Ranking the NFL’s Top 5 Sleeper Teams for the 2022 Season

0 out of 5

    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Last year, the Cincinnati Bengals started the season with some of the worst Super Bowl odds in the league.

    In the end, they didn’t go from long shot to Super Bowl winner, but they came perilously close to the Lombardi Trophy.

    It would have taken Nostradamus to predict that Joe Burrow would come back from a torn ACL as strong as him, Ja’Marr Chase would elevate the offense and all of their defensive acquisitions would gel as quickly as them.

    Yet all of that happened and the Bengals won the AFC.

    While there isn’t a story like Cincinnati every season, there are always dormant teams that are having a much better season than expected. The 2022 season should produce at least one or two teams that are doing much better than expected.

    The definition of “sleeper” can be broad. To clarify, we’re looking at teams that have less than +2000 chances of winning the Super Bowl at DraftKings Sportsbook. That’s roughly the top 10 contenders.

    These teams are not in this category at the moment, but they could very well be by the end of the season.

1 out of 5

    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Super Bowl odds: +13,000

    Let’s start with a real long shot.

    While there’s no guarantee we’ll see a team with a similar rise to the Bengals, the New York Jets do have some similarities to this Cincinnati team in 2021.

    Zach Wilson will be a second-year quarterback whose first season was plagued by injuries. He missed weeks 8-11 last season and only went 3-10 as a starter. Wilson isn’t Burrow, but before Burrow led the Bengals to the AFC Championship last season, he was 2-7-1 as a starter in his first season.

    When Wilson returned from injury in Week 11, he did so as a much better quarterback. After throwing four touchdowns for nine interceptions from Week 1 through Week 7, he threw five touchdowns for just two interceptions in the final seven games of the season.

    This year, the Jets are bringing back a much better supporting cast. Laken Tomlinson joins the offensive line, while Alijah Vera-Tucker and Mekhi Becton have offseason development.

    Robert Saleh is a defensive coach and he has a very different defense to work with. The Jets had Sauce Gardner and Jermaine Johnson II through the draft and DJ Reed to play corner opposite Gardner.

    There are a lot of unanswered questions at this point, but if everything falls into place for the Jets, they will be much better than expected.

2 out of 5

    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +2500

    The Eagles’ signing of cornerback James Bradberry is just the latest move to reshape Philadelphia’s defense. That defense and the improved cast around QB Jalen Hurts on offense made the Eagles one of the most underrated teams in the league.

    Granted, the team that hits their cap is counting on Hurts to unlock another level as a setter. But even if he doesn’t, the Eagles are going to be dangerous.

    Last season it took them a while to establish their identity, but once they realized they were a heavy team that could play good defense, they ended the season on a 6-2 streak. .

    Sure, that all came crashing down in a 31-15 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the playoffs, but the Eagles have made quite a few improvements to this team.

    Getting AJ Brown creates a dynamic receiving duo with DeVonta Smith. The addition of Haason Reddick adds some bite to an already talented passing rush. Josh Sweat (third), Derek Barnett (seventh) and Reddick (eighth) were all in ESPN’s top 10. pass-rush success rate metric.

    As long as Hurts can show at least some progression, all the tools are in place for the Eagles to compete in the NFC East.

3 out of 5

    Mary Holt/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +4000

    Dolphins and Eagles are in similar boats. Both are eyeing third-year quarterbacks who hold the key to the success of their 2022 campaigns after doing a lot to improve the overall roster.

    The Dolphins have the uncertainty of adding a new head coach in Mike McDaniel, but he just happens to specialize in the side of the ball the Dolphins need to improve the most.

    There’s a lot to like about the Dolphins defense already. Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are a solid pair from outside corners, the defense finished seventh in ESPN’s defensive effectiveness last season, and they held off just about everyone while adding Melvin Ingram as a setter.

    What makes the Dolphins a sleeper is the offensive potential. They had one of the worst offensive lines in the leagues last year, but made notable changes by signing Terron Armstead and Connor Williams.

    They gave Tua Tagovailoa one of Tyreek Hill’s best offensive weapons and rebuilt the running backs corps. Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel will love McDaniel’s offense.

    The Dolphins’ proven ability on defense and litany of offensive changes puts them just above the Eagles here.

4 out of 5

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +2200

    It’s hard to trust a franchise that lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars with a playoff trip on the line, but there’s reason to believe in the 2022 version of the Indianapolis Colts.

    For one, Carson Wentz is gone. For some reason, Wentz’s results in the win-loss column never seemed to match the numbers he put up in the box score. There’s little explanation why a quarterback who posted a career passer rating of 90.1 would be traded twice in two years before he turned 30, but that’s where we are. .

    Matt Ryan, who spent the last two seasons of his career with a listless Falcons franchise, will take his place under center. He’s 37, but he still led the Falcons to seven wins last season and threw for nearly 4,000 yards.

    Now he joins a team that boasts one of the most vaunted running attacks in the league. Jonathan Taylor had 2,171 yards from scrimmage last season and Michael Pittman Jr. had a stellar year with 1,082 yards and six touchdowns.

    On defense, the Colts finished 10th in ESPN’s defensive effectiveness and added Yannick Ngakoue to their pass rush and replaced Rock Ya-Sin with Stephon Gilmore.

    The team has posted winning seasons in three of the four seasons under head coach Frank Reich. Now he has a team that can play good defense, run the ball and rely on a veteran quarterback.

    It’s a recipe for a club that could do damage in the playoffs.

5 out of 5

    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    Super Bowl odds: +2200

    Based on Super Bowl odds and season win totals, it looks like the Baltimore Ravens are the AFC North’s forgotten contender.

    Every other team on this list has quarterback questions. Baltimore has a 2019 MVP in Lamar Jackson who is still young enough (25) to be on his rookie contract.

    There are a few fair questions about this Ravens roster. Namely, the receiving body is uncertain after the team traded Marquise Brown to the Cardinals.

    But it’s still a team that was 8-3 going into Week 13 before losing Jackson for the majority of a six-game skid.

    Losing Brown hurts, but the Ravens also acquired several key plays this offseason. Safety Marcus Williams and offensive tackle Morgan Moses are both strong starters, while their draft class includes a few prospects that should help immediately in safety Kyle Hamilton, center Tyler Linderbaum and defensive tackle Travis Jones.

    When Jackson was healthy, the Ravens were among the best teams in the league. They don’t have a perfect roster. They could always use an addition to wide receiver, and a proven pass-rusher wouldn’t hurt either.

    However, they deserve more respect as a legitimate contender to win the AFC North and make a deep run in the playoffs.

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