After 10 long, exciting weeks through the 2020 NFL season, it is time to take a serious look at which teams can make a surprise push for Lombardi trophy and which teams are overhyped.
The Ravens are one of the most talented teams in the NFL, no question about it. But, time and time again, Lamar proves he can’t buckle up and win primetime games. It is fair to say it is not Lamar’s fault for the Ravens’ struggles. The Ravens have been affected by injuries and COVID-19 issues. But an elite, MVP quarterback can lead his team, despite all that is going on, and pull out a win. The Ravens have been in every game this season. They have lost to the Chiefs (the easy favorite to win it all), the Steelers (the last undefeated team in the NFL), and the Patriots (a team with a coach that knows how to win). In everyone of these games, the Ravens have had a chance to win at some point in the game. Right now the Ravens are pretenders, but if they can fix their offense struggles and small errors on defense, the Ravens may be able to squeeze out a playoff game or two.
The Seahawks have struggled the past couple of weeks. Their defense (by now I’m sure your aware) is historically bad. This is interesting considering they have Jamal Adams, Carlos Dunlap, Quinton Dunbar, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and other high level players. Its seems like the defense has no chemistry. This is a result of the starting defense not playing a full game together through 10 weeks. The offense, lead by Russell Wilson, is struggling. It seems like he is trying to do too much and push the ball down the field. This is partly due to the fact that the top two backs have been injured and they Seahawks are relying on rookie RB DeeJay Dallas. Right now the Seahawks need to regroup and go back to the basics or they are in trouble of not even making the playoffs.
Yes the Steelers are 9-0. Yes the Steelers have a top five defense in the NFL. No the Steelers will not win the Super Bowl. In fact, I don’t even see them winning one playoffs game. The Steelers defense is lethal. But, the Steelers defense has allowed over 20 points in all but two games this season. They are good, but the problem is their offense. Big Ben’s body is a mess right now. One decent hit on him and he could be out for multiple games or not be able to throw the ball more than 20 yards down field at the least. The Steelers have very good WR core and their RBs have potential. The only problem is that the Steelers have not played any high flying teams (except the Ravens in which they barely won), and it concerns me that they won’t be ready. Mike Tomlin is one of the greatest coach of all time, but the Steelers have some young pieces they rely on and it will be hard for them to get past the Chiefs.
The Bills are a rising young team. Lead by Josh Allen, who can hit you at any aspect in the game, is the only reason the Bills are relevant. After a one and done last year, the Bills added Stefon Diggs. This drastically improved their offense by giving Allen a number one receiver. The Bills defense has underperformed this year, compared to last year. The Bills aren’t creating enough pass rush and are relying on a banged up secondary. The Bills may escape one playoff game, but to say they will beat the Chiefs or Ravens would be a very hot take.
The Saints just lost Drew Brees to a rib and lung injury. This could keep him out for a week or two or the rest of the season (remember he is 41 years old). With Jameis taking over, it will be interesting to see how he rebound after a historically bad season with turnovers last year. He does have a lot fo weapons in Michael Thomas (also battling an injury), Alvin Kamara, Emmanuel Sanders, Taysom Hill, and others. Winston has the coaches and players, the question is can he pick up where Brees left off. In my opinion, he won’t. The Saints defense has been streaky for the last couple of years. This year is no different. The Saints defense is in the middle of the pack, but acquiring Kwon Alexander from the San Francisco 49ers may help. For the Saints to have success, they need their defense to step up and not have a heartbreaking loss like the last couple of years.
CONTENDERS (aside from the Chiefs)
Lead by 5′ 10″, former number one overall pick Kyler Murray, the Cardinals are a very interesting team. The Cardinals offense is explosive. With the addition of DeAndre Hopkins, and the long-time veteran Larry Fitzgerald, Murray has some weapons on offense. Murray also leads the NFL in rush yards by a QB. It is safe to say the Cardinals can do it through the air and ground, making it hard on a defense to pick out a weakness. The Cardinals defense could be the only thing that could slow them down. After the first five weeks of the season, the Cardinals defense was among the best in the NFL. After playing the Seahawks, Bills, and Dolphins (teams with great offenses), the Cardinals defense had collapsed. If they can get back on track on defense, the Cards can make a run in the playoffs, lead by an experienced Larry Fitzgerald.
The Raiders have beat the Chiefs and Saints. Their three loses come against the Buccaneers, Bills, and Patriots; all teams that are considered contenders (well, except the Bills). They have played one of the toughest schedules in the NFL this year. They are the only team to dethrone the Chiefs over the past year. The second half of the schedule will feature the Jets, Chargers, Broncos, and Falcons. Their offense and defense are both middle of the pack in terms of stats. With John Gruden’s experience, he has created game plans that have mostly worked. Derek Carr is play sneaky good football, and Josh Jacobs continues his success. The defense has stepped up to make elite plays and the Raiders are finding ways to win. They know the formula to beat Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs, so it would not be surprising to see them make a deep playoff run or even raise the Lombardi trophy.
Before you freak out, here me out. Yes the Eagles are contenders for the Super Bowl. The Eagles have had the injury plague ever since their Super Bowl run a few years ago. They are also in the worst division in football. With that, they are generally seen as the lock in the NFC East, no matter what record they end up with. This would allow them to host a playoff game. Doug Peterson’s team were underdogs all through the playoffs during their Super Bowl run, and it will be no different this year. Carson Wentz seems to have figured out his turnover problem the last couple of games, and his offense is getting healthier. Getting back some key weapons such as Miles Sanders, Alshon Jeffery, and Dallas Goedert will help give Wentz more options. Their defense was good with all of their previous injures, and getting back Fletcher Cox and others will help boost a defense that also includes Darius Slay. It will be a long shot, but if healthy, the Eagles could win multiple “17-13-type” games en route to a title. That being said, they have to play perfect football, something that only a few Super Bowl winners have done.
The Colts have the toughest schedule in the NFL. They have a 6-3 record and are in 1st place in a two-way race with the Titans (who they just stomped on) in the AFC South. The Colts still have two games against the Texans and one with the Jaguars. If the Colts can manage to make the playoffs, they would have tremendous experience with big games (they would’ve played some AFC powerhouses such as the Steelers, the Ravens, the Raiders, and the Titans) and have a veteran QB Philip Rivers. The Colts defense is legit and they have been lucky to not have any major injuries. Head coach, Frank Reich, has been on a run with Philly (the only reason Nick Foles is relevant), so he know what it takes to build a championship team in the 2010s. The Colts are a scary team if they stay healthy and use the formula of tough defense and downhill running offense.
The Rams are the second team in the NFC West to be featured as a contender. This is partly due to the fact that they are in a three way tie atop the West at 6-3. The Rams made a disappointing Super Bowl run a couple years ago, but if anyone can redeem themselves its Sean McVay. He has finally found success in Jared Goff with the play action pass off of three featured back. Coming into the season no one had heard of Darrell Henderson Jr., Cam Akers, and Malcolm Brown. Now, defenses have to be aware of all three of them. The Rams defense isn’t the greatest, but it will do in generation of prolific offenses. The Rams play in a division that is considered the best in the NFL. This drastically helps them when they get to the playoffs. The Rams will not get a first round bye or any help, but they could very well play a team like the Eagles or Vikings that they can get momentum to set the tone for a Lombardi hoist.
Photo: Ralph Freso/AP