Each year it seems there is at least one team most forecasters dismiss, then, whammy! they're in the thick of a playoff race.
One 2018 candidate: The Miami Dolphins. Most of the football world has written off the Dolphins heading into the 2018 campaign, even former defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's got jokes.
The dismissal allows players to play the 'no one believed in us' card. Enter receiver Albert Wilson:
"When you think of the Miami Dolphins, people think they're gonna come in and just walk all over us," Wilson said, via the Palm Beach Post. "But as a team, not just on offense, I feel like we're gonna play great on the defensive side of the ball and play great on special teams and we're gonna do good overall."
Playing in one of the softest divisions in the NFL should help aid Wilson's cause. Outside of the Patriots, the AFC East is a stew of uncertainty.
The Dolphins have talent on both sides of the ball. They also have question marks on both sides of the ball.
On defense, there are questions about how stout the front can be to go along with a potentially good secondary.
On offense, can they replace Jarvis Landry's production with Wilson and Danny Amendola? And one of the least-talked about wildcards in the entire NFL is Ryan Tannehill coming off a season-ending knee injury. The linchpin to the entire process, Tannehill has the ability to raise or sink Adam Gase's offense. The 30-year-old passer was enjoying the most proficient season of his career before knee issues forced him to sit out since Dec. 11, 2016.
From where Wilson sits, Miami has enough weapons to make noise in the AFC East.
"I think we're gonna be amazing," Wilson said. "We're gonna shock a lot of people. We're gonna stretch the field and get the ball in a lot of different people's hands and watch them make plays."
Players being optimistic is no more surprising than critics being pessimistic. Thankfully, beginning this week, we'll have real games that will start to show us who was right this time around.