When the Broncos beat the Panthers just over a year ago in Super Bowl 50, you might have been tempted to put a futures bet on Carolina to win Super Bowl 51. There was reason for optimism even though they fell short. The same could have been said about Arizona, who lost to the Panthers in the NFC Title Game.
However, neither team was competitive this year, and those future tickets were torn up months ago. With the NFL season now over, who are your best bets for next season? Let’s explore some options with prices long enough to get us excited.
Best Super Bowl 52 Futures Bets
Denver Broncos (16/1)
The best defense in the NFL overcame an average (at best) Peyton Manning to win it all two years ago. This past season, the defense took a step back, and neither Trevor Siemian nor Paxton Lynch proved to be even as good as a decaying Manning. There is a significant chance the quarterback will be upgraded in the off-season, and their new head coach, Vance Joseph, is a defensive specialist. Both sides of the ball could be better next year.
Need more reasons for a sunny forecast? The Broncos’ 25 turnovers last season ranked among the bottom third of the league; that should regress to the mean. Denver was also fourth in the AFC in point differential despite playing in the toughest division in the NFL. They offer value, and could be one acquisition away from being Super Bowl-level good. John Elway has never been afraid to make a bold move.
Oakland Raiders (19/1)
Throw out Week 17 and the post-season loss to Houston when Derek Carr was sidelined, and Oakland had a fantastic 2016 season. They were 13-3 after 16 games. Carr was a legitimate MVP candidate before breaking his leg and his importance showed with fervor when Matt McGloin/Connor Cook were taking the snaps. In Carr’s three seasons Oakland has gone from three wins, to seven, to 12. General Manager Reggie McKenzie smartly built his team at the same pace as Carr’s maturation. The Raiders need help on defense, but they have a quarterback on a rookie contract, and the cap space to improve. They’ll be looking for the final pieces this offseason. They had an even better year than the Broncos in the hyper-tough AFC South and offer significant value at 19/1.
Carolina Panthers (28/1)
The Panthers finished 6-10 in 2016, but it was one of those years that just went wrong from the start, and there was no way to recover. Carolina lost a heart-breaker at Denver to begin the season, and then fell to red hot Minnesota and at Atlanta in two of the next three. A Cam Newton-less Panthers team then lost to the Bucs to drop to 1-4, and the season was basically lost.
There’s no doubt the departure of Josh Norman hurt the Panther secondary, but they probably have the best cap situation in the league. They have 60 players inked for 2017, and $50 million of room to maneuver. They aren’t likely to turn the ball over 29 times next year, and this is a team that made the playoffs in three straight years (including a Super Bowl berth) prior to 2016. Throw in a top-ten draft pick and Carolina should be much improved in 2017.
Photo Credit: Erik Drost (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.