The Seahawks have been Super Bowl Champions for just under a week, but that wasn’t stopping new odds from being placed for the 2014-2015 season. Here is a look into what teams are expected to do and how they can bolster their chances to improve in the off-season.
The Seahawks have only five players on their prolific defense that is under contract for next season. That being said, they remain the odds on favorite to win it all again for the second year in a row. The bright spot for the Seahawks is that Russell Wilson now has another year of experience under his belt. One more off-season means that he likely is only going to get better, making the Seahawks a tough match-up next year.
The 49ers lost to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship this year, but they are expected to give Seattle another run next year. At 7-1 odds, they have the second best odds in the league. The key for the 49ers will be that it doesn’t take as long for Collin Kaepernick to get things rolling like he did this year. They also need to figure out if Frank Gore and Vernon Davis both have anything left in the tank, and if their defense can stay out of trouble. Talent-wise, the 49ers will be tough to beat. But if they can’t keep on the straight and narrow, they may have issues.
Broncos : 10—1
Despite getting blown out by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, the Broncos are favored to come out of the AFC. However, there is a lot that is likely to happen in the next few months for Denver. Mainly, what will happen with Peyton Manning after getting a evaluation on his neck. Another key factor could be what happens with Champ Bailey and the defense of the Broncos. 10-1 looks good, but things could quickly make the Broncos less favorable if anything happens to Manning.
Patriots : 14-1
Tom Brady may have proved as much last year, as he has any other season throughout his career. With tons of injuries, departures and legal troubles that saw the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez, Brady was still able to make lemonade out of the lemons he was given. He’ll hope that Gronk is back in 2014, and that combo is enough to change any NFL game that comes down to the red zone. After losing to the Broncos in the AFC title game, the Patriots will likely yet again have another year where they should be one of the top teams in the league.
Packers : 16-1
The Packers haven’t been nearly as successful in the last few years after Aaron Rodgers led them to a Super Bowl in 2011. However, they looked extremely tough to start the season in 2014, before Aaron Rodgers was hurt and they struggled to find a solid replacement. Despite the injury to Rodgers, the Pack were still able to win the NFC North and make the playoffs, before eventually losing to the 49ers in the divisional round. The NFC is obviously going to be tough next year, but Rodgers is in an elite class that makes the Packers a contender.
Saints : 18-1
Teams that lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champions have to find a sense of accomplishment in what they did. This is the exact boat that the Saints should be in, considering the successful year that they had, despite it being ended by the Seahawks in the divisional round of the playoffs. The truth is, anytime your led by someone as talented and as intelligent as Drew Brees, you have a chance to win. And with Sean Payton now being back for his second year coming off a suspension, the Saints will look to be even better. The NFC South should be tough as nails next season, but the Saints still have plenty of pieces that could put them on top.
Colts : 25-1
In his second year, Andrew Luck was able to lead the Colts to an AFC South division title. Along the way, the Colts had some huge wins, including one over a Broncos and Seahawks, both of whom were undefeated at the time. They also were able to beat the Chiefs in the Wild Card, before losing to the Patriots in the divisional round. Luck only seems to get better with each snap that he takes in the NFL and they are beginning to place other keys around him to build up the rest of the team. Look for the Colts to look for supplementary players in the draft to give Luck more support. With the troubles of other teams in the AFC South, the Colts are likely to win the division in 2014 and make another playoff push with more experience under their belt.
The Bears will look to get Henry Melton back in 2014, which will be an added bonus to a team that started 3-0 and looked impressive on both sides of the ball. However, when Melton went down in Week 3, the Bears looked defeated on the defensive side of things. Alshon Jeffery was another huge bright spot for the Bears on offense, which also allowed Brandon Marshall to have a resurgent season as well. With Jay Cutler now having plenty of options to throw to, the Bears could be a tough team to beat in the NFC North. But they’ll need him to stay healthy throughout if they want to make the playoffs after missing them in 2013.
Panthers : 25-1
2012 was a tough year for the Panthers, especially after the success that Cam Newton had as a rookie in 2011. And when the team started 1-3 in 2013, things certainly didn’t look good. However, the Panthers were able to turn things around and win 11 of their last 12 games, which put them ahead of the Saints for an NFC South title. Despite losing to the 49ers in the divisional round, the Panthers should plenty of hope in 2013, which they’ll hope to carry into 2014. Sure, the Panthers are known as a defensive team; but Newton will need similar success next year like he had in 2013.
Falcons : 25-1
Aside from the Texans, no team in the league had as disappointing season as the Falcons. After making the NFC Championship Game in 2012, Matt Ryan and the Flacons laid a massive egg in 2013. Their 4-12 record was equaled only by the Bucs in the NFC South, but they certainly have much more talent than the squad in Tampa. The Falcons still have Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones. With those three Pro Bowlers on their team, there is no reason that they can’t turn things around in 2014. They’ll look to avoid the slow start that they had in 2013 in order to get back in the mix of things in the NFC South picture. Don’t let the 2013 fool you, the Falcons are just as much a playoff contender in 2014 as any other squad in the NFC.
Bengals : 25-1
Despite all of the success the Bengals have had in the regular season the last two years, their playoff performances have been less than desirable for Cincinnati fans. Another Wild Card loss last year was their third in a row, which is something they’ll want to avoid in 2014. Andy Dalton appears to have things locked up as quarterback, but pressure certainly continues to grow with his win-less playoff record. The Bengals have plenty of resources on both sides of the ball, but they’ll need Dalton to be more clutch in times when it really counts.
Eagles : 25-1
The Eagles had high hopes at the start of 2013 with Michael Vick as their quarterback. But when he went down, nobody would’ve guessed that Nick Foles would step in and have the success that he did. In his first year, Foles threw 27 touchdowns and only had two interceptions. He was also helped by LeSean McCoy, who led the league in rushing. Between those two, the Eagles were able to win the NFC East and make the playoffs, before they lost in the Wild Card round to New Orleans. Since the other NFC East teams still have a lot of work to do, the Eagles may have the biggest advantage for 2014. They sit at 25-1 odds and have high hopes for the future with Foles.
Chiefs : 25-1
After being one of the worst teams in 2012, the Chiefs started 2013 with a 9-0 record. However, many people said that the strength of their schedule would show in the second half of the season, which it did as they finished by losing five of their final six. They also lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Chargers, which didn’t make things look any better. Nonetheless, the Chiefs sit at 25-1 favorites with legit threats all over the field. Jamaal Charles was in the race for the MVP in 2013 and might’ve won it had it not been for Peyton Manning. It also looks like Alex Smith is good enough, assuming he gets a few more options to throw to. The AFC West is tough, but the Chiefs should have repeat success in 2014.
The Cardinals were arguably the best team in the league to not make the playoffs this year. This is a Cardinals team that went on a seven-game winning streak that quietly put them into contention in the hardest division in the league. Larry Fitzgerald, who led the team with 10 touchdowns last year, restructured his contract in hopes of freeing up salary room to bring in more talent. It’ll be interesting to see if the Cardinals look to bring in someone to challenge Carson Palmer at QB, as this could be one of the biggest spots to improve upon.
Chargers : 33-1
First year coach Mike McCoy was able to surprise a lot of people when his Chargers squad lucked into the playoffs in 2013. Maybe it’s because the AFC West already had two other teams going with the Broncos and Chiefs, or maybe it was because the Chiefs had such a tumultuous up and down season. Either way, part of their season included huge wins over both of those divisional opponents, two of which were in the final weeks that got them that playoff spots. Like him or not, Phillip Rivers remains a top quarterback who proved he can keep his team alive like he did this past season. The Chargers also got a much-appreciated boost from Keenan Allen, the rookie who helped in multiple close games. The Chargers will have their work cut out for them in the AFC West, but they already proved this year that there is plenty of room for three teams to make the playoffs.
Steelers : 33-1
The season that the Steelers had was almost unimaginable. After staring 0-4, there were even some talks of whether or not Ben Roethlisberger was going to remain a part of this team in the future. However, after finishing the season 8-8, the Steelers will look to wash away this past year and move forward in 2014. They still have Big Ben at quarterback, which is enough to swing the odds in anyone’s favor. And they’ll also hope to add a few defensive elements in the draft to help out when Roethlisberger isn’t on the field.
With Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers both getting hurt in 2013, the NFC North was the Lions to loss. Unfortunately for them, they did lose it with a horrid second-half of the season. Their 7-9 record that resulted in missing the playoffs was enough for Jim Schwartz to be fired as the head coach, while also putting plenty of pressure on the rest of the organization. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson still lead an insanely talented offense, but the Lions will need more team-oriented wins if they want to come out of what looks like it’ll be a much tougher NFC North next year.
Cowboys : 33-1
Give the Cowboys credit for being consistent. Albeit, it’s not the type of consistency they probably want. For the third year in a row, they missed out on the playoffs by losing important games in the final weeks of the season. Maybe the reason they lost in Week 17 of this past year, which was the reason they didn’t make the playoffs, was because Tony Romo was injured. But an optimist would say that Romo should’ve performed better earlier in the year so that it didn’t come down to the last game of the season like that. Romo will need to do better throughout the entire season next year if the Cowboys look to make the playoffs. And it seems like it’s said every year, but next year truly could be a make or break year for the boys in Dallas.
Giants : 33-1
Like the Steelers, nobody would’ve guessed that it would take Eli Manning seven weeks before he got the first win of the season for the Giants. However, after starting 0-6, many of the issues were coming from Manning’s performances. The Giants were able to win 7 of their last 10, but they still missed the playoffs in a year where the NFC East was wide-open. The Giants have proven time and time again that it’s the playoffs that matter and that’s when they turn it on. But in order for that to happen, you have to at least get to the dance. The Giants should be able to turn things around in 2014, assuming Manning can get off to a better start and stop turning the ball over.
The St. Louis Rams have their work cut out for them this offseason. They had a few runs in them last year and had some exciting upsets, but they obviously have holes to fill if they want to compete in the toughest division in football. Sam Bradford should return next season, but you have to wonder what lingering effects his injury will have on him. Another highlight to keep an eye out for with the Rams will be their defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams. Williams was involved with Bounty-Gate in New Orleans a few years ago, and hasn’t been on the sideline for a single snap since being hired by St. Louis in 2012. The biggest key for the Rams next season will be their start. If they can get out of the gates quickly, it’ll be much easier for them. But if they fall behind too quickly, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to catch up with any of the other elite teams in the NFC West.
Texans : 40-1
The Texans started the season as favorites to win the AFC and potentially even the Super Bowl. And after a 2-0 start, everything was looking right on path. That is until they dropped their final 14 games and the entire franchise all but collapsed. Matt Schaub is out as quarterback and Case Keenum likely didn’t do enough to nab the open spot. Therefore they’ll look to pick up a quarterback in the number one pick in the 2014 Draft. The Texans will also get Arian Foster back next season, which will help split the load for a rookie quarterback.
Ravens : 40-1
The 2012 Super Bowl Champions had an 8-8 mark in 2013 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. A lot of people pointed the finger at Joe Flacco, which is ironic considering he was the Super Bowl MVP in 2012 and became one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league subsequently after that. Maybe 2013 was just a hangover year for the Ravens and they’ll be able to get back into form for another run in 2014. However, they’ll need much more production from Joe Flacco and equally matched contributions from Ray Rice if they want to do so.
Redskins : 40-1
After winning the NFC East in 2012, the Redskins followed it up in one of the worst ways possible with a 4-12 record. Along the way, turmoil ensued inside the clubhouse, mainly between Robert Griffin III and head coach Mike Shanahan. Now that Shanahan has been ousted, more pressure will be on RGIII in 2014. If he’s anything like the RGIII we saw in his rookie campaign, he should be fine. But if he gets injured or fails like last season, the Redskins could be looking at another long year. Then again, the NFC East is about as volatile as it comes, and every year it’s up for grabs.
Titans : 50-1
The Titans pushed all year and simply had a couple bad weeks to end the season, which was enough to edge them out of the playoffs. Jake Locker looks to be the go-to guy for the team, though he has been injured often during his first two seasons. Another huge change for Tennessee could be that they may not have Chris Johnson with them next year, as he has proven that despite being as electric as he is, his work ethic isn’t enough to help rebuild a team. Jurrell Casey and Alterraun Verner lead the defense, so look for the Titans to try and get role players for Locker to spread the ball around to. A few teams in the AFC South have their work cut out for them, so if the Titans can put together a good off-season they could become playoff contenders.
Jets : 50-1
It might be inconceivable to believe that they did it, but somehow the Jets managed a .500 season last year with an 8-8 record. However, despite some late surges at the end of the season, it still wasn’t enough to make the playoffs for yet another year. The season started out rough for the Jets when Mark Sanchez went down for the year and Geno Smith came in as a rookie. However, Smith did well enough to likely keep his spot for next and give hope to Jets fans. However, the Jets have been one of the most sporadic teams in the NFL in the last decade, which could likely continue in 2014.
Dolphins : 50-1
Also at 50-1 and also in the AFC East, the Dolphins will look to try and continue on some of the successes they had in 2013, without the headaches that came along with it. In the midst of an 8-8 season and being on the verge of making the playoffs, the Dolphins were at the center of a bullying scandal that separated the locker room. If Ryan Tannehill has a successful offseason, the Dolphins could push themselves to above .500 this next season, which would likely get them into the playoffs.
Buccaneers : 50-1
There were a lot of teams that people expected to struggle at the beginning of last year. Although not many would’ve guessed that the Bucs would start the season 0-8. Although they did have a short streak where they won four of five, the season ended on another three-game slide. The biggest highlight for the Bucs in 2013 was Mike Glennon, a rookie quarterback who may have done just enough to earn himself a spot as the starter next season. He will have to work with a new coaching staff and style of play, but there is plenty of talent on the Bucs roster to turn this team around.
Browns : 66-1
There was a point in the season where it looked like the Browns might’ve had a chance to win the AFC North because of how badly the other teams were playing. At Week 9, they were 4-5 and at the top of the division. Unfortunately for fans in Cleveland, they wouldn’t win a game the rest of the season and found themselves once again in the basement of the AFC. Josh Gordon emerged as a stud on offense and Joe Haden holds things in the backfield. But Brandon Weeden became unfavorable as a potential leader at quarterback and Brian Hoyer doesn’t have superstar written all over him. Add the Browns to the list of teams that will hope for a quarterback in the draft to turn around their luck.
Bills : 75-1
The Bills find themselves in the same sentence as the Raiders, Rams and Lions. All of these teams have potential, but are fighting uphill battles with the level of competition in their divisions. Things looked bright for the Bills with EJ Manuel, before he was hurt and had to sit out a handful of games. They also had one of the best defenses in the league along with CJ Spiller running the ball on offense. If the Bills can stay healthy next season, they might be able to edge out the Jets or Dolphins for the second spot. Look for them to continue bolstering their defense and find more play makers on offense during this off-season.
Vikings : 75-1
Despite making the playoffs in 2012, the Vikings flopped in 2013. One of their biggest problems was the quarterback carousel that included alternating between Christian Ponder, Matt Castle and Josh Freeman. None of them were able to get anything going and this led to plenty of frustrations from Adrian Peterson. Speaking of Peterson, there were a lot of talks about the likelihood of the Vikings trading him to begin rebuilding the franchise, which could be a bigger possibility in the offseason. The Vikings will start next year with a new coaching staff, and they’ll likely look to find a quarterback in the draft to help try and get back to the playoffs.
Raiders : 100-1
Things started out all right for the Raiders in 2013, but it quickly deteriorated with confusion on who should be the quarterback of this team. Terrelle Pryor was the man to begin with, but then they went with the un-drafted Matt McGloin to finish out the year. The Raiders lost the final six games of the season, many of which were against tough divisional opponents. They have a challenge being in an incredibly tough division, and they’ll need to evaluate both sides of the ball to get better.
Jaguars : 100-1
Jacksonville finished their season by winning four of eight. However, the 4-12 final record is anything to celebrate. Just like in plenty years past, the Jags look like they’ll be going back to the drawing board. They have missing keys all over the field, especially at quarterback. With the future of Maurice Jones-Drew uncertain, the Jaguars need a quarterback who can be the face of the franchise and a leader of this team. After all, look at what guys like Russell Wilson and Collin Kaepernick did for their respective squads. Both of which were drafted lower than Blaine Gabbert, who is likely out in Jacksonville.