NFL 2016-17: Back Dallas and Jacksonville to surprise

Tony Romo's return for Dallas could lead them to glory
Tony Romo's return for Dallas could lead them to glory

The 2016-2017 season is still a few months away but now the NFL draft is in the books, most teams look set for the new season. Neil Monnery has a look at some of the early prices.

"If the game was played solely on paper then the Steelers would be the favourites. How can you not love all the weapons that Big Ben Roethlisberger has at his disposal? Then Martavis Bryant got a season-long ban for violating the leagues drug policy."

NFL 2016/2017 Season
Start: September
TV: Sky Sports & BBC
 


Favourites

For the 396th year in succession the New England Patriots are trading as favourites (or joint favourites) to be victorious in the Super Bowl. That might be a tad facetious but in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era they have always been there or thereabouts and rightly so.

Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and now that Peyton Manning - the only player who can even claim to share a platform with him on the pantheon of great signal callers - has retired, the Pats' no.12 is clearly head and shoulders above the competition.

One small issue is that Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season due to his perceived role in the deflating of footballs. Some may call him a cheater, others will say it is a vendetta by the commissioner (backed by the other owners) to try and stop the Patriots. I know which camp I fall in but I don't want to tip my hand. That said, I expect this pathetic, unfair, baseless act of revenge by Rogel Goodell to fuel the scorned players. At 8/1 on the Sportsbook they are rightly joint favourites.

They share that 8/1 quote with the Carolina Panthers. They lost just one game last season before they rolled into Super Bowl 50 and ran into the buzz saw known as the Denver Broncos defense. They've had a quiet off season but when they changed their minds on their best defensive player and let him walk, many eye brows were raised. Josh Norman is now not a Panther and you have to question whether they are deserved favourites. I know they get Kelvin Benjamin back from injury to give Cam Newton that legitimate WR1 but they aren't for me.


The other top contenders


Behind the two favourites we have a gaggle of teams who are serious contenders. First we look at the Seattle Seahawks. At 17/2 they look like Carolina's top rivals in the NFC. They have made two of the last three Super Bowls and last year, despite floundering for much of the season, still got close to the NFC Championship game.

I loved the Germain Ifedi pick in the draft, they needed a big lineman and in Jarran Reed, they got a player who can stuff up the run. The moves they made weren't flashy but were good. I like Seattle a lot but I'm not tipping them. I'm greedy, I want more value.

Two other teams in this 'just below the favourites' bracket are the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. If the game was played solely on paper then the Steelers would be the favourites. How can you not love all the weapons that Big Ben Roethlisberger has at his disposal? Then Martavis Bryant got a season-long ban for violating the league's drug policy. That is a blow and explains why they have drifted to 10/1.

The Packers were a strange team last season. Will the return of star wide receiver Jordy Nelson cure all ills? I'm sceptical but I fully expect them to be there or thereabouts come January. At 11/1 though they seem a touch too short.


The value picks


Three teams spring out to me to be providing value. First up the defending Super Bowl champions are only 16/1. Yes the Denver Broncos don't have a QB who can throw a ball or run an offense to any sort of acceptable ability but Mark Sanchez did somehow lead the New York Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games in his past. They have lost Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan from that all-time defense but enough of those pieces are still in place to make you think they can still have a deep run.

Next up is the Dallas Cowboys. At 20/1 to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy I think they are crazily under-valued by the market. They get the luxury of playing a fourth-placed team schedule following their abject 2015 season but if Tony Romo is healthy, then they have a great chance. Heck, they have a chance to win 13 games this season. They really do.

One thing I don't like, however, is their first round draft pick. On a scale of 1-10 of how much I hated the pick, this is a solid, 'being locked in a windowless concrete cell with the words of Donald Trump and Katie Hopkins being pumped in 24/7.'

It isn't that I don't like Ezekiel Elliott, it is more that the Cowboys didn't need a star RB and drafting either DeForest Buckner or Jalen Ramsey significantly upgrades either their edge rush or cover protection. They picked Jaylon Smith in the second round and he's great, genuinely great. It's just there's one small issue - he won't play this year due to injury. The Cowboys have a small window of opportunity and the draft squandered that but still, I think the Cowboys have a shot.

Lastly the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes the 50/1 Jags are sweet sweet value. Take the price and watch the odds tumble and cash out for value later in the year. The reason I love them this year is they had a play-off calibre offense last year but the defense stunk up the joint. However they have made moves to address that issue.

In the draft they added two of the best defensive players available in Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack. I was in bed watching the second round on Friday night and when it was announced the Jags had traded up in the second round I just kept saying 'Myles Jack' under my breath and cheered when the commissioner confirmed the news.

He has question marks over his knee but if healthy, he was the #1 talent in the whole draft in my mind. A devastating linebacker. Add that to the return to Dante Fowler Jnr. who tore his ACL last year and Malik Jackson coming over from Denver, how can you not love this team on paper? In the tawdry AFC South they could win 11 games.


Teams to avoid like the plague


The New York Jets. As much as I love Christian Hackenberg as a long-term star of the future in the QB position, he couldn't have chosen a worse team to ply his trade than the Jets. They don't have a QB for the upcoming season worth a damn on their current roster. I think the former Nittany Lion can be great but he needs time. A bit like Paxton Lynch in Denver, if we see him this season then things aren't going well. They have drifted to 40/1 for the Super Bowl since the draft and they can carry on drifting as far as I'm concerned.

Also the Minnesota Vikings at 20/1 produce a shake of the head from me. I am not a Teddy Bridgewater disciple at all and whilst they have drafted Laquon Treadwell, a man who gives him a deep threat, I don't see the QB having the arm to get him the ball repeatedly down the field.


The other contenders


A brief thought about the other teams who could realistically appear in Super Bowl LI (yes we are back to Roman numerals) in Houston. Arizona are 14/1 and that is about where they should be. They still have offensive weapons a plenty and a good defense. If you want to back them then I couldn't fault you.

The Colts are at 20/1 and that all depends on keeping Andrew Luck healthy. I think they are slightly too short but monitor Luck's health closely. The Bengals are at 16s and I still don't trust them and I'm not sure I ever will. They look a good team but I just can't go there.


Here are a few recommended bets depending on how much you like to roll the dice...


Recommend Bets

Back the Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC Conference at 12/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back-to-lay the Jacksonville Jaguars to win the Super Bowl at 50/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back the Denver Broncos to win the Super Bowl at 16/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl at 8/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook


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