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Super Bowl 50: Seahawks vs. Dolphins - According to a Harvard study

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Could the Miami Dolphins be headed to Super Bowl 50? If a Harvard study is correct, they just might.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden Super Bowl could be hosting a golden anniversary team this year if a Harvard story is correct. The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective (HSAC), a student organization focused on the quantitative analysis of sports strategy and management, published a prediction of the strongest NFL teams for 2015, and the Miami Dolphins, who will be playing their 50th season in franchise history, top the AFC.

(At this point, it might be fun to point out that Harvard is based in the middle of New England Patriots country, but is predicting Miami as the strongest AFC team, but I would not do that...)

HSAC's analysis was conducted by Kurt Bullard, who explained that he used "Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value statistic, the site’s best measure of trying to tease out individual talent. Then, using ESPN’s NFL depth charts, I aggregated each team’s per game approximate value of what [they] considered to be the 'core' makeup of an NFL team: QB, RB, 2 WR, TE, Top 2 OL, the Top-4 'Front Seven' defensive players, and the Top-2 players from the secondary."

The rankings were then used to calculate who has the strongest roster based on Approximate Value (AV), which was then used to simulate each team's season. From there, Bullard calculated the probability for each team to make the playoffs. In all of these rankings, the Dolphins sit atop the AFC, third overall in the league, trailing just the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.

What makes this more interesting is the entire AFC East is in the top ten of the AV rankings, with the New England Patriots fifth (AV of 141), the New York Jets eighth (AV of 134), and the Buffalo Bills tenth (AV of 133). The Dolphins' AV was 145.

Based on those AVs, the Dolphins were found to have a 77-percent chance to make the Playoffs, the Patriots a 62-percent chance, the Jets a 56-percent chance, and the Bills a 43-percent chance. If the Harvard predicition were to hold true, the Playoff picture for the NFL would be:


1. Miami Dolphins (AFC East)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (AFC West)
3. Indianapolis Colts (AFC South)
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North)
WC1. New England Patriots
WC2. Denver Broncos


1. Seattle Seahawks (NFC West)
2. Green Bay Packers (NFC North)
3. New York Giants (NFC East)
4. Atlanta Falcons (NFC South)
WC1. Detroit Lions
WC2. Philadelphia Eagles

Then, assuming chalk continues to hold, the Dolphins would beat the Chiefs in the AFC Championship but lose to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

The race for the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft would be won by the Oakland Raiders, with the Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens rounding out the bottom five.

Of course, it is way too early to know exactly how the season will unfold, but, at least according to a Harvard study, the Miami Dolphins are the head of the AFC.