Who do you like in the AFC? The future are giving the edge to the Patriots right now at 2:1 to retake their AFC crown. From a gambler’s point of view, though, that’s a heck of a lot to have riding on Tom Brady’s knee. And there are other questions, too. Can Brady keep Randy Moss interested? The outspoken wide receiver has been relatively well behaved since joining the Patriots, but if they start off 2-2 or 1-3, will sparks fly again? Moss pretty much “gave up” in Oakland, and soured on Culpepper in Minnesota, who at one point was untouchable and pristine as Brady was a couple years ago. Also, New England is ridiculously weighted as a receiving power. Brady can’t run, and their committee is led by Laurence Maroney and Fred Taylor. One is underachieving and the other is overaging. Add an above-average but certainly not elite defense to the mix and you’ve got a team that can ride a healthy Brady to a 10-6 record easily. As far as betting on them…if Brady is the same guy he was, they’ll be covering a lot of conservative lines that should be bigger. Really study this, because especially on the road against tougher AFC teams, if their clicking on offense, I’d ride them and anchor them weekly in your parlay picks.
Riding right behind them is Pittsburgh at 4:1 in the futures. This is a balanced team with strong, healthy, smart veteran leadership at every key position. The still viable Hines Ward, the more-mobile-than-he-gets-credit-for Big Ben and the underrated, stronger Willie Parker. This defense is in the elite class, and will keep the opponents scores under 20 most of the time. 4:1 for this team is a great line worth taking advantage of. I’d feel comfortable placing a $500 bet on them returning to the Super Bowl and forgetting about it.
San Diego and Indianapolis are both in third with 11:2 odds to win the conference, but they might as well be 100:1, because I don’t see either team making this happen. Indy has receiver issues once you get passed Reggie Wayne, and they can’t count on Addai for anything after the pitiful performance last year. The Colts special teams won’t do them any favors, and even Manning’s golden arm can’t support this team by itself all year. They’ll quietly cruise to an 11-5 or 12-4 record, but there’s no hiding come playoff time, and they can’t matchup up against the elite AFC group. Don’t bet them to get to or win the super bowl, but on a weekly matchup they’ll probably cover the games they’re supposed to.
The Chargers are that team that’s eternally missing “something.” Rivers is a solid presence who’s just coming into his own, but like Brees in the NFC, he’s got all the talent in the world around him but somehow things just don’t gel when you need them to. And I never thought I’d say this, but Tomlinson ain’t no spring chicken anymore. San Diego will show flashes of excitement and probably get believers by putting up a few 40-50 point performances, but they’re still as hollow as they’ve ever been. 11/2 is far too generous, as I think Jacksonville and Baltimore are both stronger teams than them.