Super Bowl odds released shortly after the NFL draft 1) are pretty useless and 2) still managed to catch my eye this week.
The useless part comes from this being early May, four months from the start of the season and nine months from the Super Bowl. I dare say a few things between now and early February will dictate who really winds up in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII.
Still, odds released by analysts at MyTopSportsBooks — updated to reflect the draft and the recent release of the NFL schedule — reinforce a couple of things:
1) The Vikings are one of the clear favorites to win. They are given 12-1 odds, best of any team except New England and Philadelphia — the two teams who played in last season's Super Bowl in the Vikings' home of U.S. Bank Stadium. Even if Minnesota didn't get much immediate help from the draft, the consensus is the Vikings still have a roster that should be primed for another playoff push.
2) Even if the Vikings are among the favorites, their path will not be easy. This shows up in how betting analysts view the rest of the NFC — including division rival Green Bay.
The Packers' Super Bowl odds sit at 14-1, right behind the Vikings as the fourth-best chance to win it all. This presumes the return to health of Aaron Rodgers (who missed most of one loss to the Vikings last season and all of the other) as well as an improved defense. But if both of those things play out, Green Bay will be tough.
But it's not just the Packers. The Eagles are obviously formidable and considered better bets to reach the Super Bowl than the Vikings. But overall seven of the nine teams with the best Super Bowl odds are in the NFC: the Rams, Saints, Falcons and 49ers are also in that top nine, with just the Patriots and Steelers from the AFC.
The Vikings play the other top eight Super Bowl favorites a combined seven times — twice against Green Bay and once each against New England, Philadelphia, the Rams, Saints and 49ers. Even if there are data-based ways to look at the Vikings' schedule as not as daunting as it seems, at the very least they are looking once again at a crowded field of contenders in the NFC.
Again, a lot can and probably will change. We can look back to last year as a reminder of that. Just before the 2017 season started, there were published odds showing the Eagleas as 35-1 long shots to win the Super Bowl. The Vikings were at 36-1.
Teams that fizzled out, such as the Packers (9.5-1) and Cowboys (14-1) were given much better chances of reaching the Super Bowl.
That said, if the NFC plays out at least somewhat how it is expected to play out, the strength of the conference does underscore just how much every game will matter next season as teams jockey for playoff position and home-field advantage.