Football is inching ever nearer. You don't need a calendar to tell you that. Just check your Twitter timeline and watch the gambling opportunities for the upcoming NFL season stream in.
Postseason odds were made available via BetOnline.ag and Sportsbook.ag last week, and -- you may want to sit down for this -- the Patriots are favored to win their division for the 10th consecutive season.
No team in the league has greater odds to make the postseason than the Patriots at -1500 (spend $1,500 to make $100). The Steelers are the next most likely team to make the playoffs, per BetOnline, coming in at -550. After that, it's the Vikings who are considered the next best lock to play deep into January, coming in at -260.
Among the worst odds to make the postseason? That would be New England's AFC East brethren, leading us to an annual chicken-or-the-egg argument: Are the odds the Dolphins, Jets and Bills will make the playoffs down simply because the Patriots loom? Or is it because that trio is viewed as having what are among the game's weakest rosters?
It's probably a little of both.
New England Patriots
Even with a Julian Edelman suspension looming, and even with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski skipping the voluntary portion of Patriots offseason activities, there is no real argument that the Patriots aren't the most talented team in the division. Meanwhile, questions abound for their division rivals.
Who's playing quarterback in Buffalo? Can the Jets stay afloat with some combination of Josh McCown, Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater behind center? Are the Dolphins delaying the inevitable by rolling with Ryan Tannehill for another season?
Though the Dolphins have a respected young coach at the helm, and though they showed some signs of life last season -- the highlight coming in a home victory over the Patriots in December -- they're still one of the least likely teams in the league to make the postseason, per BetOnline, checking in at +600. The Jets and their young defense are slotted in with the same odds.
Buffalo is actually the most likely to make it past Week 17, at +450.
Perhaps the oddsmakers feel good about top-10 pick Josh Allen being able to make a quick transition from playing for Wyoming to playing against NFL defenses. Perhaps it's the additions of free agent defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and rookie first-round linebacker Tremaine Edmunds to the middle of the Bills defense that has wise guys intrigued.
The Bills have other promising pieces in place. LeSean McCoy is still one of the league's top backs. Second-year corner Tre'Davious White could enter into the conversation as one of the game's best at his position if he takes advantage of his first full offseason as a pro. And coach Sean McDermott seems to be focused on establishing a winning culture in Western New York. Together they helped the Bills make the playoffs last season, ending an 18-year postseason drought.
Still, the odds aren't great they'll be back. In part because the Patriots are still the Patriots.