Super Bowl LVI: 3 Value Bets to Win It All Next Season
It's never too early to start thinking about next season. With that in mind, let's take a look at three value bets to win Super Bowl LVI.
A lot is going to change between now and Week 1 of the 2021 campaign -- most notably free agency and the draft. But those variables can work in our favor.
In this piece a year ago, I plugged a Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad that had a solid core in place but had a question mark at quarterback with Jameis Winston entering free agency. They were listed at +3500, and we know how that turned out.
I'm not promising a similar hit this year, but the process will be the same as we mine for teams who may be undervalued on FanDuel Sportsbook. Let's dive in.
The Baltimore Ravens have been one of the very best teams in each of the last two seasons.
In 2019, Baltimore got an MVP campaign from Lamar Jackson and won 14 games. Not only that, but their +249 point differential was 54 points better than anyone else's. Baltimore was clearly the best team in the regular season and then fell flat in an upset loss to the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round. This past year, while the Ravens won three fewer games than they did in 2019, they had the league's best point differential (+165) once more before again dropping out in the Divisional Round, this time to the Buffalo Bills.
In 2021, Baltimore should again have a stout defense -- they were fifth last year by our schedule-adjusted metrics -- and it wouldn't be surprising to see them make additions to their offense, which could use investment out wide and up front. But even if the offense mostly stands pat, this is still a very strong team.
I'm not going to complicate things too much -- the Ravens have had the best point differential in the league in each of the last two years, and FanDuel Sportsbook has them with only the sixth-best odds to win the title next season. There's value there.
These next two teams are tougher sells, but hear me out.
The Dallas Cowboys were bad last year, winning only six games and finishing with a -78 point differential despite playing in the easiest division in the NFL. And it can't all be blamed on Dak Prescott's injury, although that was obviously a season-killing bad break for them. The Cowboys' defense was terrible, ranking sixth-worst by our numbers and finishing in the bottom 10 against both the pass and the run.
But there are reasons to believe things will be better next fall. The biggest one, of course, is Prescott's return, and while there's a chance he lands elsewhere in free agency, that feels like a long-shot to me. Dak was ballin' out prior to getting hurt, as Dallas scored 32.2 points per game in his five starts, and that includes a 17-point outing in Week 1 against a Los Angeles Rams defense that ended up being the best in the league. Prescott -- assuming he makes a full recovery -- immediately provides a massive boost to Dallas' outlook.
There's also the NFC East, which should still be bad. We may see some musical chairs at quarterback throughout the league, but barring a big move by someone else in the division (or Dak leaving), the Cowboys are going to have the best quarterback in the NFC East -- maybe by a wide margin.
And in 2019, Dallas was legit good. In spite of going 8-8, the Cowboys boasted a point differential of +113, which was the third-best mark in the NFC and the sixth-best clip overall. Of course, a lot changes in the NFL in two years -- and Dallas' 2020 defense was a heck of a lot worse than their 2019 D -- but this roster has some pieces.
All in all, I think Dallas is undervalued at this line, and they will likely go into Week 1 of 2021 as the clear favorite in the NFC East -- something the futures market points to, as the NFC East team with the next best Super Bowl odds is the Philadelphia Eagles at +5000.
Los Angeles Chargers
Thanks to the superb rookie-year play of Justin Herbert, the Los Angeles Chargers are a team on the rise, and it's hard to overstate just how good Herbert was in Year 1.
He posted a mark of 0.23 Passing Net Expected Points per drop back, which ranked 10th among passers with at least 100 drop backs in 2020. Herbert ranked 4th in passing yards per game (289.1) and 12th in passer rating (98.3) while holding a 1.7% interception rate that ranked 5th-lowest among quarterbacks with at least 500 attempts.
The Bolts have a stud under center, and it's not crazy to think Herbert could be even better in 2021. He is the biggest reason to be in on the Chargers, but there are other reasons for optimism, as well.
The Chargers made an overdue coaching change this offseason and brought in Brandon Staley as the head man. Staley was running the league's premier defense on the other side of LA, and the cupboard is far from bare for him on that side of the ball with the Chargers. Staley is inheriting a defensive core featuring Derwin James, Casey Hayward, Joey Bosa, Chris Harris and Kenneth Murray.
They just need to stay healthy.
Derwin James missed all of 2020 with an injury and has now played only five games since his rookie year, but don't sleep on how impactful James was in said rookie campaign. Back in 2018, James made the Pro Bowl and was named first-team All-Pro in addition to being voted by his peers as the 31st-best player in the league. Value that list how you want, but a healthy James gives the Chargers a huge weapon on D, one who can play all over the field.
Melvin Ingram, who is headed to free agency, played only seven games in 2020, but despite missing James and Ingram, the Chargers still ranked 14th in schedule-adjusted defense, per our numbers.
If the Chargers get better injury luck, it's not unreasonable to think they can make a leap defensively, especially if Staley winds up being a good hire. And if that happens in addition to Herbert improving in Year 2, the Bolts could jump into contention right away.
Now that's a lot of ifs, and the Chargers share a division with Patrick Mahomes. Not ideal. But I'm bullish on the Chargers for this coming season and don't hate them at +3100, which is just the 15th-best title odds.