Contenders and Pretenders Thus Far

NFL

So here we are on the verge of week 3 in the NFL, and we have some surprisingly undefeated teams, and on the other hand, some teams that surprisingly don’t have a win as of yet.

Let’s start of talking about the Kansas City Chiefs.  Last night, Andy Reid made his first visit to Philadelphia, as a member of the other sideline.  After 2 sub-par seasons of “the dream team” in Philly, Philly decided to cut ties with coach Reid and head in a new direction.  A decision that was fine, and understood by Andy Reid.  It did not take long for him to find a job, as the Chiefs swiftly took him off the market.  On the other hand, it did not take long for the Eagles to find their replacement as well in Chip Kelly.  In my opinion from the beginning, this was a favorable decision by Andy Reid and the Chiefs.  The Chiefs have always had the puzzle pieces, more so than the Eagles, to be a playoff caliber team.  Their defense is under-appreciated, and on top of that they have a star running back in Jamal Charles.  They always struggled with their quarterback production however.  Andy Reid fixed that immediately, by making a trade to acquire Alex Smith from the 49ers.  The chemistry has already shined, as the Chiefs open the season at 3-0.  The first time since 2010, the second year under head coach Todd Haley and made the playoffs only to lose in the first round.  The Chiefs in my eye’s, are contenders, not pretenders.  I think we will see continued success coming out of Kansas City, not just this year, but the next couple of years to come, even though they are in the same division as the Denver Broncos with coach Fox and Peyton Manning.

Another surprisingly undefeated team are the Miami Dolphins.  This was one of my picks to win their division.  Tannehill had a pretty good rookie season last year, but was outshined by the likes of RGIII and Russel Wilson.  Falling short of the playoffs, Tannehill made good use of what he had around him.  It’s clear to see that, by the way Miami restructured their team around him this year.  They spent big money in free agency on players such as Mike Wallace, who has the ability to stretch the field and give Tannehill even more options, even after a season ending injury to TE Dustin Keller.  They even went out and got former Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, who had already developed chemistry with the young quarterback as his coach in college.  Sherman is no stranger to the NFL level either, as he is a former coach and GM of the Packers, and former offensive coordinator of the Texans, before taking a head coaching job at Texas A&M, where he was once an offensive line coach.  I expect the Dolphins to win that division, or at least come very close, mainly because New England is not used to seeing any threats amongst them in the AFC East.  The Jets had a couple of “contender type” years, making the playoffs and the AFC championship game, but aside from that they have owned the division without a fight.  Even though New England is another undefeated team this year, without much surprise, they have struggled to beat the Bills and the Jets.  This, in my eyes, makes the Patriots the pretenders, and the Dolphins the Contenders.

The Texans and the Broncos are expected to be 2-0 I believe.  The Texans have struggled in both games but have made the second half adjustments need to pull out the win, which playoff teams do!  They drafted a heck of a rookie receive in DeAndre Hopkins, who has come up big as a number 2 receiver so far, behind Andre Johnson, which Matt Shaub hasn’t really ever had the pleasure of having.  Ben Tate has been having good games thus far as well, taking some of the weight off of Arian Foster’s shoulders.  Texans are contenders for sure, in a sub-par division.  The Broncos are undefeated, and in fashion!!  Blow outs in both games, offense is clicking under Peyton Manning and John Fox, and defense has been solid without Dumerville, and also while Champ Bailey is on the sideline due to injury.  Since they can easily manage without him, let him rest!  I do however feel that the Broncos are pretenders.  I’m sorry to say, but Peyton Manning has yet to prove to me that he is a post-season quarterback.  Its going to be between them and the Chiefs for the division, and I think they will both make the playoffs, but I don’t see Peyton Manning as a playoff contender.  Peyton has 9 playoff wins and 11 losses, and 8 one-and-done playoff appearances, and only 1 ring.

The Bears are surprisingly undefeated to me.  After firing head coach Lovie Smith, and letting Brian Urlacher just retire after slapping him in the face with the contract they offered him, they have been playing well.  Cutler is still a question mark for me, but so far so good.  He has spread the ball around, has 5 TD’s, and Matt Forte has been huge in the running game and passing game as well.  Even though other teams have come out with a slower start in that division, I think the Bears are pretenders.  I expect the Lions and the Packers to step their game up throughout the season, and knock the Bears out of the playoffs.

The Saints are right back on track with coach Sean Payton back at the reigns.  They had a tough one in Tampa last week, but Tampa’s defense is good this year.  The Saints also beat the Falcons in week 1.  Because of the lack of depth on the Saints, and Will Smith out for the season already, I think the Saints are pretenders.  There is a slight chance they can make the playoffs and make a run, but I doubt it this year.  I do expect Drew Brees to have another great season, but all in vain.

Seattle Seahawks have been a heavy favorite for the superbowl already this year, as they begin their season undefeated as well.  They have a very solid defense, and they have a bunch of talent on offense.  They owned the 49ers in week 2, and I think the Seahawks are for real.  Contenders for sure.  Expect to see them continue their success.

As far as winless teams go, I feel that the Panthers, the Buccaneers, Vikings, Jags and Browns are right where they belong.  Only fans of those teams had high hopes for them this year, and there are too many power houses this year for them to be any better than what they currently are.  Teams that are struggling to find their identity, but will eventually get it together and be contenders this year are the Steelers, Giants and Redskins.  All of these teams have solid defenses, and dynamic offenses, but have yet to find their stride.  They will get it turned around, and I think the Redskins will still win that division.  The Giants fall short to them, and the Steelers fall short to the Bengals for the AFC North, but all 3 teams will make the playoffs.  Another team that’s worth mentioning are the Colts.  They are 1-1, but the extremely questionable move for the Browns to trade Trent Richardson to them for a first round pick for next year, suddenly improved that offense drastically.  Trent Richardson has been the closest thing to hope Browns fans have seen in years, with 11 rushing TD’s and 1 receiving TD in his rookie debut last year.  He is a hard between-the-tackles runner, who also has the ability to take it outside.  This trade worked out in Richardson’s favor the most I feel.  He now plays for a contender with the Colts.

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SGN Chief correspondent

Anthony Andrews