Harvard calls Miami Dolphins AFC’s best


Harvard University is known for a lot of things: northeastern elitists, Facebook, beating Yale in football. But one thing the school is not known for is predicting the NFL.

Miami Dolphins fans are hoping the school is good at that too.

Kurt Bullard of Harvard Sports Analysis Collective created a formula to predict the Dolphins may be the team to beat in the AFC.

Bullard used Pro Football Reference’s approximate value statistic as the backbone of his findings. As he explains:

"“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.  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.”"

Bullard utilized some exceptions as well. If a starter was suspended or injured through most of the 2014 season than he used their 2013 AV. In the case of rookies expecting to become starters this season, he used the AV of the backup player expecting the rookie to be, at least, on par with the backup.

He converted the AV of each team and converted it into an ELO rating to find the win probability for each team. The results had two familiar names of the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers at the top, but they were followed by an unexpected team.

Sitting at third overall, the Miami Dolphins have the best chance to make the playoffs in the entire AFC, according to Bullard’s findings. As he puts it:

"“The Dolphins may finally dethrone the Patriots in the AFC East, boasting the third-highest probability of playing into January, fifteen percentage points above defending-champion New England.”"

Some other publications have suggested this means Bullard is predicting the Dolphins to go to the Super Bowl, but at no point does Bullard flat out say this. He just says Miami has the best chance to make the playoffs in the AFC and may dethrone the Patriots in the division.

The Harvard ranking doesn’t take the schedule into account. However, the beginning of the Dolphins’ schedule is fairly laxed which gives them a golden opportunity to jump out to a good start. But other teams that were ranked highly by Harvard, like the Kansas City Chiefs, may face a tougher hill to climb.

One thing is for certain, this could be the beginning of some lofty expectations for Miami. With a team comprised of players that for the most part have never seen the playoffs, a deep playoff run may be expecting too much too soon.

On the other hand, it’s not like the mainstream experts will be picking the Dolphins any time soon as they usually just cycle through their half dozen favorites anyway.

What do you think? Are the Dolphins on the verge of capturing the AFC East? Are they a viable contender to come out of the AFC? Or do these Harvard eggheads not know what they’re talking about? Sound off in the comment section below.