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Sleeper Teams from Each Division

NFL Sleeper Teams from Each Division

By Loot, NFL Handicapper,

Each season in the NFL, a number of teams perform better than what was forecasted. It can be for any number of different reasons. A team could just hit its stride after struggling to find their way for a number of seasons. A key signing can make a difference, as can a rookie who makes a big impact. A team can make a slew of signings and see that resonate well. Changes in leadership, whether in the front office or within the coaching staff, can also help a team get over the hump.

In this article, we broke down potential sleeper teams by division. Naturally, there won't be a team that qualifies as a true "sleeper" from each and every division. And in some divisions, there isn't even a readily-identifiable sleeper to really speak of. It's all relative with the term "sleeper" simply meaning a team that will over-perform according to widespread opinion. Nevertheless, we feel each of these teams at least has a chance to exceed expectations. Not that they necessarily will, but some of the signs are there to signal an upsurge. Here are all the potential surprise teams by division:

AFC East: New York Jets. Bear with us for a moment. Sure, the natural instinct when projecting how a 5-11 team will do the following season is to forecast more gloom and doom. But this was a team that won ten games the previous season. There are guys on the roster and coaching staff that can point to 2017 as a crossroads season that will play a big role in their careers. Last season, not a lot went right and they still showed some promise with a 3-game win streak in the second half of the regular season. This season will see a lot of new faces in key positions and maybe they'll latch onto the right mix of vets and young guys to at least put the unpleasantness of 2016 behind them.

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens. Last season was characterized by a ton of close games, as the Ravens went just 8-8. They've been somewhat of an afterthought since their Super Bowl title of several seasons ago, but that could change in 2017. After all, a twist of fate here and a different bounce there, they easily could have been 11-5 last season. And that was with not a lot of things going their way—injuries, exiting veterans, and high draft picks that have been stinking it up. They added a few key free agents and a first-round rookie to beef up their secondary and if that becomes a team asset again, it could help all facets of the team. We're starting to see signs of a typically-stout Baltimore defense, which is always their calling card when they are thriving. The offense still has some iffy areas, but maybe a pick-up like Danny Woodhead works out or some of those ballyhooed youngsters start carrying their weight. You don't hear a lot of people talking about the Ravens and that could be different come midseason.

AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars. Waiting for the supposed Jacksonville upsurge is like waiting for Haley's Comet. It takes forever and when it finally comes, it's not all that great. Last season was supposed to see a major upgrade and it was just business as usual for the long-struggling Jags with another 3-13 season. Maybe what was supposed to happen last season now takes place in 2017. The offense added a rookie back in Leonard Fournette who along with a few good new linemen could give this offense a big boost. The aerial game always looks good on paper and perhaps the offseason moves will have it looking good on the field more consistently, as well. When a team struggles for as long as the Jaguars have, it's downright difficult to be even a little optimistic, but there are signs of improvement. One has to figure those good signs will produce better results at some point, right?

AFC West: Los Angeles Chargers. When watching the Chargers last season, it was hard to not notice how good they could be—if only they could avoid the injury bug. For the past several seasons, injuries have grounded the Chargers' efforts. Now with a change of scenery, a new coach, and some key added pieces, they could be ready to showcase their wares. Rivers could have a nice 1-2 punch at receiver with returning Keenan Allen and rookie first round pick Mike Williams. The defense has been ripped apart by personnel problems and could be ready to shine this season. Youngsters have been coming around and with some key free agent pickups over the past few seasons, the Chargers could be the most promising double-digit loss team from last season.

NFC East: Washington Redskins. The 2015 NFC East champs took a bit of a tumble last season at 8-7-1, with a lot of people forecasting even more a downward turn this upcoming season. Their aerial attack, upon which much of their recent success in based, took some offseason hits with the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. There were some key losses on the other side of the ball, as well, with the Redskins having one of the worst offseasons of any team—on paper, at least. Still, the picture might not be as dire as it's being made to seem. There is some good talent in the shadows that could spring forth this season, in addition to some draft picks and free agents. When looking at teams with the widest possible range in terms of what you can expect this upcoming season, the Redskins are near the top of the list. While the general vibe of pessimism is understandable, it might surprise some people what the 'Skins do this season.

NFC North: Detroit Lions. The Lions are on the move. If only they can create more consistency, they could see some things come together in 2017. Last season, they were inconsistent, while also showing what they're capable of when they get into a groove. At one point last season, they won 9 of ten games, before petering out at the end after getting in an unlikely postseason position. We see a general move toward making the Lions a more-complete team, as they showed signs of being a lot more defensively-oriented last season. We also see Matthew Stafford becoming the calm vet behind center that they need him to be. Rather than looking for big names, they spent free agency adding to the O-line and giving more depth to the "D." And if some of these incoming youngsters develop, it gives the Lions another layer of promise.


NFC South: Carolina Panthers. The season before last, the Panthers were NFC champions, so it's strange identifying them as a sleeper. Then you hear people discuss top contenders from the conference and notice Carolina is seldom mentioned. So maybe people are sleeping on Carolina this season. It's hardly outside the realm of possibility that the Panthers are able to latch onto the winning formula they once had not too long ago. Things almost have to go better than they did last season, team-wide and for individual stars like Cam Newton, who was considerably off his best form. The offense could be getting a boost with exciting rookies like Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel coming into the fold. Either way, they should definitely exceed last season's team performance.

NFC West: Los Angeles Rams. Let's face it, they weren't very good in '16. That was with almost everything going wrong—uneven QB play, a putrid season from Todd Gurley, and a midseason coaching fire. A lot of stars need to line up right, but maybe 31-year old new head coach Sean McVay can find the right answers. Jared Goff needs to upgrade his play significantly, while Gurley needs to find the form he flashed in his rookie season. But if they can support that "D" just a little more than they did last season, that side of the ball could be special and help carry the Rams to a better season than what is being forecasted. Did you know... that you could be wagering on games at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!

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