Every year, a handful of surprise Super Bowl contenders emerge. Predicting which teams will wildly exceed expectations, however, isn’t so easy.

Half of the league’s teams have worse than 40-to-1 championship odds for the 2021 NFL season, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Most won’t be serious contenders, but some have what it takes to make a real run if a few things break right over the next five months.

Here’s a look at two Super-Bowl long-shots from each conference that have the best chance to contend for this season’s title.

Pittsburgh Steelers: 44/1 Super Bowl Odds

It’s easy to forget that the Steelers won the AFC North last season, despite the Ravens and Browns winning 11 games each. Including the playoffs, Pittsburgh lost five of its final six games. The preseason odds suggest that the division is a two-team race between the Ravens and Browns, while the Steelers will have to fight to finish with a winning record.

Pittsburgh hasn’t finished below .500 since Ben Roethisberger was drafted in 2004. It’s conceivable that the future Hall-of-Fame quarterback has one more decent season left in him. The team’s biggest weakness is the offensive line, though Pittsburgh can win double-digit games if the unit is even close to average.

The Steelers’ defense has been a top-five unit in back-to-back seasons. It nearly carried Devlin Hodges and Mason Rudolph to the playoffs two years ago. With a new offensive coordinator and a talented group of playmakers, the defense might be good enough to lead Pittsburgh on a playoff run.

Minnesota Vikings: 44/1 Super Bowl Odds

There are plenty of reasons to believe the Vikings will have a bounce-back season. Minnesota’s 7-9 record in 2020 was an anomaly, marking the first time in six years that Mike Zimmer’s team posted a losing record. With the bottom half of the NFC North looking particularly weak, the division is likely to be a two-team race between the Vikings and Packers.

A young secondary and injuries up front ended the Vikings’ streak of five straight seasons with a top-10 scoring defense. The additions of cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland, along with Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks coming back from injury, give Minnesota a much-improved defense. 

The pieces are in place for the Vikings to have a top-five offense for a second straight season. Dalvin Cook is one of the best running backs in football. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are a top receiving duo.

Kirk Cousins is consistently better than most quarterbacks in the regular season. Cousins led Minnesota to a playoff win in New Orleans just two seasons ago, proving that he can win big games.

Arizona Cardinals: 48/1 Super Bowl Odds

The Cardinals are projected to finish in last place because the rest of the NFC West features legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Their division gives them an uphill battle in trying to make the playoffs, but Arizona’s ceiling is higher than that of most teams in the entire conference.

Kyler Murray will make or break the Cardinals’ Super Bowl hopes. Arizona has gotten better each year with Murray under center, improving to 8-8 last season. The former No.1 overall pick has the talent to potentially make a significant jump and enter the 2021 MVP conversation.

Despite being slowed down by an injury, Murray had impressive 2020 numbers with 37 total touchdowns and 4,790 yards from scrimmage. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him reach 45 touchdowns and well north of 5,000 yards in year No. 3.  

Lamar Jackson made the Ravens a contender by taking a leap in 2019, and Josh Allen did the same for the Bills in 2020. Maybe it’s Murray’s turn this year.

Denver Broncos: 50/1 Super Bowl Odds

Six seasons ago, Denver’s dominant defense and a dynamic pair of receivers overcame poor quarterback play to win the Super Bowl. If the Broncos make a championship run this season, it’s going to be with a similar formula. 

Denver is loaded on defense and led by one of the league’s best defensive coaches. The secondary is widely viewed as the NFL’s top unit, which is important when Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr are in the same division. Von Miller returns after missing all of 2020 with an injury. On offense, both Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy can be 1,000-yard receivers.

Most importantly for Denver’s chances, the schedule provides the Broncos with a path to the playoffs. The Broncos face a last-place schedule that includes games against 10 teams that had a losing record last season. They even have an opportunity to split their matchups with the Chiefs, who might rest their starters for the playoffs when Kansas City visits Denver in Week 18.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went 5-0 as a starter two years ago when he was surrounded by a Super Bowl-caliber roster in New Orleans.

Kyler Murray Arizona Cardinals Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals dives into the end zone for a touchdown while avoiding a tackle by Bobby Wagner #54 of the Seattle Seahawks during the third quarter at State Farm Stadium on October 25, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. Photo: Norm Hall/Getty Images