Giants among sleeper playoff contenders

The Giants are among non-playoff teams from 2014 who could challenge for a postseason berth this season.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Giants among sleeper playoff contenders


With the regular season now less than a week away, let’s take a look at five non-playoff teams from 2014 that could surprise by making a postseason run in 2015:

Minnesota Vikings: Led by their second-year QB Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings are on the brink of being relevant again. In the second half of 2014, Bridgewater was the third-best QB in the entire NFL, with a +11.5 grade, behind only Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. His 77.3 percent accuracy rate was ranked third last year, easily ahead of his draft classmates Blake Bortles and Derek Carr.

Defenses also now have something bigger to worry about: Adrian Peterson. The star running back makes his return and looks to recapture his 2013 form, when he led all running backs in elusive rating (our measure of how difficult a running back is to tackle). A QB-running back combo combined with a defense that made an enormous jump in defensive rating from 24th in the NFL to ninth in Mike Zimmer’s first year could catapult them to their first division title in 15 years (or at least a wild-card berth, if they lose out to the Packers).

Miami Dolphins: The Patriots’ dominance in the AFC East over the past decade has made Miami an afterthought, something QB Ryan Tannehill is looking to change. The fourth-year QB has quietly finished in the top 13 of QB rating each season he has been in the league. The Dolphins offense skews heavily to the short passing game, with Tannehill throwing deep (over 20 yards) only 10 percent of the time. It would be highly advantageous if they can have one of their WRs consistently stretch the field, and No. 14 overall pick DeVante Parker could help with that this season alongside excellent slot receiver Jarvis Landry.

Their big offseason acquisition of DT Ndamukong Suh from the Lions increases their ability to disrupt QBs with inside pressure every week. He had the most QB hurries and hits for all defensive interior players last year, as well as the most defensive stops.

Atlanta Falcons: Offensively, the Falcons are set at QB and WR with the duo of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones (both are top-10 players at their positions). Their offensive line has been the Achilles heel, dropping off since the 2012 season. In the past two years, Atlanta QBs have been subject to a league-high 331 hurries and 80 QB hits.

Their pass coverage is also a liability, and this season isn’t off to a great start. None of their current corners have a positive overall grade, and only Phillip Adams has a positive coverage grade (+0.2). The O-line and secondary issues are two red flags, but if the Falcons can somehow patchwork both (the addition of first-round edge rusher Vic Beasley, one of the most productive players in our college football grades last season), they might be able to steal what looks to be a vulnerable NFC South.

New York Giants: It’s tough to have a “surprise” team as high-profile as the Giants, but it seems like all the talk about the NFC East is centered around the Cowboys and Eagles. Quarterback Eli Manning is looking to bounce back from a +0.9 overall graded year that featured high-variance performances from week to week, but he has the weapons around him to help pump up his performance.

Odell Beckham Jr. is our No. 1-rated wide receiver entering 2015, while Victor Cruz both grade out well in our system – the combination of those three and pass-catching tight end Larry Donnell makes life for opposing defensive coordinators very challenging.

The one area that could hold the Giants back is their banged-up group of safeties. They recently re-signed Stevie Brown, but if one more safety gets injured, they’ll have to turn to one that has played less than 150 NFL snaps. If they can avoid the injury bug, the Giants are a strong contender to win the NFC East and potentially even make a deep postseason run.

  • Sean Harrison

    Didn’t the Vikings win their division in 2009?

  • Sean Harrison

    And 2008?

    • enai D

      Yep- the Vikings won the division in 2008 and 2009. And the article says “let’s take a look at five non-playoff teams from 2014″… and then only lists four (as another posted above also notes). Hopefully this article was from a non-paid contributor.

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  • Anon

    Wow that analysis on the Giants is really, really shite. Your only argument is, “They have a sort of good QB, and two good WRs”. Larry Donnell didn’t even grade remotely positive in your system last year. -1.6 Passing grade and he’s a killer app that will get them into the late rounds of the playoffs? What about the offensive line? Justin Pugh has gone through the typical, “Convert our terrible tackle into a guard and play him off as not being a bust” transition, Ereck Flowers has looked horrible, and Marshall Newhouse is conceivably a starting tackle on this team. Is Rashad Jennings really a game-changing RB? Andre Williams certainly doesn’t look like one. Shane Vereen is a poor man’s idea of a passing back. Also, let’s talk about the defense. The secondary has been gutted by injuries and the season hasn’t even started yet. The D-line is solid but who knows what’s happened to JPP? Devon Kennard is the only Linebacker on note, the rest of the LB corps is composed of guys on the bubble of being special teamers and actual defensive players. This is a team that’s going to get four losses in the division. The Eagles and Cowboys are better and it isn’t close.

    • Sam Doohan

      I think the Giants are a bit better than that, but not by all that much. Eli and ODB are a great connection but there’s a really sharp fall off after that. There might be some really nice highlights of those two playing together but that doesn’t mean they alone can actually win games. Look at the fortunes of Detroit – Stafford to Johnson is an amazing connection but the team has only been really successful when other players made contributions too.

    • JC

      You clearly don’t watch the Giants if that is your “analysis”. That or you’re a biased Philly/Dallas fan.

    • Miller Mrosek

      Nailed it. Giants are more likely to go 6-10 than make the playoffs. And no, I’m not an Eagles or Cowboys fan. The Giants O-Line will be among the leagues worst. They are also among the leagues worst at RB and S. Their D-Line will be solid if JPP comes back 100% which is a huge if at this point. Kennard is solid but other than that their LB are deficient. They have arguably the best pair of CB in the league, but Amukamara, DRC and OBJ aren’t enough to make the playoffs.

    • TeaScum

      Ereck Flowers has looked terrible? You are a clueless idiot

      • Tim Edell

        Flowers has looked very good in the run game but has struggled in the passing game. He would of been much better off on the right side as a rookie.

      • sam Phillips

        I told Anon the same I’m so many words.

    • sam Phillips

      Funny you say all of that without stating who YOUR squad is. Probably the Cowboys or Eagles which is ironic being that the only super bowls the NFC EAST has won since the late 90’s has been the TWO the Giants WON

    • sam Phillips

      You seem to follow the Giants extensively, WHO IS YOUR TEAM?

  • Lurker

    “let’s take a look at five non-playoff teams from 2014 that could surprise by making a postseason run in 2015″: Vikings, Dolphins, Falcons, Giants. Who got cut?

  • Joe Willie

    Giants? U guys on LSD?

  • Ditka’s Whisky

    Man having the Giants as a sleeper would be worth it only to see Eagles and Cowboys fans throw a fit. Manning is the only 2xSBMVP in the division- hell, wait a minute, the only SB winning QB in the division- and they act like he’s sort of a good QB. Weird shite from the peanuts. But then Giants fans have their share of doochers who think Ryan Nassib is some sort of viable QB.

    • Jake Bumgarner

      That’s because his defense carried him to both of those rings. Once Strahan, Tuck, Umenyioura, JPP etc stopped getting after the QB, Eli Manning suddenly can’t play worth a lick. This isn’t coincidence. He will suck again this year even with those receievers because his defense will have him behind the 8 ball all year.

  • Jake Bumgarner

    There’s literally not a single position or position group that the Cowboys aren’t better than or equal to with the Giants. If Romo gets hurt the Giants might have a shot at a quick playoff exit but that’s best case scenario for them.

  • Andrew Dempsey

    Giant’s D sucks. SUCKS.

    • Andrew Dempsey

      I’m a huge Giants fan.