With Week 1 officially here, all the talk around the league is centered around who can dethrone the Kansas City Chiefs. Once again, they kick off the season as the favorites to win it all. Behind them, the online betting Super Bowl odds have teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills closely behind.
It’s been a while since a dark horse took home the Lombardi trophy, despite whatever “they doubted us” narrative certain champions push. There are a few teams further down the projected standings who could surprise the league.
3 Super Bowl Dark Horses Who Can Win it All
Miami Dolphins (+2500)
Currently projected to finish third in the AFC East, the Dolphins are flying under the radar. When they have to compete with the likes of Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers, it makes sense. However, Miami has the talent to compete and challenge for not just the division but the Super Bowl.
This year could be the year that Tua Tagovailoa takes the step forward that many within Miami believe he’s capable of. With Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle as his receivers, it’s certainly a possibility. He led the league with 8.9 yards per attempt in 13 games. Additionally, he led the way in air yards per attempt, yards per completion, quarterback rating, and touchdown percentage. As long as his offensive line doesn’t play as poorly as last year, he will be okay.
Defensively, Miami has plenty of talent but was ravaged by injuries last year. This year, Jalen Ramsey is going to start on the sidelines but there is still talent. Christian Wilkins and Jaelen Phillips are going to lead the defensive line with Bradley Chubb and Jerome Baker manning the linebackers.
The Dolphins are the most exciting ignored team in 2023.
Minnesota Vikings (+4000)
Every year, there is a team that jumps out to a hot start but ends up as a fraud. The Pittsburgh Steelers were in 2020, the Tennessee Titans were in 2021, and unfortunately, the Vikings were last year. Even then, Minnesota has the pieces to make a run again in 2023.
While they lost/cut Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison will be more than capable of leading the rushing attack. However, the offense goes as the top receiver in the NFL goes. Justin Jefferson has been elevating the Vikings’ offense ever since stepping on the field as a rookie and Minny drafted an incredibly capable number-two, Jordan Addison. Even if Kirk Cousins is not MVP-worthy, this offense is one to tune in to.
The weakness was on the defensive side of the ball last year. They brought in Brian Flores to fix that side of the ball. Marcus Davenport, Danielle Hunter, and Byron Murphy highlight a defense that that will have to be remotely decent to give the team a shot.
The Vikings are the defending division champs but they’ve taken a back seat to the Detroit Lions. Not to mention the changing of the guard in Green Bay and the hype surrounding the Bears. Minnesota has what it takes but it may take another seemingly unsustainable record in one-score games to do it.
New York Giants (+4800)
Finally, the team that dispatched the Vikings in the playoffs, the New York Giants. There was once a time when the NFC East was a laughingstock in the NFL. Now, they could have three teams make the playoffs yet again.
The Giants made a move in the offseason that could take the offense to another level. Darren Waller is a dynamic tight end and he will be a fantastic weapon for Daniel Jones. Additionally, Saquan Barkley is back and will be able to earn that paycheck that he’s yearning for. They have a solid tackle combo in Evan Neal and Andrew Thomas so Jones will have plenty of time to get the job done.
On defense, the Giants are solid. Kayvon Thibodeaux is bound for a second-year jump alongside the rest of the New York defensive line that needs a bit of improvement. They allowed scores on nearly 40% of drives which finished as the eighth-worst in the NFL. They got better as the year went on but it will be something worth keeping an eye on.
Playing in a tough division is not a death knell to a team’s success, but it does make it harder. The last team to finish third in their division and make a Super Bowl was the 1985 New England Patriots. Even if the Giants finish behind the Eagles and Cowboys, they have the talent to get to where they need to.