Top 5 Underdogs for 2015 NFL Picks

Kevin Stott

Wednesday, July 8, 2015 7:59 PM GMT

We look at five teams who may be a bit Underrated by sports gamblers, oddsmakers and the general public and offer up a Season team Win Total and a Week 1 pick from our findings.

Underrated Teams Will All Need Solid Play From QB Spot in 2015 to Shine
For these five teams, getting solid play from the QB position will be imperative to having a progressive season and many will actually have duels for the starting spot between now and that first week of September when things get real.

Like a Goalie in Hockey or Soccer or a Pitcher in Baseball, a Quarterback in Football can have an enormous impact on an individual game and for these five NFL teams below, getting above average play as well as avoiding any injuries at the QB position will be imperative for them to thrive in the coming 2015 season which kicks off in just three months now. Last year, only one of these five teams deemed Underrated for this season—the Carolina Panthers—actually made the Postseason and the Panthers actually did so with a losing record (7-8-1) in a division (NFC South) which saw all four teams finish with below .500 records. Who dat you ask? Dat a crappy division, bruh. Dat a division to giggle at, Cap. Anyway, here in Part 2 of our two-part NFL Overrated/Underrated series, we look at 5 NFL teams who may be Underrated by the public, NFL odds makers and maybe bettors in general. But again, these 5 are Underrated at least partially because it seems if they had good QB play, then the rest of the Offense, and maybe the entire team, would play off the success at that crucial position, especially in the NFL. Let’s dive in to this look at three AFC and two NFC teams who are Underrated in some way and who may surprise us all this coming 2015 NFL season if everything goes right.

 

Minnesota Vikings
Balance, a desire to improve and the devolution of the Chicago Bears, and possibly the Detroit Lions in the NFC North, make the Minnesota Vikings (66/1 to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) seem like a team that can possibly get to or maybe over the .500 mark this season (Minnesota was 7-9 SU in 2014). And with QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Adrian Peterson back and WR Mike Wallace joining from the Dolphins, the Vikings have a chance to have a really productive Offense that can hurt you a couple ways (Minnesota was #14 in Net Total Yards last season with 5,575). But Bridgewater will have to continue to mature at the pace he has, AP will have to stay injury free and be motivated and Wallace will have to put some of his ego aside and become the star receiver like he was with the Steelers. Minnesota will really need the Offense to shine as its -0.07 Point Differential Per Possession in 2014 reveals a little problem. But should Peterson return to his bullworker form and the Vikings Rushing game explode, look out Mamacita. But winning one of the Road division games in Chicago or Detroit will be huge to making this leap, as will protecting the Home FieldTurf in Minneapolis at TCF Bank Stadium where the Vikes were an absolutely pathetic 1-5 SU last year. Who wants to see the Purple-clad homeboys win only one stinking Home game a season? Nobody, Slim. So, CB Terence Newman and the Minnesota Defense need to also pick it up a notch and improve on that -1 TO Margin (19 Takeaways - 20 Giveaways) and playing the AFC West (Raiders, Chiefs) and NFC West (49ers, Rams) may help Minnesota. In the end, those 4 games and the 4 against the Bears and Lions will determine how successful Minnesota is and if Bridgewater and Peterson shine, and maybe a Wild Card spot lies in the Vikings lavender-shaded Future. Dig if you will a picture.

 

Houston Texans
The Houston Texans (50/1 to win Super Bowl, bet365) have the luxury of playing in the AFC’s weakest division, the AFC South, alongside the Tennessee Titans (2-14 SU in 2014) and Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13). But like the Vikes, the Texans (9-6-1 ATS) will need great play from their starting QB and they may have a competition between Free Agent-signee Brian Hoyer (Browns) and Ryan Mallett. The Texans' +0.37 Point Differential Per Possession ranked 11th in the NFL last season while Houston was #2 (tied) in TO Margin with a +12 (34 Takeaways - 22 Giveaways), so, this team plays great D, as one would expect from any team with the incredible JJ Watt on that side of the ball. With JJ Watt, all is possible. The Texans did lose legendary WR Andre Johnson (Colts), but Cecil Shorts III (53 receptions, 557 yards, TD) should be able to provide a new type of downfield threat and remember the name (WR) DeAndre Hopkins (76 receptions, 1,210 yards)—as this Clemson product has the potential to be a star and 2015 may be his breakout year. Then toss in new additions Nate Washington and Jaelen Strong, and this team really has some decent WRs and should drive opposing DBs crazy. This is a strength.

The big question for Houston, like all of these teams, will be at QB, and in my mind, Arkansas bomber Mallett has always been a hidden gem so maybe this is the year he emerges. He will battle presumed favorite Hoyer for top spot. And, letting Ryan Fitzpatrick go bye-bye to the New York Jets was a big gamble, but if the Texans (9-7 SU in 2014) can beat the Colts in Houston in Week 5 (Colts -2, NFL Games of the Year, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook), and maybe knock off a couple of the teams it plays from the upstart AFC East (Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets) and two of the teams from the anemic NFC South (Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers), then maybe Houston shocks the world? Nah. Not this season and not with Hoyer and Mallett fighting for the QB spot. But with that Defense, a solid fan base and RB Arian Foster (260 rushes, 1,246 yards, 8 TDs), the Texans seem pretty darn Underrated to me. Like they are every year. Still, if they are Good, they are still far from being a Great NFL football team. And with the Colts improving so much, perhaps Houston is now perpetually stuck in their big, blue shadow as an Underrated team, fighting to knock off a team with a lock on the division—something teams in the AFC East, AFC West, NFC North and NFC West can all relate with. Although things are changing all the time, it really seems that some things never change.

 

Buffalo Bills
Maybe my favorite of the Underrated teams this season is the Buffalo Bills (40/1, SkyBet, BetVictor). Last season, Buffalo was #12 in Point Differential Per Possession (+0.28) and was tied for 6th in TO Margin with a +7 (30 Takeaways - 23 Giveaways). And, as focused on last week here at Sportsbook Review, the Bills seem to be one of the few teams in the NFL which can actually claim a real Weather Advantage. Toss in energetic first-year Head Coach Rex Ryan, maybe a new starting QB in Matt Cassel (Vikings) and other additions on Offense like RB LeSean McCoy (Eagles) and WR Percy Harvin (Jets) and guys like WR Sammy Watkins, WR Robert Woods, TE Charles Clay and RB Fred Jackson as well as EJ Manuel (as well as Tyrod Taylor) battling Fitzpatrick for the QB spot, and you can see that Buffalo is absolutely loaded with talent on Offense—an Offense which was #4 in the NFL in Total Yards in 2014 with 4,995. On Defense, the Bills are also very impressive and improving and the DL—Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes—will be able to keep Buffalo in many games and hopefully challenge elite teams on the Road when they’re playing well (Buffalo 5-2 ATS Road Underdog in 2014). The Bills schedule this season sees them facing the NFC East (Cowboys, Eagles) and the wobbly AFC South (Colts, Texans) so beating the Redskins and the Titans on the Road, the Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London (Bills -5, NFL Games of the Year, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) and the Giants at Home at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week 4 will go a long way toward helping Buffalo have a great season. Of course, starting the season off with the Indianapolis Colts (13-6) in Week 1 and the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots (15-4) in Week 2 isn’t exactly the way Dream Seasons usually start. Hello.

 

Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers (40/1, Sky Bet) are a team that can hang with anyone (ask the Seahawks) in the NFL, but often seem to be their own worst enemy. Somehow, QB Cam Newton and the Panthers (8-6 ATS) made the postseason last year with a 7-8-1 SU record—default champions of the NFC South in a way. Carolina ousted the Arizona Cardinals in the opening round of the NFC Playoffs before being ousted by the eventual NFC champion Seahawks in Seattle, 31-17 in the next round. With a freshly-signed Newton at QB, RB Jonathan Stewart, WR Kelvin Benjamin (73 receptions, 1,008 yards, 9 TDs), Rookie WR Devin Funchess (Michigan) and dependable TE Greg Olsen (84 receptions, 1,008 yards, 6 TDs), Carolina has some decent talent on Offense (5,437 Total Yards, #10). Now if the Defense can shine for fifth-year Head Coach and former NFL (Bears) LB Ron Rivera (36-30-1 ATS), the Panthers could win their division again and possibly make it to the NFC Championship Game this season although it does look like another Seahawks-Packers showdown brewing from this far, far distance in July, Julio. The Panthers were #13 in To Margin in 2014 (+3) and ranked #22 in the NFL in Point Differential Per Possession (-0.18), so there definitely is room for some improvement. Sweeping the overrated Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in divisional play would go a long way for this Carolina Panthers team, which luckily gets to face the AFC South (Titans, Jaguars) as well as the NFC East (Giants, Redskins) this season in interdivisional play. So, the Titans (2-14 in 2014), Jaguars (3-13), Redskins (4-12), Buccaneers (2-14) twice, Falcons (6-10) twice and the Giants (6-10)? Sounds like a pretty easy schedule to me and a chance to maybe win some Panthers backers some money in some spots. Like maybe in the current Futures Book market with the Panthers Season Team Win Total Over (8½ +115, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)?

 

New York Jets
No team listed here needs better play from the QB position than do the New York Jets (80/1 to win Super Bowl, BetVictor), and it appears that a duel between new Free Agent-signee Ryan Fitzpatrick (Texans) and Geno Smith will be happening in Training Camp with Rookie and #3 Pick in the NFL Draft Bryce Petty (Baylor) watching and learning the ropes. New York AFC (6-9-1 ATS) was a pathetic 4-12 SU last season, #29 in TO Margin (-11) and #26 in Point Differential Per Possession (-0.67), so, Todd Bowles is in at Head Coach is in for the J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets! and Hope is springing eternal. Especially after the incredible Jets Offseason in which stud CB Darrelle Revis (Patriots), Antonio Cromartie (Cardinals), WR Brandon Marshall (Bears), S Marcus Gilchrist (Chargers), CB Buster Skrine (Browns) and G James Carpenter (Seahawks) all join the fold. Merry Christmas. Then toss in the incredible Jets Draft with USC DL Leonard Williams (Round 1, #6 overall), Ohio State WR Devin Smith (Round 3), DE/Louisville OLB/DL Leonard Mauldin (Round 3), aforementioned Baylor QB Petty (Round 4), Texas G Jarvis Harrison (Round 5) and Northwestern State NT Deon Simon (Round 7) all providing incredible and welcome depth to the Jets roster. Abbondanza. It may take some Time to gel, but when it does, look out NFL. The Jets also dealt their Round 7 pick to the Rams for RB Zac Stacy, so, almost every position was bolstered and in a very good way. Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan deserves some major credit for what he has done so far from February to July for this team. Well done. The Jets (Week 1 NFL Odds: Jets -3 over Cleveland Browns, Total: 41, GTBets) need to somehow beat both the Dolphins and Bills at Home this season and then have some success with the dregs of the NFC East (Redskins, Giants) and the wounded AFC South (Titans, Jaguars) in those interdivisional games. And if Fitzpatrick ends up shining early and clicking with his receivers like WR Eric Decker, TE Jeff Cumberland and RBs like Chris Ivory and Stevan Ridley (Patriots), all the new guys rise to the occasion and the Defense turns a page with Revis leading the way and back home, then this could be a team that other teams in the league actually don’t want to see coming up on their schedule. Something new.

 

Conclusions
Despite most of these teams having serious Question Marks at the starting QB spot, the rosters are now full enough of fresh talent which can rejuvenate these hungry and proud teams which have some pretty decent RBs which can help provide a solid Rushing attack (Peterson, Vikings; McCoy, Bills; Stewart, Panthers; Ivory, Jets; and, Foster, Texans). And both the fairly young Head Coaches and Defenses of these 5 teams will have to achieve their potential also. And, worth noting here, two teams who didn’t make the list because they actually are considered pretty good by most but still, in some weird way, are Underrated to some degree are the Philadelphia Eagles (25/1 to win Super Bowl, Paddy Power) in the NFC and the Baltimore Ravens (25/1, Sky Bet) in the AFC, although like these teams here, Philly has Questions at QB (Sam Bradford, Marc Sanchez, Matt Barkley, Tim Tebow) while the Ravens lost NT Haloti Ngata (Lions), underrated WR Torrey Smith (49ers) and LB Pernell McPhee (Bears) in a tough Free Agency period this Spring. But still, at 25/1 (highest) odds to become champions, the Eagles and Ravens may be exactly the types of birds to keep the Seahawks, Packers or Patriots from capturing this year’s NFL championship. But Logic says, probably not yet.

NFL Futures Book Pick: Carolina Panthers Season Team Win Total Over 8½ +115 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

NFL Week 1 Pick: New York Jets -3 over Cleveland Browns (GTBets)