By Steve Silverman
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The NFL season is just a couple of weeks away from getting serious.

The season begins in earnest when teams report to training camp and coaches get to see who is in shape and who is not.

They don’t get to see who can really play during the preseason any more. Hitting in practice sessions has been reduced dramatically over the last few decades and preseason games are a joke.

Good players are removed from most games after one quarter or two at the maximum. Teams don’t want to take a chance on players getting hurt – and that makes perfect sense.

But you don’t figure out who can really play until the start of the season and you are in Weeks 1 and 2. Up until then, it’s all just so much guesswork.

The NFL oddsmakers are also doing a lot of guessing as they put together the odd on who has the best chance to win the Super Bowl at the end of the season.

Not surprisingly, the Giants are not getting the respect from those who put out the odds and those who do the betting. New York’s track record of winning two of the last five Super Bowls by playing decent-to-good football in the regular season and then turning it on in the postseason has not garnered them much support.

Here’s a look at the eight teams who the oddsmakers from Las Vegas Sports Betting believe have the best chance to walk away with the Vince Lombardi Trophy at the end of Super Bowl XLVII and what the rationale is for those odds.

Green Bay Packers, 6-1 – Yes, we all know the Packers were undefeated last year until Week 15 when they finally dropped a game in Kansas City. For most of the year, it just looked too easy for the Packers because they were rolling up huge point totals. But the Packers have made very little commitment to defense and that was exposed in the postseason by the Giants.

New England Patriots, 13-2 – This one makes some sense, because they probably won’t get as much completion from the Jets in the AFC East. Any time you have the combination of Tom Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick at head coach, you are going to have an excellent chance to win most games. If the Patriots have improved their defense even a little from last year, they have a chance to be the best team in the AFC. The Ravens and Steelers will push them hard in the postseason, but the AFC South and the AFC West have little to offer.

San Francisco 49ers, 10-1—The 49ers had a revival last year under Jim Harbaugh, and they are the team of choice in many of the preseason magazines. There are a couple of issues. The 49ers still don’t have much of a passing game outside of the receiving talents of tight end Vernon Davis. Alex Smith is just an above-average quarterback and he has not had two good seasons in a row. Harbaugh’s personality may start to rub some of his players the wrong way.

Pittsburgh Steelers, 16-1 — The Steelers had to live through the offseason with the memory of Tim Tebow pushing their faces in it at the end of their Wild-Card playoff game with the Broncos last season. That was a tough thing for Mike Tomlin, Ben Roethlisberger and LaMarr Woodley to live with as they prepared for 2012. The Steelers could be a high-powered passing team this season thanks to the speed of Mike Wallace and the quickness of Antonio Brown on the outside.

Baltimore Ravens, 16-1 – Like the Steelers, the Ravens’ season ended painfully in the postseason. Billy Cundiff’s 32-yard field goal attempt against the Patriots in the AFC championship game could have sent that game to overtime, but he missed it and the Ravens went home. Joe Flacco is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the game.

Chicago Bears, 16-1 – The Bears are another team that have become Las Vegas darlings in the offseason. They have upgraded their offense with the acquisition of big-play wide receiver Brandon Marshall, but the Bears’ defense has holes. Brian Urlacher has lost two steps at middle linebacker and the Bears will struggle at tackling and taking the ball away. That’s not a good thing for a defensive football team.

New Orleans Saints, 18-1 – This is an absolute joke. If this was the start of the 2011 season and the Saints had their team intact, these odds would seem just about right. But with Sean Payton sidelined along with many of the key defensive players because of Bounty gate, these odds should be doubled. The competition in the NFC South should be much tougher as the Atlanta Falcons are strong and the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Bucs should be much better.

New York Giants, 18-1 – The Giants have proven their ability to win when the money is on the table. Eli Manning is one of the best clutch quarterbacks in the game and the Giants defense always comes through in important games. They punished Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay last year and there’s no reason to think they can’t do it again. The odds should be closer to 7- or 8-1. Take the odds they are giving you and run with them.

Should the champs have better odds? Leave a comment below.

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