When the NBA season ended, Las Vegas made the Golden State Warriors overwhelming favorites to win the 2018 title.
Golden State was listed at -200 odds to win next season’s championship, meaning you have to risk $200 to win just $100. Our friends at Ball Don’t Lie wrote that the Warriors were the biggest preseason favorite ever, in any sport.
I think we should be talking about the 2017 New England Patriots the same way.
The Patriots are the biggest NFL preseason favorite we have seen in a long time. The Patriots were between 3-to-1 and 2-to-1 at most Las Vegas sportsbooks this summer. Since 2001, the only teams that have had Super Bowl odds at less than 4-to-1 are the 2002 St. Louis Rams (3.5-to-1), the 2007 Patriots (2.5-to-1) and the 2008 Patriots (3.5-to-1), according to SportsOddsHistory.com. It’s unusual, given the parity in the NFL, the single-elimination playoff format and the high rate of injuries, for any NFL team to be an overwhelming favorite to win it all. Yet, I don’t think the odds on the 2017 Patriots are low enough. They should be closer to the Warriors’ odds.
The Patriots were 14-1 with Tom Brady in the lineup last season, with one extremely close loss, and got better in the offseason. I wrote all about them in their season preview this week. They’re so good on paper, I can’t even completely rule out a 19-0 season.
I also can’t figure out who will stop them. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a chance because of their offense, and perhaps the same can be said about the Denver Broncos and their defense. Aaron Rodgers is capable of an otherworldly performance to knock off New England. Since the Falcons did lead New England 28-3 in a Super Bowl and needed just about every single play to go against them to lose, you have to put them on the short list too. But aside from just guessing that any team can lose in a single game in the NFL, there’s no good reason to believe the Patriots won’t repeat. If someone picks another team to win Super Bowl LII, they’re trying too hard to be cute or they have a grudge.
If you’re not a Patriots fan, there’s still hope. Some of the NFL’s greatest teams ever didn’t win a Super Bowl. A few ill-timed injuries or just the wacky nature of the playoffs can catch even the best teams. But this is true too: As the NFL’s preseason starts with the Hall of Fame game on Thursday night, everyone is chasing New England. It should be a familiar position by now.
Here are the pre-preseason NFL power rankings. Click on any team name below to read the full preview for that squad:
32. New York Jets
Actual headline from The MMQB from Jets camp: “Jets coaches are focusing on the little things—like getting Christian Hackenberg to break the huddle right.” It’s going to be a long, long season Jets fans.
31. Cleveland Browns
All the news about rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer in camp has been positive. There’s still a long way to go before the Browns pick a Week 1 starter, but they’ll have to get Kizer some starts this season. They need to go into next year’s draft knowing if Kizer is their guy.
30. San Francisco 49ers
My Yahoo Sports teammate Charles Robinson went to 49ers camp and was very impressed with rookie linebacker Reuben Foster. I hope that carries over, because Foster was such an exciting prospect coming out of Alabama.
29. Chicago Bears
I do think the plan is to start Mike Glennon over Mitch Trubisky from Week 1 on, but that was the plan at the start of preseason for the 2012 Seattle Seahawks with Matt Flynn over Russell Wilson.
28. Los Angeles Rams
All the reports about Jared Goff have been pretty good, but there have been positive stories about backup Sean Mannion too. I’m not buying that anyone but Goff starts Week 1, or even over the first three-quarters (at least) of the season, but it’ll be worth watching the quarterbacks in the preseason.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
Branden Albert wasn’t the same player he was a few years ago when he signed a huge deal with the Miami Dolphins, but he’s still better than what the Jaguars had at left tackle. After Albert’s retirement, rookie Cam Robinson is slated to start at left tackle. For Blake Bortles, whose development has been stunted in part because of bad line play in front of him, that’s scary.
26. Detroit Lions
Running back Ameer Abdullah is practicing with no restrictions in camp. That’s great news. Now the battle is keeping him healthy through August.
25. Houston Texans
Losing second-year receiver Will Fuller for a reported 2-3 months with a broken collarbone is bad for the Texans, and bad for Fuller, who did show some good things early last season. The good news is rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson is getting praise early in camp. It’s getting harder to believe Watson won’t be the starter by at least the end of September, and maybe by Week 1.
24. Buffalo Bills
Shaq Lawson, a 2016 first-round pick who battled injuries last season, is back at his normal defensive end spot after a year at outside linebacker and is reportedly slimmed down from last season. If he can rush the quarterback consistently, that’s a big plus.
23. Indianapolis Colts
The Andrew Luck injury speculation is getting a little out of hand. There’s no reason for the Colts to have any serious conversations right now about him starting the season on the physically unable to perform list due to his shoulder. Think about it. Putting Luck on PUP would automatically cost him the first six weeks of the regular season. Even if the Colts were unsure right now that Luck could make it back by Week 1 (and there’s no tangible proof he won’t be in the lineup), they would wait until the bitter end for that PUP decision. Why would they be talking about it the first week of August? Even if they guessed Luck would miss the first five weeks, they’d hold a 53-man roster spot for him for even a small chance he could start by Week 6. The Colts said all along they’d be patient with his return. So let’s not freak out just yet, OK?
22. Baltimore Ravens
So. Many. Injuries. I had questions about their offense at full health. It’s not at full health anymore. Since I wrote that preview linked above, they’ve lost running back Kenneth Dixon for the season, center John Urschel to retirement, rookie guard Nico Siragusa for the season and quarterback Joe Flacco had a scare with a bad back. Flacco is the headliner here. Back injuries often linger, so he’ll need to be watched closely.
21. Los Angeles Chargers
Speaking of injuries, No. 7 overall pick Mike Williams’ back might keep him out all season (the Chargers aren’t willing to concede that) and the team’s second-round pick, guard Forrest Lamp, tore his ACL on Wednesday. What did the Chargers do to deserve this terrible injury luck year after year? (Don’t answer, San Diego fans.)
20. Minnesota Vikings
With Latavius Murray still slow to come back from ankle surgery and rookie Dalvin Cook looking good in practice, I wouldn’t worry about a timeshare in the Vikings backfield. This has to be Cook’s job to lose.
19. New Orleans Saints
The updates on rookie running back Alvin Kamara out of camp have been interesting. He’s splitting out wide on occasion, and coach Sean Payton even dropped a Marshall Faulk comparison. The Saints really wanted Kamara, trading a 2018 second-round pick to take him in the third round. I’m not sure where he fits in with Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson already there, but he’s someone to watch this month.
18. Washington Redskins
Remind me, why did the Browns not franchise tag Terrelle Pryor?
I'm telling y'all. Defenses aren't ready for Pryor pic.twitter.com/09BwSDWTiP
— CarolB (@FixOurBullpen) August 1, 2017
16. Miami Dolphins
Jay Ajayi’s concussion is not good news. At least it takes some of the unnecessary toll off his legs, because he’s going to run it a lot this season, but you don’t want to start this way.
15. Cincinnati Bengals
If the positive vibes on Joe Mixon continue through this month – and the Bengals seem happy so far – I’ll probably be picking him to win offensive rookie of the year.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers said Doug Martin isn’t guaranteed his job back when he returns from serving the final three games of his suspension, but I think that’s a motivational ploy. Jacquizz Rodgers is a good player but he’s not the guy you want as your tailback for 250-300 carries.
13. Arizona Cardinals
All the early signs on defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, last year’s first-round pick, are good. The Cardinals have some important players but Nkemdiche, who can help replace stud Calais Campbell, is right up near the top.
12. Denver Broncos
The Broncos are trying to figure out if Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch will start at quarterback. The problem is, observers have noted the struggles for both quarterbacks in camp. Someone better take a step forward soon.
10. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton, coming off shoulder surgery, had some soreness in that shoulder and the Panthers eased back on him in practice this week. That doesn’t seem like a huge deal this far from Week 1, but it could be a very big deal if we’re still hearing stories like this out of Charlotte in a couple weeks.
9. Oakland Raiders
There are only a few training camp holdouts this year, and Raiders left tackle Donald Penn was the most surprising one. Penn isn’t happy with his contract and reportedly wants to be paid like a top-10 left tackle. He has played at that level with Oakland. The Raiders are in a tough spot. If they cave, what’s to prevent a few other starters from doing this next year? On the other hand, they really need Penn. He has some leverage.
8. Kansas City Chiefs
There probably aren’t 10 players I’m more interested to see this preseason than Chiefs rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It will be interesting to see how his playmaking ability translates to the NFL game early on.
7. New York Giants
The Giants avoided a major injury when receiver Sterling Shepard, who was carted off Wednesday, was diagnosed with just a sprained ankle. New York needs all of its offensive pieces to stay healthy if it is going to make an improvement on that side of the ball.
6. Seattle Seahawks
It seems Paul Richardson has the early edge over Jermaine Kearse to be the Seahawks’ No. 2 receiver. If he can win that job, I like Richardson’s chances for a nice breakout season.
5. Dallas Cowboys
It seems like every day from Cowboys camp, there’s a new report on how good linebacker Jaylon Smith looks. It seems Smith, the 2016 second-round pick coming off a terrible knee injury that cost him his entire rookie season, could help the Cowboys this season.
4. Green Bay Packers
Rookie running back Jamaal Williams seems to be impressing coaches, and is getting some snaps with the starters early in camp. Even if Ty Montgomery is the starter, he’s probably not going to handle a full load at tailback.
3. Atlanta Falcons
A lot of talk early in camp centered around running back Devonta Freeman’s contract. Freeman wants to get paid, and he’s a fantastic player. The Falcons are in a tough spot. They have a good backup in Tevin Coleman, and expensive, long-term deals with tailbacks often don’t work out. But Freeman is a big part of what they do on offense.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Martavis Bryant situation is a little odd. He was conditionally reinstated this offseason, but the league said he can’t practice in camp until he is fully cleared, and that hadn’t happened as of Thursday morning. What’s the holdup?
1. New England Patriots
Since I’ve said plenty about the Patriots, here are links to all four parts of Shalise Manza Young’s look at Tom Brady’s 40 greatest moments to celebrate his 40th birthday: 40-31, 30-21, 20-11, 10-1.
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