NFL Futures: Best Bets to Win Super Bowl LVI (2022)

Jul 17, 2021 - 11:11 AM

NFL teams are still preparing to open training camp, but the Super Bowl LVI futures market is already taking shape.

The Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the logical favorites. The Chiefs revamped their weakest area, the offensive line. The defending champion Bucs are essentially running it back and banking on ageless Tom Brady, the last quarterback to capture consecutive Lombardis.

Yet at +500 and +650, respectively, on the BettingPros consensus line, the Chiefs and Bucs are too chalky. It’s tempting to turn to longshots like Washington at +5000. But the best values lie squarely in the league’s second tier, where Buffalo, Cleveland, San Francisco, and the Los Angeles Rams are logical contenders at low double-digit prices.

Check out our consensus futures odds for Super Bowl LVI winners >>


My preferred plays are the Browns at +1600 at most venues and the 49ers as high as +1400 at DraftKings. Cleveland’s latest rebuild took hold when the team gelled in the second half of 2020. With their deep roster, the Browns could jump forward rather than regress in head coach Kevin Stefanski’s second year and quarterback Baker Mayfield’s fourth. Health may once again determine San Francisco’s fate, yet with dynamic rookie QB Trey Lance backing up oft-injured Jimmy Garoppolo, the seemingly snake-bitten Niners may be sitting pretty at the game’s most important position.

Neither team has a cushy road to the playoffs, let alone to the big dance. That’s why the odds are decent. The Browns must battle the Ravens and Steelers in the salty AFC North. The 49ers could end up in a four-way fight for the NFC West if Kyler Murray and the Cardinals keep improving. Though the quarterbacks in Cleveland and San Francisco have drawn plenty of criticism in recent years, both teams have the talent and coaching to get to Inglewood, California, next February.

Cleveland Browns (+1600)

In Cleveland’s case, the QB nitpicking has gone too far. Mayfield doesn’t post gaudy stats, but he cut way down on interceptions last season. He gained confidence and a grasp on Stefanski’s playbook as he guided the Browns to their first playoff victory since the 1990s. Mayfield’s QBR, or ESPN total quarterback rating, rose to 72.2 from 54.4 in 2019. A strong comeback from top receiving threat Odell Beckham Jr., who tore his ACL in Week 7 of 2020, would help Mayfield air it out more.

Roster depth at running back was a life-saver last year. Kareem Hunt stepped in when Nick Chubb was lost to the injured reserve. Chubb is the superior runner, and Hunt adds the pass-catching dimension, making them arguably the league’s best tandem. New tackles Jedrick Wills, the team’s first-round draft pick, and Jack Conklin, a free-agent signee, boost the offensive line.

On defense, the Browns added speedy players at all three levels. Cleveland ranked ninth against the run last year but only 22nd against the pass. The personnel changes can help the unit thwart offenses that increasingly are emphasizing a spread-out passing game, according to defensive coordinator Joe Woods.

Stefanski, now 39, won the AP Coach of the Year award in his debut season, overcoming obstacles including Covid-19 havoc en route to 11 wins and no back-to-back losses. He brings overdue continuity to the franchise following two coaching changes in two years.

San Francisco 49ers (+1400)

San Francisco went the other direction in 2020, following up its heartbreaking Super Bowl defeat with a 6-10 stinker. That can happen when your defensive standout, edge rusher Nick Bosa, and your QB, Garoppolo, miss most of the season with injuries. Tight end George Kittle, center Weston Richburg, receiver Deebo Samuel and running back Raheem Mostert were also hobbled to varying degrees.

There’s no guarantee the injury bug won’t continue to strike. Pundits have raised questions about the team’s strength and conditioning program, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s practice regimen, and even the Santa Clara sod. Already, running back Jeff Wilson Jr. will miss at least the first six games after a freak injury, and two of his teammates are done for the season.

Still, the Niners, at close to full strength, can compete with any team in the league. They may be prepared to withstand setbacks as long as things don’t get too ugly.

The team was aggressive in trading up to draft Lance, the dual-threat from North Dakota State, at No. 3 overall. The idea is to mold him as the QB of the future while motivating Jimmy G to ball out in his San Francisco swan song. The move will pay off immediately if the pressure pushes Garoppolo to perform at his best, and he can stay healthy. It also will work if Lance is the one doing the balling out. He might step in as an injury sub or seize the starting job in the preseason, Russell Wilson-style.

The Niners solidified another position when they made an uncharacteristic investment of draft capital in running backs. San Francisco added Ohio State’s Trey Sermon and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elijah Mitchell. The team bolstered its O-line by re-signing Pro Bowler Trent Williams, adding free agent Alex Mack and drafting Notre Dame's Aaron Banks and Western Michigan’s Jaylon Moore.

To the surprise of some, San Francisco mostly stood pat at receiver. Samuel in his third season and Brandon Aiyuk as a sophomore could form a potent pair. Veteran Mohamed Sanu and untested Jalen Hurd are turning heads as potential Kendrick Bourne replacements.

Naturally, the fresh injury news has grabbed headlines during the offseason. Still, there are also encouraging rehab reports on Garoppolo’s ankle, Bosa’s knee, Kittle’s lower body, and Samuel’s hamstring. The team even has “fingers crossed” for rarely available pass rusher Dee Ford.

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