Contenders or Pretenders: A Look Around the NFL

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There is starting to become some separation between the teams as we head towards week 8. Surprise teams such as Arizona, San Diego, and Seattle are starting to come back to earth, while teams like Green Bay, Denver, and the Giants are overcoming their slow starts.

Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

At this point we have 11 teams above .500 with another 7 teams sitting at the line of mediocrity.  The remaining 14 teams have already blown any legitimate claim they had at a championship. Sorry fans of Washington, St. Louis, Detroit, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Carolina,  NY Jets, Buffalo, Oakland, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Tennessee, and Jacksonville, better luck next year.

Now let’s put the 18 teams with aspirations under the microscope and see if they truly have a shot at winning it all.

 

Atlanta Falcons

Record 6-0

Why they will- They’re the only team undefeated team left standing and have weapons all over the place. They gave up nothing to get Asante Samuel from the Eagles. There isn’t a glaring weakness on this team.

Why they won’t- While they are 6-0 they haven’t played anyone with a winning record. In fact at this point only 2 teams on their schedule have a winning record (Cardinals and Giants). They won’t be ready for tougher opponents come January.

Status: Contender

 

Houston Texans

Record 6-1

Why they will- They run the ball, stop the run, and get after the quarterback. Another thing is competition, who in the AFC can give them a run for their money? They have already beaten Baltimore and Denver, and the Patriots are surrounded by question marks.

Why they won’t- Matt Schaub has never played in a playoff game or in a meaningful game at the end of the season. If it becomes a track meet versus a Patriots or Broncos team I’m not sure he will live up to the moment.

Status: Contender

 

Chicago Bears

Record 5-1

Why they will- They don’t have a true weakness. They play great defense, are great on special teams, have an accurate kicker, have a top 5 running back and receiver, and have a quarterback who has one of the best arms. They were 7-3 last year before losing both their quarterback and running back for the season. They addition of both healthy and the pick-up of Brandon Marshall makes this team dangerous.

Why they won’t- The offensive line will struggle against teams with a great pass rush and Cutler will be pressured into making quick decisions. With that you’ll see turnovers that will ultimately doom this team.

Status: Contender

 

Baltimore Ravens

Record 5-2

Why they will- This offense has gotten better and Flacco is coming into his own. Getting last year’s Defensive Player of the Year in Suggs back will boost the defense and they will find a way to not drop the ball come January.

Why they won’t- Injuries. The staple of this team for over the last decade has been defense. While they are slowly starting to regress, they are also catching the injury bug. The losses of Webb and Ray Lewis will be key down the stretch and we’ve already seen others like Ed Reed and Ngata have to come out of games.

Status: Contender

 

New York Giants

Record 5-2

Why they will- Simple, because all games have a 4th quarter. Eli Manning has become the best football player in his family.

Why they won’t- This team is at its best in the underdog role. We saw them get to a hot start after winning the Superbowl a few years ago, only to shoot themselves in the foot, or leg take your pick. If they become a heavy favorite they will falter, it’s what they do.

Status: Contender

 

Minnesota Vikings

Record 5-2

Why they will- They play great at home and if they can find a way to win 2 of the next 3 games against Tampa Bay, Seattle,  and Detroit then they might get far enough ahead in the standings to back into the playoffs.

Why they won’t- Their division is too strong. 6 of their remaining 9 games will be against teams with winning records. If they were this record in the AFC they’d almost be a shoe-in.

Status: Pretender

 

San Francisco 49ers

Record 5-2

Why they will- They have the best defense in the league and can shut out any team on any given weekend. The offense has weapons at the skill positions and they can line up and beat you running the football.

Why they won’t- Alex Smith has already thrown just as many interceptions this year as last. If he falls back into old patterns then this team will be one and done. The defense hasn’t gotten the pressure on the quarterback like it did last year, which in turn has left some voids in the secondary that have been exploited at times.

Status: Contender

 

New England Patriots

Record 4-3

Why they will- They have the greatest quarterback in history on the roster and all he does is find ways to get to the big game. The defense will improve over the year and they will go on the same type of run they did last season.

Why they won’t- They have lost 3 games by a combined 4 points and have blown several leads late in games. Whenever it becomes the 4th quarter this team looks like they are playing scared trying not to loss rather than trying to win. The defense still has majors flaws in the passing game. If you need a fantasy starter fill-in just use whomever is playing them.

Status: Contender

 

Green Bay Packers

Record 4-3

Why they will- They’d be 5-2 if Seattle wasn’t gifted that last second touchdown. Either way Rodgers is playing great ball. They became overconfident last year coming off a championship and a 15-1 season. The early loss last year in the playoffs, accompanied with the early losses this season will focus this team down the stretch.

Why they won’t- Lack of a run game will prove difficult in January against teams like the Giants, Bears, and 49ers.

Status: Contender

 

Arizona Cardinals

Record 4-3

Why they will- Their defense will keep them within striking distance of every game. Their skill position players are good enough to make up for their shortfalls.

Why they won’t- They don’t have an offensive line therefore it doesn’t matter who is at quarterback. They have won 3 games by less than a touchdown where all 3 teams had a chance to win at the end. Meaning they could easily be 1-6 right now. They have also lost 3 straight versus the Rams, Bills, and Vikings. Their next 3 games are against the 49ers, Packers, and Falcons… Ouch.

Status: Pretender

 

Seattle Seahawks

Record 4-3

Why they will- This team has a swagger and has a knack for late game heroics. The defense is playing great and they have the best secondary. As long as they can get ahead early it will be difficult to beat them. Oh yeah and they are almost unbeatable at home.

Why they won’t- They are 0-3 against the division which will make it extremely difficult to win the division. This team as a road wild card team isn’t a great threat. Wilson is starting to hit that rookie quarterback wall. The receivers are also dropping too many passes, which is the reason they lost to San Francisco.

Status: Contender

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Tags: 49ers 2012 Alex Smith San Francisco 49ers