Separating the NFL’s contenders from pretenders

Brendan Reidy , Sports Writer

The National Football League is one of the most popular leagues in America. What makes the game so interesting is that every year there is always a new team in the mix to win the Super Bowl. Through six weeks of the NFL season, it has started to become clear the teams that are contenders and those who are pretenders. Let’s start with the teams that are irrelevant.

The Bills, Jets, Raiders, Broncos, Buccaneers, Colts, Giants, Cardinals and 49ers all fall into the irrelevant category. All of these teams, through six weeks of play, have been underwhelming to say the least. All of these teams have a sub .500 winning percentage. They have all basically eliminated themselves from playoff contention, because it will be extremely difficult for them to win games with the rosters they currently have.

Now let’s get into wildcards. These team all have exceeded expectations so far, and all have potential to be contenders. These teams include: the Dolphins, Jets, Ravens, Browns, Titans, Redskins, Lions and the Bears. All these teams started the year off hot. However, deterring most of these teams are still relatively young or our undergoing personel changes this season with coaching. You also notice that four of these teams have very young quarterbacks at the helm with loads of potential. However, we don’t know when they will reach that level of potential. These quarterbacks are Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Marcus Mariota and Mitchell Trubisky. We have seen signs from all these players, but some of these young arms have better teams around them than others. Mayfield, Mariota and Trubisky all have the best shot of getting their teams into the postseason, because they are surrounded with loads of talent that just needs to be brought together. All of their teams have good offensive weapons to go along with elite defenses.

However, it all is up to the quarterback to put the team in position to succeed. We talk about how these teams have potential to make the playoffs, and can potentially make a run come January, but now let’s take a look at some over hyped teams that are pretenders.

Teams in this category are teams that have been in the postseason in recent memory, or had high expectations entering the season. These teams consist of the Bengals, Steelers, Texans, Jaguars, Cowboys, Seahawks, Packers and the Falcons. The Bengals have come out of the gate as red hot as Andy Daltons’ hair, but will they will be able to carry that into the postseason as they still wait for Dalton to win his first playoff matchup? That has yet to be answered. The Cowboys, Seahawks, Packers, Steelers and Falcons all seem to be past their primes, and their title window is just about closed. The Jaguars and Texans are a different story. Both teams are loaded with talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but the concerns come from the quarterback position. I don’t see either team making a postseason run with their current QB. Blake Bortles is wildly inconsistent, and Deshaun Watson can’t seem to recapture his rookie season magic. With pretenders out of the way, let’s look at the legit contenders.

The Patriots, Chiefs, Chargers, Eagles, Rams, Vikings, Saints and Panthers all fit the bill as Super Bowl contenders. The Chiefs haven’t lost a beat from the last season, and are led by rookie sensation and early season MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes. The Patriots will always be a threat as long as they have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at the helm. The Chargers are new to this list, but they finally seem to have an all-around team to compete with the big dogs of the AFC. The Eagles are the reigning Super Bowl Champions and have gotten off to a shaky start, but Carson Wentz will regain his form and so will his team. The Rams are the lone unbeaten team in the NFL. They are led by offensive mastermind Sean McVay, and have one of the most explosive teams on both sides of the ball. Vikings went to the NFC Championship a year ago, and have only gotten better with the accusation of Kirk Cousins. The Saints have one of the all-time greats under center in Drew Brees, and he is looking to add another ring to his collection as he enters the final years of his career. Finally, you have the Panthers who I was debating to put on this list or not. Cam Newton has led his team to the Big Game once before, but lost. Will this be the year he finishes the deal? Only time will tell. My way too early Super Bowl prediction are the Rams 32, Chiefs 24.