We’ve reached the halfway point of the NFL regular season and while nobody can point out just who will lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February, we can safely narrow that list down to six. This isn’t a piece set up to offend, it’s merely projecting exactly what you’re thinking and refuse to accept out loud.
This is a trigger warning, New England Patriots fans. Your team isn’t very good.
Los Angeles Rams:
The dominant force in the league on so many levels. Their first major test came against Green Bay this week and they’re one of the rare groups that have managed to keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands in a two-minute drill.
The issue here is that Todd Gurley is key to everything they do. Everything else is scheme. You can win a Super Bowl on scheme, but you can’t win a Super Bowl without Todd Gurley. An over-reliance on him could cost them, and with Green Bay’s defensive adjustments now on film, there’s a blueprint to attack them.
Even still, they’re the most likely winners.
Kansas City Chiefs:
If you’re a defensive coordinator, you’ve got to have nightmares in the week leading up to your team’s game against Kansas City.
You can’t give them underneath because Kelce won’t drop a short pass. You can’t disregard overtop coverage because Tyreek Hill is probably the fastest half-human, half-missile on the planet. You can’t play contain to keep Mahomes in the pocket because he has poise and you can’t apply solely central pressure because he’s quick enough to beat you with his feet.
The only issue here is – does he have the poise to do it when the pressure is cranked up? Their defence is woeful and they’re as likely to give up 30 points as they are to score them.
New Orleans Saints:
If you haven’t noticed – the above teams all use a heavy reliance on throwing the ball to running backs. And while Gurley may be the all-round most complete back in football, nobody is a better threat to Alvin Kamara.
Drew Brees is in this for a swansong and he probably deserves another ring. This defence went from awful three years ago to borderline elite seemingly overnight and now everyone is starting to realise just what New Orleans have built.
Of course, the issue of Sean Payton’s play-calling in pressure situations will most likely catch up to them in a playoff situation.
Los Angeles Chargers:
If you want to talk about a team that has everything – look no further than these Chargers.
They’ve got speed receivers for chunk plays, they’ve got a top-tier possession receiver in Keenan Allen, a jump-ball receiver in Mike Williams, a Hall of Fame tight end, a run game that’s carving everyone up, an All Pro edge rusher in Melvin Ingram, a lockdown secondary unit and a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate in Derwin James.
Oh, and they welcome Joey Bosa back in Week 9. Best of luck with that.
Until they sort out a running game properly, it’s hard to truly factor them into a serious conversation, but their receiving corps is the best in the NFL and Kirk Cousins is not named Case Keenum.
Their capitulation to Philadelphia last year was unexpected and bizarre. They’ll have learned from that and there’s no chance Philly find themselves back in an NFC Championship game again.
Adam Thielen is the hottest wide receiver in football right now and Stefon Diggs isn’t miles behind him.
Nobody will be putting up 30 points against them again soon, either.
The most complicated offence in the NFL rears its funny-looking head again, I see. Quite simply, Cam Newton is a top-tier running back, very serviceable quarterback and will touch the ball on every snap. You have to take more measured risks when defending the Panthers than you do with any other team.
Christian McCaffrey is tiny, and yet nobody can tackle him. He showed these glimpses at Stanford and he carried them with him into the pros.
If they can find a tad more edge pressure, they’ll give Los Angeles a hell of a game in the NFC title matchup.