Each and every season, a handful of teams in both conferences generally overachieve and exceed beyond even the most optimistic expectations while either finishing with an unexpected playoff berth – or a season that comes close to it. With the 2015 NFL betting regular season quickly approaching, this expert betting breakdown will highlight my top five AFC playoff sleeper candidates for the upcoming campaign. The only criteria for making this list are that each team not be considered a leading playoff candidate heading into the upcoming campaign. With that said and NFL training camps starting to heat up, let’s rock and roll.
Why they could surprise if…
The Miami Dolphins could surprise and become a postseason participant in 2015 if, for no other reason, than the fact that they’re not very far from reaching that goal – even if they have been the ‘poster child’ NFL franchise for mediocrity the last three seasons.
You see, while Ryan Tannehill and company have gone 8-8 in each of the last two seasons, following a 7-9 campaign in 2012, the Fins probably aren’t very far from becoming a playoff caliber kind of team – though they’ve got a bad case of ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ syndrome.
Miami ranked 12th in total defense in 2014 and got a pair of stellar campaigns from Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive end Cameron Wake (11.5 sacks), not to mention a fine season, from underrated running back Lamar Miller (1,099 yards). If the Fins can improve their 17th-ranked passing attack and improve their 24th-ranked run defense (they will thanks to the addition of Ndamukong Suh), then I can see the Fins possibly reaching the postseason.
The likely scenario is…
With just the 17th strongest schedule in the league in 2015, now is clearly the time for Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins to take a significant step forward. Unfortunately, I’m not very sure that’s going to happen, particularly with the AFC East division rival Bills and Jets both set to field excellent defenses and improve right away under their respective first-year head coaches.
In three seasons at the helm, head coach Joe Philbin has not been able to lead Miami to a record better than the 8-8 mark he’s posted in each of the last two years. Making matters worse is the fact that the Dolphins have made a habit out of collapsing late in the regular season. I love the addition of the athletically overpowering Suh, but he can’t help Miami’s bland offense score the ball. In the end, I think Miami wins another eight games this coming season to narrowly miss out on a postseason berth – for the seventh straight season.
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