Can these four NFL franchises defy the odds in 2022?

The beauty of last year’s Bengals Super Bowl run was that it was unpredictable and refreshing. Here was a franchise supposedly adrift, with a quarterback with doubts lingering over both form and health, a mix-and-match collection of free agents on defense, and, amazingly, they still rode a wave of momentum all the way to the Super Bowl. A few well-timed interceptions here, a few made field goals there and they were there at the final showdown. While their run is likely a once-in-a-decade event, it opened our eyes to the idea that teams can rise and fall more quickly than maybe we expected. So the question is who is going to be this year’s unexpected package and can they replicate what Cincinnati did in 2021? Here’s a look at some of the prime candidates to beat the odds and go deep into the postseason. 

Minnesota Vikings – Super Bowl Odds: +2500

Due to its unpredictable nature, there are never any sure things when it comes to betting on the NFL but one thing that’s pretty consistent is Minnesota being in the postseason conversation. The Vikings are perpetual wild-card contenders, never bad enough to warrant a reset but never great enough to chase a title, and that trend is poised to continue, at least for 2022, with ex-Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell taking over for Mike Zimmer. Coming off a disappointing 8-9 record last season, the Minnesota Vikings are poised to be the NFL’s most improved team in 2022. The defense post-Zimmer actually looks more balanced after Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made several moves to address a unit that finished 30th overall last season. Now that Za’Darius Smith and Jordan Hicks have joined Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter at linebacker they look in good shape. O’Connell inherits a highly-talented Vikings offense too, one that features a solid starting QB in Kirk Cousins and the likes of wideouts Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, running back Dalvin Cook, and promising tight end Irv Smith Jr. The Vikings will still have to topple their nemesis Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North, but there is no denying the talent the team possesses on both sides of the ball. This might finally be the year where the Purple and Gold break their hoodoo. 

New Orleans Saints – Super Bowl Odds: +4000

Following the retirement of long-time head coach Sean Payton, the expectation was that the New Orleans Saints were headed towards a rebuild. However, the organization finds itself in a strange place between challenging and rebuilding, having made some notable moves this offseason to challenge the narrative. Offensively, New Orleans re-signed quarterback Jameis Winston to once again serve as the club’s starter, while also bringing in free-agent wide receiver Jarvis Landry to a one-year deal. Landry joins a revamped receiving corps that includes first-round pick Chris Olave and three-time Pro Bowler Michael Thomas, who’s expected to return after missing all of last season with an ankle injury. There’s also superstar running back Alvin Kamara, who continues to be one of the most electrifying players in the game. On the defensive side of the ball, New Orleans welcomed back one of its own, signing star safety and Louisiana native Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu bolsters a Saints defense that finished seventh in 2021 in total yards and should once again rank amongst the league’s best defensive units. Coupled with a nice schedule, the Saints have the talent to be much more competitive than originally anticipated, especially if Winston can continue to make strides and remain healthy for the long term. 


New York Giants – Super Bowl Odds: +8000


The hiring of former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as head coach should do wonders for New York’s offense, particularly quarterback Daniel Jones. He had a major impact on Bills QB Josh Allen who is now expected to take the franchise deep into the postseason, and while Jones is nowhere near as talented, Daboll’s presence should at least provide the former sixth-overall pick with his best chance of finding success. Offensively, the Giants are not exactly lacking talent, as players such as Kenny Golladay, Saquon Barkley, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton have all had an impact at times during their NFL careers. Like Jones, most of the Giants roster will find themselves in a much better situation with Daboll at the helm. New York also had one of the best first-round hauls in this year’s NFL Draft, selecting offensive tackle Evan Neal and edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, who should help a defense that finished last season ranked 21st in sacks. They have a lot to improve on from 2021 but playing in a division that could potentially be one of the worst in football, the Giants have a realistic opportunity of going from one of the worst outfits last year to a top contender in 2022.

Philadelphia Eagles – Super Bowl Odds: +2000

Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles were one of the NFL’s surprise teams but will have to shoulder larger expectations heading into 2022. A 9-8 record from last year presents a solid platform to build upon as the Eagles seek to wrestle the NFC East crown from the Dallas Cowboys. They will look to make a quick jump from surprise wild-card contenders to legitimate division challengers after coach Nick Sirianni leaned into QB Jalen Hurts’ strengths as a runner midway through 2021. Last year was really Hurts’ first as a full-time starter but, because of his mobility, it makes him difficult to plan for. The success of the Eagles’ offense will lie in the hands of his development, or lack thereof, as a passer now that he’s got a trio of dominant pass catchers in ex-Titans star A.J. Brown out wide alongside DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. In defense, there is obvious room for improvement following their efforts of last year on that side of the ball. The Eagles traded up in the first round of the draft for Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis, who put on one of the most remarkable displays of athleticism the Scouting Combine has seen. Hometown hero Haason Reddick will definitely be stacking up sacks this year while James Bradberry and Darius Slay are always posing an interception threat at cornerback. On paper, the Eagles have almost everything required for a deep playoff run, but rarely are NFL seasons straightforward. 

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