The New England Patriots are the top pick to win the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year, but are seeing their competition moving up the betting board. When early odds were released Jan. 7 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the Patriots were at 5/1. Pittsburgh was next at 8/1, and Philadelphia followed at 10/1.

New England Patriots
Despite losing the 2018 Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles, the New England Patriots are 5/1 picks to win the 2019 big game. (Image: USA Today Sports)

A month later after the favored Patriots lost to Philadelphia in Februaryís Super Bowl the competition has gained on Tom Brady and company. New England is still 5/1, but the Steelers saw their odds lowered to 7/1, where they matched up with the Eagles, also at 7/1. The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers are 12/1.

The common ground with all these teams is strong quarterbacks. The Steelers have Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers is with the Packers. In the case with Minnesota and Philadelphia there are two quality signal callers.

The Vikings have Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater, while Sam Bradford is a free agent and probably moving to another team where he is guaranteed to start. The Eagles lost Carson Wentz to a knee injury and December and watched back up Nick Foles lead them to the first Super Bowl title.

Patriotism Questioned

While Brady is a solid for New England there are plenty of question marks surrounding the team. These variables havenít had to be considered by sports books when the Patriots won two of the last five Super Bowls. That could be a reason for oddsmakers believing that other teams could challenge the AFC Champions.

The first is the defense. They were awful in the big game, allowing 41 points and 538 yards of total offense. Brady can lead the offense, but if the guys on the other side of the ball arenít stopping the opposition they wonít win.

The second is the loss of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Yes he has to take some of the blame for the woes of the defense, but he was generally regarded as one of the best in the business. Now that he is at the helm in Detroit will New England suffer because of his departure.

The third is Rob Gronkowski. The All-Pro tight end got his second concussion and is seriously considering retirement. His teammate Aaron Hernandez suffered serious head trauma from his years in the league and when his brain was examined after his suicide the researcher said it was the worst case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) he had seen in an athlete that young. If Gronkowski wants to avoid that fate and retire from the NFL at 28, it would leave a huge hole in the offense.

Tighter Odds for Conference Championships

These factors have also affected the odds on New England winning the AFC Championship. They opened at 2/1 in January, but have the Pats have since risen slightly to 5/2.

Their main competitor has improved on their odds and have gotten closer. The Steelers are at 7/2 a month after they were installed at 5/1.

In the NFC Philadelphia has gone from 5/1 to 7/2, while the next closest teams, Minnesota and Green Bay, have stayed at 6/1.

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