Third Quarter NFL Contenders
December 2, 2008 by AlexV
The NFL has hit its third quarter mark, and after twelve of the most up-and-down weeks of football in recent history, it is still a bit of a stretch to call anybody a true lock for the Super Bowl save for the New York Giants. However, there are still a few teams that are definitely pulling away from most others as viable Super Bowl contenders.
The first team, resoundingly, is the Giants. This is the best team in the league as far as everyone being on the same page. They have shown great depth to overcome almost all injuries, and even self-imposed gunshot wounds. Their one loss to the Browns in Cleveland where they went down by a score of 14 to 35 was a true head-scratcher. However, that game can definitely hold an asterisk for being an aberration since the Brownies have been terrible for the most part. The Giants have gone from a team with potential who plays on emotion, to a team that just flat out knows how to win. They are a well-oiled machine and are unphased by whatever distractions, whatever home field advantages their opponents have, and whichever fallen soldier opponents might be playing for.
The second team that comes to mind in my view is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their loss to the Eagles was just one of those days where nothing goes good offensively. They had a slump against the two Manning led teams but seem to have their act together as they have won convincingly for the most part ever since.
A team like the Jets had their slumps early on against teams like Oakland where they lost 16-13, and only scored ten points at home against the Patriots, then rip off a five game winning streak, blow out the previously undefeated Titans in Tennessee, and suffer another inexcusable slump to the no-defense Broncos at home losing 34-17. That is not the stuff of a contender, but rather a team with potential but a little too inconsistent to have faith in.
My next team is the Baltimore Ravens. Say what you want about their rookie quarterback. They are playing lights out and beating opponents they are supposed to beat the way the good teams are supposed to… big. They have had their share of slumps, namely a 30-10 loss to the Giants, and a 31-3 loss to the Colts. However, they already took Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania to OT and lost 20-23, but that was in just the fourth week of young Joe Flacco’s already budding career. If the Ravens get into the playoffs and meet up with the Colts or Giants again, it should be a lot closer as typically, second meetings between two teams in the same season are rarely ever a duplicate of the first meeting. Oh, and don’t count them out to win the AFC North as they still get Pittsburgh one last time for sure at home in two weeks and trail the Steelers by just one game.
After the Ravens, the Colts should not be overlooked. They keep finding ways to win, and a handful of those wins were handed to them. However, that kind of luck coupled with their post season experience can be a bad omen for their opponents come playoff time if they get in. And yes, I am counting luck as a factor. They have shown the kind of luck that is too good to be true, i.e. Titans, Steelers, and Browns games.
After that, I would say the Cowboys are the sleeper. They slumped big time early on. They did not have their act together as they seemed to display the heir of a team who already saw themselves in the Super Bowl. Now with their backs against the wall, they are looking like that kind of team again.
As for other squads like the Panthers and Bucs, their efforts are certainly admirable, but their quarterbacks, Jake Delhomme and Jeff Garcia respectively, are just too inconsistent. The Arizona Cardinals are like the Saints… great passing attack and not much more. The only difference is their division stinks. The one team that could be close to a contender is the Atlanta Falcons. They are moving milestones ahead in their rebuilding process at 8-4, and are perhaps one or two more productive seasons, and a good losing post season experience away from becoming a perennial contender.
Other than that, all of the other teams are just a little too consistent for my blood.