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Real, Pretend NFL Playoff Contenders

Scott Morris | November 23, 2022
Captain Kirk Cousins

If you’re feeling a little led astray by the Minnesota Vikings today, you’re not alone. So, after going 8-1 and pulling off a stunning, improbable comeback on the road over the Buffalo Bills, we were talking about them as legit Super Bowl contenders.

A fraud. A scam. A racket. A sham. A shakedown.

Minnesota lost, 40-3, at home to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, the worst loss of any team this season. It was a good, old-fashioned, 60-minute butt-kicking.

There’s no question the Vikes are a playoff team. They’re still going to win the NFC North, and not making the Super Bowl (they won’t) doesn’t mean they’re not worthy of making the playoffs.

If you believe in the Norsemen, take the 18-1 (+1800) odds they’re offering to win the title, according to Super Bowl odds.

However, not all of our current playoff contenders are legitimate.

Washington Commanders – Real Contender 

Place the Commanders in any other division in the NFC, and they are in second place. Leading, in the case of the NFC South. However, the nature of the NFC East-best division in the conference-has Washington in last place.

Since there are three wild-card teams this postseason, thus a fourth-place team could earn a berth. Washington still has three games remaining against division opponents, so that portion of their schedule is tough. There are also games against the iffy Browns and Falcons, thus a 9-8 record and a trip to the playoffs is a possibility

Atlanta Falcons – Pretend Contender

Mariota and Falcons are not goodAtlanta was in first place in the subdivision NFC South. We were talking about the Falcons as a team making the playoffs. Running the ball well, and with one of the truly electric all-around players in Cordarrelle Patterson (setting the all-time record with his ninth touchdown kickoff return Sunday). Atlanta did beat the two best teams in the NFC West, the Seahawks and 49ers.

Since losing to the Panthers, they’ve lost uber-tight end Kyle Pitts to a potentially season-ending injury (torn MCL). That injury occurred during the Falcons’ late 27-24 win over the Chicago Bears. Pitts isn’t used much in their run-heavy offense, but is their best pass catcher. With a team already slim in their passing game, this loss is huge.

Once this team gets a quarterback, they will be contenders. Now, merely pretenders.

New England Patriots – Real Contender

There’s no wide receivers of note. They just played a game in which they had seven punts and scored three points on offense. Rhamondre Stevenson had just 26 rushing yards on 15 carries.

However, they have Bill Belichick, they have Matthew Judon playing as if he’s the Defensive Player of the Year. They have three wins in a row (5-1 in their last six), and they just completed another season sweep of the other 6-4 team in their division, the New York Jets.

They were in the playoffs last season with an offense ranked considerably higher than it does as of now. Defense has improved, and even while quarterback Mac Jones struggles in his sophomore season, he is far more experienced than a year ago.

When Belichick is winning games in Foxboro, do not doubt the Patriots.

As of now, and per NFL odds, New England has negative odds to both make/miss the playoffs.

Los Angeles Chargers – Pretend Contender

Herbert and the phony ChargersIt was yet another “moral victory” as the Chargers lost again to the Kansas City Chiefs. Continuing to play Kansas City to within one possession,  but losing at home dropped them to 5-5, all but out of the AFC West race.

So, that leaves the wild card, and a large number of teams to get past, including the Patriots, Jets, Bills/Dolphins (AFC East non-winner) and Bengals. 

With tough games remaining against Miami and the Titans, plus two divisional games and the Cardinals and Rams on the schedule, L.A. is on its way to another 9-8 season. In the NFC, that would probably get the Bolts into the postseason. This isn’t the NFC.

At least two of the teams that do not win the AFC East figure to win 10 games. Whichever team does not win the North (Cincinnati or Baltimore) is likely to win 10 games as well. That means the Chargers will be watching the playoffs on the outside a fourth year in a row.


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