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NFL Playoff Specials Bold Predictions For 2017
Last season, only six of the 12 teams that made the NFL playoffs were favored to do so. Welcome to the league of unpredictability. The biggest “lock” to make the postseason was Carolina (-500). They finished last in their division. The longest shot of the teams that did qualify was Detroit (+250). The other five playoff longshots from 2016 were Houston (+110), New York Giants (+120), Oakland (+130), Atlanta (+220) and Miami (+240). Obviously, finding those sleepers takes some homework and a bit of luck. Let’s give it a shot with these five contenders (odds provided by betonline.ag).
Cincinnati Bengals Odds To Make The Playoffs
Cincinnati (+160) — This will be the Bengals’ 50th anniversary season. Hopefully the club will have something to celebrate other than their history. Since 2005 the Bengals have posted seven winning seasons. Cincinnati, 6-9-1 last year, missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. The biggest reason for their losing record was a 2-6 mark on the road.
Head coach Marvin Lewis enters the final year of his contract, but he’s not the only one on the hot seat in Cincinnati. Quarterback Andy Dalton has not delivered a playoff victory even though the Bengals have won the AFC North three times in the last eight years. He has two top receivers in A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert and the Bengals drafted two big playmakers in John Ross and Joe Mixon. Cincinnati needs to have a winning record before their Week 6 bye as they travel to Pittsburgh to meet the Steelers in Week 7. A 10-6 season is well within reach for the Bengals.
Detroit Lions Odds To Make The Playoffs
Detroit (+260) — The Lions had a firm grip on the NFC North title last season before losing their last three games to fall out of first and into a wild card spot. It was the third time in six years that Detroit earned a playoff spot.
The Lions have what most playoff teams have, and that’s a franchise quarterback. Matthew Stafford is their man. Stafford’s first two seasons were hampered by shoulder injuries, but he hasn’t missed a game in the last six years. He’s ranked among the top 10 in pass attempts in all six of those seasons, including a four-year run in the top five. As this gunslinger goes, so go the Lions. Detroit’s schedule isn’t overly daunting with five playoff teams on tap. If the Lions can form some sort of attack on the ground, another trip to the postseason is there for the taking.
New Orleans Saints Odds To Make The Playoffs
New Orleans (+240) — The Saints finished 7-9 last season. So, what else is new? That’s been their record the last three seasons. And that’s not good enough to get into the playoffs. But don’t turn your back on the Saints and Drew Brees just yet.
New Orleans was third in the NFL in yards per game differential at +50, which was better than 11 of the 12 teams that made the playoffs. The Saints also outscored their opponents. Add one of the top QBs (Brees) and running backs (Adrian Peterson) into the mix, and 2017 isn’t looking so bad after all. Six of their nine losses a year ago were against playoff teams and only one of their losses was against a team with a record worse than 9-7. With new additions in free agency, an excellent draft and playmakers on both sides of the ball, the Saints are going to shock some people this year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Odds To Make The Playoffs
Tampa Bay (+170) — DeSean Jackson is exactly what Mike Evans needed. Defenses will have to respect the speedy receiver, who signed as a free agent in the offseason. This will give Evans all the room he needs to wreak havoc downfield.
Tampa Bay has a young talent in Jameis Winston at quarterback. He’s prone to turnovers with 33 interceptions in just two seasons. This team ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in both total offense and total defense. The Bucs were 2-14 in 2014, 6-10 in 2015 and 9-7 in 2016. So, why the playoffs in 2017?They were 4-4 at home last year. That record can certainly improve. Winston enters his third year as leader of a young and hungry team. He will mature and make better decisions to help this club win. The addition of Alabama rookie O.J. Howard at tight end is another game changer. The Bucs have a legitimate shot at 10-6 this season. Next stop, playoffs.
Tennessee Titans Odds To Make The Playoffs
Tennessee (+115) — This is an old-school, smashmouth offense that uses its ground game to wear down defenses. The Titans, 9-7 last season, are led by Marcus Mariota, another rising star at the quarterback ranks. DeMarco Murray was third in rushing last season. He leads a backfield that also contains another rising star in Derrick Henry, who will eventually take over the bulk of the carries and possibly exceed Murray’s numbers.
The Titans are turning to a revamped receiving corp to complement their running game in 2017. They used their first- and third-round picks to take outstanding talents in Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor, who will join reliable tight end Delanie Walker. With the second easiest schedule in the NFL, the time is now for the Titans to win their division and claim a playoff spot.
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