Top Favorites To Be AFC Champ:
Heading into last season, many of the top analysts weren’t sure if Peyton Manning could last an entire season, much less get the Denver Broncos back to the playoffs for the second year in a row. As it turns out, he did both, and Denver entered post-season play as one of the favorites to go all the way.
Manning and co. didn’t get the job done, but they did end up losing to the eventual champs, the Baltimore Ravens. Coming so close to the dream has the Broncos topping this year’s odds to claim the AFC Championship, as 11/4 favorites.
In other words, if the Broncos don’t reach the Super Bowl this season, in many people’s minds, it will be quite the upset. That’s understandable, considering the Broncos were 13-3 in 2012 and even got better with the addition of slot machine receiver Wes Welker and rookie running back Montee Ball. If Manning can avoid a second-half collapse like he had against the Ravens in their divisional round matchup last year, the odds-makers could be spot on about this one.
(Also see: Broncos odds to win AFC West)
While Denver looks to have terrific odds in their favor before any life is breathed into the new 2013 NFL season, they’re not the only team worth monitoring. Naturally, the defending champion Ravens should be in the mix again with 10/1 odds, while the Houston Texans and New England Patriots (6/1 odds and 3/1 odds, respectively), round out the top four.
AFC Champ Dark Horse For 2013-2014?:
But it’s just not the NFL without the random surprise, is it? After all, the Cincinnati Bengals have somehow made the playoffs for two years in a row, while the Ravens made an unlikely run to a title from the wild card round. So, who else could have it in them to pull off an upset in 2013?
The odds may not necessarily be promoting it, but some of the dark horses out there could be the Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Miami has been extremely active in free agency this year, shoring up their defense with the addition of veteran cornerback Brent Grimes and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, while making their offense more explosive with the addition of speedster wide receiver Mike Wallace.
They did lose running back Reggie Bush to free agency, too, but Bush’s departure is expected to open the door for arguably an even better running back – second year rusher Lamar Miller. Add on the addition of top draft pick Dion Jordan, and this isn’t your typical, average Dolphins team anymore. In fact, it could be one that will end up being taken very seriously come late in the season. (Also see Dolphins odds to win AFC East)
The Dolphins aren’t the only team that has made some nice adjustments, however, as the Chiefs revamped their coaching staff by firing Romeo Crennel and replacing him with former Eagles coach Andy Reid. Already blessed with an aggressive, talented defense, Reid’s main job will be to cure the team’s ails at quarterback and simply make the offense bearable to watch.
Landing former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith in a trade should help ease that process along, while holding onto star wide receiver Dwayne Bowe only helps matters, as well. The Chiefs have enough talent on offense with star running back Jamaal Charles leading the show, and their 2013 season should come down to just how much noise they can make in the AFC West. If they give Denver a run for their money, their Super Bowl odds could quickly change for the better.
Last, but certainly not least, is Peyton Manning’s old team, the Indianapolis Colts. Second year quarterback Andrew Luck will be facing some very high expectations in 2013, following an over-achieving season that saw a 2-14 team from two years ago complete a fast turn around with an 11-5 record and a trip to the playoffs.
Luck and co. will be aiming for more than to simply avoid a sophomore slump. With their defense getting more pieces to help complete an effective 3-4 scheme transition, the offense will try to get more balanced and more efficient in a bid to make it two straight seasons in the playoffs. The true test in 2013 will be if they can give the Texans trouble in the division race, and if they can, they might improve their odds at advancing through a game or two in the playoffs.