5 Teams That Improved Their Playoff Odds the Most This Offseason

Alex KayContributor IMay 19, 2022

5 Teams That Improved Their Playoff Odds the Most This Offseason

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The NFL seems closer than ever to achieving true parity.

    A wide-open 2021 campaign—the first 17-game season in league history—saw a massive number of teams remain in contention until the final weeks. It also saw several clubs execute major turnarounds, such as the Cincinnati Bengals going from the AFC North basement in 2020 to conference champions in 2021.   

    The gulf between contenders and pretenders should continue to narrow in 2022. Several squads that missed the playoffs last year have made significant strides by signing key free agents, swinging blockbuster trades or picking impact prospects in the draft.

    Considering there is no heavy Super Bowl favorite to speak of—there are five teams with 10-1 or better odds but none with 5-1 or shorter odds to lift the Lombardi Trophy—there appears to be ample opportunity for the following teams to not only make the postseason but also go on an unexpected championship run.

    With that in mind, here is a look at five organizations that vastly improved their chances of reaching the playoffs with a strong 2022 offseason.

Detroit Lions

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Playoff Odds: +400

    Super Bowl Odds: +15000

    Despite their 3-13-1 record, the Detroit Lions weren't a pushover last season. The team lost six of those games by one score or less and looked surprisingly competitive under first-year head coach Dan Campbell.

    The lack of talent on the roster ultimately doomed Detroit to yet another losing season—the club's fourth in a row and fifth straight without a playoff appearance—but fortunes could soon be changing in the Motor City.

    While the Lions weren't able to address their most glaring hole by landing a franchise quarterback, there is still upside for a winning season and playoff berth in the wake of a fantastic draft.

    The defense received a much-needed injection of game-changing talent with the selection of Aidan Hutchinson at No. 2 overall. After tallying a school-record 14 sacks last year, the Michigan edge-rusher appears to be one of the surest pass-rushing prospects to enter the league in years.

    He should have little issue piling up double-digit sack numbers in the pros, reinforcing a defense that only had 30—the league's third-fewest—all of last year.

    The offense is in better shape as well after Detroit executed a drastic move up the board to land Jameson Williams at No. 12 overall. Williams is arguably the most explosive athlete and one of the best overall receiver prospects in an exceedingly deep class.

    Williams could quickly emerge as Detroit's top wideout, teaming up with Amon-Ra St. Brown and free-agent pickup DJ Chark to form one of the league's brightest young receiving corps.

    While the Lions will still be hamstrung by their signal-caller barring an unexpected leap forward from Jared Goff, the team has a higher ceiling in 2022 and has positioned itself to become a viable contender when it finally lands another elite QB.

New York Giants

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    Noah K. Murray/Associated Press

    Playoff Odds: +250

    Super Bowl Odds: +13000

    The New York Giants didn't enter a new era quietly.

    This regime change—one in which new GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll took over for Dave Gettleman and Joe Judge, respectively—is off to a great start thanks to what may eventually be remembered as one of the best Big Blue drafts of all time.

    The Giants surprisingly landed a pair of players who were both in the discussion to go No. 1 overall this year, selecting edge-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux at No. 5 and offensive tackle Evan Neal at No. 7 overall.

    Considering the offensive and defensive lines were in dire need of some support after a trying 2021 campaign, the G-Men would have been hard-pressed to pull off a better draft. With the Thibodeaux and Neal selections, the team added two impact rookies who instantly bolster both sides of the ball in the trenches.

    While New York's offseason has been relatively quiet outside of the draft—the team did shore up a few holes with low-key free-agency signings—there is hope for the future thanks to this rookie class. It's one that also includes a trio of Day 2 picks in WR Wan'Dale Robinson (No. 43), OL Joshua Ezeudu (No. 67) and CB Cor'Dale Flott (No. 81).

    Quarterback Daniel Jones will now get his last and arguably best shot to prove he deserves to be New York's starter. With a revamped offensive line and plenty of weapons surrounding him, the 24-year-old is entering a make-or-break fourth season at the helm.

    Saquon Barkley is also playing for a new contract. The Giants have to be hoping Barkley returns to his early-career form behind this beefed-up line after injuries and inconsistency plagued the back over the past two seasons.

    Although the G-Men are still rebuilding, there is a chance the club makes a surprise playoff push. If the veterans do their part and the rookie class contributes at a high level, Big Blue could shock the world.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Playoff Odds: -130

    Super Bowl Odds: +2200

    The Baltimore Ravens will be back with a vengeance after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

    Although the team finished last season with a disappointing 8-9 record and traded top wideout Marquise Brown, Baltimore has 2021 first-rounder Rashod Bateman waiting in the wings to replace him and made a series of shrewd pickups this offseason that should get the club back on track.

    The front office deserves accolades for a draft in which the team landed some of the most prized prospects at spots that represented immense value.

    Baltimore nabbed Kyle Hamilton—a safety whom Bleacher Report's scouting department ranked No. 7 on its final big board—at No. 14 overall. He projects to be a starter in a secondary that could rate as the league's best and features cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey in addition to free-agent safety pickup Marcus Williams.

    Hamilton wasn't the only slam-dunk pick the Ravens made on Day 1. The organization also snapped up Tyler Linderbaum—the B/R scouting department's No. 12 overall player and top-rated interior offensive lineman in the class—at No. 25 overall.

    While those picks were stellar, the Ravens may have pulled off the steal of the 2022 draft by landing David Ojabo at No. 45.

    The Michigan edge-rusher was likely going to be a top-15 pick had he not suffered a torn Achilles during his pro day. Baltimore was wise to stop his fall on Day 2, getting a high-upside prospect with elite athleticism who can help meet the team's pass-rushing needs.

    With these rookie additions, some lineup-reinforcing veteran pickups like Michael Pierce and the return of a healthy Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are poised to make a run in 2022.

Cleveland Browns

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Playoff Odds: N/A

    Super Bowl Odds: +1800

    The Cleveland Browns came into the 2021 campaign looking to build on their first postseason victory since 1994.

    The club struggled to recapture that magic, however, finishing 8-9 largely because of a lethargic offense that was hindered by injuries—most notably to quarterback Baker Mayfield—which ultimately cost it a chance at back-to-back postseason trips.

    The Browns received a much-needed jolt by swinging a blockbuster trade for Deshaun Watson, a move that significantly elevates Cleveland's place in the league hierarchy.

    Although the cost was high—the Browns sent the Houston Texans a package of picks headlined by a trio of first-rounders—Cleveland now has a bona fide franchise quarterback for the first time in decades.

    Assuming Watson starts Week 1, he will be the 32nd starting quarterback for the club over a period that spans just 23 seasons. He's likely to stick around far longer than any of his recent predecessors after signing a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract extension.

    The Browns have a strong supporting cast to surround Watson with as he gets up to speed in a new offense. Their running back platoon is one of the NFL's deepest, featuring a pair of stars in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, an intriguing talent in D'Ernest Johnson and a high-upside rookie in Jerome Ford.

    While the receiving corps will look different this year with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry both out of the picture, the team did trade for veteran wideout Amari Cooper earlier in the offseason to plug a major hole.

    Cooper is in line to be the top pass-catcher on this team, while Donovan Peoples-Jones, David Njoku and rookie David Bell all represent weapons Watson can succeed with.

    The Browns may not be a Super Bowl favorite yet, but they are now a team to look out for thanks to their new-look offense and competent defense.

Denver Broncos

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Playoff Odds: -160

    Super Bowl Odds: +1600

    The Denver Broncos made one of the most impactful moves of the offseason when they traded for Russell Wilson.

    By packaging a handful of early-round draft picks and players, the Broncos immediately turned one of the team's most glaring weaknesses into a position of strength, becoming a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the process.

    The Broncos have been frantically searching for a franchise quarterback since Peyton Manning retired six years ago. Teddy Bridgewater—the most recent QB to get a shot to start at Mile High—wasn't the answer after guiding the team to a mediocre 7-10 record last year, Denver's fifth consecutive losing season.

    Wilson will lift an offense brimming with potential, a unit that includes several intriguing weapons such as running back Javonte Williams and wideouts Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick.

    Denver's defense is primed to improve, too. After ranking No. 3 in scoring and No. 8 in total defense last year, this group should be even better after various weaknesses were addressed.

    One of the more notable free-agent pickups is edge-rusher Randy Gregory, the former Dallas Cowboys standout who fills the void left by Von Miller's departure last season. The team also added another pass-rushing weapon in Nik Bonitto, a second-round prospect whom Denver should be able to deploy situationally and see results from right away.

    While the Broncos won't have it easy competing in a loaded AFC West—Denver has longer odds than the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers for the divisional crown—they have all the pieces in place to make a run.

    Considering the dearth of talent under center has prevented Denver from becoming a realistic contender for over half a decade, there's finally a reason for Broncos fans to feel optimistic about their team's postseason chances.


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