In most leagues, betting on long shots for the title can feel more like an exercise in finding value than winning money. This is not the case in the NFL.
Five years ago, the Eagles cashed in as 40/1 preseason prospects thanks to Nick Foles’ epic playoff streak. The Giants were dealing up to 50/1 in the 2007 and 2011 seasons and rewarding bettors both years.
Even last year’s Bengals came within a game of delivering their 150/1 preseason price tag – which would have tied them to the 1999 Rams as the biggest long-term winners of the Super era. Bowl.
Since that 1999 season, seven of the last 23 title winners have entered the season at odds of 20/1 or higher, which does not include a pair of 18/1 winners (2008 Steelers, 2012 Ravens). Clearly, there’s value further down the Super Bowl standings if you know where to look. Here are three of my favorite plays by far at BetMGM heading into the 2022 season:
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Miami Dolphins (40/1)
I’m baffled the Dolphins are still ranked 40/1 after two straight winning seasons and a significantly improved roster from a year ago.
New head coach Mike McDaniel, who helped turn the 49ers offense into an unpredictable juggernaut, will have plenty of tools at his disposal after Miami added fast rushers Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert. The team also three-time signed Pro Bowl tackle Terron Armstead and traded for three-time All-Pro Tyreek Hill, who partners with second-placed Jaylen Waddle as the NFL’s fastest receiving duo.
This offense is set up for Tua Tagovailoa to thrive in a facilitator role where it won’t be up to him to win games. The Dolphins defense, which was on the edge of the top five by advanced metrics last year, boasts an improved passing rush and one of the most talented secondaries in football. If you’re still sleeping on this band, it’s time to wake up.
Washington Commanders (80/1)
Two years ago, Washington’s defense looked like a unit that would dominate the league for years to come. Then Chase Young tore his ACL midway through the 2021 season, and the Commanders’ sluggish offense consistently put their defense in a difficult position to succeed.
Fast forward to this season, when Young is expected to return early in the schedule to bolster a truly terrifying defensive front. Carson Wentz is in charge in this offense, which features rising superstar Terry McLaurin and first-rounder Jahan Dotson, alongside one of the best offensive lines in the league.
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Sure, there are serious question marks surrounding Wentz, but he’s still the same guy who was MVP’s favorite a few years ago before his season was cut short by injury. Wentz is set to have his best season since his rookie campaign. If he does, watch out for Washington.
Carolina Panthers (125/1)
I’m incredibly optimistic about the Panthers, who quietly had one of the best defenses a year ago and are loaded with dynamic players in skill positions on offense. The bigger question, obviously, is at quarterback, where former No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield will look to rejuvenate his career with the Panthers.
He’s in a good position to do so, with former All-Pro fullback Christian McCaffrey and perennial 1,000-yard receiver DJ Moore — two of the most talented teammates of Mayfield’s career — behind a much-improved offensive line. A better offense will do wonders for this talented young defense, which ranked second in yards per drive allowed (27.3) in 2021 but has been hampered by football’s worst starting position on the field.
It all adds up to a compelling ceiling for the Panthers, who are brimming with opportunities for improvement on both sides of the ball in their third year under Matt Rhule. Mayfield’s progression into a breakthrough fifth year is the clear X-factor for Carolina’s season, but at such a long price, there’s a huge upside here.