Sure, the Broncos and Panthers are the two teams left standing at the end of this season, but that doesn't mean they are also the top two teams when it comes to next year's odds. In fact, there are four teams with better odds than the Panthers, and eight teams with better odds than the Broncos to make next year's Super Bowl.
One reason for those odds is that from a historical perspective, the odds are stacked against either of this year's finalists making it back to the Super Bowl next year:
|Year||Super Bowl||Winner||Next season||Loser||Next season|
|2015||XLIX (49)||Patriots||Conference Championship||Seahawks||Divisional Round|
|2014||XLVIII (48)||Seahawks||Super Bowl loser||Broncos||Divisional Round|
|2013||XLVII (47)||Ravens||missed playoffs||49ers||Conference Championship|
|2012||XLVI (46)||NY Giants||missed playoffs||Patriots||Conference Championship|
|2011||XLV (45)||Packers||Divisional Round||Steelers||Wildcard Round|
|2010||XLIV (44)||Saints||Wildcard Round||Colts||Wildcard Round|
|2009||XLIII (43)||Steelers||missed playoffs||Cardinals||Divisional Round|
|2008||XLII (42)||NY Giants||Divisional Round||Patriots||missed playoffs|
|2007||XLI (41)||Colts||Divisional Round||Bears||missed playoffs|
|2006||XL (40)||Steelers||missed playoffs||Seahawks||Divisional Round|
|2005||XXXIX (39)||Patriots||Divisional Round||Eagles||missed playoffs|
|2004||XXXVIII (38)||Patriots||Super Bowl winner||Panthers||missed playoffs|
|2003||XXXVII (37)||Buccaneers||missed playoffs||Raiders||missed playoffs|
- Of the 28 teams participating in the last 14 Super Bowls, 10 missed the playoffs entirely the next season.
- Only five of those 28 teams made it beyond the Divisional Round the following year.
- Only twice over the last thirteen years has a Super Bowl participant made it back to the Super Bowl the following year, the Patriots in 2004 & 2005, and the Seahawks in 2014 & 2015.
So let's take look at which teams the Vegas bookmakers see as the favorites for the Super Bowl next year. The Patriots, with what will be a 39-year old Tom Brady, open as the favorites for 2017, immediately followed by the Seahawks and Steelers. The Cowboys open at 15-1, which ties them at fifth overall according to the Vegas Insider Odds as of 6:00 am this morning.
Dez Bryant was quoted yesterday saying he believed the Cowboys have moved a step closer to the Super Bowl despite their 4-12 record last year, and the odds seem to bear this out. Last year, the Cowboys opened with 18-1 odds en route to a 4-12 season; the year before they opened with 66-1 odds en route to a 12-4 season.
Which just goes to show that a lot can happen between now and the end of next season. Last year, the Colts (12-1), Cowboys (18-1), Eagles (25-1), 49ers, Saints, Ravens, and Lions (all 30-1) were among the top 12 early Super Bowl favorites, but all failed to make the playoffs.
Here's how the 32 NFL teams stack up in the early Vegas odds for the 2017 Super Bowl.
|ODDS TO WIN 2017 SUPER BOWL|
|New England Patriots||8 to 1||New Orleans Saints||40 to 1|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||10 to 1||N.Y. Jets||40 to 1|
|Seattle Seahawks||10 to 1||Washington Redskins||40 to 1|
|Green Bay Packers||12 to 1||Chicago Bears||50 to 1|
|Arizona Cardinals||15 to 1||Houston Texans||50 to 1|
|Carolina Panthers||15 to 1||Los Angeles Rams||50 to 1|
|Cincinnati Bengals||15 to 1||N.Y. Giants||50 to 1|
|Dallas Cowboys||15 to 1||San Franciso 49ers||50 to 1|
|Denver Broncos||20 to 1||Miami Dolphins||55 to 1|
|Indianapolis Colts||20 to 1||Philadelphia Eagles||55 to 1|
|Kansas City Chiefs||25 to 1||Jacksonville Jaguars||60 to 1|
|Minnesota Vikings||25 to 1||Oakland Raiders||60 to 1|
|Baltimore Ravens||30 to 1||San Diego Chargers||60 to 1|
|Atlanta Falcons||40 to 1||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||60 to 1|
|Buffalo Bills||40 to 1||Tennessee Titans||60 to 1|
|Detroit Lions||40 to 1||Cleveland Browns||200 to 1|
Futures odds for Super Bowl LI (the NFL is going back to Roman numerals next year) show the Cowboys among the early favorites, and as a strong favorite to win the NFC East.
There are lots of things that can change between now and the end of the 2016 season, but these odds are a strong indicator that the betting public believes the window for the Cowboys to be a Super Bowl contender is not closed yet - despite last year's 4-12 record.
The Cowboys have 18 unrestricted free agents, but the core of their roster will remain intact. All five Pro Bowlers are still under contract, and Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Orlando Scandrick are all expected back healthy for next season. Plus they'll get a shot in the arm from the most premium draft position they've had since they drafted first overall in 1991.