NFL contenders or pretenders? Steelers, Packers, Seahawks are for actual; Eagles, Vikings are carried out after Week 2

With Week 2 of the 2020 NFL season down to at least one extra sport, 10 groups — plus whoever wins the “Monday Evening Soccer” matchup between the Saints and Raiders — shall be 2-Zero going into Week Three. On the flip aspect, 11 groups have dug themselves Zero-2 holes.

The historical past of every excessive begin is well-documented. Since 2007, 57 p.c of NFL groups which have opened 2-Zero have made the playoffs. Throughout that very same 13-year span, 89 p.c of groups which have fallen to Zero-2 have didn’t make the playoffs.

Final season, seven of the 9 2-Zero groups made the playoffs, with the Cowboys and Rams narrowly lacking. Additionally in 2019, the 9 groups that began Zero-2 all missed the playoffs.

There’s a twist to the NFL’s postseason subject in 2020, nonetheless; it has expanded to 14 groups, yet another in every convention. That permits for just a little extra margin for error. For instance, the Rams and the Steelers would have made it beneath the present parameters final season. Pittsburgh began Zero-2.

Everybody is aware of the Chiefs and Ravens, as Tremendous Bowl 55 favorites, are for actual after flying out of the gate. Everybody is aware of the Dolphins, Bengals, Jets, Giants and Panthers have been imagined to be this unhealthy this early. As soon as once more this 12 months, there are some shocking groups at each 2-Zero and Zero-2. 

Here is a breakdown of the 13 undefeated or winless groups which might be within the muddled center and whether or not they’re actual contenders or true pretenders:

2-Zero groups: Contender or pretender?

Pittsburgh Steelers

They’ve overwhelmed up the Giants and Broncos, two groups with second-year quarterbacks, in seven days. Their protection has had extra lapses than anticipated in every sport, particularly in giving up large performs within the passing sport regardless of an elite go rush and loaded secondary.

That mentioned, Ben Roethlisberger appears wholesome and sharp. He’s benefiting from his upgraded weapons. They’ve additionally run the ball very properly, regardless of having offensive line accidents, with James Conner and Benny Snell Jr. The Ravens have performed two higher groups and received, however the Steelers look full, too, with no holes. Pittsburgh may be very a lot a contender and a menace to remove the AFC North from Baltimore.

Inexperienced Bay Packers

The Packers have opened their NFC North title protection by lighting up two division opponents, the Vikings and the Lions. Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones have had enjoyable alternating passing and working for chunk performs and touchdowns, to the tune of 43 and 42 factors within the two video games.

Their defensive points are lingering and so they’re nonetheless not likely a 13-Three staff like they have been a season in the past. However they’re already within the driver’s seat to repeat and the remainder of the division does not look worthy. Inexperienced Bay once more ought to be thought of an NFC title contender, too.

Chicago Bears

The Bears are tied for first place within the North with the Packers, however they wanted a large fourth-quarter rally to beat the Lions and and a giant fourth-quarter stand to beat the Giants. They took benefit of two groups that had main damage points. Their working game-defense mixture is working properly and Mitchell Trubisky has performed higher than anticipated after successful the QB job over Nick Foles.

They will elevate and conceal Trubisky solely a lot, although. The protection additionally will not maintain up as properly towards higher all-around offenses. The early wins show the Bears will not be close to the underside of the league but in addition verify they don’t have any enterprise close to the highest. Chicago is a traditional schedule-based pretender.

Seattle Seahawks

Many quarterbacks have had nice begins, however each little bit of Russell Wilson’s proper arm and his legs have been wanted to cease the challenges of Matt Ryan’s Falcons and Cam Newton’s Patriots. He’s wanting decided to lastly get that elusive league MVP award. The Seahawks additionally proceed to function at a excessive stage with the most effective receivers Wilson has ever had.

The protection has some considerations after being shredded by each go and run, however Jamal Adams has been a key glue man and the remainder of their secondary and maligned entrance are selecting good spots to make game-changing performs. Seattle is a Tremendous Bowl contender and ought to be thought of the brand new NFC West favourite over 1-1 reigning champion San Francisco and the 2 different 2-Zero groups within the division.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams are one of many quietest 2-Zero groups after dispatching the Cowboys and the Eagles, two groups which might be anticipated to be just a little higher than them. They do not have the identical explosive offense, however they grind away with a Todd Gurley-less working sport and have extra of a Tyler Higbee-centered passing sport. Their protection has been the large story as Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey are getting loads of gamers to step up round them. The Rams can nonetheless be run on, however they have turn into downright stingy towards the go, thwarting each Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz. This staff is a contender, perhaps to the purpose of leaping the injury-riddled 49ers as second-best within the West.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals bought DeAndre Hopkins to spice up Kyler Murray, and the outcomes have been exceptional, with convincing wins over the 49ers and Washington. Murray is working like a one-man online game along with his downfield passing and lightning-fast working. He appears utterly in control of Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. The go rush and protection have been higher because the protection has complemented the offense. Arizona can beat groups in some ways with Murray making a Yr 2 bounce paying homage to Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. It’s a contender, even in a tricky NFC West, due to playoff enlargement.

BENDER: Kyler Murray, Cardinals are right here to remain as harmful staff

Buffalo Payments

Talking of MVP, Josh Allen needs his helmet thrown within the ring, too. Like Murray with Hopkins, he has responded properly to having a new veteran go-to man, Stefon Diggs, who has made Allen’s previous veteran go-to man, John Brown, much more harmful. The Payments have two proficient younger backs, however Allen stays their only rusher.

The Payments’ protection has definitely misplaced punch up entrance and groups are exploiting the again finish away from Tre’Davious White. They additionally will not get to beat up the Jets or Dolphins each week. However they seem to be a returning playoff staff in first place, taking part in the identical model of soccer because the second-place Patriots. Buffalo, as anticipated and with Allen enhancing, is a contender and an rising menace to Kansas Metropolis and Baltimore.

Tennessee Titans

Ryan Tannehill has picked up the place he left off after incomes the large new contract, producing extra stellar play whereas working off Derrick Henry’s elite energy working. With A.J. Brown hurting, he has needed to join with different receivers, led by Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith and Adam Humphries, to proceed the most effective passing stretch of his profession.

The protection, nonetheless, has been overrated. The Broncos and Jaguars had extra success than anticipated each working and passing. The Titans do not look significantly daunting towards the run or the go. They’ve a one-game lead in a weak division, however they’re additionally in a top-heavy convention. The Colts and Texans generally is a lot higher and the Jaguars look pesky. Tennessee by default is in rivalry, nevertheless it has the texture of a pretender, as a result of the staff cannot be thought of protected to punch an specific ticket as an AFC elite.

Zero-2 groups: Contender or pretender?

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles had excessive expectations going into the season, considering that they had rounded again into their Tremendous Bowl 52 type of three years in the past beneath Doug Pederson with a balanced, explosive offense and a balanced, explosive protection. As a substitute, after a rash of latest accidents, they’ve imploded. Wentz is forcing the problem behind shaky go safety and with restricted extensive receivers. The working sport has appeared higher with Miles Sanders, nevertheless it’s additionally destined to be inconsistent due to sudden blocking woes, one thing that hadn’t been a difficulty for some time.

MORE: No followers? No downside in booing Carson Wentz in Philly

They folded early towards the Rams after they folded late towards Washington. The Eagles have a whole lot of holes in the course of their protection at inside linebacker and security, and so they’re being exploited. That in, flip, is rendering their strengths, line of defense and cornerback, ineffective.

This does not seem like the Eagles that rallied late to sneak into the playoffs as a wild card and weak NFC East champion, respectively, the previous two seasons. The vibes aren’t pretty much as good after Wentz’s poor play and so they could possibly be toast by mid-October after taking part in the 49ers, Steelers and Ravens in consecutive video games. Philadelphia, not like Rocky vs. Creed, Lang or Drago, is a pretender somewhat than a contender.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings used to have good vibes, too. They have been wanting ahead to their working game-defense components of 2019 main to even higher outcomes after ending second within the NFC North and successful a playoff sport final season. Sadly for them, an offseason exodus of veterans has turned the protection into an actual legal responsibility. Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph are gone. Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are gone. Danielle Hunter is on the shelf. Harrison Smith and different core gamers have tried to maintain it collectively, nevertheless it’s not taking place vs. both run or go.

Due to the unhealthy protection, the Vikings cannot persist with their efficient run-heavy sport plan with Dalvin Prepare dinner and Alexander Mattison. That, in flip, means Kirk Cousins has to throw in uncomfortable, predictable passing conditions, the place opponents can tee off on him. He misses Diggs and is force-feeding Adam Thielen with few others concerned. Minnesota had the look of a contender within the preseason nevertheless it’s in full pretender mode now.

Houston Texans

The Texans made the playoffs after an Zero-2 begin with Invoice O’Brien in 2018, so current historical past is on their aspect. So is Deshaun Watson. 

Their protection has appeared horrible and it is not getting higher. They’ve gotten combined leads to the standard working sport with new lead again David Johnson. There isn’t any doubt Watson misses Hopkins. The schedule stays powerful with the Steelers subsequent week.

Nonetheless, it is exhausting to belief Tannehill, Philip Rivers and Gardner Minshew greater than Watson. The AFC South tends to be a curler coaster the place issues even out over the course of the season. It is also a division the place eight or 9 wins is perhaps adequate. For these causes, plus Tennessee being a shaky first-place staff, Houston needs to be thought of a contender nonetheless. Watson provides the Texans a ground increased than most not-so good groups.

Atlanta Falcons

The protection gave up 38 factors within the loss to the Seahawks in Week 1, which compelled Ryan and the big-time passing sport to play catchup more often than not. Then they gave up a 29-10 halftime lead and 40 extra factors complete within the loss to the Cowboys. Dan Quinn retains seeing the protection have the identical previous points towards the run and in downfield protection, and the go rush is a perpetual work in progress. He is carried out his greatest to repair it by altering coordinators and schemes, nevertheless it’s simply not taking place. 

Atlanta, with Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Todd Gurley and Hayden Hurst, can rating with nearly anybody within the league, and it should do this to have an opportunity to win video games. The issue is, the staff cannot run the ball properly sufficient to guard the protection, which causes a breakdown in complementary soccer that places an excessive amount of strain on Ryan to be prolific, exact and proficient on each possession. Regardless of the expertise, this staff is a confirmed pretender.

MORE: Falcons present Cowboys a win after inexplicable error on onside kick

Denver Broncos

The Broncos had nice expectations of breaking out as a playoff staff of their second season beneath Vic Fangio. They preferred having Von Miller anchor their protection. They beloved the potential of Drew Lock to elevate the offense. Then Miller went down. Now Lock has gone down, as properly. 

They have been respectable within the first two video games with slim losses to the aforementioned Titans and Steelers. They’ve tailored properly to Pat Shurmur’s offense, exhibiting a powerful working sport with Melvin Gordon now within the lead and searching numerous with passing-game playmakers. Tight finish Noah Fant has put his stamp on issues.

However the Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers all look extra dynamic on offense, and the Chiefs and Chargers are higher on protection. Denver is a pretender. In actuality, even when Miller and Lock had each stayed wholesome, the Broncos have been nonetheless a “12 months away” staff.

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