With the 2014 NFL regular season opener just three weeks ago fans across the country are thinking about football and ultimately Super Bowl XLIX.
Today we look at the AFC hopefuls in our odds for 2015 Super Bowl which will take place in Glendale, Arizona. A season ago the Denver Broncos represented the AFC but were on the wrong end of a lopsided 43-8 decision. Will they return in 2015 or will another AFC team step forward?
As long as Tom Brady is suiting up for the New England Patriots they will be a Super Bowl contender. Coming off a modest season for Brady the Patriots were still 12-4 finishing first in the AFC East. Even with some offensive additions in New York and Buffalo the Patriots figure to have their way with a division which they have reigned supreme of since 2009.
The AFC North is very much a mystery. The Cleveland Browns drafted Johnny Manziel in the first round and while he may bring excitement to a town void of championships since 1964 they will struggle to reach .500 this season with competition coming in the form of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore. Going deeper into the AFC North we consider the Bengals (35/1, best odds in division) who have done fine in the regular season since drafting Andy Dalton only to lose all three of their playoff games. The Ravens were hit hard last season by the salary cap taking a Super Bowl winning team and relegating it to 8-8 making it the first time head coach John Harbaugh had failed to make the playoffs. Meanwhile the Steelers still need to prove they are the team that won six of their last eight games rather than the team that lost their first four.
Almost no one is going to pick against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South and why should they. Barring the loss of quarterback Andrew Luck the Colts should again run the table in their division much like they did in 2013 earning all six possible wins against Tennessee, Jacksonville and Houston.
Which brings all things back to Denver. While the Broncos lost wide receiver Eric Decker via free agency they did well to add Emmanuel Sanders who instantly began to praise the leadership of Peyton Manning. Expect those two to find each other often this season as the Broncos look to match or exceed their 13-3 mark from last year. While Kansas City is still a threat and we tend to believe that San Diego will be as good as they were last season both teams are clearly looking up to the Broncos to start the season while the Oakland Raiders are simply out to pull themselves out of divisions bottom.
While anything can happen with the wild card spots we feel extremely confident in three teams in the AFC this season: New England, Indianapolis and Denver.
The Patriots were unable to defeat the Broncos last season in the AFC Championship game and looking over their roster we question if the upgrading of Aqib Talib with Darrelle Revis is enough to stop the Broncos passing attack.
That may be enough for some to point to the Broncos as being the AFC favorite (13/2 as we speak) but we feel that the Colts (18/1)could offer the Broncos a challenge much like the one they delivered in 2013’s Week 7 when they defeated the Broncos. The good thing for everyone is that we only have to wait until Week 1 to see these two teams tangle.