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SB Picks - Packers, Texans

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PICK TO WIN SUPER BOWL XLVII IS...
Green Bay Packers 6/1


The Packers finished one of the best regular season's in NFL history last season. Green Bay went 15-1 while scoring 35 points per game (1st in the NFL) and gaining 405 yards per game (3rd). Quarterback Aaron Rodgers added an MVP to his resume after tossing 45 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions and it looked as though GB was headed for a second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl.

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Instead, the Giants caused the Pack to play their worst game of the season in the Divisional Round of the playoffs en route to their Super Bowl victory. The Packers didn't lose much from last year's prolific squad, while also adding some strong pieces this offseason - most importantly on defense - and we expect Green Bay to be right in the thick of the Super Bowl chase come season's end. The Packers gave up the most passing yards in NFL history last season and allowed the most yards per game overall. A lot can be attributed to the fact that Green Bay was usually winning (big) in games and defensive coordinator Dom Capers would call for a more conservative approach, so as to limit big plays and run the clock instead of blitzing and taking unnecessary chances.

Also the Packers lost All-Pro safety Nick Collins to a season ending neck injury in Week 2 while Pro-Bowl cornerback Tramon Williams played injured for the entire season after suffering nerve damage in his shoulder in Week 1. Still, there needed to be improvement. GM Ted Thompson used his first six draft picks to upgrade the defense, most notably the pass rush. They drafted OLB Nick Perry out of USC and DT Jerel Worthy out of Michigan State, both of whom have high motors and are expected to start from day one. Also, with a full offseason to prepare (which no team got last year) it should help the young rookies get prepared to have more of an impact. Offensively, the Packers retained all of their playmakers and as long as QB Rodgers stays healthy, this unit shouldn't miss a beat in 2012.

Take the Packers as your 2012-13 Super Bowl Champions.

LONGSHOT to Win Super Bowl XLVII...
Houston Texans 14/1


I'll start off by saying I don't think the Texans success last year was a fluke and that they can be a team to contend in 2013. They play in the one of the weakest divisions in the NFL (AFC South) with the Colts, Jaguars and Titans who combined had a 16-32 SU record last season. It's highly likely they'll win the AFC South again this year as the other teams in the division haven't made significant improvements over last year's editions. The Texans did some outstanding things in 2012 and could see dramatic improvements in other areas of their overall game which makes them an attractive bet here. The Texans were very good defensively overall with the 2nd best Total 'D' in the NFL.

Leading the way on the defensive side of the football were rookie defensive end J.J. Watt and linebacker Brian Cushing. If Watt picks up where he left off last season, he should go from the All-Rookie Team to be perennial Pro Bowl selection. Cushing led the defense with 114 tackles during the regular season and then added 19 more in the post season. The Texans as a whole allowed just 283.2 yards per game and were 2nd in the league in yards per play against at just 4.7 yppa. They can improve on their 3rd down conversion defense which was 12th bestin the NFL but with nearly everyone back on that side of the football we expect that improvement to happen.

Offensively they had some solid statistics which could get dramatically better this upcoming season. Houston was 5th overall in 3rd down conversions, 13th in yards per play offense and finished 13th overall in the NFL in total offense. They achieved those solid numbers without one of the best receivers in the game, Andre Johnson, and their starting QB Matt Schaub. Those two stars missed a combined 15 games last season to injuries. Schaub completed 178 of 292 passes last year for 2,479 yards and had 15 TD's to only 6 INT's before going down with an injury. In 2010 the Texans had the 4th best passing offense in the NFL when Schaub threw for 4,370 yards, had 24 TD's and only 12 INT's. With a healthy Andre Johnson back on the field we expect the Texans passing game to return to the form we witnessed in 2010.

Those two key offensive injuries forced Houston to change their game plan which is one reason they'll be that much better this season. They now have a running game with Arian Foster leading the way. Houston was 2nd in rushing attempts per game and averaged over 153 yards rushing per game which was 2nd best in the NFL. Foster finished the season with 1,224 rushing yards which was good for 5th overall in the entire NFL.

Houston did benefit from an easier schedule last year and they'll face a much tougher road schedule this season but if they remain healthy they can pull a couple upsets away from home. If you believe in the age-old-adage that to win in the NFL you need to be able to run the football, maintain possession of the football (3rd down conversions) and play defense then Houston has everything in place to make a serious run in 2012-13.

As of this writing the Texans are currently listed at 14/1 odds to win the Super Bowl.

  
HEADLINES
Mejia: Week 2 Preseason Notes - NFC
Lawrence: 2014 AFC Season Preview
Mejia: Week 2 Preseason Notes - AFC
ASA: NFC North Notebook
ASA: NFC South Notebook
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Rogers: AFC North Preview
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Cowboys worth more than $3 billion
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