The New England Patriots fell a Hail Mary short of winning the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl on Sunday night as the New York Giants beat the Pats 21-17 in a classic Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. It was the second time in four seasons that the Giants got the best of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Co.
Yet on Bovada’s NFL futures odds, the Patriots are much heavier favorites than New York to win Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans next Feb. 3 –- it’s the first time that the NFL’s championship game returns to the Big Easy since that city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
New England has opened at 7/1 to win the Super Bowl next winter, which is shorter odds than any other team outside of the Green Bay Packers (6/1). The Giants are 15/1 to repeat, which no team has done since the Patriots in the 2003 and ’04 seasons –- that 2004 title win over the Eagles remains New England’s last championship.
Here are the Super Bowl XLVII favorites.
Green Bay Packers: 6/1
New England Patriots: 7/1
New Orleans Saints: 17/2
Houston Texans: 12/1
Philadelphia Eagles: 12/1
Pittsburgh Steelers: 12/1
There are some significant questions surrounding New England in terms of potential roster turnover. Of course Brady will be back, which automatically makes the Pats contenders. But these are New England’s pending free agents: Receiver Wes Welker, defensive ends Mark Anderson and Andre Carter, receiver Deion Branch, running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Kevin Faulk, guard/center Dan Connolly, defensive linemen Gerard Warren and Shaun Ellis, linebacker Gary Guyton, returner/receiver Matt Slater, defensive backs James Ihedigbo, Antwaun Molden and Nathan Jones, and linebackers Tracy White and Niko Koutouvides.
Welker, who dropped a crucial Brady pass in the fourth quarter Sunday, is the biggest name of that group, but it’s expected that he returns. At worst, the Patriots could slap the franchise tag on Welker, who led the NFL in receptions during the regular season. Anderson and Carter were the Pats’ two top pass rushers this season. Connolly was an indispensible cog on the line and Green-Ellis led the team in rushing.
The Pats do have two first-round picks in this year’s draft (as well as two second-rounders) and are about $20 million under the salary cap in terms of luring free agents or re-signing their own. Certainly the defense will be addressed in either the draft or free agency, as no previous Super Bowl participant had allowed as many passing yards during the regular season as New England did. A cornerback figures to be a high priority. And finding a deep-threat receiver to help stretch the field also figures to be one of Belichick’s top jobs.
The 2012 NFL season opens on Thursday, Sept. 6, with the Giants facing a yet-to-be-determined team. If you go by teams’ 2011 winning percentage, the Pats have the NFL’s easiest schedule in ’12. Next season the Patriots will play each of the other AFC East rivals twice and will play one game against each of the AFC South and NFC West teams. As the first-place team in the AFC East, the Patriots will play the first-place teams of the AFC West, the Broncos, and the AFC North, the Ravens. Of course, New England beat both of those clubs in this year’s postseason to reach the Super Bowl.