So we’ve got you prepared to bet on the preseason, but that’s still a couple weeks away and you’re growing impatient. All good, you can still throw some money down on NFL action right now (perhaps legally at an NJ sportsbook), but even if you’re successful you won’t get paid out for those bets until the new year.
Futures odds are available all over the internet to those who think they know how certain teams will fare in 2018. We’ve combed through those numbers to identify five particularly enticing teams that might be worth gambling on this summer.
Chicago Bears (100:1 to Win the Super Bowl)
Every season several previously feeble teams rise up and become contenders. Last year at this time, only a handful of teams had lower Super Bowl odds than the Los Angeles Rams, who went on to lead the league in scoring in an 11-win, division-winning campaign.
The 2018 Bears look a lot like the 2017 Rams. New high-energy head coach (Matt Nagy) who is considered a quarterback guru and an offensive genius. Second-year franchise quarterback Mitch Trubisky widely expected to take a big leap forward. Several shiny new offensive weapons for said quarterback. And a sneaky amount of defensive talent.
The Rams didn’t win the Super Bowl last year and the Bears are extremely unlikely to do so in 2018, but it’s rather astonishing that only two teams offer more value on the Super Bowl futures market. A $100 bet on them to make a miraculous run would yield $10,000, which might be worth a shot.
Seattle Seahawks (60:1 to win Super Bowl, 4-1 to win NFC South)
The Seahawks have suffered so many losses this offseason that their odds to win the division title have plummeted and their odds to win it all are borderline comical. Only 10 teams have worse odds to win the Super Bowl than a team that did exactly that only a few years ago, with the same head coach and same franchise quarterback.
I wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to be favored to win anything now that the Legion of Boom has essentially been dismantled, especially because the offense could still have plenty of trouble protecting and supporting quarterback Russell Wilson. That said, Wilson is still one of the best players in football and a preseason MVP contender. He and Carroll could easily overcome a tough offseason, and betting on that could be fruitful considering how oddsmakers and the public have reacted to a tough run in Seattle.
If you think a Super Bowl run isn’t going to happen in the tough NFC, at least consider those tempting division title odds. The Rams could easily come back to earth after a breakout season and the 49ers have yet to prove the team can do what it did last December for an entire season.
Los Angeles Chargers (10:1 to win AFC Championship)
The Chargers are actually favored to win the AFC West, and they certainly have the talent to beat conference favorites New England or Pittsburgh.
The Patriots have endured a tumultuous offseason and look more vulnerable than they have in years, while the Steelers are so reliant on their three key offensive players that all it would take is one big injury to remove them from contention. With this possibly being Le’Veon Bell’s last season in Pittsburgh, the team chemistry could take a hit compared to years past.
The Texans and Jaguars both have better odds than the Chargers to win the AFC title (+800 each) but Houston is in for a boom-or-bust year based on what happens with Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt, while Jacksonville is a major wild card, as long as Blake Bortles is their quarterback.
The point is the AFC is wide freakin’ open, and the Chargers are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. They’ve got a quarterback who’s been elected to seven Pro Bowls, one of the best pass rushes in football and plenty of game-changers on both offense and defense.
That makes them a worthwhile bet at +1000, but the NFC is so much stronger than the AFC that I wouldn’t push my luck with their +2400 Super Bowl odds.
Carolina Panthers (35-1 to win the Super Bowl)
How is it that 16 teams — including the 49ers, Chiefs, Giants and Cowboys — have better Super Bowl odds than the Carolina Panthers? Carolina came close to winning the damn thing just a few years ago. Quarterback Cam Newton was the MVP that year, while head coach Ron Rivera was coach of the year for the second time in a three-season span. Outside of that Super Bowl loss to the Broncos, the Panthers lost one game all year.
They haven’t won a playoff game since, but they did make it back to the postseason last year and Football Outsiders ranked them as the ninth-most efficient team in football.
Christian McCaffrey should only get better, superstar linebacker Luke Kuechly appears to be healthy and Newton is Newton — one of the most uniquely talented matchup nightmares in the league. I wouldn’t expect the Panthers to remain at +3500 for long.
New Orleans Saints (18:1 to win the Super Bowl)
Nobody in the NFC South has high futures odds because the division is so strong as a whole, but it’s still ridiculous that the Saints have lower Super Bowl odds than six other teams, and identical odds to a Texans squad that won just four games last year.
In terms of DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), the Saints were the best team in the NFL last season. Their future Hall of Fame quarterback had the highest completion percentage in NFL history while leading the conference in yards per attempt and passer rating. New Orleans also became the first team in nearly half a century to possess both the offensive and defensive rookies of the year. The Saints were just one crazy play from a berth in the NFC Championship game and if Diggs doesn’t make that play, the team’s odds would be significantly lower.
That historically kickass rookie class should only make a larger impact in 2018, and now they’ve added a first-round pass rusher (Marcus Davenport), one of the best slot corners in the game (Patrick Robinson), a steady new starting linebacker (Demario Davis) and an intriguing new receiver (Cameron Meredith) to the fray.
Regardless of what the odds say, this team is right there with the Patriots, Steelers, Eagles, Rams and Vikings.
This article first appeared on National Football Post.