COMMENTARY | The Denver Broncos are the early favorites to represent the AFC next February in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Listed at 7-1 odds to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, that's a direct measure of respect for the talent the Orange and Blue have assembled, but it's far from a good omen for Broncos Country.
It's also not a good sign out in the Bay Area, where those same odds list the San Francisco 49ers as the post-draft Super Bowl favorites at 6-1.
After all, if we've learned anything about the National Football League here in the 21st Century, it's not good to be the favorite -- or even a favored front-runner.
The Broncos and their fans learned that lesson the hard way only four scant months ago.
As if any Bronco player, coach or backer needs to be reminded, that's when the Baltimore Ravens bounced the top-seeded Broncos out of the postseason in the divisional round, continuing a strange but very real curse for No. 1 AFC seeds.
Fact: Only twice in the past 25 seasons has the AFC's top regular-season finisher gone on to win the Super Bowl. John Elway, Terrell Davis and the Broncos managed the feat in 1998, and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots followed suit five years later.
But that's been it for AFC No. 1 seeds, which have lost their first playoff game (10 times) almost as frequently as they've made it to the Super Bowl (11) in the past quarter-century.
Over the past eight seasons, the curse has been even more pronounced with the AFC No. 1 seed losing five times in the divisional round and falling three times in the Big Game itself.
Preseason favorites haven't fared much better.
Looking back over the past six seasons at sportsoddshistory.com, here are the late-spring or summer preseason favorites to reach the Super Bowl:
- 2012: Packers 6-1, Patriots 7-1
- 2011: Patriots 6-1, Packers 6.5-1
- 2010: Colts 7-1, Saints 9-1
- 2009: Patriots 6-1, Giants 12-1
- 2008: Patriots 4-1, Cowboys 6-1
- 2007; Patriots 2.5-1, Bears 14-1
And here are the late-spring/summer preseason odds of the actual Super participants in those six seasons and where they ranked among all teams. The eventual champ is listed first:
- 2012: Ravens (tied for 5th) 14-1, 49ers (5t.) 14-1
- 2011: Giants (11t.) 20-1, Patriots (1) 6-1
- 2010: Packers (8) 16-1, Steelers (9) 20-1
- 2009: Saints (8t.) 21-1, Colts (4) 13-1
- 2008: Steelers (7t.) 20-1, Cardinals (20t.) 50-1
- 2007: Giants (15t.) 30-1, Patriots (1) 2.5-1
The lists aren't exactly a perfect match.
And therein lies the point to all this: The Super Bowl favorites start out with the best odds, but the odds are two other teams will wind up playing for the NFL title.
So who really wants to be leading off the Super Bowl discussion in late-May?
What team actually takes pride in being the odds-on favorite coming out of OTAs?
Who needs the pressure-packed build up to what's recently been a big, season-ending letdown?
Maybe the trick is to avoid the preseason pomp and circumstance, have a decent but not great regular season, qualify for the playoffs as a team just off the Super Bowl radar screen and then -- BAM! -- pull off an unexpected run to the top just like the 2012 Ravens.
Or the 2011 Giants.
Or the 2010 Pack.
Or . . . well, you get the gist.
The 2013 Broncos, though, don't look like they're going to have that luxury. And if they're going to get to and win Super Bowl XLVIII next February in East Rutherford, N.J., they just might to have to buck the odds and come from ahead to do it.
Ken Pomponio has spent the past 25 years as a sports journalist who has been published extensively in print and online. He's been an avid follower of the Denver Broncos and the NFL since early childhood, and can be followed on Twitter @kenpomp.
- Sports & Recreation
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- Denver Broncos
- Super Bowl XLVIII