NFL: 5 Teams That Do Not Get Enough Credit

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Part of what makes the National Football League the most popular professional sports league in the United States is its parity. Every year there seems to be at least one team that sneaks up on the rest of the league and goes on a surprise run to the NFL playoffs. In 2014, those teams were the Carolina Panthers, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Arizona Cardinals. All three teams were vastly underrated at the start of the season, but that didn’t stop them from going about their business and playing their way into the postseason.

In this article we are going to look at the five most underrated teams heading into the 2015 season. Our selection criteria was first and foremost based on the over/under on win totals set by the oddsmakers in Las Vegas, but also included a combination of roster composition, 2014 performances, and 2015 strength of schedule. You may be surprised by the fact that we chose to include a couple of teams led by quarterbacks with more than one Super Bowl ring to their names on a list of underrated teams, but we firmly believe that both teams are being overlooked heading into the 2015 season.

The selection criteria for this list wasn’t completely objective, but we still feel extremely confident that all five teams we chose will hit the “over” on total wins when it’s all said and done. Without further delay, here is a look at the five most underrated NFL teams heading into the 2015 season.

1.  New York Giants

Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

  • Over/Under Win Total:  8.5

After looking like an awful team for most of the 2014 season, something clicked and the Giants looked like a completely different team during the month of December. The emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. was the key for their offense, and their defense should be improved with Steve Spagnuolo running the show. The Giants will enter the season with the 21st most-difficult schedule in the league, and our prediction is that Eli Manning regains his Pro Bowl-caliber form and leads his team to at least 10 wins in 2015.

2.  Pittsburgh Steelers

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

  • Over/Under Win Total:  8.5

If history is any indication, those who count the Steelers out during the offseason tend to look foolish by season’s end. Pittsburgh has everything in place to have a top-five offense in 2015, even with Le’Veon Bell’s four-game suspension to open the season. They are in the midst of rebuilding their defense, but with a slew of talented young players such as Bud Dupree and Ryan Shazier in the fold, we envision their defense being a lot better than previously expected. Also, let’s not forget that they have one of the better head coaches in the league in Mike Tomlin, and one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Ben Roethlisberger. This is another underrated team that we expect to finish the season with a double-digit win total.

3.  Atlanta Falcons

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

  • Over/Under Win Total:  8.5

The Falcons will be led by a new regime in 2015, as former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is taking over as the team’s new head coach. Atlanta returns one of the most explosive offenses in the league led by quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones. If they can develop any semblance of an above-average rushing attack, the Falcons’ offense will cause headaches for opposing defensive coordinators all season. Where we feel they will make the biggest improvement in 2015 is on the defensive side of the ball. Quinn’s scheme and defensive culture will likely cause improvements by themselves, but the addition of Vic Beasley gives the team the potential to finally have a consistently productive pass rusher coming off the edge. All told, the Falcons are our early pick to win the NFC South title in 2015.

4.  Detroit Lions

Leon Halip/Getty Images

Leon Halip/Getty Images

  • Over/Under Win Total:  8.5

This is one projected win total that we can’t figure out. The Lions won 11 games in 2014 despite the fact that All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson spent most of the season nursing injuries. While their defense, which was one of the best in the league in 2014, did lose a star in Ndamukong Suh, they found a nice replacement in Haloti Ngata, who is no slouch himself. With Johnson back to full strength and an improved offensive line, their offense should be much better in 2015. Don’t be surprised if the Lions put a fair amount of pressure on the Green Bay Packers in the race for the NFC North title.

5.  New York Jets

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

  • Over/Under Win Total:  7

The Jets had arguably the best offseason in the league this year. Their offense should be vastly improved – even with Geno Smith at quarterback – with the additions of wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Devin Smith along with running backs Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley. Defensively, the Jets were already strong, but the additions of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie and defensive tackle Leonard Williams makes them one of the NFL’s best units, even with the recently announced four-game suspension for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Simply put, something is seriously wrong in New York if this group can’t finish with a record above .500.

All odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag, all statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.