In a league growing increasingly more competitive, it’s tough to choose a favorite for this year’s NFL Championship. Will the Seattle Seahawks be able to repeat after losing a few components from their Super Bowl team? Can Colin Kaepernick finally lead his San Francisco 49’ers team past Seattle and bring the trophy back to San Fran? Is it possible for Peyton Manning to take his Denver Broncos back to the promised land after last year’s abysmal loss? Exactly how many of these cliche questions can I ask? The preseason favorites are already established, but here are a few dark horse teams that are primed for 2015 Cinderella stories.
As crazy as it seems, new head coach Lovie Smith already makes this team twice as good as it was last year. Greg Schiano and company were toxic and the freefall of the once promising Josh Freeman was the highlight of their 2014 season. Doug Martin will look to return from a season ending injury last year with a more established quarterback in Josh McCown. Also, do not sleep on highly touted draft pick Mike Evans; who’s now lining up alongside Pro-Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson. The Bucs’ defense is stronger than last year and it will be interesting to see how far the revamped offense can carry Tampa Bay in one of the NFL’s tougher divisions.
Rams fans had the luxury of having their hearts shattered before the regular season even started this year when Sam Bradford suffered a season ending injury in just the third preseason game. Just how far can NFL journeyman Shaun Hill take an already unimpressive St. Louis offense before the team fizzles out? It’s widely known that the Rams defense (particularly their insanely talented defensive line) is one of the strongest units in all of football, but a defense can only take you so far.
Philip Rivers had the best season of his career last year and will hopefully have a 100 percent Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead behind him yet again. Keenan Allen was electrifying in his first NFL season and can only get better. The Chargers offense will be as good as ever and the defense added 7-time Pro-Bowler Dwight Freeney and rookie Anthony Barr to the mix. The secondary and receiving corps are still weak spots but the Chargers remain a legitimate playoff threat for the second straight season.
The most glaring problem for the Miami Dolphins has to be their weak offensive line and the unpredictable play of third year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Can Tannehill take the next step and become a consistent player week in and week out, or will his erratic nature conquer a promising career? Miami’s defense is one of the top units in all of football and it looks like New England will be their only competition in the AFC East; bar another mysteriously good Rex Ryan Jets team.
There’s nothing quite like a Cinderella story when it comes to sports and with the amount of talent throughout the NFL, we’ll be sure to witness one this year. Be it a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or even my hometown Cleveland Browns that I am definitely not mentioning solely because they’re my home team. Which teams do you think have an under the radar shot at contending? Tell me why in the comments below.