Contender or Pretender? Predicting the 2-2 Teams
Kansas City remains the only undefeated team in the league. After them, there are 9 teams with only 1 loss. The other 22 teams have lost 2 or more games. There are 7 teams that have lost 3 or more games, so I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say they won’t be in the playoffs this year. The Patriots are the lone team at 3-2 right now (for another day at least), while the Dolphins are the lone team at 1-2. I don’t think we have anything to worry about with the Patriots, and I’m pretty sure the Dolphins are bad this year.
That leaves us with 13 teams sitting in the middle of the pack. These teams have had their ups and downs, but will any of them be able to get things figured out? Some of these 2-2 teams will end up making the playoffs, but just because they make the playoffs, does that mean they have a real chance to win the Super Bowl? No.
After reviewing schedules and numbers, I’ve taken these 13 teams and put them into the category of contender or pretender. I’ll tell you right now, there aren’t many contenders in this group. Keep in mind, when I say contenders, I mean teams who have a real chance to win the Super Bowl. It’s one thing to make the playoffs, but it’s another thing to have a legit chance at winning a title.
The Jaguars are one of the surprises of the season so far. Even though they’re sitting at a mediocre 2-2 record, that’s huge for them at this point in the season. Since Blake Bortles has been their quarterback, they haven’t won more than 5 games in a season. Their current record has them on pace for an 8-8 season. After looking through their schedule, they have quite a few very winnable games. They play the Colts twice, the Bengals, Chargers, Browns, and 49ers. That’s 6 games against teams with a losing record right now. They also play the Cardinals and Titans, who are both sitting at 2-2 and have struggled this year. The Jaguars might actually make the playoffs this year, but if they do they won’t make it very far. To be the best you have to beat the best. Their schedule is favorable, but they’re not playing teams that will make them playoff ready.
The Raiders haven’t been playing as well as we thought they would this year. They’ve had some pretty bad games on offense, and now Derek Carr is injured. He has returned to practice, but who knows how that back injury will impact his game. The Raiders are sitting in the middle of the road on both offense and defense right now, which is probably why they’re 2-2. Again, we don’t know how the injury situation with Derek Carr will go, but I do know that he’s a stud quarterback. If he wouldn’t have been injured at the end of last season, I thought the Raiders had a legit shot at going to the Super Bowl. It’s still early in the season, and I think Carr and the Raiders get things figured out by the time playoffs come around. With Carr at quarterback, the Raiders will always have a shot.
Defensively, the Vikings are one of the best teams in the league. They’re allowing just 19 points per game right now. When you have a defense like that, you usually have a chance to win games. On offense, the Vikings are only scoring 19.8 points per game, which is awfully close to the 19 points the Vikings defense is allowing. The defense can keep them in enough games, but can the offense win them enough games? Right now the Vikings have the Packers and Lions, who are both 3-1, ahead of them in their division. That’s a problem for them. It will be tough to win more games than both of those teams, and it’s rare that we see three teams from the same division make the playoffs.
The Dallas defense is allowing 24.2 points per game, while the offense is scoring 23.5. When you’re defense give up more points than you can score on average, it’s usually not a good situation. Dallas looks like they haven’t really figured things out on offense this year. They’ve their ups and downs, but even when they’ve had their ups, the defense has let them down. They scored 30 points against the Rams and they still lost because the defense couldn’t stop anyone. There’s a reason Aaron Rodgers shredded them in the playoffs last year. The Cowboys defense has always been a weakness, and it still is. As a Cowboys fan, my head and my heart are telling me they’re for real, but the numbers say they’re not. Even if they end up making the playoffs, they’ll get shredded by the best quarterbacks in the league.
New York Jets
The Jets have won 2 games this year. That’s two more than a lot of people thought they would. They may even get a third win this week against the Browns. While they may prove they can beat the inferior teams, they don’t stand a chance when it comes to beating true contenders. The offense is only scoring 18.8 points per game, which doesn’t spell playoff team. Their schedule doesn’t allow them to play enough inferior teams to have a record worthy of playoff consideration. They play the Patriots twice, the Falcons, Bills, Panthers, Chiefs, and Broncos.
One thing the Redskins do have going for them right now, is that Kirk Cousins isn’t giving the ball away. Through 4 games, he only has 1 interception. The last two years he’s given the ball away 12 and 11 times. Despite not giving the ball away, both the offense and defense are sitting right around the middle of the pack at this point. Middle of the pack isn’t good enough to be considered a contender unless you have a top tier quarterback. Kirk Cousins may want top tier money, but he’s not a top tier quarterback. Looking through the schedule, it’s definitely possible this team makes the playoffs, but I can’t see them making a deep run.
Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson has the Texans offense sitting at 4th overall in scoring (27.5). Of course that 57 point explosion against the Titans helped boost that up. They have a pretty favorable schedule to getting to the playoffs. They’ve got the Browns, Colts twice, and 49ers among other winnable games. I think they’ll make the playoffs again this year, but when they get their it may not go as Texans fans hope. Rookie quarterbacks have statistically struggled to get victories in the playoffs, and no rookie quarterback has ever even started a Super Bowl. Just because it hasn’t happened, doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but I can’t see Deshaun Watson being the first rookie to ever do it.
Let me make this one easy for everyone. When your offense is scoring an average of 15 points per game (30th in the league), you’re not a contender. Not even close. Probably the biggest reason for their scoring troubles, is starting quarterback Joe Flacco. He’s on pace to have the worst year of his career. I actually think the Ravens defense is better than they’re getting credit for, but Joe Flacco and the offense can’t stay on the field long enough to let them rest.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints schedule consists of them playing the Falcons twice, Lions, Packers, Bills, Panthers, and Rams. Those teams are either in the top 10 in scoring or scoring allowed. That’s a tough schedule. They did already have an impressive win over the Panthers, but they haven’t shown consistency. We know they can beat bad teams like the Dolphins, but was their game against the Panthers something they can do against all the best teams, or was it just a good game for them? I think it was just a good game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Their two wins have come against teams that have a combined total of 1 win. Looking through the schedule makes me believe this team won’t make the playoffs. It’s going to be tough to win a division where the Falcons, Panthers, and Saints play. The defense currently ranks last in sacks. They only have 4 sacks in 4 games. How do you expect to win games if you can’t pressure Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Drew Brees? Those are just the quarterbacks in their division.
The Titans rank 9th in scoring right now, but their defense is ranked 31st in points allowed. This is a similar situation to the Dallas Cowboys, just worse. The Titans defense isn’t doing any favors to Marcus Mariota and the offense. Mariota is a good quarterback, but you can’t expect him to be able to score 30+ points every game. That’s asking a lot, even for the best of quarterbacks. The offense will keep them in games, but if the defense can’t get something figured out, it won’t matter.
The Seahawks offense was bad the first two weeks, but in the past couple of games has picked up. This team needs the offense to stay hot if they want a real chance at winning a championship. The defense is once again sitting in the top 10 in points allowed (19.2). Anytime you have a defense who can hold teams to under 20 points, you have a shot to win. We’ve seen the Seahawks get off to a slow start in seasons past, but then pick it up when it matters most. They’ll make the playoffs, and in the playoffs this defense is a threat to anyone.
This team is sitting at 2-2, but their two wins have come over the 49ers and Colts. The teams they’ve beaten have a combined total of 1 win, and that win came over the Browns. That speaks for itself. The offense has struggled all season. Their star running back is out, and Carson Palmer has played poorly. His 59% completion percentage and TD to INT ratio of 5-5 aren’t going to cut it. The offense should pick up when Johnson gets back, but by that time it will most likely be too late.
There’s still a long way to go in the season, and things could easily change. Is the Dallas defense bad because of all the injuries they’ve had? Can Deshaun Watson continue his hot streak? Can Joe Flacco play at the level of a Super Bowl winning quarterback again? My predictions are based on what I’ve seen through 4 games and what each teams schedule looks like moving forward, but with 12 games left in the season, there’s still a lot of time for these teams to grow and change.