Contenders or Pretenders: 6 NFL Teams in Question


We’re at the midway point of the NFL season, which means it’s time to determine which teams are contenders and which are pretenders. There’s been a lot of inconsistent play with several teams hovering around the .500 mark, but we’ve seen enough to determine who’s going to end up being serious players and who’s going to slowing slip away to the wayside.


Miami Dolphins (3-3) – The firing of Joe Philbin was the best thing to happen to this bunch. After getting off to an 1-3 start, Miami has won their last two games under interim head coach Dan Campbell.

Dolphins linebacker Kelvin Sheppard explains the turnaround perfectly.

“With the changes that happened, we honestly feel like it was a new season,” Sheppard said. “That’s from the top down. That’s what our head man stands before us and says. We’ve all bought into that, and that’s truly what we believe.”

Talent was never the issue in South Beach and after their 41-0 lead over Houston this past Sunday at halftime, you could clearly see that.

At 3-3, the Dolphins find themselves just 1/2 game behind Pittsburgh for the final Wildcard spot.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) – Yes, the Eagles are 3-4, but hey that only means they’re one game behind the New York Giants for first place in the NFC East.

Based on their play thus far, this isn’t a team that’s constituted being labeled as a “contender” which is understandable. However, it’s hard not to believe with their talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball, that this team won’t be able to put it all together at some point.

While tons of the blame is being put on quarterback Sam Bradford and deservedly so, his pass catchers need to do a better job as well.

“We’ve got to do a better job catching the ball for Sam,” tight end Zach Ertz stressed.

In their next four games, they face Dallas, Miami, Tampa Bay and Detroit. If they want to be taken seriously, this is a stretch where they should at least win three out of four.

Seattle Seahawks (3-4)- Sure, the reigning two-time NFC champion Seahawks don’t look the same, but that doesn’t mean we should totally count them out.

In a must-win situation last Thursday, Seattle showed why they’re to not be counted out just yet.

“It gets us back on track knowing that we’re the team we always knew we were,” linebacker Bruce Irvin stated. “We didn’t finish the last couple weeks and this week we did a great job of keep pressing, keep pressing. We kept our foot on the gas the entire game until the clock hit triple zeros at the end.”

Granted, their opponent was the lowly 49ers, however, it was more of a psychological thing for this bunch because they’ve been having issues closing out games.

Seattle still has all of the main pieces that catapulted them to the top of the conference and as the schedule eases up, they will make a run.

Pretenders – 

Indianapolis Colts (3-4) – When it comes to disappointments, the Colts have to be right at the top of the list. They currently sit at 3-4 and they’ve shown no signs of being able to turn things around anytime soon.

Andrew Luck currently has a touchdown to interception ratio of 11 to 9, which is simply not going to get the job done. He’s been playing so poorly to the point where people want to blame his injury and if that’s still bothering him, head coach Chuck Pagano needs to seriously consider benching him in favor of Matt Hasselback.

Luckily for Indy’s sake, they play in the AFC South because their next three games are against Carolina, Denver and Atlanta, and they should be lucky to win one of those.

The Colts may end up limping into the playoffs and even getting a home game, but there seems to be no way possible this flawed group can put a January run together.

New Orleans Saints (3-4) – The fact New Orleans even made it to this article is a minor miracle. Just a couple of weeks ago, this team was staring a potential 1-5 start in the eye when they hosted Atlanta. However, they were able to come away victorious and they capped it off by winning in Indy this past Sunday.

Now, with a 3-4 record, the Saints are right back in the thick of things. With that being said, it’s difficult to trust this team to continue this level of play over the next several weeks.Their schedule complies with keeping the run going as they face Washington, Tennessee and Tampa Bay over the next three weeks.

There’s a lot of winning experience with Drew Brees and Sean Payton, but the Saints defense isn’t good enough to maintain any type of run.

Oakland Raiders (3-4) – For as much young talent that this team possesses, it’s probably a year too soon for Oakland to be considered a contender. Yes, I do believe they have what it takes to potentially obtain a wildcard slot, but will it actually happen?

Teams like the Steelers, Dolphins, Jets and even the Bills will all be jockeying for a spot and with the Raiders being the least experienced team out of the bunch, and it will be difficult for them to get over the hump in November and December.

Still, just climbing out of last place in the AFC West will be a nice step in the right direction for the Raiders.

About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.