There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming NFL season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Will training camp be affected? Will the season start on time? Who knows.
There’s even more uncertainty with the new collective bargaining agreement and its potential effects. According to the NFL, the 17-game regular season will not take effect until 2022. However, it will be fascinating to see how a seven-team playoff in each conference will change the dynamic of the postseason. One thing is for certain: the No. 1 seeds in each conference gain a massive advantage as the only teams with a bye in the playoffs.
While the above scenarios and their effects on the league are a bit unforeseen, this time of year is always a mystery when it comes to how free agency will shake out and what teams will do in the draft. However, there is also an opportunity to get ahead of the curve and find value on certain teams before their moves are made — and their odds get shortened.
Here are the best pre-free agency and pre-draft best to win Super Bowl LV (odds courtesy of FOX Bet).
New Orleans Saints (+1200)
Though the New Orleans Saints were the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs this past year, they were many people’s pick to win the conference. The Saints showed their firepower and depth many times throughout the year. This was most evident in their ability to win all five games that Drew Brees missed with a thumb injury. Although their season ended in disappointment with a Wild Card loss to the Vikings, the Saints were still tied for the league’s best record at 13-3.
Brees has declared he will be back with the Saints, even though he is set to be a free agent next week. Those that are skeptical about Brees’ ability at 41 years old should be reminded that he led the league in completion percentage and posted the highest touchdown percentage of his career last year. Just two years ago, he set the NFL record for completion percentage.
The Saints ranked in the top 10 in the league in total offense and points per game. Their defense was almost as solid, ranking 11th in total defense and 13th in points per game allowed.
It will be interesting to see what the Saints do with their first-round draft selection, the 24th overall pick. They could target a cornerback or a wide receiver to complement Michael Thomas. If they plan for the future and select Brees’s replacement, it would somewhat diminish the value of futures bets on their 2020 season. In addition, New Orleans does not have a second-round draft choice, and the team has only five picks overall. While some may look at that as a red flag, it’s a more concerning issue for the future and does not have as much impact on 2020.
New Orleans is arguably the biggest lock of any NFL team to win its division. With six winnable games against inferior divisional opponents, the Saints have as good of a chance as anyone to earn the coveted No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. If this is the last year of Brees’ career, it would be a storybook ending to retire with his second championship.
Seattle Seahawks (+1800)
With Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson seemingly in the midst of creating a two-team dynasty in the AFC for years to come, it is wise to focus once again on a more wide-open NFC. The Seattle Seahawks were a regular-season finale win over the 49ers away from winning the loaded NFC West. Instead, they finished the regular season 11-5 and lost in the Divisional Round of the playoffs to the Packers.
Things might have been very different for the Seahawks if their running backs had stayed healthy. Seattle was forced to sign Marshawn Lynch out of retirement for the playoff run after season-ending injuries to Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and C.J. Prosise.
Given how Seattle dealt with injuries and gutted it out down the stretch, it provides optimism entering the 2020-21 season. The Seahawks have eight total draft picks, including two second and two fourth-round picks. Look for Seattle to improve their offensive line while also adding needed pass rushers.
The NFC West should once again be the most competitive division in the NFL. The 49ers enter the season as an NFC favorite. The Rams are looking for a bounce-back season and a return trip to the Super Bowl. Lastly, the Cardinals should be an improved team in Kyler Murray’s second NFL season, especially after trading for DeAndre Hopkins. However, the Seahawks have the roster and the pedigree to win an extremely competitive division. The fact that they will be challenged most weeks should prove to be beneficial come playoff time.
CenturyLink Field provides arguably the best home-field advantage in the NFL. With more luck on the injury front, look for Seattle to not only host playoff games but to use that momentum to become the third different NFC West team to win the conference in as many years.