The Patriots are big favorites to win it all. Like dark horses? Go Bears.
So you want to make a bet on who will win the Super Bowl. Where to put your money? It depends – whether you want to take the easy, boring route or experience the thrill of the long shot paying off.
The easy way, of course, is betting on the New England Patriots. With a 2010 résumé that includes a 14-2 record, a 45-3 December smashing of the Jets that firmed up their status as favorites, not to mention a coach-quarterback combination that has already taken home three Lombardi Trophies, what's not to like?
According to betting guide website pregame.com, those placing bets on the season's final outcome have given New England a 35 percent chance of winning it all. That's nearly equal to the odds for the next three contenders – the Atlanta Falcons (14 percent), Pittsburgh Steelers (12 percent) and Chicago Bears (11 percent) – combined.
|Slideshow: Vegas picks the playoffs|
Not that Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and company are guaranteed anything. Scoring consecutive wins against the Jets and Steelers/Ravens won't be a picnic. Plus, seeing a middle of the road or long shot pick come through is not only more fun, it pays better. Where to find one? How about the Bears, for whom Las Vegas books are paying out 7-1 to anyone who bets on them to win it all (the Patriots' odds are 7-5)?
Early-round upsets have a way of shifting Super Bowl odds, not only by producing long-shot candidates like the Seahawks (2 percent chance of being champs) but also by reconfiguring other teams' paths to the big game. The Bears, for instance, now rate as a better bet to win the Super Bowl than they did a week ago.
Why? The Seahawks' upset of the Saints sends them to Chicago, which means the Bears need only to win a home game against Seattle (Vegas says there's an 80 percent chance that happens) to reach the NFC title game, which they would also play at home if Green Bay knocks off Atlanta (Vegas gives that upset a solid 46 percent chance). With the league's fourth-best defense, Chicago seems like a nice dark horse pick as long as their gunslinger quarterback, Jay Cutler, doesn't let his occasional inconsistencies get the better of him.
Over in the AFC, a generally tougher field undermines the championship aspirations of each individual team. Two strong and physical clubs, the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens (9 percent chance of being champs, up from 5 percent last week) will square off this weekend, ensuring that one of them gets knocked off before the conference title game. The other moves on to either a tough road test at New England or to another physically pounding game against the Jets.
Maybe it all adds up to an eventual AFC champ that limps to the Super Bowl on broken ankles, battered shins and sore shoulders, unable to get much pressure on Cutler, whose trip to the Super Bowl seemed like a Royal Caribbean cruise by comparison. In fact, go ahead, bet on it.
1. New England Patriots: Odds
2. Atlanta Falcons: Odds
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: Odds
4. Green Bay Packers: Odds
5. Chicago Bears: Odds