Preseason is almost over and anticipation is building ahead of the 2017 National Football League campaign.
In February, New England Patriots produced one of THE great Super Bowl comebacks to defeat Atlanta Falcons and fans will be expecting the former to be there or thereabouts again this year.
However, we’re looking at the NFC conference in the first part of this preview and plenty of punters will fancy the Falcons to go far once again.
With the NFL looking competitive once again, honing in on one primary contender in the conference is almost impossible – here is a general overview of all four NFC divisions...
The new-look Minnesota Vikings may improve once again but Green Bay Packers are still the team to beat in this particular division. Chicago Bears look set for another losing season in 2017 whilst the Detroit Lions are rebuilding a competitive unit.
With Aaron Rodgers under center, the Packers have one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League and he could be the difference maker for Green Bay in the regular season. 12/25 for Mike McCarthy’s men to win the division is short but it looks to be the safest bet in the NFC North this year.
You can back the Packers at 5/4 to record 11 or more victories in the regular campaign but it might be wise to focus on the divisional standings. With a tricky set of fixtures ahead, winning the NFC North title for the sixth time in seven years is Green Bay’s number one priority this year.
TIP: Green Bay Packers to win the division @ 12/25
Look no further than the Seattle Seahawks here. There isn’t much value at 7/20 but this is their division and it will take a minor miracle for Pete Carroll’s side to fall short.
Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers may end up fighting it out for the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft whilst the Arizona Cardinals will improve but not to the extent of knocking Seattle off their perch as NFC West champions.
The Seahawks acted astutely in this year’s draft to fill a few important positions and Carroll will be confident of leading his side to the playoffs for the sixth season in a row. Defensively, Seattle are as strong as they have ever been and Russell Wilson has more talented options at his disposal.
Expect the Seahawks to finish as one of the top two seeds in the NFC – home advantage will be key in their hunt for Super Bowl glory.
TIP: Seattle Seahawks to win the division @ 7/20
Ezekiel Elliott’s impending six-game suspension may cost the Dallas Cowboys dearly this season. Jason Garrett’s side were pushed close by the New York Giants in 2016 and I fancy Big Blue to go one better this time around.
Offensively, we all know how much talent the Giants have and the free agency acquisition of Brandon Marshall should help New York in their pursuit of divisional glory.
Arguably the most difficult NFC division to predict, it is no surprise to see both the Cowboys and Giants as the top two contenders in the betting. At 15/8, Ben McAdoo’s men represent solid value – especially considering their defensive prowess.
NFL fans know that defence is the key to success in the sport and this aggressive New York unit could carry the Giants all the way to the latter stages of the postseason.
TIP: New York Giants to win the division @ 15/8
Take your pick here – four solid teams all in with a chance of winning the division. After a difficult 2016 campaign, the Carolina Panthers are well fancied to bounce back with former regular season MVP Cam Newton at quarterback.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons fell short in the Super Bowl back in February and that defeat could spur the NFC South champions on as they look to repeat the feat.
For me, the two most unpredictable franchises are New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees could prosper further with Adrian Peterson at running back. With an improved defensive effort, the Saints could feature prominently.
But this could be Tampa’s year. Defensively, they are a top 10 unit and offensively, they have all the pieces to challenge. Over 8.5 wins @ EVS is well worth a punt...
TIP: Tampa Bay Buccaneers over 8.5 wins @ EVS
*All odds accurate at the time of writing – latest markets available here*