NFL Playoffs: Contender or Pretender
With the NFL playoffs are only one week away, the field of teams eligible for playoff contention is narrowing. Some of the teams are stronger than others and there can only be two that make it to the Super Bowl. The question is, which teams have a legit shot at making it to the big game. Let’s start off by taking a look at the
1. New England Patriots – Contender: The New England Patriots have shown time and time again that they can beat the best of them. They slaughtered the Broncos, Lions, Bengals and Colts. All of which will also be in the playoffs. They barely lost to the Green Bay Packers. Anytime you have Bill Belichick as your head coach and Tom Brady as your quarterback, you have a legit chance. They also now boast an elite defense led by pro bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Patriots will be a hard team to stop.
2. Denver Broncos – Contender: The Denver Broncos have a wide array of offensive weapons including pro bowl quarterback Peyton Manning. They also have stepped it up on defense this year. Despite their recent struggles, they are too talented to be taken lightly in the playoffs. They will need to step it up for sure, but if they can, which I predict they will, they will be a tough team to beat this January.
3. Cincinnati Bengals – Pretender: The Bengals have proven to have trouble in big games, and with Andy Dalton’s extremely inconsistent play so far this season it’s looking that they will likely fall short again. They do have some big play threats like A.J. Green and Jeremy Hill, so they can’t be counted out too quickly. Their track record doesn’t go in their favor though.
4. Indianpolis Colts – Pretender: Andrew Luck is a good quarterback, but he’s too young and has fallen victim to making stupid mistakes when his team needs him. In the last couple of weeks he has had a couple awful games and his mindset won’t be quite where it needs to be going into the playoffs. The Colts have bigger problems than Luck though. They also lack a consistent run game in Ahmad Bradshaw and they don’t have one of the league’s best defenses either. It will be a long shot for these Colts.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers – Contender: The Steelers are led by experienced quarterback Ben Roethelisberger, someone who has already won two superbowls. Add in world class athletes Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell and you have a recipe for success. Their defense might not be the strongest, but they play hard and surely will not give up. The Steelers are 7-2 in their last nine and will be looking to come into the playoffs hot after a win to the Bengals this Sunday.
6. San Diego Chargers – Pretender: At times this year, the Chargers have looked unstoppable. But at others, they’ve looked like they don’t even belong in the playoffs. They’ve been far too inconsistent this year to be considered a serious threat in the playoffs. If they are able to show up in their best form throughout all of the playoffs, then they could make some serious noise. However, they haven’t shown the ability to be consistent all year.
7. Baltimore Ravens – Contender: The Ravens have played some amazing football this year. Even in their worst games, they haven’t looked totally incapable of winning. They will need Joe Flacco to show up in every game, but with an improved defense, new intensity at receiver and new running back in Justin Forsett, they look very capable of doing some damage in the playoffs. They just need to win first.
8. Houston Texans – Pretender: The Texans technically still have a chance to make the playoffs, but they are far out. They just haven’t been a playoff caliber team this year and don’t have the offense to make a serious run. They don’t have an experienced quarterback to lead them through the tough times. Their defense is their calling card but it’s not enough to get them through.
1. Seattle Seahawks – Contender: The Seahawks are perhaps the most dangerous team in football. They have the best defense in the NFL and their offense does just what it needs to do to let the defense win games. Marshawn Lynch can’t be stopped, Russell Wilson can’t be tackled and the defense never gives up big plays. They look unstoppable right now.
2. Detroit Lions – Pretender: The Detroit Lions are inexperienced in the playoffs and will have a hard time making a big splash. Matthew Stafford is good but does not have experience in the playoffs, which will make it hard for them to advance. Their defensive front seven is good but their secondary is questionable at best. They are simply too young and inexperienced to make it far enough.
3. Dallas Cowboys – Pretender: The Cowboys have been surprisingly good this year. Some thought they would be worse than they’ve been in a long time because of their lack of defense. However, they’ve proved everyone wrong. I want to say that I’m not calling them pretenders for the same reason that everyone else is. I don’t think Romo is going to fail them, I think he will play his heart out. I just think that their lack of success in the playoffs will hurt them. I also don’t believe in Jason Garrett’s ability to coach them through the tough times. I don’t see them making it far.
4. Carolina Panthers – Pretender: I don’t think this requires much of an explanation. They will be going into the playoffs with a losing record, if they even make it. Their secondary is weak, they have no offensive line to protect Cam Newton and don’t have many weapons for Newton to throw to. I wouldn’t expect them to win a single game in the playoffs.
5. Green Bay Packer s- Contender: The Packers are a dangerous team. They haven’t looked their best in the past couple weeks, but they still have Aaron Rodgers at the helm. With their improved defense and dangerous offensive foursome, they will be hard to beat in the playoffs. Watch for Rodgers to come in and dominate the competition. The only problem for the Packers is their struggles on the road.
6. Arizona Cardinals – Pretender: The Cardinals have a top notch defense that can roll with the best offenses, but the problem comes after the defense gets off the field. The offense is being run by either Logan Thomas or Ryan Lindley and neither can get much going. This leads to their defense being out onto the field again immediately, and no defense can stop an offense forever. Expect low scoring games for the Cardinals, but not wins.
7. Atlanta Falcons- Pretender: This is pretty much the same as the Panthers situation. They will have a losing record, and don’t have the best track record in the playoffs. Their defense can be a liability and their offensive line is too porous to give Matt Ryan any time. They will struggle to produce anything against the best teams the NFC has to offer.