Super Bowl 2023 has been as entertaining as advertised thus far, as both teams are living up to the billing of being two of the most dominant teams from the regular season.
Who might we see in next year’s version of the big game? There are the mighty teams like these Eagles and Chiefs, and the ones who were a few bounces of the ball away from glory, like the Bills and 49ers. But what about the other teams? Who are the dark horse candidates to play in the big game? Here are three surprise teams that could play in Super Bowl 2024.
Which Surprise Teams Could Be In Super Bowl 2024?
There is no denying that the Detroit Lions are on an upswing, given their rough and tortured history. During the first half of the 2022 season, they had one of the most productive offenses in the NFL, and they were able to make a late-season playoff push that came up just short.
But head coach Dan Campbell has them headed in the right direction, and they finished with a 9-8 record, a 6.5 game improvement from his first season at the helm. Not only do they have some momentum with the team on the field, and they will also have some firepower this off-season. They have two first-round draft picks in their possession, their own 18th overall pick, and the 6th overall that they got from the Rams in the Stafford/Goff trade. They package the picks to move up for one of the elite QB prospects, or stand pat and use the assets to build up the defense.
They were one of the Super Bowl favorites midway through 2022, but their season was derailed by injuries late in the year and they managed to just squeak into the playoffs in the final week. Despite the health issues and down to their third-string rookie quarterback, the Dolphins still played the Buffalo Bills to within 3-points in an away playoff game. Had Tua Tagovailoa been healthy for the final few games of the season, results could have been a bit different than they were.
Miami doesn’t have a whole lot of draft assets to work with, and they have some front office work to do to get themselves back under the salary cap. They’ll save money by restructuring contracts, and luckily for them, there are already some positional units that don’t need much addressing this Spring. But that is not to say that there aren’t certain holes to fill, especially along the offensive line and in the secondary.
But the Dolphins have already made good moves so far in 2023, as they have added defensive guru Vic Fangio to be their coordinator opposite of Mike McDaniel. If Tagovailoa can stay healthy, and that is a big “if”, then don’t be surprised to see Miami representing the AFC in the next Super Bowl.
New York Jets
The Jets finished 2022 with a losing record, but don’t let that fool you regarding the talent on their roster. They began the season with a 5-2 record, and despite the revolving door at quarterback, New York was in contention for the playoffs until the last couple of weeks of the year. The rotation of Wilson, White, Flacco, and Streveler under center was enough to make fans heads spin, especially given the quality of players that surrounded them on both sides of the ball.
Not only do the Jets have one of the more talented rosters in the conference, they also have one of the youngest. If there is one team that truly is a “quarterback away” from being actual contenders, it is them. It is becoming crystal clear that the Zach Wilson experiment is over after two years, and the team will be looking high and low to find the right guy for the job. Will they use their first round pick (13th overall) to add a prospect? Or will they go with an established veteran who is looking for a team to win now with?