In most leagues, betting on title long shots can feel more like an exercise in chasing value than actually winning money. That isn’t the case in the NFL.
Five years ago, the Eagles cashed as 40/1 preseason hopefuls thanks to Nick Foles’ epic playoff run. The Giants were dealing as high as 50/1 during 2007 and 2011 seasons, and rewarded bettors in both years.
Even last year’s Bengals came one play away from delivering on their 150/1 preseason price — which would have tied them with the 1999 Rams as the biggest long-shot winners in the Super Bowl era.
Dating back to that ’99 season, seven of the past 23 title winners have entered the season with odds 20/1 or longer, which doesn’t include a pair of 18/1 winners (2008 Steelers, 2012 Ravens). Clearly, there’s value further down the Super Bowl oddsboard if you know where to look. Here are three of my favorite long-shot plays at BetMGM ahead of the 2022 season:
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Miami Dolphins (40/1)
I’m baffled that the Dolphins are still listed at 40/1 after two straight winning seasons and a dramatically improved roster from a year ago.
New head coach Mike McDaniel, who helped turn the 49ers’ offense into an unpredictable juggernaut, will have plenty of tools at his disposal after Miami added speedy rushers Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert. The team also signed three-time Pro Bowl tackle Terron Armstead and traded for three-time All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill, who pairs with sophomore Jaylen Waddle as the fastest receiving duo in the NFL.
This offense is set up for Tua Tagovailoa to thrive in a facilitator role in which it won’t all be on him to win games. The Dolphins’ defense, which was a borderline top-five unit by advanced metrics last year, boasts an improved pass rush and one of the most talented secondaries in football. If you’re still sleeping on this group, it’s time to wake up.
Washington Commanders (80/1)
Two years ago, Washington’s defense looked like a unit that would dominate the league for years. Then Chase Young tore his ACL midway through the 2021 season, and the Commanders’ lethargic offense consistently put their defense in a tough position to succeed.
Fast forward to this season, when Young should return early in the schedule to bolster a truly terrifying defensive front. Carson Wentz is in command in this offense, which boasts rising superstar Terry McLaurin and first-rounder Jahan Dotson, alongside one of the best offensive lines in the league.
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Sure, there are serious question marks surrounding Wentz, but he’s still the same guy who was dealing as the MVP favorite a few years ago before his season was cut short by injury. Wentz is set up to have his best season since his rookie campaign. If he does, watch out for Washington.
Carolina Panthers (125/1)
I’m incredibly bullish on the Panthers, who quietly had one of the best defenses a year ago and are loaded with dynamic skill-position players on offense. The biggest question, obviously, is at quarterback, at which former No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield will be trying to rejuvenate his career with the Panthers.
He’s in a strong position to do so, with former All-Pro back Christian McCaffrey and perennial 1,000-yard receiver D.J. Moore — two of the most talented teammates of Mayfield’s career — behind a much-improved offensive line. A better offense will do wonders for this young and talented defense, which ranked second in yards per drive allowed (27.3) in 2021, but was hindered by the worst starting field position in football.
It all adds up to a compelling ceiling for the Panthers, who are rife with the opportunity for improvement on both sides of the ball in their third year under Matt Rhule. Mayfield’s progression in a make-or-break fifth year is the clear X-factor for Carolina’s season, but at such a long price, there’s massive upside here.