The NFL lockout is over, so we know that there will be a Super Bowl this season. We are looking for the loaded Packers to repeat, beating the Colts on their home field in Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLVI.
The NFL lockout is finally over, so we could now go about the much more enjoyable task of predicting the Super Bowl participants, and of course the winner.
Super Bowl XLVI will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN on Sunday, February 5, 2012, and we are predicting that for the first time in Super Bowl history, a team will be home for the big game, as we are picking the Indianapolis Colts to win the AFC. The Colts are currently a juicy +1500 on the Super Bowl Futures, which is great value that presents excellent hedging possibilities later on.
The Green Bay Packers are the second choice to repeat as champions at +625, and while we generally try to avoid picking teams to repeat as champs, we feel that the Packers are a unique case in that they should actually be better this season after losing so many players to injury last year. They now have amazing depth, and not only are we picking them to win the NFC, but we also do expect them to repeat as champions by beating the Colts in their own stadium.
The New England Patriots are the current favorites to win it all at +550 while the San Diego Chargers are the third choice at +800, but we feel that both of those clubs are overvalued. Yes, the Patriots should win the AFC East once again, but just like last year, we feel that they will be vulnerable in the playoffs to a team that plays great defense and can run the ball.
The Chargers play in a weak division, so don’t be surprised if they dominate the AFC West and then get knocked out early in the playoffs once the competition gets tougher, which as been a common occurrence for them in past years.
Here are our top five choices in order to reach the Super Bowl along with their future prices. You will see that all the teams besides the Packers are at square odds, so you can buy out these clubs if the price is right as the season and playoffs progress.
Green Bay Packers +625: Our two choices to meet in Super Bowl XLVI, the Packers and the Colts, just happened to be the top two teams in the NFL last season in manpower games lost and in players on Injured Reserve, and we feel that we could be legitimately looking at a potential dynasty in Green Bay. The Packers beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV with what was essentially a backup team besides Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, and the backups and youngsters obviously gained valuable experience with their championship run. Green Bay finished second in the NFC in total defense in 2010 despite playing with a makeshift unit most weeks, and even their defensive leader Matthews missed a couple of games. This unit should be dominant this season after leading the NFC in scoring defense at 15.0 points per game last year. On offense, Rodgers is entering the peak of his career after proving that he is truly an elite NFL quarterback last year, single-handedly winning a lot of games while the Packers had no running game. That running game can be much improved this year with the emergence of James Starks in the playoffs and the return of Ryan Grant from injury.
Indianapolis Colts +1500: Many people considered 2010 to be a disappointment for Indianapolis, both as a team collectively and for quarterback Peyton Manning individually. We feel that nothing can be farther from the truth, as the Colts showed their mettle by winning their last four games with a depleted roster just to make the playoffs, and we also think that while the statistics may not show it, Manning may have actually had his best NFL season. Remember that Manning almost single-handedly willed the Colts into the playoffs over those last four games, and he played many games all year with Reggie Wayne as his only reliable receiver, allowing defenses to blanket him, and also with no viable running backs with Joseph Addai, Donald Brown and Mike Hart all missing time, oftentimes simultaneously! It seems that the Colts only need to stay healthy this year to be considered serious Super Bowl threats, and there is really no reason to believe that having so many injuries at the same time last year was anything more than an unlucky aberration. Perhaps most importantly, the Colts upgraded both their offensive line and defensive line in the draft, and if they advance in the playoffs as we expect, they will also have some extra motivation knowing that the Super Bowl would be a home game.
Pittsburgh Steelers +1300: The Steelers are always a tough out, as they are generally built for the playoffs with a great defense, a solid running game and one of the best big-game quarterbacks in football in Ben Roethlisberger. However, we are still placing them behind the Colts because Indianapolis is a better price and, more importantly, we think that Indianapolis is the better team when both clubs are at full strength. The Steelers do always deserve serious respect though, as their ferocious defense allowed the fewest points in the NFL last year at just 14.5 per game despite Troy Polamalu missing some time, and they will now have Roethlisberger for the whole season this time around after he was suspended the first four games last season. Despite his off-the-field issues, Big Ben is a winner on the gridiron at least, and he may have the best pocket awareness in the league, which came in handy last year when he was under constant pressure due to playing behind a makeshift offensive line. The Steelers are a proud team that will not be easy to dethrone as AFC Champions, especially with the line improved.
New Orleans Saints +1550: It is easy to forget that it was the Saints led the NFC in total defense last season during the regular year, and they ranked fourth in scoring defense at 19.2 points per game. Instead, all that people remember is watching the Seattle Seahawks, a team that made the playoffs with a 7-9 record, going right through this Saints’ defense while putting up 41 points in the 2010 wild card round. That should only serve to motivate the Saints this year though, and the Saints addressed two areas of need in the first round of the draft. Former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram should help revive what was at times a non-existent running game last year and it is Ingram that made Reggie Bush expendable, while Cameron Jordan should give New Orleans a second pass rusher to go along with Will Smith, which in turn should take pressure off of the secondary. Quarterback Drew Brees had a great year last season without any support from a running game, so he could actually have a better year in 2011 without needing to carry the offense by himself. Ingram should step right in and carry the load en route to potentially have a Rookie of the Year season. Finally, we do not expect New Orleans’ biggest threat in the NFC South, the Atlanta Falcons, to match their surprising success of last year.
Philadelphia Eagles +1200: The Eagles look like the biggest threat to the Saints to face the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, and they just might crash that party after acquiring cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for what had become a backup quarterback in Kevin Kolb. Rodgers-Cromartie will team with Asante Samuel to give Philadelphia the most formidable pair of cornerbacks in the NFC. This is now no doubt Michael Vick’s team, which raises the question, did Vick overachieve last season? Well, yes and no. No, he will probably not duplicate his career highs in passing yards, completion percentage and passing touchdowns., but he is still a dangerous dual threat that is a legitimate nightmare for defensive coordinators. Vick led the NFL with 6.8 rushing yards per attempt last season, and also do not forget about running back LeSean McCoy, who averaged 5.2 yards per rush last year and gives the offense some balance.