The NFL is back, and the race to Super Bowl LVII is on!
With no overwhelming favorite in either conference, the road to Glendale, Arizona, figures to be filled with countless twists and turns over the next 157 days.
Which two teams will end playing Feb. 12, 2023 in the big game on FOX? We asked our NFL and gambling experts for their picks:
Why the Ravens and Eagles? Because I’m guessing too many others will have the Chargers or Bills over the Packers, and I feel the need to tell you more about a couple of long-shot teams with high ceilings in 2022.
The Eagles play the No. 2 easiest schedule in the NFL this season and have the cheat code of a quarterback on a rookie deal with cap space to use in building around him. I actually bet Philly to have the best record in the NFL at 25/1 because of its upside in schedule.
But Jalen Hurts isn’t as good as Lamar Jackson, and head-to-head, I think the Ravens’ offensive dynamism will be too much. Yes, this means the Ravens have to get through the gauntlet of the AFC playoff field, but so does every other team. It won’t be easy for any one of them.
Jackson had this team as the No. 1 seed in the AFC with an 8-4 record in early December last year despite being the most injured team in the league. And I want to go on record now to tell everyone: Look out for a massive uptick in two-tight-end sets from the Ravens (like they used in 2019) as opposed to below average rates in 2020 and 2021. Isaiah Likely’s presence allows for it, and this offense suddenly will become much more difficult to scheme against.
Two mobile, exciting and non-prototypical QBs in the Super Bowl? Sign me up. I’m picking what I want to see rather than what I think is most likely, but what’s the fun in playing the favorites?
Bucky Brooks: Packers over Chiefs
Despite the offseason concerns regarding the Packers‘ receiving corps, the loss of an All-Pro wideout helps the team discover a formula that leads to greater playoff success. The combination of a running game built around AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones with a suffocating defense led by a collection of homegrown stars reminds old-school Packers’ fans of the Lombardi era.
With Aaron Rodgers always available to bail the team out in a pinch, the new version of the Packers makes life miserable for the rest of the league.
Peter Schrager: Chiefs over Packers
I love when teams evolve and don’t burn out by living in the past, and making decisions based on nostalgia. If Tyreek Hill could have worked under the salary cap, of course, Kansas City wouldn’t have traded him away. He didn’t. And he got a new start in Miami.
But that doesn’t mean Andy Reid’s going to pack up his playbook and go home. If anything, I think Reid’s offense might have some new wrinkles to it.
Teams have given up on stars too soon in the past. But on this one, I’ll roll the dice on Mahomes, Reid and GM Brett Veach. This K.C. train isn’t stopping.
Geoff Schwartz: Chiefs over Bucs
I’m taking the Chiefs because not everyone can pick Buffalo. The Chiefs have the head coach, QB and overall talent to win the Super Bowl. We all know this. Take Kansas City.
Jason McIntyre: Ravens over Vikings
Lamar Jackson’s fairy-tale career continues as he wins a Super Bowl, and proceeds to get the contract he lobbied for all summer. The Vikings, under rookie coach Kevin O’Connell, became the latest team with a Sean McVay disciple to make a run to the Super Bowl.
David Helman: Chiefs over Packers
It feels like we’ve been forecasting this matchup for years with no luck. Maybe with the Bills and Rams stealing all the headlines, these two can fly under the radar a bit and make it happen. Ultimately, I just think it would be fun to watch the game’s two most entertaining quarterbacks square off on its biggest stage.
Henry McKenna: Broncos over Buccaneers
For years, Denver has seemed a quarterback away. This offseason, the Broncos got one of the best in the NFL. Sorry, Tom Brady. Without Pete Carroll to give you the assist at the goal line, Russell Wilson is getting the W in this year’s Super Bowl.
Ralph Vacchiano: Chargers over Buccaneers
I wanted to jump on the Buffalo bandwagon, but it’s just hard to imagine the Bills without their annual suffering. This year, their pain will come in the AFC Championship Game, and at the hands of the new best young quarterback in the game, Justin Herbert.
The Chargers are loaded on offense and spent the offseason reloading on defense, including importing Khalil Mack. They’ve got enough to get through an AFC that probably has the five best teams in football, at least.
As for the NFC, it’s wide open, but I learned a long time ago to never bet against Tom Brady. Not in the Super Bowl, necessarily, but definitely bet on him getting there. And then, when he loses, he can retire again … before unretiring again after that.
Carmen Vitali: Chargers over Vikings
No one gets these things right anyway, so let’s just really make people’s faces melt. It’s anyone’s guess who gets out of the AFC West and with rising star Justin Herbert under center with that defense, why can’t it be the Chargers?
Conversely, the field in the NFC isn’t as murky, and if Kevin O’Connell can recreate some of that L.A. magic with Justin Jefferson and Kirk Cousins, it could be another Minnesota Miracle. Did I just talk myself into this making sense?
Eric D. Williams: Chiefs over Niners
In a rematch of Super Bowl LIV, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes proves to dynamic offensively and San Francisco — even with a switch back to Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback — can’t make enough plays to match the Chiefs‘ explosive offense.
Rob Rang: Chiefs over Eagles
Motivated by the premise that trading away Tyreek Hill removed them from the list of contenders, Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and playmaking defense prove to be the best of the AFC West, then break 2022 MVP Josh Allen and Buffalo’s hearts once again in the conference title game to return to the Super Bowl.
There, Reid is reunited with the Eagles, who dominate the NFC East and soar through the playoffs based on the improved play of quarterback Jalen Hurts, whose game is taken to another level with A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith very much staking a claim as the best young receiver duo in the NFL.
The Super Bowl is an entertaining back-and-forth affair made even more memorable during the break, when it is discovered that the Kelce Bros. left their respective locker rooms to catch the halftime show, a la Cincinnati kicker Evan McPherson a year ago. Neither Kelce is particularly dominant in the game, itself, with new Eagles’ defender C.J. Gardner-Johnson and longtime Chiefs‘ defensive tackle Chris Jones legitimizing their own All-Pro selections with strong efforts.
Ultimately, Mahomes outduels Hurts and a stellar special teams unit, led by placekicker Harrison Butker, gives Kansas City the narrow 27-23 victory.
Patrick Everson: Colts over Packers
I’m a Denver Broncos fan. The Broncos are really my only ride-or-die team. Yeah, I’ll root for my alma mater Colorado Buffaloes, but the only soul-crushing losses for me come at the hands of the Broncos. Think the 1996-97 playoffs, at home to the Jaguars. Or the 2012-13 playoffs vs. the Ravens, again at home, in a game that went to overtime because Denver ostensibly gave up like a third-and-70 for a touchdown.
And, of course, in 2013-14, Denver getting pile-driven by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
So each year, I put in a Super Bowl futures bet on Denver, no matter how good or bad I think they’ll turn out. I’ve done so this year, at 22/1.
But I’ve got my eye on another semi-under-the-radar team: the Indianapolis Colts. Maybe Matt Ryan is done. I don’t know. But between Ryan, Jonathan Taylor, and a solid O-line and defense, I’m firing on Indy at 25/1.
Sam Panayotovich: Packers over Bills
Buffalo is the highest power-rated team in the NFL per the oddsmakers, and that makes sense. But the Bills aren’t invincible by any means.
I like Green Bay to get hot down the stretch and ride a Top 5 defense into the Super Bowl, where Aaron Rodgers will apply the finishing touches.
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