If you're looking to hit the jackpot on a Super Bowl 50 outsider, your best shot at the bottom of the NFL odds list could be a certain football team that wears purple.
Every once in a while, the unthinkable happens. Buster Douglas (+4500) knocked out Mike Tyson. The Minnesota Twins (+20000) won the 1991 World Series. And in the greatest shocker in NFL history, the 1999 St. Louis Rams (+30000) went on to win Super Bowl XXXIV. Hope springs eternal.
That doesn't mean the long shots are dripping with value. We normally advocate putting a “medium shot” in your football picks when you're shopping at the NFL futures market. But if you're looking for a bit of fun and a potential monster payday, may we recommend a Scandinavian theme?
The Color Purple
We're talking about the Minnesota Vikings, of course. At press time, the Vikings are available at a range between +3300 (Bovada and SIA) and +6000 (5Dimes) on our NFL odds board. That's deep enough to be considered a long shot. You could go with the Jacksonville Jaguars (+40000) instead, but where's the upside?
It's in Minneapolis. Consider the aforementioned Rams; they went from 4-12 to Super Bowl champions after adding QB Kurt Warner, RB Marshall Faulk and WR Torry Holt during the offseason. The Vikings don't have quite the same “Big Three” situation coming up, but they are bringing back RB Adrian Peterson (4.5 yards per carry in 2013) after he was suspended for all but one game last year. This will also be the first full season, assuming good health, for QB Teddy Bridgewater (14 TDs, 12 INTs in 2014). And WR Mike Wallace (67 catches, 10 TDs) was acquired from the Miami Dolphins in March. That's not nothing.
The Vikings also don't have nearly as much ground to make up as the 1999 Rams did. Minnesota finished 7-9 (10-6 ATS) last year, and played well enough to record 7.2 Estimated Wins and 7.5 Pythagorean Wins, according to the efficiency-based stats at Football Outsiders. In games that Bridgewater started, the Vikings went 6-6 SU and 9-3 ATS. That's a spicy meatball.
There's a reason the Vikings are long shots, though. Several reasons. Peterson is 30 years old, which is ancient for a running back, but taking most of 2014 off will mitigate some of that aging process. The bigger question mark could be Bridgewater. He ranked No. 36 out of 44 qualifying starters last year in passing DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), one spot below Ryan Lindley of the Arizona Cardinals. Yes, that Ryan Lindley.
And no, Bridgewater didn't make up the difference with his feet. He did scramble for 4.4 yards per carry, but ranked No. 22 out of 35 qualifiers with a negative rushing DVOA of –8.5 percent. Having said all that, Bridgewater improved as the season wore on, and he should be even better this year with the experience under his belt and the increased level of talent surrounding him. So you've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?"