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Football Outsiders: Dolphins 'hot sleeper Super Bowl contender for 2015'

The guys over at Football Outsiders are big on the Miami Dolphins this year.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Well, this is not something you read every day:

Your hot sleeper Super Bowl contender for 2015 is the Miami Dolphins.

That comes from the guys over at Football Outsiders, specifically Aaron Schatz, who put together their early predictions for the 2015 NFL season, publishing it on ESPN. Schatz predicts the Dolphins to finish the season with an 11-5 record, with the headline on the aricle "Projected AFC standings: Dolphins new favorites if Brady suspended" - in fact, no other team, besides the Patriots, reach the 11 win mark in the AFC side of FO's predictions. I read it twice just to make sure.

Some of Schatz explanation as to why FO sees Miami as a threat to New England includes:

We're high on the 2015 Dolphins because the 2014 Dolphins were essentially a good team dragged down to 8-8 by dismal special teams (last in the Football Outsiders efficiency ratings) and a difficult schedule. However, special teams are less consistent from year to year than offense or defense, which means the Dolphins are likely to be a lot closer to average in that area in 2015. And like the rest of their division, the Dolphins also get an easier schedule this year, trading the NFC North and AFC West for the NFC East and AFC South.

The Dolphins were pretty good on offense last year -- they ranked in our top 10 -- and average on defense. They did this despite having an above-average number of injuries on both sides of the ball.

[The offensive strength and rare consistency of special teams] are enough to keep the Patriots slightly ahead of the Dolphins in their total DVOA projection, which is why [ESPN draft analyst Todd] McShay's [2016] mock draft had the Dolphins picking 29th as if they were to lose the AFC Championship Game in Foxborough. But the gap between the teams is close enough that if Tom Brady were to be suspended for multiple games due to Deflategate, we would have to slightly favor the Dolphins as AFC East champions.

It's a very unusual feeling to read someone so high on Miami this early in the year. I like the idea of the Dolphins challenging for the AFC East title - and the AFC Championship - but it is a little unsettling. Maybe it is the long string of mediocrity finally starting to kick in, but people are not supposed to be this high on Miami already. I'll take it, though.

And, hopefully, they are still sitting that high when the season ends.

Check out the full early prediction for all 16 AFC teams here.