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Contender or Pretender?

The odds to win next year’s Super Bowl have been released. Lets take a look at which teams have a legitimate shot. Joe Fortenbaugh

Print This February 11, 2011, 01:00 PM EST

If your first thought when clicking on this article was, “Fortenbaugh’s forgetting we may not have an NFL season next year,” then take your eyeballs someplace else. I’m operating under the assumption that there will be football in 2011 because Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith know what’s at stake.

Think about it. Nobody wants to be the reason why the NFL was cancelled.

It’s the same reason nobody ever refers to Bud Selig as “awesome.”

Before you kick-start your weekends, lets play a little “2011 Pretender or Contender” and stir some shit up in an effort to kill off the final few hours of this work week.

Thanks to Bodog.com for the 2011 Super Bowl odds.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

2010 Record: 5-11
Super Bowl Odds: 75/1

Analysis: You can’t win in this league without a legitimate starting quarterback. Max Hall and John Skelton have some potential, but are still a few years away from making it happen on the field. Crossover games with the NFC East and AFC North will prove too much for the Cards.

2011 Result: PRETENDER

ATLANTA FALCONS

Matt RyanICONRyan is still searching for his first postseason victory.

2010 Record: 13-3
Super Bowl Odds: 16/1

Analysis: They may have claimed the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs this past year, but credit a soft schedule for a 13-win season. Remember, Mike Smith and Matt Ryan are 0-2 career in the playoffs and demonstrated against Green Bay in the postseason that home games in the Georgia Dome aren’t all that intimidating.

2011 Result: With some upgrades on defense, these guys are a CONTENDER.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

2010 Record: 12-4
Super Bowl Odds: 14/1

Analysis: The Ravens have won 32 regular season games in the three years that head coach John Harbaugh has been running the show, but are just 2-6 against the Pittsburgh Steelers (including the postseason) during that stretch. Joe Flacco needs to step up his game if he wants to lead this team to the promised land.

2011 Result: Always a CONTENDER, especially since the Steelers are about to be hit with the curse of the Super Bowl loser.

BUFFALO BILLS

2010 Record: 4-12
Super Bowl Odds: 100/1

Analysis: The Bills went 4-4 over the second half of the season after a miserable 0-8 start to the Chan Gailey era. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick did a nice job running the offense despite having limited resources at his disposal, but until Buffalo improves the front seven and offensive line, they will continue to reside in the basement of the AFC East.

2011 Result: PRETENDER

CAROLINA PANTHERS

2010 Record: 2-14
Super Bowl Odds: 125/1

Analysis: When was the last time a first-year head coach won the Super Bowl? Seriously, does anyone know? Ron Rivera could draft a quarterback with the first pick in April, but rookie signal-callers don’t win Super Bowls. Neither will Jimmy Clausen, for that matter.

2011 Result: PRETENDER

CHICAGO BEARS

Jay CutlerICONHow will the fans respond to Cutler in 2011?

2010 Record: 11-5
Super Bowl Odds: 25/1

Analysis: Upgrading the offensive line and receiving unit could go a long way for the Bear in 2011. But they still have to contend with the Packers and a city that apparently hates quarterback Jay Cutler. This defense is legit, but the offense lacks the necessary firepower.

2011 Result: CONTENDER, but not worth the odds at 25/1.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

2010 Record: 4-12
Super Bowl Odds: 60/1

Analysis: What do you get when you mix an unhappy quarterback and a dysfunctional franchise with a coach that can’t control the chaos?

2011 Result: PRETENDER

CLEVELAND BROWNS

2010 Record: 5-11
Super Bowl Odds: 65/1

Analysis: The Browns showed some fight in 2010, but ended the season on a four-game losing streak that cost head coach Eric Mangini his job. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan (who actually did a nice job) left for Dallas and quarterback Colt McCoy still has no real playmaker to target.

2011 Result: PRETENDER

DALLAS COWBOYS

2010 Record: 6-10
Super Bowl Odds: 16/1

Analysis: Jason Garrett went 5-3 over the second half of the season after Wade Phillips got the Cowboys off to a 1-7 start. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are coming back healthy in 2011, but if the secondary isn’t upgraded this offseason, the ‘Boys will struggle in the always-challenging NFC East.

2011 Result: CONTENDER

DENVER BRONCOS

Tim TebowICONIs this Denver's starting quarterback?

2010 Record: 4-12
Super Bowl Odds: 60/1

Analysis: The Broncos ranked dead last in total defense last season and have the luxury of choosing between Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow to run the offense next year. Tebow has some upside, but the guy isn’t headed to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl in 2012. Oh yeah, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is out for the next eight months due to an Achilles injury he suffered on Thursday.

2011 Result: PRETENDER

DETROIT LIONS

2010 Record: 6-10
Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

Analysis: This stock is on the rise. Jim Schwartz’s crew had no reason to show up late in the season, but still managed to close out 2010 on a four-game winning streak. There are still some holes that need to be plugged (OL, CB), but Detroit is well on their way.

2011 Result: PRETENDER in 2011, CONTENDER in 2012.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

2010 Record: 10-6
Super Bowl Odds: 7/1

Analysis: Elite quarterback? Check. Solid defense? Check. Playoff experience? Big check. The Packers are going to have a target on their backs in 2011, but this will be the scariest game on the schedule for pretty much every team that has to play the defending champs.

2011 Result: CONTENDER

HOUSTON TEXANS

2010 Record: 6-10
Super Bowl Odds: 35/1

Analysis: After winning a franchise-record nine games in 2009, the Texans regressed to just six victories in 2010 (lowest win total since 2006). The hiring of Wade Phillips to run the defense is a step in the right direction, but he still needs the personnel to get the job done.

2011 Result: CONTENDER. At 35/1, how can you not like those odds?

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

2010 Record: 10-6
Super Bowl Odds: 14/1

Analysis: The Colts have won the AFC South seven times in the last eight years, but quarterback Peyton Manning is just 9-10 lifetime in the playoffs and has now lost four of his last six postseason games. Manning’s headed for the Hall of Fame, but his defense needs some work if he wants to add a second ring to his resume.

2011 Result: PRETENDER. Sure, the Colts will more than likely qualify for the postseason, but how far do you see them going? Is this team really worth a bet at 14/1?

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Jack Del RioCan Del Rio get the Jags back to the postseason?

2010 Record: 8-8
Super Bowl Odds: 65/1

Analysis: With three weeks to play, the Jaguars were 8-5 and thinking about making some noise in the postseason. Jack Del Rio’s team then went out and lost three straight contests to finish the year, which includes stinkers against the Redskins and Texans. Unless the Jaguars figure out a way to generate a legitimate pass rush (Jacksonville has ranked 20th or worse in sacks in each of the past three years), expect to see this team on the golf course once again come postseason time.

2011 Result: PRETENDER, but you have to like those odds at 65/1. Definitely worth a small play.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

2010 Record: 10-6
Super Bowl Odds: 35/1

Analysis: With Charlie Weis as the offensive coordinator, the Chiefs went from 25th in the league in total offense in 2009 to 12th in 2010. Unfortunately for Kansas City fans, Weis is now calling the offense in Gainesville for the Florida Gators. Additionally, the Chiefs’ schedule gets a lot harder in 2011 as they will be substituting the NFC West for the NFC North in addition to butting heads with the badasses from the AFC East. Todd Haley has his work cut out for him.

2011 Result: PRETENDER

MIAMI DOLPHINS

2010 Record: 7-9
Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

Analysis: Sorry, Miami. Until you get a quarterback, you’re chances of knocking off the New York Jets and New England Patriots are slim.

2011 Result: PRETENDER

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

2010 Record: 6-10
Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

Analysis: The Vikings’ window of opportunity has officially closed. Don’t be surprised if Minnesota finishes behind the Lions in 2011.

2011 Result: PRETENDER

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

2010 Record: 14-2
Super Bowl Odds: 15/2

Analysis: As long as Bill Belichick is the head coach and Tom Brady is the starting quarterback, this team will always be a contender.

2011 Result: CONTENDER, but probably not worth the odds at 15/2. This team needs to get better on defense.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Drew BreesICONBrees and the Saints are a solid play next season.

2010 Record: 11-5
Super Bowl Odds: 14/1

Analysis: Despite playing with a backfield that was decimated by injuries, the Saints managed to win 11 games and earned a trip back to the postseason. Sadly, once they reached the playoffs, New Orleans went down in one of the greatest postseason upsets of all time. Upgrades on defense and a healthy Pierre Thomas should make a big difference in 2011.

2011 Result: CONTENDER and definitely worth a play at 14/1.

NEW YORK GIANTS

2010 Record: 10-6
Super Bowl Odds: 18/1

Analysis: Big Blue has the personnel on both sides of the football to make a serious run, but you have to remember that quarterback Eli Manning is a career 14-17 in the month of December and just 5-7 in the NFL’s final month since winning the Super Bowl. This team has to finish strong if they want a shot at postseason glory.

2011 Result: CONTENDER

NEW YORK JETS

2010 Record: 11-5
Super Bowl Odds: 14/1

Analysis: Two years of the “Rex Ryan Show” has resulted in two trips to the AFC Championship game. The Jets are knocking on the door, but once again it will all come down to the play of quarterback Mark Sanchez. The quicker he gets better, the quicker the Jets will be hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy.

2011 Result: CONTENDER, but probably not worth the odds at 14/1.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

2010 Record: 8-8
Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

Analysis: In 2010, the Raiders posted their first non-losing season since 2002. As a reward, head coach Tom Cable was fired. “Dysfunction” and “Oakland” have become one in the same.

2011 Result: PRETENDER

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

2010 Record: 10-6
Super Bowl Odds: 16/1

Analysis: Michael Vick was awesome…right up until opposing defenses figured out how to defend him. For all the praise that was bestowed upon the Philly quarterback last season, Vick’s greatest achievement was covering up the laundry list of problems currently facing the Eagles this offseason. This is a team that is in desperate need of upgrades to the offensive line, linebackers and secondary.

2011 Result: CONTENDER, but still searching for that elusive first Super Bowl win. If Vick goes down, so too does the ship. They aren’t worth the odds at 16/1.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Mike TomlinICONAre the Steelers cursed?

2010 Record: 12-4
Super Bowl Odds: 10/1

Analysis: I looked as far back as 1998 and found that if you lose the Super Bowl, the best that thing that will happen to your team the following year will be a loss in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Steelers have the defense to get back to the postseason, but history is not on their side.

2011 Result: As long as Dick LeBeau is calling the defense, this team is a CONTENDER. But at 10/1 and facing the dreaded “Super Bowl Hangover,” there’s no way I’m laying down any coin on Pittsburgh.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

2010 Record: 9-7
Super Bowl Odds: 12/1

Analysis: The NFL model for failing to meet expectations, the Chargers got their asses kicked in two must-win games last season against the Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals. At 12/1, you’d be better served sending your money to a Nigerian Prince that promises to deliver a 300% return on your oil investment.

2011 Result: PRETENDER. As always, the Bolts will make things interesting, but will fail to show up when it matters most.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

2010 Record: 6-10
Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

Analysis: Unless new head coach Jim Harbaugh plans on A) acquiring a legitimate starting quarterback or B) playing quarterback himself, the Niners are a long way from making a serious postseason run.

2011 Result: PRETENDER, until they get a quarterback who can make plays. (Tank the season and draft Andrew Luck?)

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Matt HasselbeckICONWill Hasselbeck return to Seattle next season?

2010 Record: 7-9
Super Bowl Odds: 80/1

Analysis: Don’t for one second get caught thinking about that upset win over the New Orleans Saints on Wild Card weekend. The Seahawks went 2-6 on the road in 2010 while giving up an average of 29.3 points per game. This team would have finished dead last in the NFC East.

2011 Result: PRETENDER

ST. LOUIS RAMS

2010 Record: 7-9
Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

Analysis: The Rams are headed in the right direction, but it will be very interesting to see how this offense responds to new coordinator Josh McDaniels. Getting Sam Bradford some legitimate wide receivers would be a good first step.

2011 Result: PRETENDER

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

2010 Record: 10-6
Super Bowl Odds: 35/1

Analysis: I may be in the minority on this one, but I don’t see the Buccaneers reaching the 10-win mark again in 2011. Remember, this squad posted only one win vs. a team with a winning record (New Orleans, Week 17) and doesn’t have the luxury of playing the NFC West next season. Crossovers against the NFC North and AFC South will show just how good this team really is.

2011 Result: PRETENDER

TENNESSEE TITANS

Chris JohnsonICONCJ2K needs some help.

2010 Record: 6-10
Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

Analysis: Who the hell is going to play quarterback for this team?

2011 Result: PRETENDER

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

2010 Record: 6-10
Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

Analysis: This defense got tuned-up for an average of 261.7 passing yards per game in 2010 (31st in NFL). It’s not much better on the offensive side of the football, where the ‘Skins are currently facing quarterback and wide receiver issues.

2011 Result: PRETENDER

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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