As we enter Week 8 of the NFL season, we have a record-breaking five teams still undefeated. With that said, who are Super Bowl contenders and who are just pretenders? Let’s break down each of the teams and see who can actually make some noise come playoff time.
First let’s break down the pretender category.
The Bengals do not have the defense needed to advance to the big game. Yes, the offense has been absolutely incredible to this point. However, look at what their defense has been doing. Up until now, Cincinnati is ranked 11th, allowing 20.3 points per game. Yes, this is a solid stat, but the number of yards allowed is what is going to put the nail in the Bengals’ coffin. Their defense allows the opposing offense to unleash 370.7 total yards per game, leaving them to be the 10th worst team in the league. The worst part is, most of it seems to be through the air being that they allow 261.5 yards per game. If they are going to rely on their offense this heavily, Andy Dalton will need to put up major numbers. With all of that being said, they don’t stand a chance in a game with a top tier quarterback. Picking apart their remaining games, I see this team ending at 13 wins and 3 losses.
The Denver Broncos are also pretenders who don’t look very promising to make the Super Bowl. What are the positives of this team? Is it Peyton Manning? For the first time in his career, he has actually been the largest detriment to his team. The only reason this team is currently undefeated is their defense, which allows them to linger just long enough for Peyton to get some oil in his old joints and get a score on the board. Peyton has had some horrendous first halves. At times, it has been incredibly painful to watch. Over the years, especially in this area, all you have heard is how much we hate Peyton. Luckily for Peyton, his defense has allowed a measly 17 points per game, being the 3rd best team in the league in this category. Sadly, when your quarterback is throwing for a total QBR of 46.4, it is going to be nearly impossible to get a win in the playoffs. I see this team dropping to twelve and four by season’s end.
Now let’s take a more in depth look into the three possible Super Bowl contenders.
First of all, do I think this team will make the Super Bowl? I believe that if they find holes in the team they face in the NFC championship game, then they are hardcore contenders. The Carolina Panthers are led by quarterback Cam Newton. Carolina has been a balanced and hungry team looking to prove itself. For the past few years now, since Newton has entered the league, the team tends to fall short of expectations. What are the strengths that make this team a contender? Their balanced attack is the answer. The offense puts up a strong amount each week with 27.0 PPG, being 6th best in the league. Honestly though, their passing offense isn’t anything to be impressed with. It’s the fierce running attack that gives this team a legit chance. Jonathan Stewart has been phenomenal, rushing for an impressive 423 yards through seven games. Followed behind their starting running back is their quarterback, Cam Newton. He brings versatility to the offense like no other. Not only do you need to watch his passing game, but also you need to set an extra linebacker as a spy to assure Newton doesn’t make a dash for it himself. The balanced attack comes from the defense too, though. The team gives up 18.3 points per game, allowing the wins to pile on. Carolina is the real deal.
The Green Bay Packers seem almost unbeatable as they display a tough defense with one of the best quarterbacks to play in the modern football era, Aaron Rodgers. This team is unbelievable in every sense of the word. Rodgers is a surgeon in the pocket and is a master at quick thinking, personnel changes and finding the right receiver. Although one of Green Bay’s best receiving options, Jordy Nelson, went down during the preseason with a torn ACL, you almost wouldn’t notice with the way this offense has been rolling, but this isn’t a team who is set on its passing game. They are another team that shows immense balance. They are ranked 22nd in passing yards per game with 236.8 yards, which isn’t even impressive. The impressiveness shown is in the run game. This is without Eddie Lacy rushing consistently. What makes this team strong is the question mark they leave for opposing defensive coordinators. You never can be sure what is coming next and I think that is going to make the difference in the NFC Championship game. This is all said without anybody mentioning their No. 1 ranked defense in the league. This means that one of the best offenses in the league, mixed with one of the best defenses, is one of the most lethal combinations in the NFL.
The New England Patriots have something to prove this season. After an entire offseason filled with controversy and legal battles in regards to deflated footballs, quarterback Tom Brady is out for vengeance. This team is absolutely the best team in the AFC. Part of this is due to their red-hot offense. Each week the Patriots put up a league best 35.5 points on average. The offensive force shows to be unstoppable throughout most games. However, the numbers show that most of the damage comes through the air as their runners only total about 88 yards per game, being the second to worst team in this category. Does this even matter, though? The offense scores on 56.5 percent of its drives according to sportingcharts.com. This, again, is a league best. The biggest criticism the team has faced is its secondary, which has proven to be weak, but they always get the job done. Yes, the Patriots put up big numbers on the board each week, but the defense is able to only allow 21 points per game. This is an outstanding statistic because it shows that if the defense can hold teams to this low of a score, its high-powered offense can win the game easily. This is why I see the New England Patriots making the Super Bowl without any true threat standing in their way.
There we have it, the contenders and pretenders of the NFL.