Five NFL Super Bowl Sleeper Teams; Who Will Surprise the League?
Winning back to back championships is definitely the rarest and hardest thing to accomplish in professional sports. This is especially true when it comes to the NFL. It is very hard to keep a Super Bowl winning team in tact the next year, due to other teams willing to pay the winning teams’ players a considerable amount more.
Where exactly am I going with this? Well, the point is that every year while we do, in fact, see teams return to the places, we rarely see teams return to the Super Bowl. With that being said, there are always a couple teams that make the playoffs who never would have expected prior to the season.
Let’s take a look at a five sleeper teams that can possibly end up in Houston come next February.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been good for one thing and one thing only in recent years; when setting up your fantasy lineup week after week, starting all the guys playing the Jaguars has normally worked out pretty well. They have not been to the playoffs since 2007 and their best season since then was 8-8 in 2010. It never helped that Peyton Manning basically owned the AFC South for a majority of his career.
However, the Jaguars have not been a good football team. Well, here we are in 2016 and a slew of top 10 picks later. Don’t look now, but these Jaguars can be pretty darn good this coming season. As of recent, the offense for the Jags has taken huge steps forward. Blake Bortles, T.J. Yeldon, Chris Ivory, Julius Thomas, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns will likely compose one of the more deadly arsenals of offensive weapons in the league.
Defense is where this team has struggled for some time now. How did the Jaguars address that? Well ,they grabbed a few studs in free agency (Malik Jackson, Teshaun Gipson, Prince Amukamara) and then followed that up by selecting two of arguably the top 5 players overall in the draft in Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey. Add in last year first round pick, Dante Fowler, and this defense starts to look more and more like a contender.
The Jaguars are done being that team you check to see if your fantasy guys are playing.
The Vikings made the playoffs a year ago, but still have not joined that conversation of Super Bowl favorites. The Vikings also came a chip shot field goal away from defeating the Seattle Seahawks in the first round last year. They also won the NFC North. So how are they sleepers if all this is true?
Well, the Green Bay Packers are still an NFL franchise — unfortunately — for fellow NFC North teams and they will be the favorites in this division for probably the remaining time in Aaron Rodgers’ career. The Packers suffered from some key injuries last season, but will return healthy this year. The NFC North looks to be between the Vikings and Packers and the loser could very well end up with a wild card spot.
Teddy Bridgewater will be entering his 3rd season and looking to take that next step. Adrian Peterson plans on running the rock until he is 40. While that may sound like a stretch, this is a player who has proven he isn’t quite human. Laquan Treadwell was drafted in the first round and will help out a very average passing attack in Minnesota.
What makes this team go, however, is the defense. Years of high draft picks have been invested in the defense and last year it showed just how much it paid off. The Vikings defense ranked fifth in the league last season in points allowed per game with just 18.9. With all the key players of that defense returning a year later, look for similar numbers in 2016.
Defense wins championships and the Vikings are all about defense under Leslie Frazier.
New York Giants
Eli manning is the cicada of the NFL on a smaller time scale. He wins a Super Bowl, disappears, and then shows up again a few years later to steal another one. Well, its been a few years and this Giant team looks to have the pieces to make a run this
year. Every year, the NFC East seems to be decided on the last week of the season — and don’t be surprised if that happens again.
The Redskins look to be in business with Kirk Cousins and Tony Romo is returning after another disappointing season lost due to injury. All three of these teams could honestly be sleeper teams to look for, but the Giants have a slight edge in my opinion. Much like the Jaguars, the Giants picked up anyone who claimed to play defense in free agency.
Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins and Damon Harrison will step in and help a defense that ranked 30th in points allowed just ahead of the Saints and Jaguars a season ago. They also drafted one of the top corners in the draft in Eli Apple, so the defense will surely be better than a year ago.
On the other side of the ball, we all know what happens. Manning throws bombs to diving Odell Beckham and everyone loses their minds. However, Victor Cruz will be returning to the lineup and Sterling Shepard was drafted from Oklahoma to provide a slot presence. This receiving corps can be one of the best in the league.
If the defense can be respectable at best, the offense will surely put up the points to win games.
New York Jets
The Jets were a very good football team last year. Unfortunately, the Patriots run the AFC East and that is not likely to change. The Jets make this list with the assumption that they somehow hold on to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Without him, they go from sleepers to asleep.
Say what you want about Fitzpatrick, but he played well last season. He threw for 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns against 15 interceptions, while leading the Jets to a 10-6 record. They ultimately controlled their own destiny in the final game of the season, but a loss to the Bills knocked them out of the playoff picture. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are one of the best pass catching duos in the league and the addition of Matt Forte will make this offense much more lethal.
On the defensive side of the ball, Revis Island is still very much a thing. While he may not completely lock down receivers like earlier in his career, he is still a top 5 corner in the league. Drafting Daron Lee adds much needed athleticism to the linebacking corps. He is the epitome of the new age linebacker running a sub 4.5 40 yard dash.
Much like the Vikings, the Jets are plagued by the presence of a better team in the division with the Patriots. However, if Brady does in fact miss the first four games of the season, perhaps the Jets can get off to a good start and steal this division.
A more likely route to the Super Bowl will be through the Wild Card though. Once the playoffs start, anything can happen.
The Raiders have been bad for some time now. So bad, that they have not had a winning record since 2002, when Rich Gannon was MVP and they lost in the
Super Bowl to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yes, the Raiders and Buccaneers were in the Super Bowl together. That type of match up today only happens in Madden.
Well, after a 7-9 record last season, the Raiders look a lot closer to getting back than the Buccaneers. After years of terrible draft picks, the Raiders have hit home runs recently. Derek Carr looks to be a legit franchise quarterback, Amari Cooper is a human highlight reel and Khalil Mack was an All-Pro at two positions last year. The scary part is that all these guys are only going to get better.
The Raiders signed a couple quality free agents in Reggie Nelson, who led the league in interceptions a season ago with eight, and Sean Smith, a proven number one corner. They also drafted Karl Joseph, a hard hitting safety from West Virginia. The defense seems to be coming together, while the offense will hope to build on a year where they finished in the middle in most offensive statistical categories.
While the Broncos look to be the favorite in the AFC West, the wild card is a toss up. If the Raiders can mesh together the slew of new talent they have, look out for them in 2016.
(Five NFL Super Bowl Sleeper Teams)