The business end of the NFL season is just weeks away, and we love it when we catch playoff fever.
More often than not the landscape of the NFL has taken shape and most of the leading contenders are well known.
The Dallas Cowboys’ 8-1 run to start the season has been nothing short of outstanding, and the New England Patriots (7-2), Seattle Seahawks (6-2) Denver Broncos (7-3) and Kansas City Chiefs (7-2) have all shown they are capable of bringing home the Championship silverware.
There are, however, always sleepers who either don’t get the plaudits of some other teams, or perhaps are only just beginning to hit their stride.
In one of the more even competitions seen for some time, here is a look at my top five teams who could make an impact once the play-offs come around.
5. Miami Dolphins (5-4) AFC East
With very little fanfare the Dolphins are sitting nicely in second place in the AFC East behind the Patriots. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is often criticised for his inconsistency however his best can be sublime. He is an outstanding athlete who possesses a rocket arm and the ability to run for good yards if given the chance. Running back Jay Ajayi has firmed as the number one tailback and he is an invaluable asset and linebacker Cameron Wake is a defensive star.
4. Baltimore Ravens (5-4) AFC North
The 2012 Super Bowl Champions have had a lean few seasons but they have always been a danger side. When you have an experienced quarterback in the ilk of Joe Flacco at the helm and a dynamic receiving corps led by Steve Smith, Devon Hester and Mike Wallace, you can never be discounted. An experienced and talented defensive unit of future Hall of Famer Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, C.J. Mosely and Elvis Dumervil can be hard to penetrate and that squad knows how to put the squeeze on opposition attacks.
3. Tennessee Titans (5-5) AFC South
The Titans endured a sluggish start to the season but their game is now beginning to pick up steam. Second year quarterback Marcus Mariota is showing further glimpse of what he is capable of. His passing in the pocket was questionable when drafted however it seems to have significantly improved.
The addition of former Cowboys and Eagles running back DeMarco Murray has been an inspired choice. Murray is now performing at the standard we saw two seasons ago when he closed in on Emmett Smith’s all time season rushing record. Kendell Wright is also an underrated weapon as wide receiver.
2. Oakland Raiders (7-2) AFC West
Okay, so maybe they aren’t flying ALL that far under the radar. However, they are competing in the tightest conference in the whole NFL, up against the Chiefs, Broncos and San Diego Chargers. Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper lead the Raiders’ attempts at returning Championship Glory to Brooklyn for the first time since 1984. Raider Nation has contracted playoff fever, and their high scoring offence will be a weapon. They can’t afford to lose their heads against experienced outfits though.
1. Washington Redskins (5-3-1) NFC East
Another team slow out of the blocks, but it seems like the ‘Skins are on the move.
Kirk Cousins held out for a large contract and the franchise tag in the off-season. His early form was well below expectations but his now it appears his own assessment was on the money. Cousins has been in sublime form of late.
Having top class receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon at his disposal is a huge boost. Acquiring one of the leagues’ top cornerbacks in former Carolina Panther Josh Norman has been a great pick up. Norman has had some injury issues however his presence alone makes Washington’s defence better.