The VSiN pro football experts have been hard at work this summer, writing up team previews and predictions for all 32 teams, including their favorite individual season win total and College Football Playoff bets.
Here are their favorite Super Bowl LVII wagers:
Indianapolis Colts (25-1)
Matt Youmans: In a continued search for the right quarterback, the Colts have rolled the dice on 37-year-old Matt Ryan. I like the gamble. The veteran’s leadership and steady hand should boost an offense that never found enough consistency with the volatile Carson Wentz. Ryan steps in behind a solid offensive line led by Quenton Nelson and he’ll benefit from the balance provided by Jonathan Taylor, who led the league in rushing with 1,811 yards. Ryan seemed to be declining the past two years on rotten Falcons teams. Now he’s with the best team in the AFC South. Indianapolis ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense last season and improved with the additions of cornerback Stephon Gilmore and end Yannick Ngakoue, who came over from the Raiders along with coordinator Gus Bradley.
General manager Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich have built a winning infrastructure through the draft and free agency. The QB has been the missing puzzle piece. Maybe it’s a stretch to make this connection, but Tom Brady (Buccaneers) and Matthew Stafford (Rams) switched teams and won the past two Super Bowls, so Ryan could make it three in a row. The bottom line is while the AFC is stacked with contenders, headlined by the Bills (6-1) and Chiefs (10-1), the horse race will be won by the team that gets hottest down the stretch. The odds value is with the Colts, who have a legit shot to be title contenders.
San Francisco 49ers (16-1)
Youmans: Look below the group of favorites and the 49ers are lurking at double-digit odds. I’m not crazy about backing a team with a quarterback who’s a full-time starter for the first time, but this team was close to knocking off the Rams in last season’s NFC title game. Trey Lance, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2021 draft with two career starts, might be able to get San Francisco over the hump. He’s a threat to make plays all over the field in a variety of ways, unlike Jimmy Garoppolo. The defense ranked in the top 10 in most key categories, so the biggest mystery is Lance, who has a solid supporting cast to succeed, starting with coach Kyle Shanahan. Lance can lean on wide receiver/running back Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle to make plays in what should be one of the NFL’s highest-scoring offenses.
The Eagles (22-1) and Saints (40-1) are other potential sleepers in the NFC, but I consider San Francisco to have the highest ceiling of those three if Lance matures and proves to be the real deal.
Minnesota Vikings (35-1)
Adam Burke: I know, I know. You’re thinking what I’ve been thinking the whole time I’ve been typing this out. This franchise is seemingly cursed and has a very hard time winning close games. Well, there is a renewed buzz about this team with Kevin O’Connell, who brings a winning pedigree to the Twin Cities and the chance for a very good offense. Justin Jefferson has already voiced his happiness about the schemes and route concepts and he’s one of many talented offensive pieces that could be unlocked in this system.
The Vikings are one of two contenders in the NFC North and the other lost Davante Adams and some other complementary players. Minnesota also upgraded off the field with the hire of GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who came over from an analytically savvy Browns franchise. Teams that embrace analytics to a higher degree often make smarter in-game decisions and sharper personnel moves. If there are things that aren’t working throughout the season, Adofo-Mensah and his staff should be able to rectify those shortcomings.
The stage is set for the Vikings to get off to a good start and create some equity on this investment. Their first six games are not only winnable, but the Vikings are no more than a three-point underdog until at least Week 10 at Buffalo. Using current DraftKings lines, they are only an underdog of more than three points twice over 17 games. With better execution, specifically in late-game situations, this is a team that could win a lot of games.
New Orleans Saints (40-1)
Burke: The preseason has not gone great for the Buccaneers. Tom Brady’s absence was allegedly planned, but you have to wonder about the G.O.A.T. Father Time comes for everybody and he just turned 45. Pressure up the middle is Brady’s most challenging hurdle on the field and the Bucs may give up a lot of that with Ryan Jensen lost for the season and the abrupt retirement of Ali Marpet.
That would appear to open the door for the Saints, who are the second-best team in the NFC South, but it may not take much to usurp the Bucs. New Orleans could have a dynamic offense, depending on how Jameis Winston plays, with the return of Michael Thomas and the addition of fellow Ohio State product Chris Olave. There is a lot to like about veterans Alvin Kamara and Jarvis Landry as well as a solid offensive line.
The defense returns mostly intact after surrendering just 5.1 yards per play last season. With a revolving door at quarterback, the Saints were 30th in third-down conversion rate, so a more efficient offense could further elevate this defense. New Orleans was fourth in scoring defense and third in points allowed per drive. Fix the offense and you may very well have a championship-caliber team in the weaker of the two conferences.
Los Angeles Chargers (14-1)
Wes Reynolds: We hit the other L.A. team at 14-1 in this guide last year, so why not keep the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the same city for two seasons in a row? This year marks the first time quarterback Justin Herbert is going to play in the same offensive system for the second consecutive season since he was a senior at Sheldon High School in Eugene, Oregon. Herbert began his college career at Oregon playing in a Chip Kelly/Mark Helfrich no-huddle spread option. The following season he played in the “Gulf Coast” offense under Willie Taggart. After Taggart left, Herbert played in a Pistol offense under Mario Cristobal. He was never developed properly at Oregon and has had two offensive coordinators in his first two seasons with the Chargers, yet he has thrown for 9,350 yards and 69 touchdowns. Now what can he do with some actual continuity?
Look at last season with the Bengals. Joe Burrow reached the Super Bowl in just his second season in Zac Taylor’s offensive scheme. Before Burrow, Patrick Mahomes reached and won the Super Bowl in his second year under Andy Reid. Carson Wentz helped his team do the same in his second year with Doug Pederson. Jared Goff reached the Super Bowl in his second full season under Sean McVay. Russell Wilson did the same with Pete Carroll and company in Seattle. Recent history is certainly on Herbert’s side.
The Chargers defense will certainly need to be better considering they gave up 34 points or more in three of their last four games. However, the Bolts have built around their two defensive superstars — Joey Bosa and Derwin James. They traded for Khalil Mack, added Austin Johnson and Sebastian Joseph-Day to give them a much-needed interior presence and picked up Kyle Van Noy at linebacker. In the secondary, they added the best cornerback in free agency in J.C. Jackson and Bryce Callahan at nickel.
The offensive line has been substantially upgraded over the last two years and should be able to improve the running game with a 1-2 punch of Austin Ekeler and rookie Isaiah Spiller. Mike Williams had a career year last season and Keenan Allen had the most receptions of his nine-year career.
Coach Brandon Staley was often scoffed at last season by media and some bettors for his aggressive style, but his team is responding to it and should respond even more in his second season. Staley recently told The Athletic, “there has to be a fearlessness to play in this game, and what I wanted to establish was that.”