Dolphins Are the Best Team in the AFC, According to Harvard

Ivy league scholars may know a lot, but how much do they know about sports? Let's hope a lot, because a new analysis from the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective, a student-run organization, comes to the somewhat surprising conclusion that the Dolphins will be the very best team in the AFC and have a 77 percent chance of making the playoffs this year. 

How did it come to this conclusion? 

"The method that I came up with uses Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value statistic, the site’s best measure of trying to tease out individual talent," writes Kurt Bullard. "Then, using ESPN’s NFL depth charts, I aggregated each team’s per game approximate value of what I 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."

That gives the Dolphins an approximate value of 145, the best in the AFC, and only behind the defending Super Bowl champs Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. The Kansas City Chiefs were ranked the second best in the AFC, with the New England Patriots coming in third in the conference and fifth overall. 

However, that ranking didn't take a team's actual schedule into account, so Bullard decided to run a simulation of each team's season and calculate the percentage chance of each team making the playoffs. Turns out the Dolphins have a 77 percent chance of making the playoffs, again that's third in the league and first in the conference. For comparison, the Patriot's chance of making the playoffs is just 62 percent. 

This is a bit out of line with the conventional wisdom of sports commenters, and the collective does term this a "way-too-early" prediction. Though, it does show that the Dolphins have built up a core of players worthy of contention.
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Kyle Munzenrieder