When it comes to sports, I perceive myself to be somewhat of a purist. Other than a rare visit to a Sports Book during an infrequent trip to Vegas, I don’t view sports from a betting angle. I believe, however, that betting odds often give us the mathematical equivalent of what the talking head experts would tell us about each team. When Vegas sets the odds, they take into account numerous factors that impact future success.
I think we can all agree that the Cardinals finished the season on a high note, despite missing the playoffs. They are the only team to have beaten the Seahawks up in Seattle over the past two seasons, and did that just a matter of weeks before the Seahawks went on their Super Bowl run through the playoffs. Following the 2013 NFL season, the Cardinals were seen by the Vegas odds makers as a potential Super Bowl competitor for this coming season. No, they were not among the elite but in January, 2014, Vegas had set the odds of the Cardinals winning the Super Bowl that is to be hosted in Glendale next February at 25/1. This placed them on par with teams like the Colts, Eagles and Bears but ahead of teams like the Ravens and Steelers. Nice Company.
Revisions to betting odds are a direct function of how gamblers are betting. The more money wagered on a team at given odds, the lower the odds will become. Conversely, the less money wagered, the higher the odds will become against that team. So if the Cardinals are determined to have a 25/1 shot at winning the Super Bowl and lots of people bet on the Cardinals to do just that at those odds, the revised odds will increase, perhaps to 20/1 or 15/1 or even higher.
That is not what has happened. Following free agency, the 2014 draft and the publishing of the 2014 schedule, the gamblers out there have decided that the Cardinals were not a “good bet” at 25/1, and the new odds place the Cardinals chance at reaching the ultimate throne in 2014 at 50/1. These are the same odds given to the Miami Dolphins and are behind such teams as the Giants, Cowboys, Falcons and Chiefs. Believe it or not, the Cardinals’ odds are now even behind the Houston Texans, who don’t have a true starting quarterback and who played their way in 2013 into the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
What am I missing here? True, Karlos Dansby left the franchise and according to Darnell Dockett, it was to chase the money and not the crown. On the other hand, there have been upgrades at many positions, including offensive line. Not only did the Cardinals add 6’8”, 321 pound free agent Jared Veldheer to play at left tackle, they also have Jonathan Cooper “returning” for what will be his rookie season. The tight end position is likely better with the additions of John Carlson and highly touted blocking specialist Troy Niklas from Notre Dame, a second round pick in this year’s draft. Michael Floyd is poised to enter the upper echelon of wide receivers this coming season, which will also increase the productivity of Larry Fitzgerald. Further, the Carson Palmer that enters this season is far more prepared to run the Bruce Arians offense than last year at this time, as was demonstrated by how his passing stats improved over the course of last season. Jonathan Dwyer can be a nice addition to a backfield that will be headed by one of the greatest sleeper picks of the 2013 draft, Andre Ellington.
Turning to one of the best defenses in the league from last year, there has certainly been an upgrade at the corner position, adding Antonio Cromartie to work in tandem with Patrick Peterson. Many are high on the Cardinals’ addition at safety, drafting Deonne (pronounced DAY-own) Bucannon with their first pick in this year’s draft. I happen to think that one of this year’s sleeper picks in the draft may be defensive end Kareem Martin out of North Carolina, selected by the Cardinals in the third round. He has the kind of speed that may make some offensive tackles look like they are stuck in cement as he rushes past them to get to the opposing team’s quarterback.
I think the Cardinals have made moves since January that should increase, rather than decrease, their odds for the 2014 season. But I get it. The Cardinals have never won the Super Bowl. Also, no team in NFL history has played in, let alone won, a Super Bowl hosted in their stadium. (I know, the Los Angeles Rams played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for Super Bowl XIV and the 49ers played at Stanford Stadium for Super Bowl XIX, but neither was their home stadium). Further, the Cardinals are in what not long ago was the weakest division in all of football but now is far and away the strongest division. Having to play both Seattle and San Francisco twice this season will be a great obstacle, but if the Cardinals make the playoffs, they will be game-tested for the rigors of the playoffs.
I am not predicting the Cardinals to be the NFC representative for Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, 2015 in Glendale. But a 50/1 longshot? C’Mon, man!