Super Bowl betting has seemed a progressively level playing field in recent years. But even in this period of apparent openness, one thing has remained constant: the New England Patriots are always favourites to raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Finally, however, this time-honoured tradition under the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era has been shelved. And high time, too. After all, the Pats haven't picked up a ring since 2005, despite two more further Super Bowl appearances. They have instead been superseded and surpassed in the market by an altogether more unlikely duo: the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks.
The Niners and the Hawks, of course, hail from the same division, the NFC West - actually one of the weaker foursomes in NFL history until last year. Both sides sport some dazzling CVs and are trading around the 9.08/1 mark, having finished their respective 2012 campaigns with strong performances and improving rosters which augur well for the upcoming season.
Nevertheless, the feeling is that the cat is well and truly out of the bag and their chances are now perhaps the worst-kept secrets in the NFL. There's also the sneaking suspicion that they could well cancel out one another's credentials because of the competitive division from which they hail. It's a battle that may deny them victory in the great war.
This conclusion brings us back to the Pats (available at 9.89/1 to back) who might be being written off at the wrong time. That said, after an off-season which saw one star tight end, Aaron Hernandez, charged with murder and another, Steve Gronkowski, resting up on the treatment table and out for the initial weeks of the regular season, the psychological omens hardly look favourable.
Belichick's boys certainly played like a team divided during their final warm-up game again Detroit where the Lions repeatedly ravaged Brady. It almost felt like a just comeuppance for the star quarterback's heedless comments about Hernandez's actions. "I've moved on," deflected Brady. "I only care about winning football games." Belichick, on the other hand, just went on holiday. Stay classy, New England. Both the media and their opponents will be on their backs now.
All of which leaves us with the Denver Broncos as the team most likely among the market leaders. Having backed Peyton Manning's charges to win the Bowl last year at 20.019/1, it feels uninspired and slightly raw to tip them up for swift compensation at the current 8.415/2 to back in an ultra-competitive line-up. However, under my lights, they represent an outfit with virtually no weaknesses, so they naturally head the staking plan.
Manning should once again prove their key component. Don't be put off by his 37 years, his brain remains razor sharp, while his physicality has actually improved over the past 12 months. That, of course, is due to his heartening recovery from career-threatening neck surgery.
Manning is unequivocally one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time but he may not even be remembered as the best of his generation if he can't collect a second ring. As things stand, that honour could unjustly go to Brady - or worse still his brother Eli! - so you just know that Manning Senior's designs on the pantheon burn undimmed.
The four-time MVP also now has a team under his command that will enjoy the cohesive benefits of a having had a full pre-season of training together. Wide men Demaryious Thomas and Eric Decker have now been joined by Patriots perennial, Wes Welker, who can only add another valuable short-yardage option into their speed offense. Manning's ability to deliver the ball with pace and precision, even when his feet are planted, could be the game-changer which banishes the painful memory of last year's AFC Divisional round.
Unlike last year, Denver's early schedule seems soft - a fact which will allow two promising running backs, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, the time to bed in and share the burden of freeing up Manning. On the other side of the ball, Denver remain unyielding - and will only advance when their defensive lynchpin, Von Miller, returns fresh from his six-game suspension.
Over in the NFC, I'll row in with another brilliant quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers at 14.5 to back. Lambeau Field's triumvirate of custodians - Rodgers, head coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson - consistently put the Pack in the play-off mix and this season should be no different.
Green Bay's offense will always be an aerial threat under Rodgers' tutelage. However, it is Eddie Lacy's signing at running back from Alabama (where he was central to three BCS National Championship sides) which really excites. Lacy is a powerful and patient impact runner who will provide Rogers with the balance he needs to succeed. Their defense has also greatly improved in latter years and another off-season upgrade gives the Pack some rock-solid qualifications.
If you've read my Philadelphia Eagles profile, assessing the likely merits of Mike Vick partnering up with first-season coach Chip Kelly for one last hurrah, you'll know my reasons for factoring this flair outfit into the outright portfolio. At 9594/1 to back Philly are clearly longshots, but Kelly's open-minded offense doesn't look empty-headed. He can finally establish the ideal environment in which Vick can thrive alongside DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy.