Who’s For Real and Who’s Not

by Aaron Jaffe ’21

The NFL season is a roller coaster. You never really can count anyone into the playoffs. In week one, everyone is contending for the playoffs. Fast forward two weeks into the season and for some the season is already done. It’s a high paced league, and even a few of the teams who have perfect starts, aren’t built for anything more than a good September. 

The Contenders:

New England Patriots 

Yeah. Normally for the football world, we all can celebrate when the Pats are 2-2 and the dynasty is falling apart, only for them to be in the AFC championship game year after year. This time around, they may just have their best team since the 2007 team that went 16-0. After back to back 30 point blowouts to start their season, it’s hard to believe that they can get better but they will. Thanks AB! Expect to see Brady and Belicheick go deep into the playoffs. Again.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens watched 4 of their best defenders walk out the door this offseason. Baltimore also sent their checkdown man in Joe Flacco out to Denver. The fate of their season was bet on second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson and it has paid back huge. Jackson through two games, is tied in the league lead in touchdown passes and owns a whopping 71.9 completion percentage. The defense hasn’t been tested very much, but still looks impressive. Plus, stud rookie wideout Marquise Brown brings a speed Baltimore hasn’t seen since the Torrey Smith/Jacoby Jones times. Baltimore may be one of the more complete teams and should take home the division title and make some noise in January.

Kansas City Chiefs

It always helps to have the reigning MVP right? Of course it does when that same man happens to be quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and he’s only played better. Last year Mahomes threw for 50 touchdowns with 5,097 passing yards. If Mahomes keeps this pace he would throw for 56 touchdowns and over 6,000 yards. The Kansas City offense is without star wide receiver Tyreek Hill for 4-6 weeks but the offense is still rolling. The defense still has its flaws but there isn’t a team that can put up more points than KC. The Chiefs were one offside penalty last year from making the Super Bowl. Chiefs vs Patriots round two should certainly be possible.

Dallas Cowboys

It’s always the Cowboys year to go all the way. Dallas fans are 100% sure of it. Well until they don’t go past the first round. So why will it be different this year? The obvious answer would be they have stars on both sides of the ball and their top-tier offensive line is finally healthy. But they have had talent like this before. It’s the new offensive coordinator and former Cowboys quarterback Kellen Moore and the wonders he has done with quarterback Dak Prescott. Under Coach Scott Linehan’s play calling, the Dallas offense looked allergic to any pass play more than 20 yards. This year, Prescott is a great deep ball thrower and has shown he is more than capable of being an elite QB. Of course you have to factor in the Cowboys ability to lose any big game, but Dallas should find themselves past the first round.

Los Angeles Rams 

Whether you like it or not, (Saints fans) last year’s Super Bowl had the Los Angeles Rams representing the NFC.  Although the offense didn’t show up in the big game, there are plenty of positives moving forward for the Rams. The core of their offense returned to LA, and in addition, the Rams also got wide receiver Cooper Kupp and running back Todd Gurley back from injury. Coach Sean Mcvay is widely seen as the best young coach in the league. The defense is as real as they come, headlined by arguably the best player in all of football, defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The Rams haven’t been dominating games but unlike some other teams, LA has been tested twice already, once on the road against Carolina and the other being a home game rematch of the NFC championship game against the Saints. Although they play in a division with two other 2-0 teams, 49ers and Seahawks, the Rams are still the best team in the NFC West and have a great shot of playing in February. 

The Fakers:

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo has one of the softer schedule in the NFL, and not entirely because of the teams they play. Buffalo opened with two road games against the other two teams in New York, the Giants and Jets. Then in the next two weeks, Buffalo stays at home for back-to-back home games. Traveling can be tiring, but for the Bills they have barely had to leave their own homes for the first month of the season. The schedule and games get harder, and it’s no fun to be in the same division as the Patriots this year or really any year over the past decade. Second-year quarterback Josh Allen has looked good but isn’t quite ready to take a team. Buffalo looks like a promising team but the playoffs should be next year’s goal for the Bills.

Green Bay Packers

Who would’ve thought that the Packers would be carried by their defense. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers aired out his frustrations about the offense last year and it lead to the firing of long time coach Mike McCarthy. Then a move questioned by many, Green Bay went out and hired former Titans offensive coordinator Matt LeFleur. So far the offense has been even worse under LeFleur and with Aaron Rodgers, that is very hard to do. The defense was stout against the Bears and Vikings, but the offense is ranked fourth-worst in points per drive in the NFL. The relationship between LeFleur and Rodgers hasn’t looked great and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another coach hired this offseason after another season not in Super Bowl contention.

San Francisco 49ers

The Niners’ 2018 season ended before they could even see what they had. Quarterback Jimmy Garrapolo tore his ACL early on and from there it was a wash of a season. The 49ers have been impressive this year winning their first two games on the road against the Bucs and Bengals. The offense has played well but the defense has been even better. Everything points to a promising season but there are two better teams than them in their own division. The competition level is only gonna get better and San Francisco is going to be without star left tackle Joe Staley for 6-8 weeks with a broken leg. The Niners have a great future but for now it looks to be another lost season.

Dark Horse:
Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson is a top 5 quarterback. Any time you have someone of that caliber it’s hard not to be a playoff team. Last year, Wilson took a team that was rebuilding and had them in the playoffs. This year, the offense is clicking and the era of the Legion of Boom is done and in the past thanks to this new pass rush. Seattle doesn’t have a loaded roster but they make up for it thanks to Coach Pete Carroll and playoff experience. Seattle won’t win the division but could make some noise in the playoffs.