The New England Patriots have been one of the best teams in the NFL year after year and over the past decade. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have proved to be a dynamic duo over the years resulting in five Super Bowl appearances and three titles to their credit. Although the Patriots are favored in Las Vegas odds to do damage in the AFC every single year, next season may turn out to be quite a struggle.
As if the loss of perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver Wes Welker to the Denver Broncos in free agency was a big enough blow to the potent offense of the Patriots, the bleeding didn’t stop there. All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a broken arm in Week 11 of the 2012 NFL season resulting in required surgery to repair the arm.
Fortunately for New England, Gronkowski returned to the lineup in the regular-season finale against the division rival Miami Dolphins and appeared to be back to form. Despite Gronkowski appearing to be healthy, the team suffered a major blow in the first playoff game against the Houston Texans.
On a normal play for Gronkowski, the perennial Pro Bowler headed to the sidelines for a diving catch. The catch resulted in Gronkowski hit the ground hard and breaking his forearm once again. Another surgery was required along with two others to get rid of an infection.
The damage didn’t stop there for Gronkowski with arguably the league’s best tight end now needing another surgery, but this time it will be on his back. Gronkowski will undergo the procedure on his back in June and will likely miss training camp as a result of the rehab needed.
This isn’t the first time Gronkowski has had back surgery as he had a similar procedure during his time with the Arizona Wildcats.
The Los Angeles Clippers may be in trouble with their superstar point guard potentially wanting to leave town in free agency after being blamed for the team parting ways with head coach Vinny Del Negro. It was rumored throughout the 2012-13 NBA regular season that Paul didn’t see eye-to-eye with Del Negro and as a result would not be retained by the team in the off-season.
With Del Negro’s contract expiring, the consensus was the team would either re-sign him to a long-term lucrative deal or gauge the interest of Paul in terms of whether or not he wanted Del Negro back next season. Obviously, with Paul set to become an unrestricted free agent in July, the team was going all in with the perennial All-Star or the team would look completely different moving forward.
Fortunately for the Clippers, Blake Griffin is already locked up with a five-year deal, but Paul is the heart and soul of this team. The Clipper are coming off the best season in franchise history winning 56 games and winning the Pacific Division title for the first time in the team’s history.
Winning the season series with the division rival Los Angeles Lakers (4-0) was impressive to say the least, but setting the mark for wins in a season while also coming out on top in the Pacific proved to be the icing on the cake.
Although Paul is favored to return to the Clippers in Las Vegas odds and for good reason, the speculation continues to run rampant with free agent rapidly approaching.
Reportedly, Paul was unhappy with the way the Clippers handled the Del Negro situation and the blame directed toward him for the team letting him go. Although Del Negro wasn’t technically fired, it was clear the head coach wasn’t well liked by the players and Paul leading to the team’s decision to part ways.
Over the past few years, the writing has been on the wall in Beantown with the Boston Celtics destined to rebuild at some point with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce nearing the end of their Hall of Fame-caliber careers in the NBA. Garnett signed a three-year contract extension last summer and apparently has no intention of calling it career no matter what the circumstances are in Boston, but the same can’t be said for Pierce.
Pierce has played his entire 15-year career with the Celtics since being drafted out of Kansas in the 1998 NFL Draft with the 10th overall pick. Although Pierce was considered a good player coming out of Kansas, there was no telling he’d be as good as he turned out to be on one of the most storied franchises in professional sports in the United States.
Despite only winning one NBA title during his time in Boston, Pierce’s career with the Celtics has been considered a resounding success. Pierce will definitely have his jersey retired and be considered one of the best players in franchise history, but he may not be able to finished career in Boston unless he decides to retire before the end of next month.
Pierce is set to make $15 million next season with the Celtics. The superstar forward can be bought out by the Celtics for $5 million before the deadline on June 30 and it appears the team is leaning toward going that route with the team’s best player.
There’s no question the Celtic aren’t the same team they were during their championship season and will likely not be favored to do much of anything in Las Vegas odds next season, but Pierce will have an opportunity to go elsewhere and potentially win one more ring before calling it a career in the NBA.
Game 6: Miami Heat @ Indiana Pacers Sat. June 1, 2013 8:30 p.m. ET
The defending NBA champion Miami Heat are one game away from heading to the NBA Finals for a third consecutive season. LeBron James and company were able to hold off the defensive-minded Indiana Pacers in Game 5 in order to take the series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, 3-2.
With the season on the line heading into Game 6 back at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the Pacers will be bringing everything they have in order to avoid elimination on their home floor. Indiana has been one of the best home teams in the regular season and throughout the postseason, but the Heat have begun to hit their stride and may very well punch their ticket to the Finals on Saturday.
There’s no question at this point in time that LeBron is the best all-around player in the league and may very well go down as the greatest player ever to play the game. Although this appears to be the case, LeBron cannot do it all on his own with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh struggling.
If two of the Big 3 continue to struggle in this series, the Heat may be in trouble moving forward as the team tries to fend off a hungry and capable Pacers squad.
The key to victory for the Pacers will be the play of Paul George, Roy Hibbert and David West. All three players have stepped up their game in the East Finals and will be called upon to do so once again in Game 6.
Although the Heat remain the favorites to advance to the Finals once again in Las Vegas odds, Miami will be faced with the toughest challenge of the season on Saturday and I believe they’ll be headed back to South Beach for Game 7 as a result.
AFC South Division Odds
Here’s a breakdown of the AFC South division and the odds for four teams of coming out on top in the division during the 2013 NFL season.
As arguably one of the worst teams in the NFL every single year, the Jaguars haven’t improved during the off-season in order to right the ship in Jacksonville. Although a lot of stock is being placed in Blaine Gabbert and Justin Blackmon, the team simply isn’t very good and will have another rough season filled with disappointment.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the Titans were one of the most feared teams in the NFL with a defense that could take over a game. Things have definitely changed in Tennessee since that time with this team potentially on the rise, but nowhere near as talented as the two teams mentioned below.
Jake Locker and Chris Johnson may be ready for breakout seasons in 2013, but I’m not buying it.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2012 NFL season was the Indianapolis Colts making the NFL playoffs. The Colts were lead by a rookie quarterback in Andrew Luck and defied the odds and the shadow of Peyton Manning in order to play exceptionally well and clinch a playoff berth.
Indianapolis may have been bounced early by the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, but it was made clear that Luck is the real deal and this team isn’t rebuilding.
Although the Colts had a magical season and made the playoffs, Luck and company couldn’t hold a candle to the Texans.
Houston wasn’t only one of the best offenses in the NFL last season with Arian Foster leading way, but they were also one of the best defensively with J.J. Watt coming off a career year.
No team in this division will challenge the Texans and their attempts to win the division title once again.
NFC South Division Odds
Here’s a breakdown of the NFC South division and the odds for four teams of coming out on top in the division during the 2013 NFL season.
After a few years of promise, the Bucs appear to be a team that may be going nowhere in a division that improves every single season. Although talented and promising, Tampa Bay appears to be headed toward another disappointing season.
The Bucs may very well be the dark horse within the NFC South, but it’s doubtful they’ll contend for the division title.
Cam Newton’s rookie season with the Panthers was incredible to say the least. Newton instantly became a superstar in the NFL with the ability to run and pass with remarkable efficiency, but the team failed to make an impact in his sophomore year and as a result missing the playoffs altogether.
With Newton under center, the Panthers will always be a threat in the NFC South, but will fall short yet against.
Drew Brees and company are as dangerous a team in the NFL. The potent offense of the Saints is second to none when firing on all cylinders and this season they may very well have a formidable defense to help hold leads.
Brees will have his head coach Sean Payton back on the sidelines calling the shots in 2013 as well as a motivated team to make up for last season. Although a serious threat, New Orleans also falls short.
The Falcons came one game shy of the Super Bowl in 2012. Matt Ryan and company were firing on cylinders all season long while receiving the buzz as a team on the rise and a legitimate contender, but Atlanta simply couldn’t get passed quarterback sensation Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers and went home empty handed.
All that will change in 2013 with team motivated and much improved. Atlanta will be tough to beat and will win the NFC South as a result.
AFC West Division Odds
Here’s a breakdown of the AFC West division and the odds for four teams of coming out on top in the division during the 2013 NFL season.
After yet another disappointing season, the Raiders have decided to rebuild once again. The Carson Palmer trade has turned out to be a bust resulting in the team dealing the veteran quarterback to the Arizona Cardinals and Oakland bringing in Matt Flynn from the Seattle Seahawks.
Although it appears the Raiders might be headed in the right direction, Oakland will continue to struggle through another transition period of rebuilding.
A few years ago, the Chargers were favored to win the AFC West division title in Las Vegas odds on an annual basis. San Diego was considered to have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, but now the same can’t be said for this franchise with the team struggling to get back to form.
It seems as though it will be more of the same for the Chargers in 2013, but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel with a new coaching staff.
After a nightmare season filled with injuries and disappointment, the Chiefs will look to bounce back in 2013 with a new quarterback, head coach and attitude.
Andy Reid has been hired by the team and will look to bring in a winning tradition to Kansas City along with new starting quarterback Alex Smith leading the way under center. The Chiefs may be the dark horse in this division, but have a lot to prove on the field.
The defending AFC West division champions have been dubbed the favorites to win the division once again with little resistance. Although the team goes as Peyton Manning goes, the Broncos are in great shape making key moves in the off-season to bring in players like Wes Welker.
Prediction: Denver Broncos
NFC West Division Odds
Here’s a breakdown of the NFC West Division and the odds for all four teams in terms winning the division title.
The Cardinals made some moves in the off-season to improve upon a four-win season. Arizona acquired veteran quarterback Carson Palmer from the Oakland Raiders and hired Bruce Arians to be the team’s next head coach bringing a more offensive mentality to a team that struggled on that side of the football last season.
Arizona may turn out to be a better team next season with Palmer under center and Arians calling the shots, but not a contender to win the division title.
Much like the Cardinals, the Rams were able to make some moves in the off-season to improve the squad, but will fall short of contending with the likes of the top tier teams in this division.
Rookie wideout Tavon Austin will likely be a considerable upgrade for the Rams receiving corps, but St. Louis will still fall short.
The Seahawks went all out during the NFL off-season in order to right the ship after such an impression run last season to clinch a playoff spot and come only a few plays shy of making it all the way to the NFC Championship game.
Seattle was able to acquire veteran wideout Percy Harvin which will change the dynamic of this team’s offense moving forward. Second-year quarterback Russell Wilson will have another target downfield and may be able to win the division as a result.
The 49ers have quickly gone from one of the worst teams in the league to arguably the best team in the NFC over the past two seasons. Jim Harbaugh’s presence on the sidelines in San Francisco has been a game-changer and the main reason for the storied franchise’s resurgence.
Although the 49ers were able to bring in Anquan Boldin, the team suffered a major loss with Michael Crabtree going down with a torn Achilles tendon rupture. Crabtree’s absence will be potentially devastating and the main reason I believe Seattle wins the NFC West.
AFC East Division Odds
Here’s a breakdown of the AFC East Division and the odds of all four teams in terms of their chances of coming out on top.
The Bills are on the middle of yet another transitional period. Buffalo parted ways with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and agreed to rebuild at the position with rookie EJ Manuel. Although the Bills appeared to be leaning in the direction of bringing Ryan Nassib, the team chose to go with Manuel who may very well be the starter for Week 1.
Buffalo may be a talented team in the years to come, but will likely be battling it out with the New York Jets for third place in this division next season.
Much like the Bills, the Jets have made some changes and will be going with a different look in 2013. New York has let Tim Tebow leave town and remain shaky on Mark Sanchez’s ability to be the starter under center moving forward.
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith may be given the nod for Week 1 with the team willing to roll the dice and as a result there could be another disaster season on the horizon for the Jets.
The Dolphins were able to land one of the most sought after free agents over the off-season with the signing of wide receiver Mike Wallace. The signing of Wallace may prove to be a game-changer at just the right time with the New England Patriots losing a vital piece to the puzzle in Wes Welker.
Ryan Tannenhill and company will prove to be a force to be reckoned with next season, but it remains whether or not they can contend with the mighty Patriots.
As arguably one of the most consistent teams in the NFL in terms of competing every single season, the Patriots will attempt to dominate their division once again even without Welker.
Although Welker decided to sign with the Denver Broncos and All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski has undergone five surgeries, the Patriots are still the favorite to win the division and for good reason.
NFC East Division Odds
Here’s the breakdown down of the NFC East Division and the odds of all four teams to win the division title during the 2013 NFL season:
The storied Eagles NFL franchise is at the beginning of a drastic change with the team parting ways with longtime head coach Andy Reid after the 2012 season. Oregon’s Chip Kelly has been hired to take over for Reid and has created a lot of debate about whether or not Philadelphia can compete under a new regime.
Although the Eagles may have found the missing piece to the puzzle in Kelly, Philadelphia will likely need a year or two to truly compete in one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL.
In a surprising twist, the Redskins were able to win the NFC East Division title for the first time since 1999 last season. Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III proved to be the difference for the Redskins as they were arguably one of the most entertaining and offensively dynamic teams in the league.
Griffin did suffer a torn ACL injury in the playoffs that sheds some doubt on whether or not Washington will have a repeat performance in 2013.
America’s Team will be under tremendous pressure once again in 2013 with star quarterback Tony Romo signing a lucrative six-year contract extension and moves made to right the ship in Dallas.
With the pressure on once again and Romo given the respect of the team with his new deal, this may be the year Dallas finally lives up to the hype and gets back into the postseason.
With two Super Bowl titles during the Eli Manning-Tom Coughlin era, there’s no counting out the Giants. New York may have suffered a rough season in their title defense last year, but may be able to bounce back in 2013.
The signing of up-and-coming wideout Victor Cruz will be crucial to the team’s success moving forward. If Cruz signs, New York may very well prove the oddsmakers right.
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