Gambling in sports is a big business where hundreds of millions of dollars are turned over annually. If you go to Vegas, you can throw a bet down on anything from who wins the coin toss in the Super Bowl to who commits the first penalty, to who throws the most strikeouts in a World Series game to anything in between. Though prop bets are a fun, oftentimes ridiculous, and sometimes entertaining part of gambling in Vegas, the big money always changes hands based on who wins and doesn't win any given game.
The wonders of technology have allowed us to gamble on any sport anywhere in the world. If you want to throw down a wager on a cricket match, you're good. If you want to throw some money on the elephant polo game, you're covered. But while we have the ability to bet on anything and everything, there is no bigger event for gamblers and bookmakers than the Super Bowl. More money changes hands on Super Bowl betting than any other sport on the planet – which sort of makes the NFL's global marketing strategy look like a success, huh?
This year, the Vegas oddsmakers are declaring the run for the Lombardi trophy, pretty much a two team race. And it's not a very big surprise that the teams they feel are the surest bets to claim the trophy are the same two teams that squared off last season – the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.
A number of teams have had tremendous offseasons, their rosters bolstered with the additions of key free agents and rookie draft picks, and have improved their odds of winning. But will it be enough? We'll find out a few short months from now.
In the meantime, if you're itchin' to throw a little money around, here are the 10 teams Vegas thinks have the best chance of winning the Super Bowl.
10 Pittsburgh Steelers (28/1)
With a number of young playmakers and stars in the making like Dri Archer and Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh QB Ben Rothliesberger has some explosive weapons at his disposal. And with rookie talent like Ryan Shazier teamed with established veterans like Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, and Mike Mitchell, the Steelers should field a defense with some real teeth. A number of players are entering contract years which could incentivize them to have big seasons. Of course, with a number of aging stars, the Steelers championship window is fast closing.
9 Philadelphia Eagles (25/1)
Though they jettisoned the explosive, highly talented, but incredibly volatile Desean Jackson, HC Chip Kelly believes the Eagles are a better team for it. With a roster loaded with the likes of superstar running back LeSean McCoy, holdover Riley Cooper freshly signed to a big contract, 2nd round pick Jordan Matthews, and the wily veteran Darren Sproles, Kelly's up tempo, high octane offense looks to be primed and ready to go. If QB Nick Foles can duplicate last season's success – or even come close to it – Philadelphia might be one of the most dangerous teams in the league. They may not have the most lethal defenses in the NFL, but if teams don't adjust to that high flying offense, they'll find themselves getting beat by 30 points.
8 T7. Indianapolis Colts (14/1)
What has hurt the Colts the most this offseason – and perhaps damaged their title hopes already – is the sheer number of injuries that are stacking up. They're already without Vick Ballard and Xavier Nixon for the season, and have a number of other injuries to key players hindering their development as a unit. Still, behind an offense led by Andrew Luck, wideout T.Y. Hilton, veteran Reggie Wayne, and free agent pick-up Hakeem Nicks, the Colts will be able to put up some points. But will they be able to score enough to distance themselves from their opponents? We'll find out soon enough.
7 T7. Chicago Bears (14/1)
The Bears have had a solid offseason, retooling a defense and putting some teeth into it. With free agent adds like Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen, and draft picks like DT Ego Ferguson and CB Kyle Fuller, Chicago has put a premium on defense and having the ability to bully people and destroy offensive gameplans. Which they'll need to do since their offense, led by Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, is good, but not one of the elite units in the league. If they can keep their opponents scoring to a minimum, they'll have a good shot to win some games this season.
6 New Orleans Saints (12/1)
What's really surprising is that New Orleans wasn't given better odds. This is a team that still has Drew Brees – one of the most prolific passers in the history of the game – playing at a high level, all world TE Jimmy Graham, and an offense loaded up with weapons at every spot. And with the addition of first round pick Brandin Cooks, who by all accounts has looked amazing during his offseason work, the Saints will have a scary good offense. The question will be on the other side of the ball, but like Philly, if the Saints can pile up the points – and they will – it will help mitigate a less than stellar defense.
5 Green Bay Packers (10/1)
Having a healthy Aaron Rodgers back is going to help the Packers immeasurably. But Rodgers, WR's Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and RB Eddie Lacy lead an offense that still has a number of question marks. As does a defense that didn't perform all that well down the stretch last season. But Vegas is giving the Pack a 10-1 shot at winning it all this season – better odds than their rivals down in Chicago. But many think Chicago has a better shot to win their division than the Packers do, so only time will tell.
4 T2. San Francisco 49ers (15/2)
You'd think that a team that came within one tipped pass of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl last season would have better odds. But Vegas is only giving the Niners 15-2 odds despite an offseason that didn't see many defections or losses to last season's NFC title game roster. Where San Francisco may be hurting is on the defensive side of the ball where the team has lost CB's Carlos Rogers and Tarrell Brown. If the Niners can stay healthy, and Kap plays to the level he did at the end of last season, there's no reason to think they won't be squaring off against Seattle for the NFC crown again this year.
3 T2. New England Patriots (15/2)
It's hard to figure how Vegas can give the Patriots the same odds as the 49ers given the fact that New England hasn't had a particularly great offseason. Yes, they acquired free agent CB Darrelle Revis – though Revis looked like a shell of himself in Tampa Bay last year – but aside from picking up Jimmy Garappolo to back up Ryan Mallet, who backs up Tom Brady – it's hard to understand how they can be one of the more favored teams in the league to win a title. They have question marks at receiver and running back, and with one of their beastly TE's in jail – waiting for his trial on murder charges – and the other in questionable health but hanging out with Johnny Football a lot, the Patriots' offensive attack may be lacking. We'll just call this one “Legacy oddsmaking.”
2 T2. Seattle Seahawks (15/2)
Despite the fact that it's hard to repeat as NFL champions – a feat that hasn't been accomplished since the Patriots did it in '04 and '05 – Vegas is giving the Seahawks the best odds of doing it. Seattle is returning the same core group of players who won it all last year in Russell Wilson, Percy Harvin, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and of course, Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch, but they've also lost a few key pieces like WR Golden Tate, DE's Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, and CB Brandon Browner. They still look like the class of the NFC West, but do they have enough to make it back to the title game? Do they have enough to repeat? NFL history says no, regardless of the odds Vegas lays on them.
1 Denver Broncos (13/2)
After being humiliated by Pete Carroll and the Seahawks in last season's Super Bowl, the Broncos went to work and retooled their defense with additions like Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and TJ Ward. They lost Eric Decker to the Jets (who grossly overpaid for him) but added playmakers like Cody Latimer to compliment Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in one of the most explosive offenses in the league. An offense of course, headed up by one of the best QB's to ever play the game – Peyton Manning. With the bitter taste of last season's humbling defeat still in their mouths, look for the Broncos to make some noise this season. Throwing some money down on them might not be such a bad idea.