It sounds crazy after a 4-12 season a year ago, but at 40-to-1, the Detroit Lions are a team that could open out of the gates fast and never be at that value again during the season.
Super Bowl bets are all about value. The Ravens were a 22-to-1 pick when the playoffs began last January. So, the trick is to figure out the best time to get in on a team like when it is laying low or maybe after a perilous fall from the top of the division standings.
Teams have gone on to the Super Bowl from 1-4 starts (New York Giants) and as the sixth seeded wild card team (Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers). Go figure, right?
The unpredictability and parity in the NFL are a big part of what make the league so great.
So why not the Detroit Lions? They have a solid quarterback/wide receiver combo in Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson and one of the best defensive lines in the game, anchored by Ndamukong Suh. They added the explosive Reggie Bush this offseason and have plenty of talent sprinkled throughout the rest of the roster.
Players are an obvious reason for selecting a dark horse value pick, but Detroit has another big trend in its favor. The team hasn’t quite peaked yet on its artificial dome turf.
As far as traditional dome teams go, the Atlanta Falcons are the solid favorite this season with the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts probably next in line. Detroit would have to be considered close, right behind them at No. 4 with the St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings pulling in at No. 5 and No. 6 respectively (depending on who you ask) of the six dome teams.
The Lions made it to the playoffs two seasons ago, so there will be a burning desire for them to get past what happened last season and prove to the naysayers that they are an elite team. As a dome team, they have many pieces in place and a loud home crowd ready to jump and scream.
Each of the six NFL dome teams have dominated at some point over the past 15 years, except for the Lions and Vikings. Minnesota made a run with Favre at the helm and with Randy Moss and Chris Carter catching passes from Daunte Culpepper, but none quite like the “Greatest Show On Turf” from St. Louis or the dominating performances of Indianapolis or New Orleans in their Super Bowl winning seasons. Most recently, the Falcons dominated with the best record in the NFL last season (tied with the Denver Broncos at 13-3).
In fact, since 1999, dome teams have lost six NFC championships and won four of them. Indianapolis, in the Manning era, saw three AFC Championship games, winning two of them and losing one.
Placing that Super Bowl bet early means either it works out in terms of value or ends up being horrible, like last season’s pick.
Dome teams are trendy and have proven over recent years to be solid during the postseason. But if you can get the Lions at 50-to-1, even better.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com