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5 bad teams that could make the NFL playoffs in 2015

Lousy teams don't have to stay lousy forever. These sub-.500 teams could be very good, starting this season.

The NFL Draft is over and digested, which means we have some semblance of an idea of what the teams may look like this fall. Of course, NFL teams are fragile, fluttery things. Each is a complex mechanism with too many parts to possibly comprehend the meaning of any individual cog. These parts will break, stall and generally gunk things up. Attempting to forecast the postseason with any reliability is a foolish thing to do. Guessing at the teams with poor track records that will leap into contention is even dumber.

But it does happen! The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys improved by four wins each from 2013 to 2014. The New Orleans Saints improved by four wins from 2012 to 2013, and the Arizona Cardinals improved by five (and finished out of the playoffs, but still). The Indianapolis Colts improved by nine wins before that just by adding Andrew Luck.

Lousiness once doesn't mean lousiness forever, as much as it feels like some teams are destined to melt down. Some lousy teams last season perhaps weren't as lousy as you thought, or made moves this offseason as if they expect to contend, damn history and damn your negative vibes.

Here are five teams that decided they'd like win now after winning little last season. Teams that had rough offseasons or appear to be gearing up for longer rebuilds, like the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers, did not make this list. These are perhaps the most hopeful teams in the NFL -- the dreamers -- the moves they made and their chances of succeeding.


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(I stole this from Grant Brisbee)

Miami Dolphins

Record last year
8-8, third place AFC East

Moves made
Signed DT Ndamukong Suh to a six-year contract
Traded for WR Kenny Stills
Signed TE Jordan Cameron to a two-year contract
Signed WR Greg Jennings to a two-year contract
Selected WR Devante Parker in the first round of the NFL Draft
Selected DT Jordan Phillips in the second round of the NFL Draft

Chances of succeeding
Good. The Dolphins were already a .500 team. A 10- or 11-win team could win the AFC East now that the New England Patriots are starting the season Brady-less.

Even before the suspension, there was good reason to be high on the Dolphins. Did you see who they added in the offseason? There was a theme to the players Miami committed most of its resources. The Dolphins looked at the holes on its roster and used quadruple the suggest amount of epoxy to fill them. Not yet mentioned is Ryan Tannehill, who was pretty good last season and still improving.

The Dolphins are in a good position to compete annually, but any sort of long-term success should begin this season with the Pats limping into the season in shame.

Atlanta Falcons

Record last year
6-10, third place NFC South

Moves made
Signed DE Adrian Clayborn to a one-year contract
Signed LB Brooks Reed to a five-year contract
Selected DE/OLB Vic Beasley in the first round of the NFL Draft
Selected CB Jalen Collins in the second round of the NFL Draft
Selected RB Tevin Coleman in the third round of the NFL Draft

Chances of succeeding
Good. The Falcons targeted needs in the draft and free agency, and didn't settle at all in terms of talent. If the defense struggles once again to rush passers then we can wonder, seriously, whether the thick Atlanta air is giving quarterbacks extra cushion. Vic Beasley isn't a developmental pass rusher like we've seen go too high in the draft in recent years -- he's ready to enhance a bad pass rush now.

More importantly, Atlanta's injury luck should improve, making it perhaps the only team in an awful division that you can look at and not feel totally icky about. The Falcons can conceivably win the NFC South. To some, they may even be the favorite. This doesn't mean that they'll be particularly good, but that's not really what we're getting at.

Minnesota Vikings

Record last year
7-9, third place NFC North

Moves made
Traded for WR Mike Wallace
Selected CB Trae Waynes in the first round of the NFL Draft
Selected LB Eric Kendricks in the second round of the NFL Draft

Chances of succeeding.

Low, but inching towards "fair." Mike Zimmer greatly improved the defense in Year 1 as head coach, and he added two field-ready rookies in Waynes and Kendricks. In exchange for a fifth-round pick, the Vikings got Mike Wallace, a once-feared deep threat who is still young and needs to play well to keep earning his contract.

And then there's Teddy Bridgewater, who closed the season with a strong five-week stretch to conclude perhaps the most optimistic losing season of any team in the NFL last year. Having a young quarterback on an upward trajectory does wonders to soothe the nerves.

The Vikings' biggest problem will be surmounting the Lions and the Packers, and at this point that doesn't seem like a reasonable expectation. But if you tell me that the Vikings sneak into the playoffs as a wild card team I won't think you're goofy.

And I just wrote that whole thing without thinking to mention Adrian Peterson. He could be pretty useful, too!

St. Louis Rams

Record last year
6-10, 4th place NFC West

Moves made
Traded for QB Nick Foles
DT Nick Fairley signed to a one-year contract
Selected RB Todd Gurley in the first round of the NFL Draft
Selected OT Rob Havenstein in the second round of the NFL Draft
Selected OT Jamon Brown in the third round of the NFL Draft
Selected OT Andrew Donnal in the fifth round of the NFL Draft

Chances of succeeding 
Fair. Kudos to St. Louis for choosing an identity and owning it. After selecting Todd Gurley at No. 10 overall, the Rams spent three of their next four picks on enormous bodies to put in front of him. Rob Havenstein's scouting report simply reads "meat." Heads up: St. Louis will be trying to run all over teams next season.

And oooooh Nick Fairley and Aaron Donald could be fun next to each other. Fairley is a wild card. He was never able to sustain his best in Detroit because of inconsistency and injury, but his best is very, very good and the sheer joy of getting to play with Donald, Chris Long and Robert Quinn should motivate him to stay in shape just in case that's still a concern.

Finally, there's Nick Foles, who should be an upgrade over Austin Davis and Shaun Hill. This has the feel of a team that will improve, potentially greatly. Unfortunately, even a four-game swing puts the Rams at 10-6, which may be not be good enough to top the Cardinals, who won 11 games patched together with duct tape, and the Seahawks, who are the Seahawks.

Cleveland Browns

Record last year
7-9, fourth place AFC North

Moves made
QB Josh McCown signed to a three-year contract
WR Brian Hartline signed to a two-year contract
DT Randy Starks signed to a two-year contract
WR Dwayne Bowe signed to a two-year contract
Selected DT Danny Shelton in the first round of the NFL Draft
Selected C Cameron Erving in the first round of the NFL Draft
Selected OLB/DE Nate Orchard in the second round of the NFL Draft
Selected DT Xavier Cooper in the third round of the NFL Draft
Selected RB Duke Johnson in the third round of the NFL Draft

Chances of succeeding 
Very low. In fact, it's probably inaccurate to say that the Browns are in "win now" mode, but the sheer number of moves they made, adding potentially undervalued veterans and bringing in 12 rookies through draft alone -- five in the first three rounds -- makes them a team worthy of study.

On paper, the Browns don't look like a playoff team, especially if they have to rely on so many young contributors, but it's not difficult to imagine them entering December just a tick or two above .500 and somehow in the playoff discussion. This was a 7-4 team at one point last season with a worse roster, after all, playing in a division that beats itself up. Getting 10 or 11 wins may be enough to take the crown.

The Browns needed Brian Hoyer to be OK for 16 games at quarterback, and he didn't quite have the stamina to do it. Josh McCown may not either, but at least he's a new face with a better line in front of him. The Browns will be much, much stronger along both trenches.

You'd be surprised to see the Browns in the postseason, because their division is tough as hell and the offense is so worrisome. At least we can now wave at Cleveland and say in all sincerity, "Hey guys, looking good."