Early Dark Horses and Sleeper Picks to Win Super Bowl LVI

As the anticipation for the NFL Draft begins to mount, the number of pundits, pros and armchair fanatics thinking about next year is starting to rise.

In 2021-22 they might have to overcome the possibility of a 17-game season and more international matches, but by the time the showpiece occasion comes around next February, only the two best franchises will remain in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy.

Reigning champions Tampa Bay will be in the conversation, you suspect, alongside the team they vanquished in Super Bowl LV, the Kansas City Chiefs.

Others, including the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers, are expected to enjoy a deep run into the business end of the postseason.

Of course, there’s always room for a surprise or two in the NFL, and there are some teams that are undoubtedly knocking on the door of a considerable run of their own in 2021-22 if they a) recruit well and hang on to key figures of their own, and b) get off to a good start when the new season gets underway in September.

Here’s a selection of sleepers and dark horses to follow this campaign:

Los Angeles Rams

As if the Los Angeles Ram needed any more motivation, it’s noteworthy that Super Bowl LVI will take place at their SoFi Stadium home.

Yes, we all know about the Super Bowl curse for host teams, but the Buccaneers showed that such superstition can be overcome and the Rams look well placed to follow suit.

They’ve got in early with their major trade activity, kicking quarterback Jared Goff to the kerb and bringing in former Detroit Lions man Matthew Stafford as their new playmaker. Most would agree that is a considerable upgrade.

Stafford will have an exciting offensive line to work with. Cam Akers and Robert Woods are both outstanding runners and receivers, while guys like DeSean Jackson, Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson are far more than just depth players. If Sean McVay has been working hard on his playbook, that offense will take some stopping at its best.

That’s before we even talk about their defense too. Aaron Donald requires no introduction, but don’t underestimate the brilliance of Jalen Ramsey, Micah Kiser and Leonard Floyd too.

If both departments fire, the Rams can usurp the Seahawks in NFC West and enjoy perhaps an easier route to the divisional finals than their AFC counterparts. At +1400 in the futures NFL odds from Betway, they might just be the best value wager out there right now.

Washington Football

Washington gave a good account of themselves in the playoffs last season, pushing the Buccaneers hard in the Wild Card game.

There’s no reason why they won’t dominate the NFC East once again given how poor the competition is in that bracket, and then Washington could benefit from a handy draw in the postseason.

It’s all if’s, but’s and maybe’s of course, but if the likes of Chase Young, Alex Smith and Brandon Scherff perform to the best of their abilities then who knows what they can achieve.

For Martin Mayhew and Ron Rivera, the key will be in a solid summer of recruitment. Can they tempt Ryan Kerrigan to re-sign? Can they sign a catcher of the calibre of O.J. Howard, Zach Ertz or David Njoku? And can they capture an elite quarterback such as Matt Ryan?

The answers to these questions will ultimately determine how high Washington can fly.

Tennessee Titans

Having followed up a run to the AFC Championship game with another strong showing in 2020, the Titans are very much a threat to the established order in the NFL.

Their defeat to the Ravens in the postseason came as a surprise to some, and they will be hoping to use that as motivational fuel this time around.

To battle your way to the Super Bowl you need the ‘X factor’ to go with your solid roster, and in Derrick Henry, the Titans have an elite rusher of the like there is no equal in the NFL.

The danger he brings allows Ryan Tannehill at QB to be more circumspect in his passing options, and a solid defensive line is helmed by the likes of Jeffery Simmons.

The main concern is their questionable recruitment of late, with Isaiah Wilson and Vic Beasley proving to be flops of the highest order, but Mike Vrabel has reiterated his belief that the Titans’ recruitment game is strong and so it will be interesting to see how they fare during the offseason.

They, along with the Rams and Washington, could make a mockery of their ‘outsider’ status in 2021.

AFI
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