Super Bowl Betting

2017 Season Preview: Another Super Bowl for Patriots?

The New England Patriots don’t always win the Super Bowl. But they’ve won five of them during the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady Era, including two of the last three. It’s the closest thing there is to a dynasty in the NFL, and sure enough, the Patriots are +325 favorites at press time to defend their title on the Super Bowl LII odds list. The next closest competition is the Green Bay Packers at +800.

But there’s already been a bump in the road. On Friday, WR Julian Edelman suffered a complete tear of his right ACL, knocking him out for the entire 2017 campaign. Edelman led New England last year with 98 catches and 1,106 receiving yards, in addition to seeing duty on kick and punt returns. It was easily the most significant injury for the Patriots during an otherwise quiet training camp, yet their Super Bowl odds haven’t even budged in response.

 

Dining on Buffalo

So why is New England still the cream of the Super Bowl 52 betting crop? Brandin Cooks will step into Edelman’s shoes as Brady’s top target. Cooks (78 catches, 1,173 yards last year) was acquired from the New Orleans Saints in March as the Patriots traded down in the 2017 NFL Draft. He was one of the top wideouts on the Saints last year, and Cooks even has experience on special teams if Belichick wants to use him there.

The mighty Pats offense also pulled off one of the biggest heists of the offseason when they scooped up free agent RB Mike Gillislee after the Buffalo Bills declined to match New England’s two-year, $6.4-million offer. That’s a small price to pay for a potential breakout star; Gillislee ran for 5.7 yards per carry and eight touchdowns last year while backing up LeSean McCoy (5.4 yards per carry). With these additions, and with a stable offensive line in front of him, Brady shouldn’t have any problem keeping the chains moving in Edelman’s absence – although at age 40, Brady’s expiry date is looming somewhere on the horizon.

The Patriots have enjoyed success in recent years despite their mediocre defense, but they’ve taken a big step towards improving on that side of the ball: Pro Bowl CB Stephon Gilmore was signed as a free agent, once again rescuing him from Buffalo. Unfortunately for Pats supporters, the pass rush is suspect after DE Kony Ealy, acquired via trade from the Carolina Panthers, was put on waivers over the weekend. New England also lost their top draft pick for 2017, third-round DE Derek Rivers, when he tore up his left knee in training camp. With Rob Ninkovich retiring in July, this is one area where the Patriots can be beaten.
 

Split Ends

The Packers are the most popular NFC candidate to face New England at Super Bowl LII – but only after the Dallas Cowboys lost RB Ezekiel Elliott to a six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. That suspension is under appeal; the Cowboys were one of several teams tied with Green Bay at +1200 before Elliott’s suspension was first rumored, but they’ve slipped to +1400, while the Packers have moved up to fill the breach.

There’s a lot to like about this Packers team. Of course, everything starts with QB Aaron Rodgers. The two-time league MVP is coming off his sixth Pro Bowl season, and the Packers have gone all-in to make sure Rodgers is surrounded by quality targets this year, signing former Patriots TE Martellus Bennett and Los Angeles Rams TE Lance Kendricks. This will give Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy the kind of play-calling flexibility that we’re used to seeing in New England. And Green Bay added some protection for Rodgers by signing former Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans, who spent last year with the Saints.

Will that be enough to get Green Bay over the top? They still have some concerns on the offensive line – Evans isn’t the player he used to be – and the Packers’ defense is very much in question after their secondary got ventilated last year, especially during the playoffs. Drafting CB Kevin King and safety Josh Jones in the second round is a step in the right direction, but unless they develop quickly, Green Bay will remain on the outside looking in once February rolls around.


*Odds as of August 30, 2017