2012 NFL NFC Vegas Odds and Experts Predictions: Favorites, Dark Horses and Sleepers: The NFC has been the power conference in the NFL the last few years. After all, three different NFC teams have combined to win the last three Super Bowls, and the conference has won four of the last five championships overall. Not to mention that three of the four teams that won at least 13 games last season hail from the NFC, and that doesn’t even include the defending Super Bowl champs. It is also no coincidence that many of the league’s top quarterbacks currently reside in the NFC, including the defending MVP and the last two Offensive Rookie of the Year winners. There is no shortage of talent in the conference, and here is a look at how the frontrunners stack up heading into the 2012 NFL season.

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The Favorites – 2012 NFL NFC Odds, Picks and Predictions

A spectacular 15-1 regular season effort was erased by an early playoff exit, but the Green Bay Packers are still set to be a major player in the NFC for years to come. Defending MVP Aaron Rodgers is back under center for an offense that led the NFL in scoring, and he has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal once again. The defense has more talent than it showed last year, as well, and rookies Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy should definitely upgrade the pass rush. Two years removed from a Super Bowl, the Packers should be even more motivated by last year’s disappointment.

Armed with a vicious, stingy defense the San Francisco 49ers will look to build on a 13-3 season that ended with a loss in the NFC title game. Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Dashon Goldson and Aldon Smith are just a few of the stars that are back for a unit that ranked second in points allowed and was the best at stopping the run. Receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham were brought in to try to add some explosiveness to the offense, but the health of running back Frank Gore and the continued progress of quarterback Alex Smith will ultimately determine whether or not the 49ers can win the NFC.

The Dark Horses – 2012 NFL NFC Odds, Picks and Predictions

They needed a win in the regular season finale just to make the playoffs last year, but the New York Giants got that win and kept on winning until they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. A nasty habit of sleepwalking through the regular season and a horrible running game always seem to have them on the verge of missing the postseason, but the Giants seem to do their best when the pressure is on. Quarterback Eli Manning has developed ice water in his veins, taking over in the fourth quarter and in the playoffs. Throw in a dominant pass rush, and New York will be just fine as long as it gets to the postseason.

Amid all the drama with the bounty scandal, the New Orleans Saints still have plenty of talent back from a team that went 13-3 last year. Quarterback Drew Brees is the most important piece to the puzzle, and he has elite weapons at receiver, tight end and running back to work with. A stellar offensive line also helps the cause, and last season, the Saints ranked in the top six in both passing and rushing. Defense is a potential question mark with the pending suspension of Jonathan Vilma and a defensive front that underachieved last year. However, the high-powered offense should cover up the weaknesses enough to get New Orleans to the postseason, but missing head coach Sean Payton could come back to bite them in big games.

The Sleepers – 2012 NFL NFC Odds, Picks and Predictions

It was a disastrous regular season for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011, but they finally developed some chemistry and won their final four games. The offense is loaded with speedy playmakers like LeSean McCoy, Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson, and the Eagles actually ranked in the top 10 in both rushing and passing yards last year despite all their issues. The defense came around, as well, leading the NFL in sacks and holding the final four opponents to less than 20 points. Not to mention that the additions of linebacker DeMeco Ryans and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox should also provide some needed bulk to an undersized defense. Philadelphia has more than enough talent to contend in the NFC, but the chemistry that developed last year has to carry over.

Regular season success has been easy for the Atlanta Falcons the last few years, but it hasn’t carried over to the playoffs. Still, Atlanta has plenty of pieces still in place to make another run to the postseason. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been rock solid since entering the NFL, and the receiver tandem of Roddy White and Julio Jones is one of the best in the league. A solid offensive line keeps Ryan upright and has made running back Michael Turner a perennial contender for the rushing title. Overall, the offense is one of the most balanced in the NFL, and the defense should be improved by the addition of cornerback Asante Samuel. The Falcons and the New Orleans Saints have taken turns winning the NFC South, but Atlanta needs to find a way to get over the hump come playoff time.

2012 NFL Odds to Win the NFC Conference
4281 Arizona Cardinals +1850
4282 Atlanta Falcons +1050
4283 Carolina Panthers +2250
4284 Chicago Bears +1050
4285 Dallas Cowboys +950
4286 Detroit Lions +800
4287 Green Bay Packers +240
4288 Minnesota Vikings +5250
4289 New Orleans Saints +575
4290 New York Giants +850
4291 Philadelphia Eagles +400
4292 San Francisco 49ers +450
4293 Seattle Seahawks +2200
4294 St Louis Rams +4000
4295 Tampa Bay Buccaneers +5250
4296 Washington Redskins +2850

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