Stephen Gilmore

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.