NFL fans already know the Patriots and Cowboys are the darling teams of the first half of the season, but not all teams were built for the playoffs at the start of the season.
So instead of the same old power poll or rankings, we wanted to see which teams have actually improved their odds to win the Super Bowl since just before the season began (only seven have) and which teams have longer odds now than they did before the season.
Instead of just handing the top spot to the team with the most talent or best season last year, this method helps gauge which teams have surpassed their start-of-the-season expectations, according to the odds by Bovada.lv. In parentheses after each team are their odds to win the Super Bowl just before the regular season started and their odds now.
Atlanta Falcons (50/1 | 16/1): Nobody has scored more points than the Falcons and perhaps no one has a more feared QB-WR combo than Matt Ryan to Julio Jones. The question is whether the defense can hold up in the playoffs. For now, however, no team has increased their odds the more.
New England Patriots (6/1 | 2/1): It's hard to stay on top, but the Patriots have been the model franchise in the NFL over the last decade-plus and keep plugging away, one of only two teams with a singular loss and possessing the highest net points with a highly motivated quarterback that is also a future Hall of Famer.
Dallas Cowboys (18/1 | 8/1): Considering that Tony Romo hasn't been a part of it, Dallas' 7-1 record with a rookie QB (Dak Prescott) and rookie RB (Ezekial Elliott) may be the biggest accomplishment in the first half of the season throughout the league.
Kansas City Chiefs (28/1 | 16/1): The Chiefs have a defense that should only improve the return of Justin Houston and a middle-of-the-road offense, but they simply find ways to get it done. They have a quality win against Oakland, but no other victories against winning teams.
Oakland Raiders (25/1 | 16/1): Everybody knows about the offensive stars, but the hidden gem with the Raiders might be their offensive line, giving up the fewest sacks per pass play. The Raiders are the first-half darlings, but can their efficient offense overcome their 27th-ranked defense?
San Diego Chargers (66/1 | 50/1): The Chargers went 1-4 to start the seasons in self-destruct mode and have now rebounded by going 3-1 in their last four. They have a favorable schedule for the final seven, but they are also in the tough AFC West.
Seattle Seahawks (9/1 | 8/1): If the Seahawks can make the playoffs go through Seattle, they would be onto to something. They are 4-0 with their 12th man but only 1-2-1 without it. Defensively, few rush the passer better, but they possess only the 26th-ranked offense.
Detroit Lions (66/1 | 66/1): Without Calvin Johnson, the Lions still have a middle-of-the-road offense to complement their middle-of-the-road defense and middle-of-the-road record. They seem improved but not yet a quality playoff team. They are one of only two teams to have the same odds now as they did just before the regular season started.
New Orleans Saints (66/1 | 66/1): Two things seem constant with the Saints: Drew Brees can still sling it with the best of them and the Saints defense is among the worst of them. They are still in the race at 4-4, but they also face Denver, Carolina, Arizona and Atlanta in the next eight games.
Denver Broncos (18/1 | 20/1): Staying on top is never easy to do and the Broncos may be in the hardest division in the NFL. Their decision to walk away from a pricey Brock Osweiler is understandable, but their offense still needs to find a consistent spark.
New York Giants (25/1 | 28/1): Good Eli, bad Eli is still a thing, as he already has three multi-interception games, but he also has Odell Beckham Jr., who had six games after Nov. 1 last year with 100 yards or more. But the last-ranked rushing offense and 25th-ranked pass defense won't help.
Indianapolis Colts (22/1 | 25/1): The Colts don't have a victory against a team that currently has a winning record and their defense feels like it will eventually be their undoing. If that happens, how much longer can the Chuck Pagano-Ryan Grigson power play be in place?
Pittsburgh Steelers (12/1 | 16/1): The Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger at full strength: 4-1. Without him fully healthy: 1-3. With Big Ben, they are a Super Bowl contender, but either way they have to overcome an average (at best) defense.
Baltimore Ravens (33/1 | 40/1): It's a messy AFC North, with the Ravens and Steelers both at 4-4 and the Bengals at 3-4-1 – clearly still anybody's division. Baltimore has the second-ranked defense but are bottom third of the league in most offensive categories.
Houston Texans (33/1 | 40/1): Even without J.J. Watt, the Texans have the fifth-ranked defense, but their offense doesn't appear strong enough to make a serious playoff run, especially considering they have lost to some of the better teams -- New England, Minnesota and Denver.
Philadelphia Eagles ( 66/1 | 75/1): Fire the head coach and trade the trade the starting quarterback? Sure, why not? Start a rookie at quarterback instead? The Eagles have done all that, yet remain a viable team.
Washington Redskins (50/1 | 75/1): Kirk Cousins has been putting up the yards and enough points, but a 12-to-7 interception ratio isn't good enough when it comes to facing the better teams in the league.
Miami Dolphins (66/1 | 100/1): With little fanfare, the Dolphins are hanging around in second place in the AFC. They aren't going to catch the Patriots, but they are still within reach of a wild card spot, if they can pick up their passing offense and rushing defense, which are both ranked in the bottom four.
Minnesota Vikings (16/1 | 28/1): Possessing the top defense for points allowed is great. Possessing a bottom-10 offense for points is not. That's why the Vikings have fallen from the elite in recent weeks.
Green Bay Packers (17/2 | 16/1): It seems like now is not a good time for Packers fans to R-E-L-A-X. With high expectations offensively, they have yet to find a consistent groove, and yet their defense is keeping them alive. Go figure! If Aaron Rodgers can find his previous magic, you never know.
Carolina Panthers (12/1 | 25/1): The Panthers went from the top team in their conference at the end of the playoffs last year to the bottom team in their division at the midpoint this year. But they have put together their first two-game winning streak of the season and still have their key players healthy. So you're saying there's a chance?
Arizona Cardinals (12/1 | 28/1): The Cardinals have some big names at receiver and one of the best running backs in the NFL right now, but they also have the top-ranked defense, including the third-ranked pass defense. If they can put it all together, they could still be dangerous.
Cincinnati Bengals (18/1 | 50/1): The team that melted down in the playoffs last year might not make it back this year. Despite plenty of defensive talent, they are bottom third in the rankings there and top third in offensive rankings. Will Marvin Lewis’ professional lease and leash continue to be long ones?
Tennessee Titans (66/1 | 150/1): The only thing that really stands out about the Titans is that DeMarco Murray already has 807 yards rushing. But Tennessee is 4-5 without beating a real quality opponent.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (100/1 | 300/1): Without Doug Martin for much of the season, the Bucs are still hanging around with an average offense and poor defense. But it just seems a matter of time before they slip completely out of the playoff chase.
Buffalo Bills (66/1 | 200/1): The Bills are about as consistent and steady as their head coach. In other words, not very. Two losses to open the season, four straight wins, then three straight losses. Which streak will end their season?
Los Angeles Rams (66/1 | 200/1): The Rams are in self-preservation mode. Jeff Fisher's job has to be in jeopardy and so is QB Case Keenum's as Los Angeles has dropped four straight. The biggest mystery is Todd Gurley, who is averaging only 3.1 yards per carry.
New York Jets (50/1 | 300/1): You get the feeling if the Jets had a viable quarterback, they would be in it, but instead Ryan Fitzpatrick and crew are teetering on the brink of elimination with two games yet to play against the Patriots. Joe Namath isn't pleased.
Chicago Bears (50/1 | 500/1): Jay Cutler is back, but it is likely too late to resurrect the season in what insiders say is a mess of a situation in Chicago. John Fox's punishment might be returning to the team next year to face his problems instead of passing them on to someone else.
Jacksonville Jaguars (40/1 | 1000/1): Throw all that preseason/offseason hype out the window after a big free agency period. The Jaguars are 2-6 and don't have a victory against a winning team. The talent is there; the results aren’t. That’s never good news on the coaching front.
Cleveland Browns (100/1 | Off the board): It's Cleveland, where Browns fans have eternal hope … until the season and reality set in. Even Hue Jackson couldn't work his magic in his first year. The saying goes if you have two starting quarterbacks, you don't have one. The Browns have had four and they probably don't have one for the future.
San Francisco 49ers (100/1 | Off the board): The season started with Colin Kaepernick taking a knee before the games even started, but it might have been symbolic of their season. In the first two months, the 49ers have stood up and watched their playoff hopes fly away.null