Welcome to NFL Week 1, when cliches about new seasons and fresh starts abound. It’s that happy time when we, the collective of football fans, try to trick ourselves into believing any team, from the Chiefs and Eagles to the Cardinals and Texans, has a shot at winning it all.
Fans often feel a need deep in their souls to predict their team’s success even if all evidence points toward failure. For those who want to put their money where their heart is, or for the math-minded skeptics trying to base their prediction in reality, Super Bowl futures are a common bet.
Super Bowl futures are a big-risk-big-reward situation for bettors. Beyond the fact that there are 32 teams vying for the Lombardi Trophy (meaning if all things were equal, it’s a little better than a 3 percent chance to win it all), other factors can get in the way. Key injuries, contract situations and team performance issues stand in the way of the next gaudy championship ring.
The reward, though, is a big payout where even the most heavily favored team, Kansas City, pays out six times the original bet. A dark horse, like the New Orleans Saints, can net even more.
Futures also give us insight into how well teams are performing throughout the season. Many sportsbooks have had championship odds available since the moment last year’s Super Bowl ended. Odds are updated regularly to reflect what oddsmakers see as the likelihood that a team will win the big one, creating a sort of NFL power rankings.
Each week this season, we’ll look at how the odds have changed following the previous weekend’s action. With a lack of actual meaningful games so far, this week we’ll focus on one thing we can be certain about: Quarterbacks are the league’s kingmakers.
Preseason Super Bowl favorites built on elite quarterbacks
Of the nine teams with better than +2300 odds, eight feature a QB1 who has either started a Super Bowl or been named to the Pro Bowl at least twice. Only five other starting quarterbacks in the rest of the league meet the criteria.
So what happens if one of those eight goes down to an injury? Johnny Avello, Director of Race and Sports Operations at DraftKings, says the impact can be significant.
“It’s a big hit,” says Avello. “I helped a guy who reported on what the difference is between the starting quarterback and the second string. It’s a drop-off for some teams. You take a team like the Chiefs, it’s nine or ten points of a drop-off per game. Some teams there are a couple of guys that are equal so it’s not that bad of a drop-off.
“It takes teams from being a contender to pretty much being out of it.”
The outlier among favorites with an elite signal-caller is the San Francisco 49ers. The 2022 “Mr. Irrelevant” Brock Purdy is back as the starter following a season that featured three different players in the starting position and ended a game away from the Super Bowl.
Avello attributes San Francisco’s success to coach Kyle Shanahan’s touch with quarterbacks.
“That’s all about coaching,” Avello says. “I’m not sure Brock Purdy would even be in the league if he wasn’t with the 49ers. He would have been a second-string, maybe never would have gotten a chance and maybe would have been cut at some point. But to be in that system, it seems like it works for everybody.”
Maybe by the end of the year, we’ll all be of a different mind about Purdy, or some other yet-to-be-discovered NFL hero. Tom Brady, after all, was an unheralded sixth-rounder filling in for Drew Bledsoe when he led the Patriots to his first championship. Kurt Warner famously went from stocking shelves to Super Bowl MVP. Even Joe Montana wasn’t taken until the 82nd pick of the draft.
A reminder, even from a math-minded skeptic, that anything is possible.
Week 1 Odds: Super Bowl LVIII Winner
The odds below were pulled from Sportsbooks on Thursday, Sept. 7 before noon.