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    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point

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    The Last Outlaw
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    PostThe Last Outlaw Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:36 pm

    From Seth Trachtman of YardBarker

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Contender: Kansas City Chiefs
    The Chiefs still have the Chargers on their tail in the AFC West, but they're in the driver's seat for both the division and home-field advantage in the AFC. The elite offense tops the league with 36.3 points per game, led by Patrick Mahomes and a host of elite weapons, and the defense will likely get several key players back soon, namely Justin Houston and Eric Berry. Their Nov. 19 showdown in Mexico City vs. the Rams can't come soon enough.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Pretender: Baltimore Ravens
    John Harbaugh is on the hot seat after the Ravens have lost three games in a row and four of five. The formerly elite defense has started to tumble, and the offense doesn't have enough firepower. They suffered a big loss in Week 9 vs. Pittsburgh and still have to travel to Kansas City and the Chargers this year.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Contender: New Orleans Saints
    The Saints anointed themselves the top team in the NFC with a win against the undefeated Rams. It will be tough to win home-field advantage in the conference with a brutal remaining schedule that includes home games vs. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Carolina, as well as visits to Cincinnati, Dallas and Carolina. That said, the offense is elite with 33.4 points per game, and the defense continues to progress.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Pretender: Washington Redskins
    Washington took a big punch with a loss at home against the Falcons and is averaging just 20.9 points per game, eighth worst in the NFL. The Skins still have pole position in the weak NFC East, but Alex Smith and Co. need to show more consistency. With what we've seen to this point, it's unlikely Washington has a chance against the top NFC teams even if it does make the playoffs.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Contender: Los Angeles Rams
    The Rams had a hiccup at New Orleans, but this is still an elite team. They rank third in the league with 33.0 points per game, and the defense added Dante Fowler Jr. to help the pass rush and will eventually get cornerback Aqib Talib back from injury. If the Rams can approach the playoffs healthy, they could be unstoppable.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Pretender: Cincinnati Bengals
    The Bengals are trying to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015, but they've been inconsistent. The bigger issue could be their schedule, with games vs. New Orleans and at Baltimore after the bye. Later, they have to visit the Chargers and Steelers. A playoff spot will be difficult, and the squad is 1-3 vs. teams above .500 to date.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Contender: New England Patriots
    As long as the combination of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick is intact, the Patriots should be considered contenders. The team is on its way to another AFC East title and is also the only team to beat Kansas City. Injuries have weakened the armor, but the Patriots remain in good position to make a run.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Pretender: Dallas Cowboys
    Jerry Jones made a desperate move by trading a first-round pick for wideout Amari Cooper, and the pressure is on Jason Garrett to make the playoffs. With several issues on the offensive line, it remains to be seen if the Cowboys have the personnel to make a run, even in the weak NFC East. Their Sunday night matchup next week at Philadelphia is almost a must-win for their playoff hopes.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Contender: Carolina Panthers
    After a tough loss at Washington, the Panthers had a miraculous 17-point fourth quarter comeback at Philadelphia in Week 7 and have been rolling ever since. They're on the Saints' tail in the tough NFC South, but they're about to get a big litmus test at Pittsburgh on a short week. If the Panthers can win, we'll know that they really have something going.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Pretender: Miami Dolphins
    Miami is 2-4 over its past six games, and the defense allowed at least 27 points in five straight games before beating up on the Jets in Week 9. At this point, Miami is probably just looking at a wild-card spot but needs better quarterback play than what we've seen from Brock Osweiler and the now-injured Ryan Tannehill.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Contender: Pittsburgh Steelers
    After starting 1-2-1, the Steelers have won four straight games. They've done it without Le'Veon Bell, who seems unlikely to return this season, and put themselves in good position in the division with a win at Baltimore. The team's playoff experience, led by Ben Roethlisberger, makes Pittsburgh a contender for even bigger things in January.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Pretender: Atlanta Falcons
    The Falcons deserve credit for digging themselves out of a hole, but it could be too little, too late. Atlanta started the year 1-4 due in large part to major injuries on defense, but it won consecutive games vs. the Bucs, Giants and at Washington. The margin for error remains small if the Falcons want to win a wild-card spot, and remaining road games at New Orleans, Green Bay and Carolina look like too much to bear.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Contender: Chicago Bears
    The Bears weren't considered serious NFC North contenders entering the season, but much has changed. They're 5-3 and have consecutive dominant defensive performances without Khalil Mack. Mitchell Trubisky is developing under new head coach Matt Nagy. The upcoming schedule is rough but manageable and includes games against Minnesota, the Rams and Green Bay at Soldier Field.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Pretender: Seattle Seahawks
    The Seahawks are 4-4 after a home loss to the Chargers, and their next three games are brutal: at the Rams, vs. Green Bay and at Carolina. That's not even mentioning their Week 14 matchup vs. Minnesota and Week 16 contest against the Chiefs. We knew this would be a rebuilding season for the Seahawks, and on paper it looks like they will fall short.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Contender: Los Angeles Chargers
    The Chargers were sleepers entering the season but could be Super Bowl contenders. They're 6-2, with losses vs. Kansas City and at the Rams. The offense is eighth in points per game, and the defense will eventually get star defensive end Joey Bosa back. Philip Rivers and Co. have a manageable remaining schedule, with only three teams above .500 in their second half.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Pretender: Jacksonville Jaguars
    The Jaguars came just short of going to the Super Bowl last year, but they've had a big regression this season. The offense has been non-existent between Blake Bortles' struggles and the absence of Leonard Fournette, while the defense is only 10th with 21.3 points allowed per game.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Contender: Houston Texans
    It's been quite a turnaround for Houston after an 0-3 start. The team has won six games in a row and has one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league. Deshaun Watson has started to show glimpses of his rookie form, while J.J. Watt has also looked like his former self. After a big win at Denver, Houston is the clear division favorite.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Pretender: Tennessee Titans
    The Titans hired offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and signed Dion Lewis to fix the offense, but they've taken a giant leap backward. Part of the issue has been Delanie Walker's Week 1 injury, but there's no escaping the fact that Marcus Mariota doesn't look like a franchise quarterback. Houston is starting to run away with the AFC South amid Tennessee's recent downfall.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Contender: Minnesota Vikings
    Minnesota's home loss against New Orleans in Week 8 was a huge gut punch for a team that had hopes of winning the Super Bowl entering the year after signing Kirk Cousins. The formerly elite defense showed itself in Week 9, however, with a dominant performance against Detroit. The Vikings really need that to be a sign of things to come, with a brutal stretch after their Week 10 bye. They visit Chicago, play the Packers at home and then go to New England and Seattle. If they can win three games in that stretch, it will be fair to consider the team NFC contenders.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Pretender: Indianapolis Colts
    The Colts look unlikely to make the playoffs, but Colts fans don't have their heads down. Andrew Luck is starting to show his old form, and Marlon Mack's return from injury has been tremendous. The team has scored at least 34 points in three straight contests and stands as an opponent that other teams don't want on their schedules. With an easy road ahead, the Colts have a chance to make things interesting, but the defense isn't where it needs to be with 26.6 points allowed per game.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Contender: Philadelphia Eagles
    The defending Super Bowl champs have suffered some big injuries and had a crushing defeat two weeks ago against the Panthers after leading 17-0 in the fourth quarter. Still, most of the Super Bowl talent remains, and the team acquired Golden Tate to spur the offense. The Eagles will be in solid shape if they can beat the Cowboys next week, though road games at New Orleans and the Rams do present tough second-half challenges.

    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point $

    Pretender: Green Bay Packers
    There's no shame in losing on the road to the Rams and Patriots in back-to-back weeks, but that doesn't make matters any better for a 3-4-1 team. Green Bay had some costly injuries against New England and faces a tough obstacle for the NFC North, as the Packers still need to travel to Minnesota and Chicago. A lot will have to go right for them with the Bears and Vikings starting to surge, though the networks would certainly like to see Aaron Rodgers make the playoffs.

    _________________
    Separating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point GO3ERSeparating NFL Pretenders And Contenders At The Halfway Point D5SsG


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