The NFL has reached the halfway point through the season. Clear contenders in the Bears, Falcons and Texans have emerged, but many teams still remain question marks. Here are three pretenders and three contenders midway through the year.
1. Baltimore Ravens (6-2) – Ray Lewis is not expected to return anytime soon to a defense already struggling. The Ravens are a team built on defense, however, they currently are ranked 24th in total yards allowed this season. With the Steelers right on their heels, it will be up to Joe Flacco and the offense to pick up the slack of the defense. Can Flacco carry his team with an aging defense? Look for the Ravens to struggle the rest of the way.
2. Indianapolis Colts (5-3) – As good of a story as Andrew Luck and the Colts are, they should be considered a pretender. Luck is a young quarterback and will have his share of growing pains the rest of the way. Four of the Colts five wins have come against the Browns, Titans, Dolphins, and Vikings. With two games left against the Texans, it will be difficult for the less-experienced Colts to compete for the division.
3. Minnesota Vikings (5-4) – The Vikings were once a promising 5-2 team, but their last two games are proof that they are pretenders. The Vikes were blown out at home against the Buccaneers 36-17 and failed to rebound, losing in Seattle. Their remaining schedule may be the most difficult in the NFL: two against the Bears, two against the Packers, and one against the Texans. The Vikings will not finish this season above .500.
1. New England Patriots (5-3) – The Patriots still have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. They sit in first place in perhaps the weakest division in the NFL and play five of their remaining eight games in Foxboro. New England’s offense ranks first in the league in total points scored and total yards. Look for the Patriots to finish the season as a strong contender in the AFC.
2. Seattle Seahawks (5-4) – The Seahawks have proven themselves to be a true contender this year in their wins against the Patriots, Packers, and Vikings. They are currently in a wild card spot and play extremely well at home. With a strong defense and a favorable schedule the rest of the way, look for the Seahawks to be in the thick of the playoff race.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) – Although the Steelers got off to a slow start, they have won four of their last five games and have looked strong on defense. In those four wins they allowed 14, 17, 12 and 20 points. Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger knows how to win football games, plain and simple. With the loss of Ray Lewis, the Ravens will falter, leaving room for the Steelers to make their move.