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Early NFC Favorites

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Training camps start in a few weeks and when they do the sports world that is getting bored with the dog days of the MLB season will flock to NFL stories in droves. With that being the case, what better time than now to beat the rush and look at who will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVII.

Odds to win the NFC

Teams to eliminate off the bat: Arizona (+12500), St Louis (+3500), Tampa Bay (+2500), Carolina (+2500), Philadelphia (+2500)

Compared to the AFC, the NFC is a lot more wide open given the odds and number of teams expected to compete for the conference crown. That means there are fewer teams a bettor can eliminate off the bat although these five squads should struggle to go further than a 1st round playoff loss at best.

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Arizona and St. Louis are in the top heavy NFC West division that contains the two overall favorites to represent this conference in the Super Bowl (Seattle, San Francisco). Arizona is hoping that Carson Palmer is somehow the answer at QB but the Cardinals have so many problems throughout their roster that they will be lucky to win six games.

St. Louis should do a little better this season and will have some surprising upset wins, especially at home, but making the playoffs and going deep in them just won’t happen. Head coach Jeff Fisher knew when he took over this job last year that this rebuilding phase was a 3-4 year plan and the Rams should make some strides towards being a real competitor in the next few seasons.

Tampa, Carolina and Philadelphia all have young cores that have plenty of talent but no real “winning” experience. Tampa and Philly’s QB play will become a question/concern at some point this year while Carolina’s defense will still hold them back.

Longer shots to consider: Dallas Cowboys (+2000), New Orleans Saints (+1200)

Dallas seemingly comes into every season as a team with Super Bowl aspirations but ultimately end up coming short of even making the playoffs. However, this might be the year they manage to put it all together and if they can get hot at the right time, a deep postseason run isn’t out of the question.

RB DeMarco Murray needs to stay health all season to solidify Dallas’ ground attack because their passing game should be up there with some of the league’s best again. Rookie WR Terrance Williams (Baylor) is a dynamic player that will be great as a later option for QB Tony Romo who already has Witten, Bryant and Austin to work with.

Defensively Dallas started to put it together at the end of last year and will need to ride solid performances down the stretch from this unit to secure wins. They are capable of doing it, but as always in Dallas; it will come down to execution.

New Orleans gets their head man Sean Payton back this year and the team should benefit greatly from his return. For one, there won’t be all the distractions of “Bountygate” that there were a season ago and Drew Brees and the Saints offense should continue to be one of the league’s best.

If New Orleans defense can be sharp on a weekly basis and get back to creating plenty of turnovers like they did when they won it all in 2009, there aren’t many reasons to think this team won’t be back in at least the NFC Championship game.

Favorites: San Francisco (+350), Seattle (+450), Green Bay (+800), Atlanta (+900)

These are the four teams that are below the +1000 mark in the odds and with the two NFC West teams that made big splashes in free agency leading the way I believe you have to look at the other two teams in this spot.

San Francisco and Seattle will beat up on each other all season and the battle to win the division means that if both are to make the playoffs (likely) one will have to start out on the road. Not since Green Bay in 2010 has an NFC team played their first game on the road and made it to the Super Bowl, so one of those two NFC West teams just doesn’t have the value at the current price. Rather than trying to determine who will end up being that one team and who will win the division, I think it’s best to stay away from both.

Instead I’m looking long and hard at the Packers (+800) here as the only team of these four that provides the best value and has the best chance to get to the Super Bowl. They’ve got a tough early stretch to their schedule (@SF, Wash, @ Cin, bye) but should be able to win the NFC North and quite possibly earn one of the top two seeds in the conference. Playoff games in the frigid, Lambeau Field air are like death to visiting teams and the Packers are hungry to get back to the big game after being knocked out by San Francisco in the divisional round a year ago. At +800 I think there is too much value to pass up on Green Bay at this stage of the season.

  
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