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    Now, I love a good underdog story, but when guys like Mike White are lighting up suspect defenses, it’s time to set the record straight. Contenders, pretenders, and more around the NFL.

    Contenders

    The Miami Dolphins

    Say it with me now, “Tua! Is! Elite!” This team is built for the playoffs. Even if you want to say Tua is their weak spot, he’s an incredibly accurate QB with two of the best weapons in the NFL. He doesn’t need to be prime Tom Brady to make a deep playoff run with this team, McDaniel has done a brilliant job of game planning and making sure that Tyreek and Waddle get their touches in space. They pose a stout defense, and although it may not be to the level of a San Fransisco or Denver, it will be more than serviceable come playoff time.

    AP Photo/Doug Murray

    The Kansas City Chiefs

    Who needs Tyreek? Mahomes can do literally everything himself. The Kelce connection is as strong as ever, they have a versatile rotation of running backs for every down and situation, and their defense is strong against the run. If there’s anyone who knows how to make a playoff run, it’s Andy Reid. These guys are legit.

    The San Fransisco 49ers

    This team is the epitome of “defense wins championships.” While Jimmy G might not be the guy this year, he’s proven he’s more than capable of leading them to a deep playoff run, and he’s poised to do the same this season. Their defense is arguably the best in the NFL, they’ve added a new toy in Run CMC, and Jimmy still has his usual suspects of Kittle, Deebo, and Aiyuk to throw to. If they can stay healthy, there’s a very good chance they can win the NFC.

    Pretenders

    The New York Jets

    I hate to do this so quickly after that emotional win, but there is no way this team can make a playoff run. Admittedly, they have a fantastic defense. But this isn’t a 49ers-Jimmy G scenario, the offense just isn’t there yet. I’m not sold after dicing up a suspect Bears defense that this team is going to make noise in the playoffs. I’d love for them to make me eat my words as there’s nothing more entertaining than watching a New York fanbase make a deep playoff run and get their hearts crushed, but for right now, they’re on my pretender list.

    AP Photo/John Minchillo

    The Cincinnati Bengals

    This team has been tough to forecast. They’re obviously missing their biggest weapon in Ja’Marr Chase, but man have they looked stagnant at times. Their defense is inconsistent, Burrow hasn’t had the golden year that he had last year, and they’ve had a few ugly losses. Until they can string together some quality wins like yesterday’s and look like the Bengals of old, they’re pretenders.

    The Seattle Seahawks

    The darling Seahawks unfortunately make the pretenders list as well. Geno Smith has been the feel-good story of the season, but that won’t be enough to make a run. I love their secondary, but when you’re giving up 40 points to a 3-7 Raiders team, there are some issues to address. Those are the kinds of games that Geno and the Seahawks need to put away comfortably, not struggle and lose in OT. Until they can win those kinds of games, they’re pretenders.

    The Jury’s Still Out

    The Philadelphia Eagles

    I can’t believe I’m saying the jury is still out on a 10-1 football team, but can you blame me? They’ve been helped by one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, which makes both their offense and defense look better. This is nothing against Jalen Hurts as I think he’s made significant strides and is definitely their guy, but I need to see this whole team dominate the best of the NFL like they have the worst of the NFL.

    AP Photo/Chris Szagola

    The Dallas Cowboys

    This all comes down to health. We haven’t had a big enough sample size with this team fully healthy to truly evaluate them, but they’ve shown flashes of contenders. I firmly believe they’ll move into the contender’s category before long, but I need to see it in action first.

    The New England Patriots

    Not taking questions about Thursday’s loss, but this team can be frustrating to watch. Quality wins, bad losses, multiple different versions of the same football team on any given Sunday. When Mac has it going, he’s a top-15 QB, but when he’s off he looks like he’d be struggling for a spot in the XFL. I don’t know what to make of my Pats right now.

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    About Author

    Matt K

    Matt is the Social Media Manager at RYP and currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has experience managing social media accounts with agencies, small brands, and large companies. He’s a diehard New England sports fanatic, and if he’s not watching the Celtics, he can be found roaming around Boston discovering all that the city has to offer.

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