryan Tannehill‘s knee injury Thursday. On the field, Kaepernick makes sense for both teams as a backup quarterback. But will one of these teams actually sign the former 49ers quarterback?

Raiders’ Resurgence

Before the Falcons’ brutal Super Bowl collapse, the Raiders held the crown for the most devastating way to have your season end, with quarterback Derek Carr breaking his leg two games before the playoffs started. Now, with Carr back and healthy, the Raiders look poised to make a big run and make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2002. One person who remembers that run well? Oakland native and new Raider Marshawn Lynch, who was a student at Oakland Tech high school.

Just think of it this way-you’ll now have football every Thursday until January, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the season.

Keep up with all of NBC Sports NFL coverage on Apple News and on the NBC Sports app

Cowboys favored over Cardinals to kick off preseason in Hall of Fame Game

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The Dallas Cowboys have not been a lock against the spread recently or in recent preseasons, yet they are the favorite against the Arizona Cardinals at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com in the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday night.

The Cowboys are listed as a one-point favorite against the Cardinals with 35-point total in their NFL preseason betting matchup at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

While the Cowboys are a contender to represent the NFC at Super Bowl LII next February, they are just 3-13 against the spread and 5-11 straight-up in the preseason since 2013. Dallas also went just 1-6 ATS over in its final seven games last season, when it reached the divisional playoff round.

The Cowboys, who were 13-4 SU and 10-6-1 ATS overall in 2016, are unlikely to play any starters, based on how coach Jason Garrett has approached preseason games in the past. They will be running out some seasoned quarterbacks, with backup Kellen Moore likely to start while Luke McCown (10 career starts), and Cooper Rush will also play. McCown has a tidy 11-to-3 TD-to-interception ratio in the preseason over the last four years, but he has also had just barely a week to learn the Cowboys’ offense.

Dallas is 7-2-1 SU and 5-5 ATS in its last 10 games against the NFC West according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

The Cardinals, who were 7-8-1 SU and 6-10 ATS during a down year in 2016, have also confirmed that no starters will play, while Carson Palmer‘s understudy at quarterback, Drew Stanton, will also sit this one out. Blaine Gabbert, a former starter in Jacksonville and San Francisco, is due to play the first half. Gabbert, going off the fact his career-high average per attempt in preseason is 7.3 yards (set in 2015 with the 49ers), might not go downfield often.

Trevor Knight is expected to quarterback the Cardinals in the second half. While it’s difficult to know whether regular-season trends can be applied to preseason games – especially the first one – the Cardinals are 9-1 SU and 9-0-1 ATS over their last 10 games against NFC East teams.

The total went over in all four of the Cowboys’ preseason games in 2016. The total has gone over in seven of the Cardinals’ last eight preseason games, as well as their last seven games overall. Ten of the last 16 Hall of Fame games have had a total of fewer than 35 points. That’s dating back to 2000, since last year’s game was cancelled due to poor field conditions.