Through week 7 of the 2018 NFL season, things are as they always have been since I started watching the NFL a half century ago. It virtually always revolves around two factors in the regular season – 1) A good Quarterback, 2) A good Coach. Those who have both will invariably be contenders, those who have one will be somewhere in the middle, and those who lack both are the losers. Defense is important but more so when post season time comes.
The AFC Contenders
Kansas City Chiefs – Mahomes is the real deal, and with Andy Reid they will be wrecking havoc for years to come. They probably won’t win the Super Bowl this year because of that defense, but they have a decent shot at home field advantage in the AFC playoffs with more bye games remaining against the Broncos and Raiders.
New England Patriots – The Belichick/Brady combo may be on its last legs but until Brady finally hangs up his straps for a walker they remain an obvious contender.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Solid coaching/QB combo means the Steelers are in the mix, despite their slow start. Just watch.
LA Chargers – Phillip Rivers is widely regarded as a really good QB stuck on a bad luck team with a huge question mark at coach. Rivers is enough to give them a shot at a wildcard spot in the post season.
Baltimore Ravens – I’ve always felt that John Harbaugh is a very good NFL coach. When he finally got a streak of good QB play they won a Super Bowl. This year they have a good D and Flacco is finally playing better, which means he’s playing average. Unless Flacco can go on another hot/lucky streak, the Ravens will likely fizzle if they make the post season. But never count out John Harbaugh.
The AFC Pretenders
Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals are stable at coach and QB. A fast start looks like its fizzling especially after the Chiefs debacle.
Jacksonville Jaguars – They have average coaching (good coaching and they win the AFC last year), an average QB at best, but one heck of a good defense that allowed them to be an exception to the rule. But this year the coach/QB impact is too much for the defense to overcome.
Miami Dolphins – I happen to believe Adam Gase is a good head coach. He has an average QB in Tannehill and was able to win with below average Brock Ossweiler against a good Bears team. Its enough to make Miami a nod this year as contender.
Houston Texans – Deshaun Watson is playing pretty darn well. That’s the end of the story. I’ve never been a Bill O’Brien fan, he’s mega overrated and gets out-coached in big games. The rest of the league is starting to catch on, and maybe so is Texan ownership. The Texans may win the weak AFC South division but will be one-and-done in the playoffs.
Denver Broncos – Case Keenum is who the Vikings thought he was, a decent backup and a below-average starter, and outside the Giants the worst QB room in the league. This combined with bad coaching (especially on the defensive side of the ball), spells disaster for an otherwise talented roster. Don’t be fooled by the Cards blowout.
Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota is either a bust or needs a better offensive coordinator. I think he’s heading toward backup journeyman. They barely make the pretender category.
The AFC Hopeless
Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck is a good quarterback who needs a better line. At least the Colts finally made the long-needed switch at head coach, but the jury is still out on Frank Reich.
New York Jets – Don’t be fooled by the Jets beating some bad teams of late. They do have upside though in their rookie QB and what appears to be a decent coaching staff.
Cleveland Browns – They are still a year and a different head coach away from contending, but at least they are no longer the laughing stock of the NFL.
Oakland Raiders – I believe the Raiders are an anomaly because I happen to think Gruden is an above average coach, with an above average QB in Derek Carr. The defense is so bad though that they can’t make pretender status.
Buffalo Bills – A rookie QB and unknown commodity at coach equals bottom of the AFC.
The NFC Contenders
LA Rams – Right now the Rams are the class of the NFL with a bright coach, a solid young QB and a good defense. They are the Super Bowl favorite.
Philadephia Eagles – The Eagles look to be getting back on track and they will give the Rams a run for their money for NFC supremacy.
Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings have the QB and the defense, but do they have what it takes in the coaching department. Many Vikings fans are worried.
Green Bay Packers – As long as the best QB in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers is healthy, they are a contender despite pretty average coaching.
Carolina Panthers – I believe Carolina is solid in both coaching and QB, and they still have a decent enough defense to be a legit Super Bowl contender.
New Orleans Saints – They are a contender as long as Brees stays healthy and plays young. They are also good in the coaching dept and decent on defense. Why do I have the Saints this low? I’m always nervous of QBs at Brees age. Brady has been a rare exception to the age factor, will Brees do the same? We’ll see.
Chicago Bears – I happen to like the new Bears coaching staff, and their QB is showing signs of being a keeper. That along with a good defense makes them a contender.
Seattle Seahawks – Solid at coach and QB gives the Hawks an outside chance, but a chance nevertheless, to sneak in to the playoffs and cause damage. Remember the 9-7 Giants who upset the Pats in the 2007 season?
The NFC Pretenders
Washington Redskins – Alex Smith will always deservedly have the “game-manager” label as QB, which means he’s average as a starter. Don’t be fooled that they lead the uncharacteristically weak NFC East, they are an obvious one-and-done if they make the playoffs.
Dallas Cowboys – I think this is a decently coached team who have an OK QB in Prescott who got super overrated after his rookie season.
Atlanta Falcons – The Birds lost too much when Kyle Shanahan left for the 49ers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Rumblings of Winston bust are picking up.
Detroit Lions – The Lions have had bad coaching for it seems like 50+ years. Did they ever really replace Wayne Fontes?
The NFC Hopeless
San Francisco 49ers – Good coach, good QB in Jimmy Garoppolo, but that QB is on IR now. Its “wait until next year” mode for 49er fans.
Arizona Cardinals – Rookie QB and young coaching acumen verdict still TBD. The alter isn’t looking good, but they took big strides in getting rid of Mike McCoy, who has never, ever been a good OC and became supremely overrated when Denver made the playoffs with Tebow.
New York Giants – The worst team in football with possibly the worst front office, and without a doubt the worst QB room. Eli is simply bad now. In his prime he was slightly above average but nowhere near hall of fame caliber. A super overrated QB in the same category as Joe Flacco. The Giants will take the top QB in the 2019 draft.