The NFL postseason field has been whittled down to eight teams as the potential participants for Super Bowl XLVIII in New York become more clear. But as of now, the two biggest favorites at the midway point of the season haven’t budged from the top spots.
At 5/2 odds, the Seattle Seahawks have leapfrogged the Denver Broncos as the favorite to win football’s biggest prize, according to Las Vegas odds makers at Bovada.lv. Both were expected to make the league's seminal game back in Week Eight.
The biggest longshot is the Indianapolis Colts, coming in at 16/1 after posting the second biggest postseason comeback in NFL history. Andrew Luck led a blistering 28-point second half surge against Kansas City in the wild card round, but the Colts are 7 1/2 underdogs to the New England Patriots on Saturday. However, the Colts are the only team to beat both Seattle and Denver in the regular season, and were actually listed at 16/1 after the first eight weeks of the season.
Ending the regular season with identical 13-3 records and the top spots in their respective conferences, the Seahawks were likely picked over Denver due to a far better defense and arguably the NFL’s biggest home field advantage thanks to the loud and rabid fans at CenturyLink Field. They’ll host the New Orleans Saints in Saturday’s NFC divisional round as eight-point favorites.
Despite boasting the NFL’s highest scoring offense and quarterback Peyton Manning setting a new single-season record with 55 touchdown passes, the Broncos slipped back after linebacker Von Miller suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 16’s victory over Houston. The Broncos are currently ranked 27th in the NFL in pass defense, and eighth against the run ahead of Sunday’s game versus the San Diego Chargers at Mile High.
Much has also been made of Manning’s eight one-and-done postseason runs, the last coming against eventual champion Baltimore a year ago. Still, the Broncos are nine-point favorites.
The San Francisco 49ers (5/1) and the Patriots (8/1) are the next favored pair to make the Super Bowl, and both are predicted to at least move on to the conference championships. Winners of six straight, including one over Seattle, the 49ers are arguably the hottest team in the league and entered the season as the biggest Super Bowl favorite at 6/1 odds.
A Week 15 slip up to Miami cost the Patriots the AFC’s No. 1 seed, but they are one of just three teams to defeat Denver this season and own a 1-2 playoff record against Manning.
The Carolina Panthers are actually three-point underdogs to San Francisco even in their home stadium, but shot up from 33/1 at the half way mark of the season to 11/1 thanks to quarterback Cam Newton’s MVP-level play and linebacker Luke Kuechly leading the NFL’s second ranked defense and top-ranked pass rush with 60.0 sacks.
Two upset-minded teams who already defied the odds and inclement weather are the Chargers and Saints, both coming in at 12/1 odds. Quarterback Philip Rivers has been in peak form, and the Chargers have essentially played elimination football for the past five weeks, counting their four-game run just to make the postseason. They ripped up the third-ranked Cincinnati defense for 27 points, 196 rushing yards, and forced four turnovers in the wild card round.
A 2-3 slide in the final five weeks of the season sent the Saints and Drew Brees to a road wild card game, but they responded by outgaining high-scoring Philadelphia and overcame two uncharacteristic interceptions from the quarterback in freezing temperatures. In Week 13 Seattle held Brees to 147 yards passing in a 34-7 blowout win.