Life in the NFL, like life in general, isn’t always fair, just ask any number of the legitimate contenders slated to qualify for and make an impact in the playoffs who aren’t even able to shine in their own divisions. This is a reality for more than a few football teams this season, and it has those in charge of the Super Bowl odds taking notice.
For every underwhelming AFC South or NFC North Division, there’s a team like the San Francisco 49ers who have to share the spotlight with a Seattle Seahawks club on the fast-track to a championship. The division rivals wage war all season long, only to find out that they’re neck and neck on the NFL futures when fans start to bet on the Superbowl. (The 49ers sit just third at 15/2 while the Seahawks are the favorite at 5/2.)
With no time to appreciate the burgeoning juggernaut in the NFC West, the Seahawks and 49ers have to live with the knowledge that even though they may have Super Bowl aspirations, they’ll likely have to play one extra game in the postseason.
The AFC West, with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, is no better. Not only have the Chiefs been destined to a season in the shadows of Peyton Manning and Denver, the Broncos have had to go about constructing their impressive 2013 portfolio despite having to line up against a red-hot Chiefs team – twice! Neither is an easy task.
Now, while there’s a legitimate opportunity for the clubs to finish with the first and second best records in the NFL, each and every man in that locker room knows that unless they finish atop the division, they’ll be suiting up for the wild card game when the playoffs roll around later this month.
Needless to say, atop the list of any Super Bowl betting tips is for bettors to not only look at their choice to win the championship, but the path they’ll face to get there. Having to participate in the wild card round can take its toll on a possible contender.
If that’s not enough inter-division tension, the upstart Carolina Panthers have to deal with the lingering notion that their miraculous season will have to share top-billing with the resurgence of the New Orleans Saints.
Never mind Carolina raising their game as a defensive force and making a case for themselves as a genuine contender (seriously, just look at the long-term Superbowl lines), Drew Brees and the Saints post-Bountygate are the talk of the division.
All six of those squads in the running for three division titles and are in the top eight on the Super Bowl betting odds. The Broncos sit second behind the Seahawks with 3/1 NFL odds (compared to Kansas City’s 18/1). The Panthers, fourth on the list, have 12/1 odds on the Super Bowl futures (tied with New Orleans’ 12/1).
Best of the Rest?
Meanwhile, even though the short-list of NFL contenders is embroiled in a log jam atop the futures list, a number of less-than-deserving franchises will get to skip past the uncertainty thanks to the fact that they’re the best team in a weak division.
Regardless of whichever team emerges from the NFC North or NFC East, their division lead will stamp their ticket to the playoffs.
At that point, regardless of how the regular season went down, anything can happen.