NFL Betting For 2011 Kicks Off

The glee in Green Bay and the pain in Pittsburgh may linger but NFL betting on which team will win Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Feb. 5, 2012 already has kicked off at sportsbooks and betting emporiums around the globe.

There are at least a baker's dozen teams that have a realistic chance (if you call 15/1 or less odds realistic) of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy next year. Of course, all of this is contingent on NFL owners and the players' union reaching a collective bargaining agreement that permits the season to actually take place. We can't give you odds on that but since both sides would benefit from a settlement, let's assume it happens.

The defending champion Packers and the ever-contentious Patriots opened as co-favorites at odds of 7/1. Green Bay is young, has a quality quarterback in Super Bowl XLV MVP Aaron Rodgers, plays good defense and has shown the fortitude to not only survive but thrive in the face of injury. With their shoulder pads to the goal post after losing at New England, Dec. 19, the Packers beat the Giants and the Bears just to get into the playoffs as a wild card team then won on the road at inhospitable venues Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago before beating the Steelers in the Super Bowl. Should Green Bay be able to repeat, the Packers would be the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since the Patriots accomplished the feat after the 2003 and 2004 regular seasons.

At 14-2, the Patriots had the best record in the NFL last year but lost to the Jets, a team they'd beaten five weeks earlier by a 45-3 score, in the NFL Playoffs. With Tom Brady at quarterback, Bill Belichick on the sidelines and three of the first 33 picks in the April NFL Draft, it's no surprise that New England is well-regarded by sportsbooks. Don't be shocked if NFL betting fans jump on the Patriot bandwagon, as well.

The aforementioned Jets are right behind the Packers and Patriots in the future book pecking order at odds of 8/1. New York, which has an aggressive defense under outspoken Head Coach Rex Ryan and should get improved play from third year starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, was just a score away from Super Bowl XLV, losing to Pittsburgh, 24-19, in the AFC Championship game.

The Steelers, Saints, Chargers, Colts and Falcons each are held at odds of 9/1 in futures. But for turnovers, Pittsburgh, which won the 2009 and 2006 Super Bowls, might be celebrating its third title in the past six years. With a run-stuffing defense and a solid quarterback, don't expect the Steelers to be anything but contenders under Head Coach Mike Tomlin.

The Saints are only one year removed from their emotional Super Bowl championship in 2010, although last season's playoff loss to the 7-9 Seahawks in Seattle is a more recent and disturbing memory. Like their NFC South rivals, the Falcons, winning the division and gaining the home field for at least a game or two of the playoffs, is critical.

Both San Diego and Indianapolis underachieved last season, although the Colts did manage to make the playoffs as a wild card. Indy, which would have the home field advantage if it can make it to the Super Bowl, needs to protect QB Peyton Manning, something the team will undoubtedly address in the draft. Meanwhile, San Diego, which lost its grip on the weak AFC West last year when its special teams play disintegrated, will try to bounce back despite what is expected to be some significant free agent losses.

Baltimore and Dallas are lurking at odds of 10/1 and rivals New York and Philadelphia aren't too far behind at 12/1 and 15/1, respectively. The Ravens are stingy on defense but would benefit by beating the Steelers for the AFC North Division and getting home field in the playoffs. With the return of QB Tony Romo and a new head coach, NFL betting fans may be able to forgive the Cowboys for last year's dismal performance with hopes of a rebound this season. The Giants and Eagles also are in the mix in a very contentious NFC East Division.

In addition to Super Bowl prices, most sportsbooks also have odds on teams winning their conference title. Typically, odds of an AFC or NFC Championship are about half the NFL betting odds of winning the Super Bowl.