NFL Playoff Contenders: Real or Fake?December 13, 2017
We’ve entered the final month of the NFL regular season and the playoff picture is beginning to take shape. Some teams like the Steelers, Patriots, and Vikings all seem like serious contenders that our favorites to win the Super Bowl in Minneapolis, but many Division Champs and current Wild Card teams have numerous aspects about their team that questions whether they are real contenders or not. I’ve broken down what I think are the most significant questionable playoff teams.
The Saints are coming off a loss on Thursday Night Football against the biggest chokers of all-time—I mean the Atlanta Falcons. Head Coach Sean Payton threw up the choke sign on the sideline, but the real story was when he left his sideline to yell at a referee for not calling a timeout in a timely fashion so the Saints could get the ball back. Even with this choke, I think the Saints are legit. They have legit road blowout wins in Buffalo and Carolina, and have a consistent running and passing game. Also, the defense has been a pleasant surprise. The Saints’ defense has forced at least one turnover in 10 out of their 13 games, and had 3 or more takeaways in a game 3 times. The injury to star RB Alvin Kamara and their coach going absolutely ballistic are the only things holding this team back from making a deep run in the playoffs.
After starting 0-4, first-year Head Coach Anthony Lynn is making moves for the newest team in the City of Angels. Phillip Rivers and his 8 kids are moving the ball effectively, Keenan Allen is catching EVERYTHING thrown in his direction, and the defense is stepping up. I thought this was another lost season for the talented Rivers, but they have proved me wrong. The Chargers rank second in total defense, and have 3 games remaining, 2 of which are the Chiefs and Raiders, with the Jets sandwiched in the middle. These games won’t be easy, but I think Phil gets this team into Wild Card weekend, and even could win the AFC West.
Cam Newton can dab into the endzone all he wants, but I don’t see the Panthers making any noise in the playoffs. They had a lackluster start to the season with a game they won without scoring a touchdown, and another where they went on the road and beat Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Panthers can’t figure out their identity. They lost by two TDs to the lowly Chicago Bears and lost to a bad Buccaneers team by 2 possessions. They have picked up momentum lately, by beating the NFC elite Vikings, but I think they stall out before January.
Blake Bortles is their quarterback. The defense is really really good, but Blake Bortles is their quarterback. Yes, they beat Seattle at home last Sunday, but they play in the AFC South where Tom Brady’s youngest son could win the division. Hell, even Jacoby Brissett was making noise in the early parts of this season. This franchise is hungry for a playoff run, and new VP of Football Operations, Tom Coughlin, is primed to get his old signal caller Eli Manning in the offseason. But for now, this looks like a first-round exit.
Written by David Chase