The NFL regular season is (almost) at the halfway point. Most of the favorites are right where we expected them to be and few underdogs are in favorable situations. Also, tough early season schedules have left a few good teams with records of .500 or less. Which teams are legit contenders to win Super Bowl LII and which ones are lucky to still be in the conversation?
Betting odds to make the Super Bowl look a lot different than they did this preseason. Injuries and ‘out of nowhere’ efforts by rookies have scattered preseason Super Bowl favorites all over the board.
It appears the AFC, is once again, is in the hands of the New England Patriots. They manhandled the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday Night Football to prove they will not let go of their spot on the mountaintop.
The NFC is less clear with three or four teams neck-and-neck. I’d put The Eagles ahead of the rest of the pack after winning strong on Monday Night Football.
New England Patriots (5-2) – The Patriots started the year off a bit rocky, but they have turned things around. Their defense has been roughed up at times, but as long as QB Tom Brady is healthy, they have enough offense to make up for a few defensive mistakes. They have a tight race in AFC East right now, but I plan to see the Miami Dolphins to fall off soon. The Buffalo Bills could be in the division race all season.
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) – The Steelers were another team that didn’t really look right to start the year. RB Le’Veon Bell held out the entire preseason and needed a month to get his legs back. The Steelers also found themselves a nice complementary wide receiver to Antonio Brown, rookie Juju Smith-Schuster.
Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) – The Chiefs were my Super Bowl favorite early this season, but once they started to fall behind in games, we all saw their Achilles’ Heel. They are a great ‘play with the lead’ team, but they don’t have those big plays on offensive when they need to score in a hurry late in games. They are still dangerous, but their recent play has given me a lot to worry about.
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3) – The Jags are a much better team when QB Blake Bortles only passes for 20 times a game. RB Leonard Fournette is a beast and if he can stay healthy, the Jags will be a tough out in the postseason.
Buffalo Bills (4-2) – The Bills are a sneaky team. They aren’t overly flashy on offense, but their defense puts them in good field position on offense and they take advantage of it. QB Tyrod Taylor is improving every season.
Houston Texans (3-3) – A month ago, Houston looked like they had one of the worst offenses in the NFL. QB Deshaun Watson took over and has turned this entire offense around. I now worry about Houston’s defense with starting linebackers J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus out for the rest of the season.
Philadelphia Eagles (6-1) – QB Carson Wentz has taken a huge step in his second season in the NFL. It also helps to have one of the most versatile running games in the NFL. His backfield is loaded with guys who can do a wide range of things.
Seattle Seahawks (4-2) – Seattle may not be very consistent this season, especially on offense, but they are always a Super Bowl threat. They’re hard to beat at home and have the ability to battle out wins in low-scoring games.
New Orleans Saints (4-3) – The Saints are relying on their ground game more than at any point in the Drew Brees Era in the Big Easy. They also have a good defense, which is even more rare for the Saints.
Atlanta Falcons (3-3) – The Falcons are reeling from a stretch of bad losses, but they are still 3-0 against NFC opponents. QB Matt Ryan needs show some the magic he had last season.
Minnesota Vikings (5-2) – The Vikings could go 5-4 the rest of the way and still make the postseason. They have a lot of issues they need to work through. They also must decide if they want to focus on getting QB Teddy Bridgewater healthy to start this season or just get him prepared in case an injury forces their hand. It looks like the job is QB Case Keenum’s until it’s not…it’s that simple.
Green Bay Packers (4-3) – QB Aaron Rodgers must miss at least eight weeks since he was placed on injured-reserve and most people expect him to be healthy enough to play at the tail end of the season. QB Brett Hundley played well for three quarters of the game last week. He made some really good plays, so I expect the Packers to be contenders as long as they get production from RB Aaron Jones.
Dallas Cowboys (3-3) – This season has kind of been in limbo all year. How long will they have RB Ezekiel Elliott? Will he even be suspended? QB Dak Prescott is having some sophomore year growing pains, but as long as their offensive line stays healthy, they are contenders.
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.