Each and every season there are teams that exceed expectations and seemingly come out of nowhere to claim division titles or take a seat at the postseason table. Let's try to identify these sleepers before they awake and use this knowledge to cash in our NFL picks.
NFC East - Washington Redskins
Let's face it boys and girls, the NFC East looks like a two horse race and neither of those ponies is named the New York Giants or Washington Redskins. Yet as we all know anything can happen and no one or no team is handed any awards based on what they look like on paper. With that in mind we shall take a flier on the Washington Redskins. We all know RGIII has had a tumultuous time of it since entering the NFL. Initially the talented runner/quarterback morphed seamlessly from Heisman Trophy Award winner to Pro Bowl player in his inaugural NFL season and copped the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in the process.
However, since that time Griffin's on-field heroics have been derailed by injuries and seemingly a lack of confidence. RGIII is still only 25-years-old and has the undeniable athletic talent to get back on track as long as he can avoid injuries. His health is contingent upon making intelligent decisions concerning when he should run the ball and when its best to allow a broken play to stay broken.
Perhaps the biggest boost to the team's fortunes is on defense where they have added five new veteran faces to improve upon their dismal 30th ranking in points allowed and 24th ranking in passing yardage allowed. New GM Scot McCloughan also got physical in the draft when he selected a ready-made starter in Brandon Scherff who is projected to be their new starting right tackle and then in the second round added a desperately needed outside linebacker in Preston Smith who many believed would be gone in the opening round.
NFC North - Minnesota Vikings
Of course the Green Bay Packers look like a cinch to repeat as NFC North champions but Minnesota may be sneaking up in their rearview mirrors. Teddy Bridgewater looks like the real deal and assuming he continues to progress his statistics should improve exponentially by having Adrian Peterson in the backfield which will undoubtedly take the opposition's focus off him and squarely onto No. 28. In addition the Vikings upgraded at wide receiver adding a speed merchant in Mike Wallace while improving their defense with rookies Trae Waynes at cornerback and linebacker Eric Kendricks.
If the Vikings can stay healthy and the Packers get injured we could easily see a shift in the balance of power atop the NFC North as Chicago scares no one and Detroit didn't do much to improve from last year. If you peruse the NFL odds you will find WagerWeb offering the most generous odds on Minnesota to win the NFC North at +900 and if you believe the divisional crown will be theirs then it would be logical to bet over 7 ½ (-115) at bet365.
NFC South - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sure, the Bucs were 2-14 last season and rewarded for their poor performance by getting the first overall pick in the draft, which they used on Jameis Winston but if any division can see a worst to first scenario then it must be the NFC South. As any good NFL fan knows, the NFC South bore a sub .500 team as their division winner in 2014, which turned out to be the Carolina Panthers. It was an embarrassment for sure, but have any of these the four teams improved enough to be a promising Super Bowl contender? The answer is no, which is why the Bucs could steal this title by virtue of the fact that they get to play the jamokes in their own division for a total of six of their 16-game schedule.
If you want to go long then put a few bucks on the Bucs to win the NFC South at +950 at JustBet and back that up with an over 5 ½ (-145) at BetOnline.
NFC West - San Francisco 49ers
Okay this one may be the longest shot of all to win an NFC division. Not because the Niners don't have the chops to right this capsized ship but because the Seattle Seahawks are so thoroughly dominant that it doesn't appear any team will be able to overthrow the Super Bowl runner-ups.
However, if we must choose a team I could make a case for the San Francisco 49ers as they locked up Torrey Smith on offense and Darnell Dockett on defense. But they did have several losses, including Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, who called it a career as well as watching Frank Gore opting to become a Colt instead of remaining a 49er. Nevertheless, San Francisco is better than St. Louis and I don't believe the Cardinals have enough offensive punch to repeat an 11-win season from a year ago. Thus, we are left with the 49ers to claim the NFC West if the Seahawks tank in spectacular fashion.
Get on over to JustBet, who is hanging NFL odds of +1446 on San Francisco to win the West and then play over 6 ½ (-120) at GTBets.