Patriots, 49ers Among Early Super Bowl Favorites Once Again Despite Difficult Schedules Waiting in Upcoming Season

Tom BradyThe Patriots have won at least 10 games in 10 straight seasons (a 9-7 hiccup in 2002 prevented it from being 12 consecutive) and that’s the longest active streak in the NFL.

Oddsmakers expect it to continue in 2013 as New England has an over/under wins total of 11.5 (under a slight -120 favorite). That’s tied with Peyton Manning‘s Denver Broncos for the highest win total in the NFL.

The Broncos and Atlanta Falcons led the NFL with 13 regular-season wins in 2012 but neither reached the Super Bowl. Denver was the AFC favorite entering the playoffs on an 11-game winning streak but, thanks largely to blown coverage by safety Rahim Moore, was upset by the Baltimore Ravens 38-35 in double-overtime in the Divisional Round. It was the Broncos’ first loss since New England beat them 31-21 at Gillette Stadium in Week 5.

Manning and Tom Brady face off again this year in Foxboro on Sunday Night Football on November 24. Potential home-field advantage in the postseason could be up for grabs, but it’s also of course Wes Welker‘s return to New England. The Pats are judged to have the 14th-toughest strength of schedule with an opponents’ 2012 winning percentage of .508. Denver has the easiest schedule, with its opponents finishing a combined 110-146 last season.

The Ravens aren’t given much of a chance to repeat as Super Bowl champions after losing Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin and others. They did, however, steal stud defensive end/linebacker Elvis Dumervil away from Denver. Baltimore is given a wins total of just 8.5. The Ravens haven’t won fewer than nine games since 2007 and have won at least one playoff game every year since 2008.

The reigning NFC champion San Francisco 49ers are the current 6-1 favorites to win the Super Bowl, even after the recent injury suffered by top receiver Michael Crabtree, and have an 11-win total with the over a -125 favorite. That the Niners were able to trade for the Ravens’ Boldin is looking even better now with Crabtree expected to miss much of the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon. San Francisco does have a tough schedule, with two games against Seattle and matchups versus Green Bay, Indianapolis, Houston, New Orleans, Washington and Atlanta.

The Niners’ win total is tops among NFC teams. The Falcons lost a lot off their defense but did sign running back Steven Jackson and are listed at 10 wins (both -115). Many experts like Seattle to reach the Super Bowl this season after adding receiver Percy Harvin and defensive end Cliff Avril, and the Seahawks are projected with 10.5 wins, with the over a -150 favorite.

Green Bay and Houston also are at 10 1/2 wins. In the AFC East, the Dolphins are projected at 7.5, the Jets at 6.5 (anything less than a playoff spot no doubt gets Rex Ryan fired) and the Bills at 6.5.

The team with the hardest 2013 strength of schedule is the Panthers and they project to seven wins. The Saints, now that coach Sean Payton is back, are at 9.5. The Jaguars have the lowest win total on the board at five.

This post is presented by Bovada.

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