In 43 days, the long wait for NFL football to return to our lives will officially be over. The Packers and defending champion Seahawks will take the field in Seattle to start off the 2014 season. But we’ve waiting long enough, it’s time to start focusing and getting our bets in for the upcoming year. Here are the five most interesting options available at the betting window right now.
5. Week 7 – Thursday October 16th – New York Jets at New England Patriots (-7)
Jets Patriots games are always enjoyable because the rivalry seems to just keep growing and growing. And as if there wasn’t already enough fuel on the fire, earlier in the offseason, Jets head coach Rex Ryan made a statement that claimed the Patriots should be worrying about the Jets, not the other way around. The game itself is intriguing enough on its own, but the fact that it’s the first meeting of the two teams, well into the season, and it comes on a Thursday night makes it all the more interesting. The line currently stands on seven, but there’s a strong chance of a push one way or the other as the first few weeks play out. The Patriots still have concerns with their pass catchers while the Jets are not even sure who’s going to start under center. Divisional games are almost always hotly contested, even in games that appear on paper to be mismatches, but Thursday night games are probably the most unpredictable of any of a given weeks match ups. Odds are a touchdown spread probably looks good no matter which side of the fence you sit on.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win Super Bowl XLIX (75:1)
Does anyone who is not a diehard Buccaneer fan expect this team to hoist the Lombardi trophy at the end of the season? Of course not. However, with the arrival of a defensive minded head coach, and a roster suddenly full of high level defensive players, it’s not out of the question that the Bucs can be on the surprise teams of 2014. They come into the season as one of the league’s largest unknowns with a new QB, new head coach, and offensive and defensive coordinators. 75:1 looks like an excellent number considering Lovie Smith teams are almost always hovering around the nine to ten win mark. If Tampa Bay can get just a little consistency on the offensive side of the ball with their stable of gigantic receivers the defense should be good enough to make them a solid contender. Everyone wants to be sitting on that massive underdog ticket when the playoffs roll around, this might just be that one.
3. Chicago Bears to win the NFC North (3:1)
The Bears had an interesting season in 2013, their first under head coach Marc Trestman. At times they looked like a team poised to make a deep playoff run, while at others they looked completely inept specifically on defense. Plus, they were bordering on a playoff berth and they played most the season without starting QB Jay Cutler. Chicago has brought in a number of defensive pieces to help and they return an offense that creates matchup nightmares all over the field. The NFC North appears to be a difficult division with the Lions improving and Aaron Rodgers returning to health in Green Bay, but at the same time it’s almost always up for grabs down the stretch. The Bears have as good a shot as any to win it, so the 3:1 price could pay nice dividends come December.
2. Week 1 – Thursday September 4th – Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks (-5)
Historically the opening game of the season is a walk in the park for the defending champions, but this year, a fired up Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will likely make things a little more difficult for the Seahawks. Obviously Qwest Field will be a complete madhouse with the Super Bowl festivities going on, but the emotions could end up hurting a Seattle team that seems to feast on the underdog role. The Packers are as eager as any team in the NFL to prove they are ready to once again be considered among the league’s elite, and this is an excellent chance to do so. Add in the emotions of the Packers first trip to Seattle since the infamous replacement refs game and this one shapes up to be an awesome affair. Five points is a low number for a home opener off a Super Bowl win, so there’s certainly some intrigue there, but Mr. Rodgers is back, and catching five, that’s got to perk up some ears as well.
1. Cleveland Browns Win Total – Over 6.5 wins (-160) Under 6.5 Wins (+140)
If you haven’t heard, Johnny Manziel will be playing his professional football in Cleveland. That alone makes the Browns more interesting, and makes their season win total number one to follow. But it’s the rest of the Cleveland organization that makes this the most intriguing option on the board. Mike Pettine, the new head coach, is a major wild card, and he’s already shook the boat a little by saying Brian Hoyer is the starting quarterback. Cleveland also brought in a stud defensive back in Justin Gilbert, and added a solid RB in Ben Tate. However, this team will be distraction central when the season gets underway. Johnny Football mania aside, they also have to figure out what they are going to do with the Josh Gordon situation both on and off the field. The possibilities for the Browns season are endless, and that’s what will make that 6.5 number so much fun to watch.