Super Bowl LV is only just in the books and a hugely dominant performance from Tom Brady and the Buccaneers will have put the league on notice, but who do we think will win the big game in 2022?
Let's get it straight, with free agency and the NFL Draft ahead of us, it's very early to be wagering on next year's big game but there's some value here. Not only that but it seems like we could see a historic turnover of QB's in the coming weeks.
There are great reasons to consider both of Super Bowl LV's finalists as potential winners for next year's Super Bowl.
Firstly, Super Bowl losers, the Kansas City Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes is just 25 years old and already looks set to go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game. Not only that but Andy Reid is back in town, as are the majority of their star players including Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. I love the Chiefs but at +600 they're so short that I simply cannot get involved at that price.
The Buccaneers are an interesting proposition but having been all-in to win in '21 I'm not sure how they'll stack up next year. It's unlikely we see Leonard Fournette back, Chris Godwin's future is uncertain, as is Antonio Brown's too. Father time eventually has to catch up with Tom Brady, doesn't it? The defense was incredible on Sunday night and they'd need to keep that level up to be in with a shot next year. The Bucs are third favorites at +1200 and I can't back them at that price.
I spent this past NFL season constantly questioning whether the Packers were quite as good as advertised and I'm still of the belief that they're maybe not quite as good as the consensus thought, despite Aaron Rodgers continued brilliance. Aaron Jones will likely be off and although Green Bay seem to constantly finding new running backs I don't think the others on the roster have his skillset. I'm also concerned that they won't address the glaring need for accompanying pieces on that offense to help Davante Adams. Rodgers can make mediocre recievers look half decent but they do lack a top quality second passing option.
I was hugely impressed by the Bills this season and with another season under their belts they'll be in a better position to contend to go one step further. If Josh Allen continues to develop at the speed that he has so far then he must surely be amongst the front runners for next season's MVP award.
My main concern with the Bills is that they're in the same conference as the Chiefs, which ultimately means I'm ruling them out of the betting at this early stage. Unfortunately that means I also won't be betting on the Baltimore Ravens either. I love Baltimore and I love how they play, and they could well win the Super Bowl, but when it comes to early betting I will not be backing an AFC team while the Chiefs are still in good condition.
That means I'm backing a team from the NFC but before I reveal who, it's time to cross out the New Orleans Saints from consideration. We're yet to get confirmation of Drew Brees retirement but regardless I won't be putting money on them at this stage. Their defense is criminally underrated but with Brees they have no chance because of his physical decline, and if he does leave, which is likely, then I'd want to know who steps into his shoes before placing my money anywhere.
The winner of Super Bowl LVI will come from the NFC West. The NFC West is by far and away the best division in football and it's only going to be stronger next year. The Seahawks won the division last year but I think they could well be the weakest team in the divison next season. Seattle needs serious work defensively and they give their opposition far too many opportunities to put up points.
The Cardinals are a team who I believe could take the step up and be serious contenders next year. At times this past season they looked incredible but they weren't consistent and lost far too many games. I have huge belief in Kyler Murray, who is one of the best in the league. With another year of learning I believe he can progress more. If they can improve the defense, and I believe they will then they'll a handful for any team. Isaiah Simmons was one of my favorite guys coming out last year but he didn't have a great rookie season, he's a guy who I believe will really take the step up next year. At 50/1 I think there is some serious value to be had in backing the Cardinals here.
The 49ers are currently priced at +1500 and that price has the potential to look very good by the time camp comes around. The Niners were torn apart by injuries this past season, perhaps more than any team in recent memory, and still finished 6-10 in a tough division. If they're fully fit next year, then they're contenders straight away. They have one of the best defenses in the game and one of the greatest coaching minds too. That puts them instantly amongst the front runners, something which would be cemented if they can get an upgrade on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. If a replacement for the 29-year old arrives then I'd consider backing them for Super Bowl LVI.
My final pick is the remaining team in the NFC West, the Los Angeles Rams. I absolutely loved the brave call from Sean McVay to ship out Jared Goff and replace him with Matt Stafford, even at such a high cost. The Rams managed to reach a Super Bowl with Goff under center but it was clear that the relationship was fractured with Goff unable to offer the Rams the vertical game that they needed in order to mix up their offense.
This team now has Stafford, a huge upgrade over Goff, and a guy who has shown incredible bravery throughout his career at struggling Detroit. I believe that they struggled in spite of Stafford and in no way because of him. His WR corp in LA is a marginal improvement but they key here is that they have a defense which should get Stafford on the field reguarly, and one which won't give up huge scores for him to come back from. Aaron Donald, not Patrick Mahomes, is the best player in football and Jalen Ramsey is the best cornerback. This defense is in win-now mode and this trade, along with the brains of McVay gives LA a real shot at a ring. At 14/1 I'm getting involved.
NFL Expert Picks
1u - Los Angeles Rams @ +1400
0.5u - Arizona Cardinals @ +5000
Kansas City Chiefs +600
Green Bay Packers +1100
Buffalo Bills +1200
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1200
Baltimore Ravens +1400
Los Angeles Rams +1400
San Francisco 49ers +1500