Wilson, Seahawks favored to repeat but that's a rarity
Posted February 3
Less than an hour after the final play in Seattle’s 43-8 Super Bowl win over Denver on Sunday night in New Jersey, the Seahawks were installed as the betting favorite to win it all again next year.
Counting a 4-0 stand in preseason games and 3-0 in the playoffs, Seattle had a staggering 20-3 record.
In that context, it’s understandable that most of the Las Vegas odds makers put the Seahawks at 7-to-1, followed by Denver and San Francisco at 8-to-1, New England (10-1), Green Bay (20-1), New Orleans (20-1).
They’re 25-1, behind divisional rival New Orleans and exactly the same as NFC South cohort Atlanta, which had a miserable 4-12 record.
Washington Redskins? Dallas Cowboys? New York Giants?
All three are 40-1, behind NFC East favorite Philadelphia at 30-1.
That would be Oakland and Jacksonville at 200-1.
NFC West is toughest route
Even though there hasn’t been a repeat Super Bowl champ since New England (title games after the 2003 and ’04 seasons) and before that Denver in ’97 and ‘98, Seattle likely will remain a slight favorite when the 2014 regular season begins.
Barring a wave of defections, the Seahawks will retain 25-year-old quarterback Russell Wilson, his primary targets, running back Marshawn Lynch (who turns 28 on April 22) and perhaps of more importance, the bulk of the game’s best defensive unit.
It will help that the Seahawks also has the most obvious home-field advantage in the pros. All that said, it would still be a surprise to me if they can successfully defend.
For one thing, the NFC West clearly has become the toughest division in the league.
The 49ers went 12-4 in the regular season and defeated the Panthers to reach the NFC title game. Arizona went 10-6, including 7-2 over their final nine games. The two losses were by a combined total of seven points. St. Louis (7-9) was the weakest of the four NFC West teams but still had one-sided wins over New Orleans, Indianapolis and Chicago.
Bill Parcells once said the toughest aspect of winning a Super Bowl is simply getting into the playoffs and the toughest part of that step is winning divisional games.
Seattle went 13-3 in regular season but still lost twice in the division (49ers and Cards). Among the wins was a close call against the Rams (14-9 in Seattle).
The NFC West is awash with young stars and some of the best red-zone defenses anywhere. If Wilson and the Seahawks do get back - Feb. 1, 2105, Phoenix - they’ll have to do it the hard way.
Long shots to watch: Bengals, Dolphins
For those willing to bet on the early odds, the Panthers at 25-1 likely will be a popular pick.
The team faces a good deal of personnel patchwork ahead and the offense could use a few more playmakers but Cam Newton is getting better as he ages.
Two other relative long shots capable of making a splash are Miami at 50-1 and the Cincinnati at 25-1.
The Bengals (11-5) reached the playoffs out of the AFC North and the division shouldn’t be much improved _ if any. They flamed out at home against Philip Rivers and San Diego in the playoffs, but the Bengals have as much young talent as any team in the AFC.
Miami (8-8) had to deal with a world of off-field trouble but was still in position to reach the playoffs until the offense went AWOL in the final two games against Buffalo and the N.Y. Jets.
Even with the disappointing finish, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was impressive much of the way and 22-year-old running back Lamar Miller is a candidate to lead the league in rushing for the next four or five seasons if he can avoid injuries.