By now, NFL fans of all teams have a pretty good idea of who the major Super Bowl contenders are. The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs (+600), the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles (+800), the Buffalo Bills (+850), and the San Francisco 49ers (+900) are among the best teams in the league and expected to go deep in this year’s playoffs.
Though the Chiefs are on the cusp of a dynasty, having won two Super Bowls in four years while appearing in another over that time, they can’t win every year. Sure, they will be in the mix, but there is always a chance that someone off the radar can make a run.
There are three teams that could potentially shock the world by the time February rolls around. If you plan on throwing a few bucks on a longshot Super Bowl (odds of +2,000 or longer at bet365), these are the teams that you should be giving a much longer look.
Jacksonville Jaguars to win the Super Bowl
Jacksonville Jaguars (+2800)
Because of the logjam of major contenders in the AFC, the Jaguars are somewhat overlooked. After the aforementioned Chiefs and Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals (+1100), New York Jets (+1400), and Baltimore Ravens (+1800) are all thought to be substantially more likely to win it all than the Jaguars.
The Jags took a major step forward in 2022, coming back from a slow start to capture the AFC South. If that wasn’t enough, they overcame a 27-0 deficit in the Wild Card round to ultimately beat the Los Angeles Chargers 31-30. There is a lot of potential to like here, so let’s take a closer look.
The Lawrence Factor
The single biggest reason that the Jaguars could find themselves under the lights in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas is their quarterback Trevor Lawrence. When he was taken with the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, he was anointed “the next one.” He immediately became the face of a franchise that has largely struggled over its history.
There is also his progression from his rookie season to last year. He not only improved from 3,641 passing yards to 4,113 and his touchdowns from 12 to 25, but he also cut down on his interceptions. It wasn’t by a few, either. He more than halved his interception total, going from 17 down to eight.
All of this leads to what should be a major step forward in 2023. Quarterbacks make “the leap” in their third year, which is the season that Lawrence will be entering. He also has more weapons than he’s had in either of the last two years after the team got Calvin Ridley back from suspension. If he can push his game to another level, Lawrence could challenge for league MVP and push the Jaguars far beyond repeating as AFC South champions.
A year ago, the Jaguars defence held teams to 20.6 points per game. Solid as that might be, they also were 28th in pass defence and 24th in total yards per game. Even more troubling, they managed just 35 total sacks.
The biggest boost the defence could receive is a big year from Travon Walker, the first overall pick in 2022. He managed just 3.5 sacks as a rookie, flashing the potential that made him the top pick but not quite managing to find consistency. Doing so would likely be a huge boon for a young, talented defence.
Linebacker Foyesade Oluokun is coming off his second-straight season as NFL tackles leader. Devin Lloyd, another former first-round pick, showed flashes amidst frustrating mistakes a year ago. Tyson Campbell is emerging as a top young corner and Andre Cisco displayed keen ball-hawking abilities. The talent is there, they just need to iron out the kinks to take a major step forward. Doing so would make the Jaguars much more dangerous and a real threat in the AFC.
Miami Dolphins (+2200)
The Dolphins really have come a long way in a short period of time. Early in 2022, after a surprise win at home against the Bills, it seemed as though the teal and orange would be able to really challenge the heavy favourite for the AFC East crown.
Unfortunately, injuries took their toll, and the Dolphins finished 9-8, ultimately losing to the Bills in the Wild Card round. As the start of the 2023 season approaches, there is a lot to love about the Dolphins. Two major factors could see them make a deep run when the playoffs begin.
Elite Offensive Weapons
We all know about the offensive weapons that the Dolphins possess. Finishing sixth in total yards per game with 364.5, the Dolphins were largely led by the fourth-best passing attack in the league (265.4). Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is a big part of that, but the receiving core is the star.
Tyreek Hill, fresh off of being traded from the Chiefs, finished his first season with the Dolphins with a bang. He finished second in the NFL in receiving yards (1,710) and receptions (119), behind only MVP candidate Justin Jefferson. Jaylen Waddle also quietly finished eighth in the NFL in yards (1,356) on just 75 catches, far and away the fewest of the top 10 in yards.
The focal point of this dangerous offence is the health of Tua. He went down with concussion issues a year ago and the offence clearly struggled. With Raheem Mostert back after a sneaky 891-yard rushing season, Tua will have all the weapons he could need. He just needs to stay on the field and keep driving this offence forward.
A Bolstered Defence
Miami’s defence in 2022 was remarkable in neither a good nor a bad way. The unit finished 16th in sacks with 40 and 18th in yards allowed per game at 337.8. If there was one major strong point, it would be the rushing defence, which finished with an average of 103 yards per game, good enough for fourth in the NFL.
Understanding that an average defence isn’t going to win a championship, the Dolphins made major moves. The signing of linebacker David Long is a low-risk, high-reward addition. In this pass-heavy AFC, his high-end coverage skills will be valuable. The major issue is that he’s suited up in just 12 games over the last two years. If he can stay healthy, he could make a big difference.
The biggest addition is without a doubt cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Unfortunately, he will be out until December after undergoing surgery to repair a torn PCL suffered in training camp. But when he is healthy, he is one of the best defensive backs in the league. Paired with Xavien Howard, the Dolphins could have the best corner duo in the league, the kind of trait that could push them deep into the playoffs.
Miami Dolphins to win the Super Bowl
Denver Broncos (+4000)
Perhaps you saw this heading and stopped reading immediately to scoff. Yes, we are aware that the Broncos finished 5-12 a year ago, with quarterback Russell Wilson looking as washed up as can be. Coming into the offseason, there were definitely more questions than answers.
All that said, the Broncos could be a surprise in 2023. It will take a few important developments, but the pieces can fit if you squint hard enough. Let’s look at the two biggest reasons the Broncos could shock the world and make a run to Super Bowl LVIII in February.
Russ and Sean
If you want to truly understand how bad Wilson’s 2022 season was, look no further than the social media account that compared his total touchdown passes to the number of bathrooms in his home. Spoiler alert: bathrooms held a commanding lead until late in the season.
Wilson had his lowest QBR ever, nearly 20 points lower than his 2021 effort. The yardage wasn’t bad (3,524 yards) but his 16 touchdowns were the lowest of his more than decade-long career.
The offensive line was bad but has made major additions. But the biggest change is Sean Payton taking over as head coach. He knows how to run a great offence and could be what Russ needs to get back to what we’ve become accustomed to. Keep a close eye on Russ for Comeback Player of the Year, too.
The defence had to feel some frustration last year. In 10 of the team’s 17 games, the Broncos held the opposition to under 20 points. Their 21.1 points allowed per game is deceptive as well, largely because of losses to the Chiefs (27 and 34 points, respectively) and Rams (an ugly 51 points).
Yes, Bradley Chubb is gone but there is still a lot to love about the defence. Patrick Surtain II may be the best corner in the league, locking down one side of the field every game. The team finished seventh in total yards allowed per game, hovering near the top 10 in both rushing and passing yards allowed per game.
If the defence can avoid situations like the Rams game last year, they have the talent to put in a strong result once again. And if the offence can find some competency, the Broncos could surprise a lot of people. With Wilson and Payton, both of whom have extensive playoff experience, just getting there could be all that is needed.