Dark-Horse Super Bowl Long Shots That Could Make You Rich Before 2021 NFL Draft

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistApril 12, 2021

Dark-Horse Super Bowl Long Shots That Could Make You Rich Before 2021 NFL Draft

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    Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press

    Once every few years, an improbable team hoists the Lombardi Trophy. In 2014, the Seattle Seahawks dominated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Four years later, the Philadelphia Eagles prevented the New England Patriots from winning consecutive titles. We're due for the rise of another underdog.

    Which teams are built to become an unlikely champion?

    Always start at the most important position. In a quarterback-driven league, a top-10 signal-caller can lead a team to the playoffs for a shot to win it all. Yet that's only part of the puzzle for potential title contenders. 

    On the other side of the ball, the defense must hold its own against opposing offenses in crucial moments (particularly on late downs), force turnovers and pressure the quarterback. Two of the last three Super Bowl winners allowed fewer than 10 points in the final game of the season. 

    Before you place wagers on favorites, take a look at some long-shot contenders who could roll in big money. We broke down the rosters of four dark-horse teams with odds of +2500 or higher to win Super Bowl LVI, according to DraftKings.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich
    Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank ReichAJ Mast/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +2500 (Bet $100 to win $2,500)

    Don't sell your Carson Wentz stock yet. Although he had a horrendous 2020 season, throwing for 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions through 12 contests, he's in a situation that will lead to a bounce-back campaign. 

    Wentz reunites with Frank Reich, who served as offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles squad that won Super Bowl LII. Before he tore his ACL in Week 14 of that season, the signal-caller threw for 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, earning a Pro Bowl nod. 

    The Colts have started a different quarterback in all three terms under Reich, transitioning from Andrew Luck to Jacoby Brissett and then Philip Rivers. Yet the club finished with a top-10 scoring offense and a playoff berth in two of those campaigns.

    Last year, Wentz played behind an injury-riddled offensive line with only one starter, center Jason Kelce, appearing in more than 12 outings. In Indianapolis, he has a five-man group that returns four starters who all suited up for at least 14 contests this past season. The 28-year-old signal-caller won't take the most sacks in consecutive seasons—he was sacked 50 times last year—if that supporting cast stays relatively healthy.

    In 2020, the Eagles' pass-catching group battled injuries. DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Jalen Reagor and Zach Ertz all missed at least five outings. Wideout Greg Ward led the club in catches (53), while Travis Fulgham finished with a team-leading 539 receiving yards.

    In Indianapolis, Wentz will have decent targets, including wideouts T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr. and Zach Pascal. Nyheim Hines has become a reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield, hauling in 170 receptions for 1,227 yards and six touchdowns through three terms.

    The Colts can also lean on a strong ground attack, featuring Jonathan Taylor, who ranked third in rushing last season with 1,169 yards.

    Indianapolis lost defensive end Denico Autry—a key pass-rusher from a top-10 scoring defense—to the Tennessee Titans in free agency, though according to The Athletic's Stephen Holder, the team could re-sign Justin Houston, who recorded eight sacks this past season.

    Whether the Colts re-sign Houston or select an edge-rusher in the draft, they still have a pair of game-changers in the front seven in 2020 team sack leader DeForest Buckner and two-time All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard.

    Indianapolis has a balanced roster that can win low-scoring matchups or put up points to keep pace with top offenses if Wentz remains upright in the pocket.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott
    Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel ElliottEmilee Chinn/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: NFL" target="_blank">+2800

    The Dallas Cowboys re-signed Dak Prescott on a four-year, $160 million extension. He's clearly the best quarterback in the NFC East.

    Philadelphia Eagles signal-caller Jalen Hurts only has four career starts. Going into his age-39 campaign, Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't helped lead a team to the postseason. He's a high-end stopgap quarterback in Washington. Daniel Jones of the New York Giants still needs to establish himself after throwing for 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last year. 

    With an advantage at the most important position, the Cowboys should win the division if Prescott doesn't experience a setback while on the mend from two reported ankle surgeries. He's back on the field and throwing the ball, which is a good sign for his recovery timetable.

    In the event Prescott suits up for the entire 2021 term, the Cowboys will field an explosive aerial attack with wideouts Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb on the perimeter. 

    Dallas needs Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and La'el Collins to stay healthy along the offensive line. In 2020, they missed a combined 36 games, which hurt the ground attack. The Cowboys rushing offense placed 17th in yards—its worst ranking since 2013

    Even with a healthy offense, Dallas must do a little more to revamp its defense.

    The Cowboys replaced former defensive coordinator Mike Nolan with Dan Quinn, who fielded top-notch units in his last stint as solely a play-caller with the Seattle Seahawks between 2013 and 2014. They signed Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee, who will shore up the linebacker and safety spots, respectively.

    Nevertheless, we should expect the front office to add a few more playmakers, specifically a 1-technique defensive tackle to stop the run, a boundary cornerback and a defensive end to complement designated pass-rusher Randy Gregory.

    Dallas could target Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II or Michigan edge-rusher Kwity Paye with the No. 10 overall pick in the draft. The Cowboys have three additional top-100 picks and $7.5 million in cap space to address their needs on defense.

    With adequate resources to tie up those loose ends, Dallas could go into the 2021 season as a viable dark-horse title contender.

Tennessee Titans

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    Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (left) and quarterback Ryan Tannehill (right)
    Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (left) and quarterback Ryan Tannehill (right)Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +3300

    The Tennessee Titans' Super Bowl odds seem a bit low for a team that clinched a playoff berth in consecutive seasons and a division title in 2020. 

    This past campaign, the Titans fielded one of the worst defenses, ranking 24th in scoring and giving up the fifth-most yards, but the front office has made changes on that side of the ball. 

    The Titans cut safety Kenny Vaccaro in addition to cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Adoree' Jackson. They signed nine-year cover man Janoris Jenkins, who had a solid 2020 campaign with the New Orleans Saints, logging three interceptions and 12 pass breakups. Safety Amani Hooker could take on a bigger role after he recorded four interceptions and eight pass breakups last year. 

    Most importantly, the Titans addressed their subpar pass rush, signing defensive end Denico Autry and edge-rusher Bud Dupree. The latter joined Takeo Spikes and Tutan Reyes on the Behind the Mask Podcast and said he expects full clearance for activities in May after tearing his ACL in December (h/t SI.com's Ian Kayanja).

    If Jenkins, Autry and Dupree make a collective impact on the Titans pass defense, this club should have a stout group that's no longer a liability.

    Although Tennessee lost offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who accepted the head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons, the offense will likely continue to run through two-time rushing champion Derrick Henry. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill's budding connection with wideout A.J. Brown should continue to blossom in their third year together. 

    The Titans have fielded a top-10 scoring offense over the last two years with an appearance in the 2020 AFC Championship Game, featuring their offensive trio in Tannehill, Henry and Brown. If the defense becomes a solid unit, this team has the pieces to pull off a successful Super Bowl run.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Arizona Cardinals wideout DeAndre Hopkins (left) and quarterback Kyler Murray (right)
    Arizona Cardinals wideout DeAndre Hopkins (left) and quarterback Kyler Murray (right)Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +4000

    The Arizona Cardinals are built to win right now.

    General manager Steve Keim made multiple splashes this offseason, signing defensive end J.J. Watt, cornerback Malcolm Butler and wideout A.J. Green. The front office also acquired center Rodney Hudson from the Las Vegas Raiders. They're all accomplished players older than 30 years old. 

    The Cardinals' acquisitions could mesh with the team's core. As a big-bodied 6'4", 207-pound receiver, Green will likely see plenty of targets on third down and in the red zone opposite three-time All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins, who can draw double coverage downfield. Slot receiver Christian Kirk rounds out a high-end unit.

    Green is slightly past his prime, but he's five years younger than Larry Fitzgerald, who may retire after averaging a career-low 7.6 yards per catch in 2020. The former is a more viable target in the aerial attack.

    At the pivot, Hudson can solidify the offensive line, which bodes well for Kyler Murray's development in his third season.

    Murray has to elevate his game to put the Cardinals in serious contention for a title. In 2020, he threw for 3,971 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions but faded down the stretch while battling a leg injury. The Pro Bowl quarterback didn't throw a touchdown pass in the final two weeks of the season.

    Murray has the protection and weapons to post impressive numbers in the upcoming campaign.

    The Cardinals lost cornerback Patrick Peterson to the Minnesota Vikings in free agency, but Butler should fill in adequately. The latter allowed an 83.2 passer rating compared to 98.2 for the former when targeted last year.

    If defensive coordinator Vance Joseph unlocks linebacker Isaiah Simmons' potential, he'll become a consistent difference-maker on all three downs. The Clemson product would further strengthen a front seven with a dynamic pass-rushing duo in Watt and Chandler Jones on the edge.

    The Cardinals have playmakers all over the roster. To make a postseason run, head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his staff must turn a talented group into a cohesive unit, which is a feasible task.


    Team cap space courtesy of Over the Cap.


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