3 Value Bets to Win Super Bowl LIV
What a crazy ride the 2018-19 NFL season was! It was rather head scratching that the season ended with a 13-3 Super Bowl, after a regular season filled with high-scoring games and an overall increase in aggressive play-calling.
Head coach Bill Belichick adapted to his team's playing style yet again and found another way to attain his eighth ring and sixth as head coach of the New England Patriots.
While the Patriots have been in the Super Bowl five of the last eight seasons, they have not won back-to-back titles during that span. For us, that means we can start looking to Super Bowl 54 and the early odds over at the FanDuel Sportsbook.
At this point, with the previous season coming to a close just four days ago, these odds will fluctuate as the league operates through free agency and the draft, and deals with any injuries leading up to the start of the regular season in September.
With all the uncertainty, there's no big incentive for targeting teams with short odds. Instead, we need to focus on teams with longer odds, and ones that have a decent probability of shrinking as we get closer to the start of next year. Finding the correct path to sell yourself on a team winning their division is a strong way to find teams with value, which is precisely what we'll do here.
Indianapolis Colts +1500
Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts were one of the many feel-good stories of the 2018 season. There was a ton of uncertainty surrounding Luck and his shoulder, but those were put to rest when the Pro Bowl quarterback put up arguably his best statistical season, which included a career high in completion percentage (67.3%) and second place finish in passing touchdowns (39).
The biggest improvement for the Colts was the offensive line play. It was heavily addressed by the front office in last year's draft when they snatched both Quenton Nelson (sixth overall) and Braden Smith (37th). The big boys up front helped Luck stay upright basically all season long. He was sacked only 18 times all year, the second-fewest amongst quarterbacks who played 10 or more games. That had the O-line ranked ranked second in pass protection, according to Football Outsiders' DVOA. The starting offensive line is young, with an average age of 25, and supremely talented by draft capital alone (an average draft pick of 43.4). Baring injury, this line should continue to be one of the better units in the NFL.
With the quarterback spot and offensive line all set for the foreseeable future, Indianapolis can focus their league-high cap space ($109 million) on addressing a few glaring needs. A complimentary wide receiver to pair with T.Y. Hilton and tight end Eric Ebron should be a top priority. Outside of those two, no pass catcher topped 500 receiving yards or had more than three scores.
Other than adding some more skill position players around Luck, look for the Colts to spend most of the cap space on improving the defense, specifically the pass rush. On the surface, the numbers look solid with 38 total sacks for the Colts, but half of those occurred in the first six games.
Another key factor in the value of the Colts is the fact that they play in the AFC South division, a division in which Luck has dominated in his career to the tune of a 24-7 record, including an absurd 11-0 mark against the Tennessee Titans. Both the Titans and Jaguars have issues at the quarterback position, and have unproven commodities at head coach, while the Houston Texans, the Colts' stiffest competition, seem to be stuck in quicksand under head coach Bill O'Brien, who has a record of 42-38 over his five-year stint.
The Colts will certainly need the division wins, as their schedule should prove much tougher this next season. After drawing the NFC South, along with games against the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders, they get the more competitive NFC East on top of matchups versus the Steelers and Chargers.
The Colts are primed to take another leap forward in 2019 with key positions all set, all the available cap space at their disposal, and an opportunity to capitalize on a weaker division. At 15/1 odds, the Colts look like a solid value seven months out.
Cleveland Browns +3200
Never in my lifetime did I expect to consider the Cleveland Browns as a legitimate contender, but here we are heading into 2019 and things are finally trending upwards. Once Hue Jackson was finally fired, the Browns were able to finish the 2018 season 5-3 with a 8+ point differential. Over that span, Baker Mayfield threw 19 touchdowns compared to 8 interceptions. The rookie signal caller has brought optimism to the franchise for the first time in a long time.
Since 1948, there have been 82 rookie quarterbacks who started at least 10 games. Amongst those 82, Mayfield finished first in passing touchdowns, sixth in completion percentage, sixth in passing yards and sixth in adjusted yards per pass attempt. This kid has a bright future ahead.
Not only did the Browns hit correctly on Mayfield in the draft, they seemed to have cashed in handsomely with corner Denzel Ward and running back Nick Chubb. Cleveland had no issue putting Ward on the opposing team's best wide receiver, and he played well prior to suffering some injuries late in the season. Chubb finished the season with over 1,000 scrimmage yards and 10 total touchdowns despite not being unleashed until a few weeks into the season (upon the trade of Carlos Hyde).
While the defense improved last season, it still has a ways to go, but one thing that stood out was the aggressiveness, as evidenced by finishing second in takeaways with 31.With Cleveland having the third-most available cap space heading into next season, they should be able to invest in the defense, specifically on the defensive line alongside Myles Garrett. Having a potential stud quarterback and very exciting running back on rookie contracts will help the Browns address the rest of their needs.
When we look at the AFC North as a division, the Bengals have brought in an unknown at head coach and haven't made the playoffs since 2015.The Steelers have uncertainty of their own with the Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell situations, while Ben Roethlisberger only continues to get older. And while the Baltimore Ravens showed improvement last year, teams got to see Lamar Jackson start eight games and show no threat of being an efficient passer (58.2% completion percentage and 6.08 net yards per attempts). This gives the Browns a strong chance at the division title for the first time since '89.
Cleveland's Super Bowl odds will only shorten up as they add key pieces throughout the offseason. Now is a great time to jump in and join them on the bandwagon toward their bright future.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +6000
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2018 season was an utter disappointment, as were many of the seasons under then-coach Dirk Koetter. Koetter was shown the door, and fresh out of retirement the Bucs hired offensive guru Bruce Arians. In his first head coaching job, Arians took the Arizona Cardinals to three straight playoffs from 2013 to 2015 and he will look to do so in Tampa in 2019.
Arians was able to resurrect Carson Palmer in Arizona, and will aim to do similar things with Jameis Winston. Winston has struggled with turnovers in his young career (58 interceptions in 56 games). Palmer was very much turnover-prone; before playing for Arians he had a 1.45 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but under Arians that turned into 1.84.
The play on the Buccaneers' super bowl odds is really just a bet on the talent level and the addition of a proven head coach in Arians. The offense that the Bucs put on the field week in and week out is arguably one of the most skilled and talented groups across the NFL. It just didn't seem like Koetter was able to get the most of the young talent.
In the past, Arians got a 1,000-yard and 10-touchdown season out of John Brown in 2015, and helped David Johnson have arguably one of the greatest statistical running back seasons (2,118 rushing and receiving yards & 20 touchdowns) in 2016.
One of the biggest questions will be who will play that Johnson role for Tampa? It might be a position they have to address in the offseason because currently the roster lacks a guy who can excel in both the run and pass game out of the backfield.
As for the defense, it actually showed some signs of improvement over the last six games of the 2018 season. Over that span, they allowed opponents to score 22.5 points per game and had 11 takeaways. That is something that they could potentially build off of heading into 2019.
Having finished 2018 with a 5-11 record, the Bucs will be picking fifth in the 2019 NFL draft and should draw a weaker schedule. In terms of the NFC South division, Drew Brees will be another year older and there is plenty of question marks surrounding Cam Newton and his injured shoulder. And as for the Atlanta Falcons, they have been very up and down in the Dan Quinn era, failing to capitalize on the talent of guys like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
Look for the Bucs to be rejuvenated heading into next season, and with all of the talent on the offense side of the ball paired with a proven offensive wizard at head coach the 60/1 odds seem like a nice longshot to take a chance on.