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Surprise NFL Playoff Contenders

As bettors, we are required to make predictions, take educated guesses and use past history to teach us what may happen in the future. However, in each major sport there are always going to be surprise teams and the 2012 NFL season is no different, but at halfway through the season, these teams are only contenders for now. Can they actually make the playoffs? Let’s take a look and determine whether these improved NFL squads are really playoff contenders or if they are pretenders.

Do the Vikings have what it takes to win the North?

Minnesota Vikings 5-4

At +800 to make the postseason before the season began, there weren’t very many of us that thought the Vikings had any chance in the NFC North, but here we are with the Vikes just a game back of the Packers for second place and two and a half games back of the Bears for first. Adrian Peterson is playing like he did during his rookie season and the defense is holding their own in a tough division. The Vikings have certainly been better than anyone could have expected, but the fact remains that they will have to beat out either the Bears or the Packers to make the playoffs and that’s just not going to happen. Gotta go pretender on Minnesota.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-4

Tampa Bay was another squad folks were not high on coming into 2012 and the line on them to make the playoffs was +500. This was again because of the competition they have in their own division, mainly the Falcons and the Saints, but also because the Buccaneers made virtually no offseason moves and brought in the same squad that finished 6-10 a year ago. But at 4-4, these guys are starting to play better and the big difference? Rookie running back Doug Martin. Martin may be the offensive rookie of the year, even ahead of Robert Griffin. As far as that competition goes, the Saints are an underachieving 2-5 and the Panthers haven’t been the dark horse people thought they might be at 2-6. Sure there’s the Falcons who are soaring abovethe league at 8-0, but can the Bucs win a wild card? Why not? They are a contender for sure.

Can the Hawks reclaim the West crown?

Seattle Seahawks 5-4

The Seahawks were another team that people considered a dark horse, but not necessarily a real threat out West. They were starting an unproven rookie quarterback that no one was sure if the Seahawks line could protect. The fact that they were given a +300 line speaks of the country’s real confidence in the 2012 Hawks, but at 5-4 they are more than in the hunt. Arizona revealed themselves as a pretender after starting 4-0 and dropping five straight, but the Hawks have remained consistent and have notched wins against tough teams including Green Bay and New England. Being only a game and a half out of first place in the NFC West makes the Seahawks a contender.

Miami Dolphins 4-4

Here’s another team with a rookie quarterback that didn’t get much preseason love with a +350 playoff line. Miami has certainly been shaky at times, but with a .500 record, the Phins are just a game out of first place in the AFC East behind New England. The defense has played above expectations and Reggie Bush and the running game is back in South Beach. The only problem for the Dolphins is that New England and New York both could wake up and get hot, leaving them in the dust. Although Miami is in contention at the moment, I’m not convinced they can hang around all year and I don’t think 8-8 will be good enough to make the playoffs in the AFC. Sorry Dolphins. You guys are a better team than I thought, which makes them a surprise, but not a contender. Miami gets the pretender label.

Indianapolis Colts 5-3

One team that many NFL fans were excited about was ironically the team that finished with the league’s worst record last season, the Indianapolis Colts. This is of course because of their top draft pick Andrew Luck, but I, like many didn’t think Luck could make them a contender in his first year. The whole organization was a disaster last season and even if Luck was a great QB, turning that around would be a tall order. After a very shaky start, the Colts are playing well and are 5-3, two games back of Houston in the AFC South. The crazy thing is, if the playoffs started today, the Colts would be in! They would currently have the second wild card spot, so are they a contender? You bet. Obviously, they have a lot of work left to do, but Luck has shown impressive poise and skill for a rookie and somehow those guys around him are coming together. The Colts were +750 to make the playoffs before the season started, but look at them now.

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