Dark Horse Teams That Could Win the NFC Ahead of 2019 NFL Season

David Banks/Getty Images

The NFL has become a little predictable in recent years. The New England Patriots have made three straight Super Bowls (winning two), and both conference championship games last season were entirely comprised of No. 1 or No. 2 seeds.

This recent trend is far from the norm though. The No. 4 seed won the Super Bowl in both 2012 and 2011 (the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants, respectively), and the No. 6 seed Green Bay Packers won in 2010.

The point being, the NFL generally offers more parity than any other league in sports, even if that hasn't been the case lately. With that in mind, here are three dark horse teams capable of winning the NFC ahead of the 2019 NFL season.

3. Carolina Panthers (+2400)

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers have the 11th-best odds to win the NFC on FanDuel Sportsbook, worse than a San Francisco 49ers squad that is coming off a 4-12 finish in 2018. While Carolina's 7-9 season in 2018 is nothing to write home about either, people seem to be forgetting just how dominant the Panthers were before Cam Newton's shoulder injury. During their first eight games of the season, the Panthers went 6-2, averaging 27.5 points per game (PPG), and Newton was performing spectacularly in his first season with Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. Unfortunately, Newton's shoulder injury flared up the following week and Carolina's offense fell apart, culminating in a seven-game losing streak in which the Panthers averaged just 17.6 PPG. If Newton can remain healthy (he's already dealt with a foot injury this preseason) Carolina has a shot to return to form and make a run at its first Super Bowl appearance since 2015.

2. Atlanta Falcons (+1500)

Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Prior to last season, the Atlanta Falcons had been one of the most consistent teams in the NFC. They made the Super Bowl in 2016, losing to the New England Patriots, and narrowly lost a 2017 Divisional Round contest against a Philadelphia Eagles team that went on to win the Super Bowl. However, their 2018 season was essentially over before it even started, as the injury bug hit the team hard. Atlanta lost its best defenders, Deion Jones and Keanu Neal, for the majority of the season. The Falcons also lost veteran guard Andy Levitre after Week 2, and only got two games out of star RB Devonta Freeman. Opposing offenses lit up Atlanta to the tune of 26.4 PPG (No. 25 in the NFL), and Matt Ryan was sacked 42 times behind his injury-riddled offensive line. However, Atlanta's defense is reportedly healthy, and the Falcons invested two first-round picks in offensive lineman this April. With a revamped line and a healthy defense (which surrendered just 19.7 PPG in 2017), Atlanta could look a lot more like it did in 2016 and 2017.

1. Minnesota Vikings (+1400)

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Everything that could've gone wrong for the Minnesota Vikings in 2018 seemingly did. After a 13-3 finish in 2017, Minnesota brought in Kirk Cousins, who was expected to take this team to new heights. However, Cousins and the offense never really clicked behind Minnesota's shaky line. He was sacked 40 times (No. 10 in the NFL), and the team finished 8-7-1. However, there is reason for optimism. After Minnesota fired John DeFilippo, the team averaged 26.0 PPG, and that includes a 10-point performance against the vaunted Chicago Bears defense. That's a big jump from the 21.7 PPG they averaged through 13 games with DeFilippo at the helm. Minnesota also took steps to revamp the offensive line, drafting Garrett Bradbury in the first round and signing veteran guard Josh Kline. With a full offseason under new OC Kevin Stefanski, a seemingly recovered Dalvin Cook and an improved offensive line, Minnesota could return to form and make a Super Bowl run in 2019.

Join FanDuel Sportsbook Today. New users get a risk-free bet up to $500. Join Now.

Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.