The dust has barely settled on the Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl 56 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, so naturally, its time to jump forward and look to next year’s […]
The dust has barely settled on the Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl 56 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, so naturally, its time to jump forward and look to next year’s Super Bowl, right?
Of course, there’s plenty that will change between now and the NFL’s 2022 kickoff game in September. Impending retirements, free agency, trades, and the 2022 NFL Draft could all change the landscape of the league over the next six months. But its still interesting to look to the future and evaluate which teams currently have the tools to make a run at Super Bowl 57.
First things first, will the Los Angeles Rams return to the Super Bowl to defend their title next season? More often than not, teams struggle to win or even appear in back-to-back Super Bowls. Could the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, or someone else take the Rams place as the NFC winner next season?
In the AFC, Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals will certainly be in the mix again next season, but Cincinnati faces stiff competition not just in their own conference, but within their own division. The Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens will look to prevent the Bengals from winning back-to-back AFC North titles, and the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, and Los Angeles Chargers all look formidable as well heading into next season.
While there’s plenty of moving parts that will fall into place between now and September, here are the Top Ten Contenders for Super Bowl 57 as I see it right now. If you’d like to debate or discuss, join the conversation with @SakSports on Twitter.
Last Year’s Prediction
This time last year, I predicted my Top Ten Super Bowl 56 Contenders. The list was a success in some ways, but ultimately, widely off from the actual Super Bowl 56 matchup. My list was accurate in the fact my top four contenders: the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, and Kansas City Chiefs were all in the playoffs this season, along with the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers, who also made my Top Ten.
But the Los Angeles Rams appeared only as an honorable mention, with two NFC West squads (Seattle and Arizona) getting Top Ten nods over them. The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t receive any consideration, and its fair to say their rise to the top of the AFC this season surprised many NFL fans.
- Tennessee Titans: Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans are coming off a year where they earned the best record in the AFC despite losing Derrick Henry for the second half of the season. Not including them somewhere on this list seems downright criminal. And yet, Titans still fall outside my Top 10. Maybe I just don’t see as much room for growth with this squad, but that could all change with a big trade or free agency signing.
- Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., and the Cleveland Browns were one of my Top 10 Contenders for Super Bowl 56 from a year out. But after a decent start to the season, OBJ left town, the Browns fell apart during a tough stretch at the end of the season, and fans are calling for the team to move on fro Mayfield. Despite all this doom and gloom, the Browns were a game or two away from being a playoff team last season. With a healthy offense and defense, Cleveland was going toe-to-toe with the NFL’s best teams last season, and might not be as long a shot as Vegas is making them out to be (+3500, 17th-best odds.)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Obviously the first question about the 2022-23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers is who will replace Tom Brady as the starting quarterback. While the Buccaneers are due from some roster turnover this offseason, Tampa Bay still has many of the pieces necessary to compete for another Super Bowl: again, contingent on who is playing quarterback. If it’s somehow Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, or Deshaun Watson, the Buccaneers would easily be a Top 5 contender to win it all. But if its one of these five more realistic options, the Buccaneers would be a slightly longer shot, but a potential contender nonetheless.
- San Francisco 49ers: Putting the San Francisco 49ers in this category after they were one quarter of football away from making Super Bowl 56 seems wrong. The 49ers have a smashmouth defense and a more than capable offense with Jimmy Garoppolo. But if the rumors are true and the 49ers want to move on from Garoppolo, which wouldn’t be surprising considering their first round selection of Trey Lance in last year’s draft, I fear San Francisco will regress. While the 49ers are no shoo-in to succeed again next season in a tough NFC West, they certainly deserve to be in the conversation after reaching the NFC Championship Game in January.
- Indianapolis Colts: Was Carson Wentz a perfect quarterback in his first season with the Indianapolis Colts? Of course not, but in the second half of the season, the Colts were a formidable force. It’s a shame Indianapolis couldn’t beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 18 to get in to the postseason, but if the Colts can replicate their late-season success behind running back Jonathan Taylor, they could certainly be in the playoff mix next season.
10. New England Patriots
Rookie Mac Jones helped the New England Patriots return to the playoffs in just the franchise’s second year without Tom Brady. As Jones progresses as an NFL quarterback, having future Hall of Fame head coach Bill Belichick and a talented roster gives the Patriots a chance to compete for a Super Bowl even in the post-Brady era.
The Patriots had a real shot at winning the AFC East this past season, but faltered down the stretch and settled for a wildcard position. New England’s defense was historically bad in a Wildcard Round loss to the Bills, leaving Jones with literally no paths to victory unless the Patriots matched Buffalo by scoring a touchdown on every single possession.
Still, the Patriots went 10-7 and made the playoffs with a rookie quarterback: hopefully there’s nowhere to go but up. New England doesn’t need drastic improvements, but a couple minor upgrades on offense and defense could go a long way towards building future success.
The Patriots are in an unfamiliar underdog role. Josh Allen and the Bills have won the AFC East in back-to-back seasons, and will the favorite to run it back next season. Within the AFC alone, odds makers have the Patriots tied for the eighth-most likely team to win Super Bowl 57 and the 14th-most likely overall. I give the Patriots better odds personally, as the sixth-best AFC team and tenth-best team overall as of right now. Betting against Belichick as the Patriots build the next version of their team could be a fool’s gambit.
9. Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers are coming off an up-and-down, 9-8 season, with their playoff hopes being crushed in the final game of the season against the Las Vegas Raiders. Justin Herbert and the Chargers notched wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals in the regular season, but fell apart down the stretch with a 1-3 record in their final four games with a playoff berth on the line.
Still, Herbert, Keenan Allen, and the Chargers offense proved they could beat anyone in the NFL in the right circumstances. Herbert took a decent leap in his second season in the NFL, leading Los Angeles to the fifth-best scoring offense (27.9 PPG) in the league. Unfortunately, a pretty porous defense (27.0 PPG allowed, third-most in the NFL) made it difficult to capitalize on Hebert’s passing abilities. The Chargers final three losses of the season all came despite the offense scoring 28 points or more.
The Chargers have the 14th-best odds to win Super Bowl 57 at +2500 per Ceasar’s Sportsbook. I see them as a Top 10 contender, assuming Herbert’s continued growth and the assumption Los Angeles will do something, anything to shore up the defense even a little bit. Los Angeles also suffers from playing in a tough division, but even if they can’t win the AFC West over Kansas City, they could still compete for a Super Bowl as a wildcard team next postseason.
8. Dallas Cowboys
The Dak Prescott era in Dallas has had its highs and lows since the former Mississippi State quarterback took over as the franchise’s quarterback in 2016. But at the end of the day, when Prescott is healthy, the Dallas Cowboys are typically a payoff team by the end of the season. The Cowboys have made the postseason three out of five seasons that Prescott has played from start to finish, Prescott usually leads a high-flying offense, and retains weapons like Ezekiel Elliot, Amari Cooper, and CeeDee Lamb heading into the 2022-23 season.
The Cowboys fell short in the playoffs last season, losing to the 49ers at home in the Wildcard Round after an 11-5 finish and NFC East crown. Dallas has to get over the hump in the playoffs, where they are 1-3 in the Prescott-era. Dallas has yet to reach the NFC Championship Game with their current core.
But with a 4,00-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher, and nearly two 1,000-yard receivers, Dallas is built to continue competing next season. The Cowboys scored the most points in the league last season (31.2 PPG) and held a top ten defense to boot. Dallas needs to improve against playoff-caliber teams, as they went just 3-4 against eventual playoff teams last season.
While there’s no reason to think the Cowboys will definitely make a leap, I see them as very likely to return to the playoffs next season. If getting there is half the battle, Dallas should already have a leg up. But whether the Cowboys turn their next playoff appearence in to a deep run or another one-and-done is yet to be seen.
The oddsmakers and myself nearly agree, with Cesar’s giving Dallas the seventh-best odds at +1600 while I have the Cowboys as the eighth-most likely team to win Super Bowl 57.
7. Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals were the NFL’s last undefeated team at 7-0 this past season, with Kyler Murray looking like a no-brainer for NFL MVP halfway through the season. Unfortunately, Arizona suffered a second-half collapse for the second straight season, losing four of their final five games to back in to the postseason instead of winning the NFC West. The Cardinals were then easily dismissed by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Rams in the Wildcard Round with a 34-11 loss.
Still, the Cardinals are trending in the right direction despite their disappointing finish. After finishing 5-10-1 in 2019, Arizona started 2020 with a solid 6-3 record before stumbling to 8-8 and missing the playoffs. Last year, the Cardinals came out 7-0 before finishing 11-6 with a playoff berth. At this rate, Ariozna could be a 12 or 13-win team in 2022-23.
First and foremost, the Cardinals have Kyler Murray, which almost every team in the NFL wishes they could say. Furthermore, this year’s late-season collapse didn’t come out of nowhere: it was heavily influenced by the absence of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins down the stretch. While its anyone’s guess what would have happened, I do believe the Cardinals could have won the NFC West if Hopkins didn’t go down.
The NFC West will remain a formidable place to play next season, but the Cardinals have the tools, and perhaps now the experience, to make yet another accession next season. I could absolutely see Murray and the Cardinals in Super Bowl 57 as the next refreshing, young team to reach the big game.
Ceasar’s has the Cardinals as the 12th-most likely team to win Super Bowl 57 at +2500, but I think with a healthy Murray and Hopkins, their chances are better than that.
6. Cincinnati Bengals
After unseating the top-seeded Titans, upsetting the Chiefs on their own turf, making it to Super Bowl 56 and even holding a lead in the fourth quarter, the Cincinnati Bengals have to be in the conversation for next year’s Super Bowl. However, with Cincinnati’s unlikely late-season rise to the top of the AFC this season, it’s hard to predict if the Bengals will be just as good next January. If the season ended five or six weeks earlier, the Bengals would have been nowhere near the best team in the AFC. But that’s the beauty of the NFL: get hot at the right time, and any team can make a deep postseason run.
On paper, there’s no reason the Bengals roster can’t get better, or at the very least stay relatively the same from year-to-year. The offense should only get better, a scary thought, behind the youth and talent of Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Joe Mixon. While Cincinnati’s defense and their offensive line both have room for improvement, the Bengals still very well could have won Super Bowl 56. If they address those issues, who knows how high the Bengals ceiling could be.
The Bengals seemingly came out of nowhere this season,, but I think Cincinnati will remain a playoff team and Super Bowl contender in 2022-23. I’m not sold that the Bengals are likely to repeat as AFC Champions, but it’s certainly possible. Cesar’s Sportsbook gives the Bengal +1000 odds, the fourth-highest of any team, but I have Cincinnati as a more conservative sixth-most likely team to win Super Bowl 57.
5. Baltimore Ravens
While Burrow and the Bengals rose to the occasion to win the AFC North last season, I still think when everyone is healthy, the Baltimore Ravens are still the best team in the division. Baltimore posted a 35-13 record over the previous three seasons before 2021-22, making the playoffs all three times, and looked poised to return to the postseason with an 8-3 start to last season. But the Ravens were decimated by injuries and COVID-19 protocols, stumbling to an 8-9 finish with six straight losses to end the season.
MVP-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson was the most notable absence, but the Ravens still remained competitive with Tyler Huntley under center. Five of the Ravens final six losses came by three points or less this season. Essentially, despite a slew of injuries including Jackson’s absence from the field, Baltimore was just a few plays away from postseason contention.
With Jackson back, a healthy running back room, and with weapons on both sides of the ball, the Ravens should absolutely bounce back in 2022-23. I like Baltimore to reclaim the AFC North title after a couple seasons without winning the division. And while Jackson is just 1-3 to start his playoff career, I like the Ravens chances to make a Super Bowl run as soon as next season.
Baltimore has the ninth-best odds to win Super Bowl 57 at +2000, so it’s fair to say I’m a little higher on the Ravens than the oddsmakers.
4. Green Bay Packers
Assuming Aaron Rodgers doesn’t find a way to force himself in to a new situation, the Green Bay Packers have to be mentioned near the top of the conversation for Super Bowl 57 contenders. Green Bay had an absolutely disappointing playoff performance in a loss to the 49ers in January, but enjoyed an immensely successful regular season, earning the best record in the NFL at 13-4. Take out a Jordan Love loss to the Chiefs and a meaningless Week 18 loss to the Lions, and the Packers were 13-2 in games that mattered with Rodgers at quarterback. The Packers were pretty darn hard to beat last season, and should be again in 2022-23.
If the Packers can’t retain Davante Adams or replace him with another top tier receiving threat, the Packers could regress a little. But with Tom Brady out of the picture in the NFC, there’s very few teams you can count on to be well above average next season: and the Packers are one of them. Despite not reaching a Super Bowl in over a decade, the Packers have been right there for years now, with back-to-back NFC Championship Game losses before this season. Some may count multiple losses in that situation as a negative, but I’m more in the camp that getting there is half the battle, and Rodgers puts his team in position to compete for a Super Bowl every season.
Green Bay opens with the sixth-best Super Bowl odds per Ceasar’s Sportsbook at +1500.
3. Los Angeles Rams
Coming off a 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals to win Super Bowl 56, the Los Angeles Rams are the third-most likely team (in both betting odds and my personal opinion) to win it all in 2023. Winning back-to-back Super Bowl titles is rare, but Los Angeles has the tools to potentially run it back next season.
Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, and Cam Akers round out a solid returning offense that scored the seventh-most points in the NFL last season. While Los Angeles can’t count on Odell Beckham Jr. to return, due to both injury and the wide receiver’s impending free agency, the Rams should get Robert Woods back some time next season. Defensively, the Rams should be stacked once again despite Eric Weddle’s second retirement, assuming All-Pro Aaron Donald doesn’t join him in retirement.
The Rams should easily be the favorite to win the NFC again next season. They’ll have some challengers, like the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, and talented rivals within the NFC West division, but on paper, Los Angeles has the best roster in the NFC, and a great chance to defend their Super Bowl title.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs have the best odds to win Super Bowl 57 on Ceasars Sportsbook at +650, and for good reason. Despite an uncharacteristic and shockingly bad second half in the AFC Championship against the Bengals, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are always a force to be reckoned with in the AFC. While Kansas City’s season-ending result has gotten worse in each of the last three seasons (Super Bowl win, Super Bowl loss, AFC Championship Game loss) the fact of the matter is, the Chiefs have made it to at least the AFC Championship Game in each out the last four season, and odds are, they will be there again at the end of the 2022-23 season as long as Mahomes is playing quarterback.
Mahomes has a 50-13 record in the regular season, securing the AFC West title each of the last four seasons. This sets Kansas City up with at least, but usually multiple home playoff games each postseason. Mahomes is now 8-3 in the playoffs, with a 2019 AFC Championship loss to Brady’s Patriots, a Super Bowl 55 loss to Brady’s Buccaneers, and a 2022 AFC Championship loss to Burrow’s Bengals. An 8-3 playoff record is still very good, and Mahomes has won multiple postseason games each of the past three seasons. This sustained success at getting to and advancing in the postseason makes the Chiefs a Super Bowl each and every season, again, as long as Mahomes is lining up at quarterback.
There could be some roster turnover, especially defensively with Tyrann Mathieu expected to move on from the team. But with Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Andy Reid all coming back, there’s no reason to think the Chiefs won’t be Super Bowl contenders once again next postseason.
1. Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and the Buffalo Bills had some highs and lows during the regular season, but ultimately won the AFC East and established themselves as one of the most feared offenses in the league. The Bills have the second-best odds to win it all at +700, just a hair behind the Chiefs, but in my humble opinion, Buffalo is ready to get over the hump and win Super Bowl 57.
Of course, the Bills narrowly lost to Kansas City 42-36 in an overtime Divisional Round thriller where Allen never got to touch the ball in overtime. Getting to Super Bowl 57 will likely require getting through Mahomes and the Chiefs, and despite the losing effort, the Bills absolutely proved they could potentially beat the Chiefs on their own turf in a playoff situation. Right now, I’d say Bills-Chiefs is essentially a toss-up, but if anything changes by next January, say the Chiefs lose a couple key players, or Buffalo earns a higher seed than Kansas City next postseason, then the Bills could easily see themselves favored over Kansas City.
With an electric offense led by Allen that literally put up the NFL’s first-ever perfect offensive game against the New England Patriots and a defense that effectively shut down Mahomes in the second half of their playoff bout, the Bills have the tools to make another deep playoff run next season. While I was incorrect picking the Bills as my Super Bowl 56 winner heading into the season, I’ll probably do it again this year. While the Bills had their ups-and-downs during the regular season, when this team is clicking, they’re almost impossible to stop. Buffalo is in prime position to reach and win Super Bowl 57 in 2023.
Super Bowl 57 Future Odds provided by Bovada via Sportsbetting.legal as of February 13, 2022. I am not affiliated with either, and do not have any open bets for Super Bowl 57. This article is not intended to be betting advice.
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