It almost seems like records mean nothing at this point in the season. You have to accept that your team is probably going to come in and take a dump against some team that on paper they seem like they should handle. The key is not to over react to after each game. But if we can't look at records to figure out what teams we should take seriously, that what should we look at? Well, I think it's actually pretty simple. Based on my football watching experience, which is quite plentiful, in this modern NFL there are 4 things you need to have in order to be a legitimate title contender, a reliable QB, a good coach, an offensive line, and an effective defensive scheme. Now when I say "reliable QB" I don't mean elite, I mean reliable. You can pretty much put your team's QB through the Alex Smith, "will he lose the game for me?", test. If the answer is no, than you have one part of the puzzle. The next one is obvious. You need a head coach who can handle pregame preparation, in-game adjustments, and clock management (LOOKING AT YOU JASON GARRET!) if you're confident with your HC's ability to manage those things than that's your next piece! It's impossible to understate the importance of an offensive line in modern football, especially with the complimentary importance of pass rush. The funny thing is that this season I have seen some of the WORST offensive line play in years! It's be so bad it's almost offensive! (ZING!) So if your offensive line can protect your QB than you pass that test. And finally an effective defensive scheme. Originally I was going to say pass rush but I like defensive scheme better because it covers a broader scope. So essentially if you trust your defense can make an important stop and make the opposing QBs life tough than there you go, you have an effective defensive scheme.
So based on those four traits what team are contenders and which are pretenders? And which are somewhere in the middle.. Let me try and break it down for you in no particular order.
Contenders (Teams I could see standing when it's all said and done)
Atlanta Falcons - Are the lucky or are they good in close games? Regardless, they're undefeated.
New York Giants - Finally the pass rush has arrived! That coupled with possibly the best QB in the league and you have to like the Giants. (homer-ism)
San Francisco 49ers.
Baltimore Ravens - Flacco is going to have to compensate for what is becoming an absolutely ordinary defense, Suggs being back should help but how much? For now they pass the test..
Green Bay Packers - They are who we thought they were! Just maybe not as great..
New England Patriots - Belichick-Brady-Young pass rushers. They'll figure it out. In the meantime, I'll save your seat on the bandwagon, dad.
On the Verge (Close to passing the test, just missing something)
Seattle Seahawks - Just don't trust Russel Wilson yet but everything else is there. (KICKING MYSELF THAT RUSSEL WILSON IS MY STARTING FANTASY QB)
Dallas Cowboys - Jason Garret needs to learn how to tell time.
Pittsburgh Steelers - Close to being contenders but the o-line is too bad to ignore.
Miami Dolphins - Very under rated defense, Tannehill has been impressive but not sure he's ready to pass the Alex Smith test.
Denver Broncos - I just don't buy this defense.
Limbo (Teams that pass the "blah" test. They're not very good but not terrible and don't necessarily pass the 4 tests but due to schedule or other reasons may over-achieve)
New York Jets - Click here for my thoughts on the Jets.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Buffalo Bills - Where in the world is Mario Williams?
Pretenders (Teams I think will fall off if they already haven't)
Arizona Cardinals - One of the worst offensive lines I've ever seen. Not to mention the lacking of a real QB.
Philadelphia Eagles - Selling all of my shares on Michael Vick. Plus, I think Andy Reid is going to lose his job eventually.
San Diego Chargers - See Norv Turner.
Indianapolis Colts - Probably not fair that they're on this list. Give them a year or two to move up.
St. Louis Rams.
New Orleans Saints - Vomiting, impotence, and anal leaking: All side effects of the Saints defense.
Cleveland Browns - Have shown promise in a few games but overall not much too look forward to this year for Browns fans. God hates Cleveland.
Tennessee Titans - Has anyone taken a dump on an entire organization than Chris Johnson in recent history? Still, probably the best team on this list.
Kansas City Chiefs.
Jacksonville Jaguars - ZZZzzzzzzzzzz
Well excuuuuuuuse me! Here come my picks for this weekends action.
Seattle (+7.5) at San Francisco
Arizona (+5.5) at Minnesota
Baltimore (+6.5) at Houston