Less than two months in to the 2012 MLB regular season, the sports betting sites contenders have already began to create separation between themselves and the rest of their respective divisions in the National League. While the jury is still out on teams like the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, there is no doubt that the Los Angeles Dodgers and defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals deserve to be the favorites to emerge from the NL. Once again the Cardinals have all of the necessary pieces to make a run to the World Series, but unlike last season they now have a legitimate NL opponent that could keep them from reaching that goal in the Dodgers.

Heading in to their respective series’ this past sportsbook weekend, it was Los Angeles that held a two-game lead over the Cardinals for the best record in the NL, and it is considered much more than just a fast start. While Matt Kemp has set the tone on offense with his MVP caliber numbers, the Dodgers’ pitching staff has been lights out with Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly flanking reigning NL Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw as one of the best starting three’s in the majors. Kershaw is 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA, and even after a loss Chris Capuano isn’t far behind at 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA, while Ted Lilly actually has the best numbers of them all at 5-0 with a 2.11 ERA. Consistency will be the key for a pitching staff that ranks third in the majors with a combined 3.21 ERA, and if they can keep it up it will be hard for the Cardinals to overcome them to get back to the World Series.

That is not to say that St. Louis does not have its own horses, as Carlos Beltran leads the NL with 13 home runs and 32 RBI on an offense that ranks second in the majors in runs scored. Beltran, David Freese, Rafael Furcal, Jon Jay, and Yadier Molina are all batting better than .285, with Furcal leading the way with a .370 mark. While the Cardinals have the depth to compete with Los Angeles offensively, the question marks exist with a pitching staff that has not been nearly as strong without former ace Chris Carpenter. While Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse have been solid, St. Louis will need more out of Adam Wainwright, who missed last year’s title run because of injury.

While the Nationals and Braves have both exceeded expectations early on, neither is considered to be a serious World Series sports betting contender. The Cardinals remain the World Series favorites in the NL at +500 odds with BetOnline, but the Dodgers are right behind them at + 800 odds, and could actually be ahead of them in terms of showing they have what it takes to go all the way at this point in the season.