Dark horses for NFL success in the season ahead

Wed, Aug 23, 2023
by CapperTek

The biggest sporting tournament on the US calendar gets underway in a few short weeks. The NFL is one of those sporting events that even non-sports fans get caught up in, especially when it comes to the playoffs and the run up to the Super Bowl.

Ask any sports pundit or sports betting expert and he or she will have an opinion on the likely candidates for Super Bowl LVIII. But for those with a genuine fascination for football in the US, and especially for anyone who likes betting on football, the real fun at this stage before the season gets underway is in spotting those teams who have a chance of beating the odds and over-achieving.

Whether it’s just for fun or you are seeking inspiration for an early pre-season NFL wager, we have selected five dark horses who just might overcome the bookmakers’ favorites like the Chiefs, Eagles and Bills.

Detroit Lions – the League’s worst kept secret

So many people took the Lions to heart last year that they are really more of a “poorly lit” horse. After a 1-6 start, the Lions mustered a 9-8 season and were within an ace of the playoffs.

Quarterback Jared Goff had the season of his life, and if he picks up where he left off when the regular season starts, he will have plenty of targets ready and waiting, including receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Marvin Jones Jr. Detroit have also bolstered their secondary with the addition of former Steeler Cameron Sutton at cornerback and defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson from the Eagles.

As far as the bookies are concerned, the genie is out of the bottle. They are all torn between Detroit and Minnesota for NFC North glory, but the Lions are marginally ahead. The bookies agree that this year, Detroit are shoe-ins for the playoffs. But just how far could they go? Most have them at odds of about +2000 to win the Super Bowl.

Miami Dolphins are the classic stalking horses

If the Lions are “poorly lit” we’ll call the Dolphins horses of the stalking variety. Here’s the thing, nobody seriously believed they would make the playoffs last year, and 50 percent of American sports fans have already forgotten that they did. Never mind the fact that they took Buffalo all the way to the wire in the most thrilling wildcard game in years!

All the talk in the AFC East is going to be around the Bills and the Jets, both of whom are odds-on for the playoffs. That’s just the way Miami like it. Their dynamic offense, featuring Pro Bowler Tyreek Hill is capable of giving any opposition nightmares. And if incoming cornerback Jalen Ramsey recovers quickly from injury, the defense will be formidable too.

The bookmakers are sure the Dolphins are third favorite for the AFC East, so there are some great odds out there for those willing to believe they can at least repeat last year’s achievement – and maybe even do better.

Could the Titans keep it going this time round?

For Tennessee, the 2022/23 season was like the Lions in reverse. Yes, they lost their last seven regular season games on the fly, but if the regular season had ended at Thanksgiving, they could have been Super Bowl winners!

All joking aside, Derrick Henry is the fastest man in the NFL and is living proof that running backs are as important today as they have ever been. This is a man who can take a game away from the opposition single handed. The good news for Titans fans is that he won’t necessarily have to with DeAndre Hopkins arriving at wide receiver on a $26 million deal.

At +300, Tennessee to win the AFC South is the sort of wager that could get a lot of interest in the run up to the start of the season. They are a +5000 shot for Super Bowl glory.

Minnesota’s return to the top is only a matter of time

Bridesmaid’s dresses are not the natural attire of Vikings fans. Yet year after year, Minnesota have flattered to deceive, putting in solid regular season performances only to see it all fall apart in the post season. Last year was a case in point, when they won the NFC North by some margin only to be sent packing by the Giants in the wildcard round of the playoffs.

All the hype surrounding the Lions is allowing the Vikings to fly under the radar, and that means some potentially generous odds at the sports books. Make no mistake, the Vikings offense has the potential to be among the best in the league. In Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison, they have the perfect blend of proven experience and promising youth. Kirk Cousins is also a proven performer who perhaps does not get the plaudits he deserves. Last year, he was a top-five finisher in both passing yards and passing touchdowns.

If you are in the mood for a Hail Mary on an outsider for the Super Bowl, some sports books have Minnesota at a generous +4000.

The Steelers could come in from the cold

All the talk in the AFC North has been around the Bengals the past couple of years, for obvious reasons. But this is a division that no team has really dominated. Last year, Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett strung together four straight wins to close out his rookie season and if he can carry that into the new season, Pittsburgh could be one of 2023/24’s surprise packages.

The bookmakers are offering +400 if you think Pittsburgh can top their division, odds that are skewed favorably by the sheer weight of bets being placed on Cincinnati even now. Proof, as if we need it, that in sport, sometimes it is better to be good than to be popular.