The 2022 NFL Super Bowl is a long way off, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look for a big longshot to bet on. Free agency is coming soon, and the NFL draft will bring massive roster changes again. The door is wide open for competition to heat up across the league.
We know the names at the top of the league. Oddsmakers have the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Packers, Rams, Ravens, and Bills as favorites to win the Super Bowl with odds under +1400. But we want more value than that as we predict big transactions that can tilt the odds in our favor.
We’ll break down three early longshots in each conference and their chances of making it to the Super Bowl next year, and share some expectations from executives and agents across the league. All odds are courtesy of BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review).
San Francisco 49ers (+1600)
Last year was far from ideal for the 2019 Super Bowl runner-up. Kyle Shanahan saw his entire roster suffer from a massive injury bug and the 49ers never had a real chance to compete. They enter this offseason with few ways to really improve a roster with a few key free agents but a lack of cap flexibility.
Health aside, the upside of the offense with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is a massive question mark. He has two studs at receiver in Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, and we know tight end George Kittle is a top-two star at his position. They must retain left tackle Trent Williams to maximize the unit, and the 49ers should consider trading up from the 12th pick to land a better QB for the future.
The defense is loaded until we look at the cornerback position. They should draft one in the first two rounds to establish a rookie starter, then sign a veteran to compete with Emmanuel Moseley. There’s a ton of pressure on John Lynch to fill these major holes at critical positions without much ammunition.
Because of that, this doesn’t look like a good bet for NFL futures. The right moves might make them a great value next year, though.
Cleveland Browns (+2000)
Much of what we can expect out of the Browns ultimately boils down to opinions on quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Browns will have a much tougher schedule in 2021, but hopefully, also a healthier roster. Repeating their 11-win season won’t be easy, even if they’re more fortunate.
Cleveland has to figure out several free-agent situations with Karl Joseph, Larry Ogunjobi, Rashard Higgins, and some depth pieces. They don’t have a ton of cap room, thanks to recent splurges, and extensions for Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Denzel Ward are looming. Tough decisions need to be made.
However, if you’re optimistic Baker is able to be great in the scheme and transcend it when he needs to, which hasn’t been something he’s shown much of to this point, they’re a good value. It’s reasonable to expect the Browns to find starters at defensive end, two starting corners, and a contributor at safety via the draft and free agency. I’d expect them to sign mid-tier guys over stars to build quality depth.
This is a solid value pick to win the AFC at the best betting sites.
Dallas Cowboys (+2500)
Why the Cowboys are this high up on the NFL odds is head-scratching. The roster has major question marks, beyond the obvious situation with Dak Prescott, and virtually no cap room to land an impactful starter. Tooling with an average roster and getting more from the coaching staff is their only hope.
The leap from a decent NFC East team to a capable foe to the NFC’s top is a big stretch for Dallas. Prescott and this offense will be productive, even if the offensive line is again a disappointment, but the defense has too many limitations to reach the Super Bowl. They need a pass rusher, upgrades at two corner spots, and a safety.
Betting on them to win the division is a good call, but not taking them to go much further. Mike McCarthy should enter the season on the hot seat after last year’s embarrassing display of staff building and ability to adjust from his past limitations.
Indianapolis Colts (+2500)
It’s easy to love the Colts as a good upside value. They possess a respected coaching staff, a ton of cap space, and a roster with reasonably upgradable spots. But having faith in Carson Wentz to overcome any of the other AFC contenders is a tough pill to put money on.
Wentz can facilitate in a high-achieving offense with the right pieces around him if all goes well. He was part of a great offense in Philadelphia, and his mechanics were at an all-time best. The Colts have the parts to replicate much of that. But Wentz hasn’t been the same player since 2017, and anything short of that won’t be enough to get much further than the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
The Colts didn’t have much of a choice than to land Wentz, though. Their options were limited, and at least they have a chance at getting the most out of Wentz. They’re expected to be in the chase for Allen Robinson and Corey Davis, as well as adding a quality cornerback like William Jackson or Shaquill Griffin.
I wouldn’t put money on the Colts as my longshot because of my skepticism of Wentz, but one key injury to Patrick Mahomes could make me regret that decision.
Arizona Cardinals (+2800)
Landing J.J. Watt was just the start of what needs to be a significant investment period this offseason for Arizona. The problem is their lack of resources. Arizona has a mid-first-round pick, but the Cardinals ate up the majority of their current cap space by overpaying Watt with $15 million-a-year.
They need two cornerbacks, a receiver, and some offensive line help. It’s not unreasonable to think they’ll be another middling team in 2021 despite the excitement of an offense featured around Kyler Murray. Their odds are too tied to the hype around the diminutive playmaker.
Drafting either Jaylen Waddle or Kyle Pitts would take care of their need for help at receiver, but it’d also be costly to surpass a starting cornerback there. And therein lies the continual issue with general manager Steve Keim’s tenure with the franchise: he has never figured out how to balance his spending and complete a roster.
I’m avoiding this line as much as possible.
Los Angeles Chargers (+2800)
The other value AFC play should be the Chargers. We know Justin Herbert showed out as a rookie with his big arm and surprising playmaking, but the roster around him is quite good. He needs another receiver, either via the draft or by re-signing Hunter Henry. The defense must find another corner but doesn’t need to spend to address the need.
There’s everything needed for this team to be a great pick come next January, even if Herbert has a sophomore struggle. New head coach Brandon Staley was a surprising hire but was excellent with the Rams. Staley should star with a great group of defenders in Los Angeles.
I’d jump on this line with hopes the Chargers address their needs along the offensive line. Landing Joe Thuney and Aaron Jones in free agency is a real possibility, per sources. Watch for this to be a hot team among prognosticators entering the season.