Which NFL Division outsider has the best chance of overachieving?

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NFL Division

It is never too early to speculate on the upcoming NFL season, even months before the new season is due to start. Clearly, as shown below, divisional favorites are already locked into place, but as ever, there are other teams just waiting to capitalize on any false starts.

Wage cap increase a timely fillip for ‘underdog’ Dolphins

Despite standing as an outside bet to win the AFC East amongst current division futures in the American football betting market, the Dolphins finished 2019 positively, and have an incredible opportunity in the draft. They have three picks in the first round (5th, 18th, and 26th) as well as two picks in the second round (39th and 56th). They additionally have the most selections in total, and if they use these wisely, the Dolphins could produce something special.

Until now, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is seen to have operated within his means, but with his hands very much tied by a number of elements – most of all the NFL’s salary cap, alongside a myriad of other spending restrictions. With the NFL salary cap raised, optimism abounds, with a figure north of $250m spent on new contracts, including more than $150m in guaranteed money.

The mock draft above highlights the Dolphins’ potential to surprise in the near-future.

Jackson form eclipses Browns’ promise

When it comes to backing the AFC North division winner, few can see far past Baltimore Ravens. Within their squad, the Ravens have a number of excellent talents, with Lamar Jackson standing prominent amongst them as the MVP of the 2019 campaign.

His effort and endeavor was enough to see Jackson avoid a ‘sophomore slump’ after an impressive rookie NFL season. The 2019 season saw Jackson raise his pass completion rate to 63.7%, augment his yards-per-pass average to 7.60 and boost his average passing rating to 104.7.

In truth, the Cleveland Browns are well behind the Ravens in the AFC North betting futures as they currently stand, but the Ohio outfit will be hoping to avoid the car crash of last season. With Kevin Stefanski in charge, 2020 has all the hallmarks of a new beginning for Cleveland, with 2019 seen as a lesson learned. Even the staunchest of the Browns’ critics should not be surprised to see them make the playoffs.

There appears to be no question at all that the name on the lips of every Browns fan will be that of QB Baker Mayfield, who endured a drab end to 2019. Nonetheless, he is generally seen as someone who could be re-energized by the new regime to emphatic effect. There were also a number of key elements upon which he improved between 2018 and 2019.

Super Bowl season

The futures price of each squad for a divisional win in the next Super Bowl season.

Which Division favorite is most vulnerable to not winning their division?

The NFC conference is a hotbed of close competition. In the South, the New Orleans Saints are still comfortable favorites but have continued to suffer spectacular defeats in the playoffs – as they have done for three years in a row. Bruce Arians was already developing a good team at the Buccaneers before the signing of Tom Brady, but his signing should be a big warning sign to the Saints.

Indeed, the Buccaneers already had an excellent run-based offense with their stretch-zone blocking but Brady will now add a passing threat. Whatever he has done to defy his age, be it using super foods like coconut oil or simply drinking tons of water, Brady has clearly looked after himself, and it goes without saying that he firmly remains a potential talisman in the eyes of experts:

Elsewhere, the Packers are only slim favorites for the NFC North. The Vikings still have an impressive core group of players and should be aiming for the playoffs via a divisional title. Aaron Rodgers turns 37 this year and the rest of the division will be hoping that his magic starts to fade with him not having a passer rating of over 100 for three seasons in a row now.

Finally, the Philadelphia Eagles are still slender favorites for the NFC East, and aiming to win it back-to-back – a feat which hasn’t been accomplished in the division since 2004. Nonetheless, the margin by which they are favorites suggests that the East is anyone’s to win.

 

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