Can the AFC knock off the NFC in the Super Bowl?

Recent Super Bowl history suggests the winner of this year’s Super Bowl will come from the NFC, as the conference’s champion in four of the past five years has ended up winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy. But oddsmakers seem to disagree and believe the top contenders to win this season’s big game are both AFC teams – the Broncos (13-2 odds) and Patriots (7-1), although defending Super Bowl champion Seattle (15-2) and the 49ers (15-2) will likely have something to say about that before all is said and done.
The Broncos certainly looked like Super Bowl favorites in a 34-0 rout of the 49ers on Sunday in the first preseason game at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Peyton Manning was nearly perfect, completing 12-of-14 passes for 102 yards and one touchdown while his backup Brock Osweiler was just as good in relief with 105 yards on 10-of-13 passing and one touchdown. But it is the defensive effort that has opened eyes so far this preseason, with the Broncos surrendering only 16 points in two games combined against the top two NFC teams from a year ago, the 49ers and Seahawks.
Seattle showed the importance of defense last year in winning Super Bowl XLVIII 43-8 against Denver, the highest-scoring team in NFL history. The dominant defensive effort by the Seahawks was evident on the very first offensive play of the game when Manning fumbled the snap, leading to a safety and cashing one of the most popular Super Bowl props that started an avalanche which caved in on the Broncos and snowballed the rest of the way. Denver realized improving and fine-tuning its defense was the best way to get back to the Super Bowl and made the necessary moves in the offseason by signing key free agents in defensive end DeMarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib.
Meanwhile, the Patriots lost the 2014 AFC Championship Game 26-16 at Denver, and are eager to prove a healthy roster can go even further this year and lead them to a fifth Super Bowl title. New England has lost its last two Super Bowl appearances to the Giants (40-1) and also understands defense was the difference in each of those games when points were at a premium. That’s why the Pats went out and signed All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis when they lost Talib to the Broncos. A shutdown corner like Seattle’s Richard Sherman has made that position arguably the most important player on the field next to the QB, and New England already knows what it has there in Tom Brady.
San Francisco’s Super Bowl betting odds suggest it’s a coin flip to win the NFC West and conference against the rival Seahawks. The 49ers lost the NFC Championship Game at Seattle when Sherman deflected a pass from QB Colin Kaepernick to wide receiver Michael Crabtree in the final minute to preserve a 23-17 victory. Crabtree missed most of last season with an Achilles injury, and his return along with an improved running game with the addition of rookie Carlos Hyde could be enough to get San Francisco back to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years.
When it comes to Super Bowl online betting, outside of the four conference finalists from last season, other teams that might be worth wagering on according to the latest Super Bowl lines include two more teams from the NFC, the Packers (10-1) and Saints (12-1). The Packers had to play most of last year without franchise QB Aaron Rodgers but still managed to win the NFC North for a third straight season. Like the Broncos and Patriots, the Saints also shored up their defense knowing their high-powered offense can only take them so far. New Orleans lost a tough divisional round playoff game 23-15 at Seattle last year, and a better defense might just be all QB Drew Brees needs to get him his second Super Bowl ring.