The hardest thing to do in the NFL is to win. There are five teams left in the league with a perfect record. The problem with being this good this early into the season is determining if this team is a pretender or contender to make the playoffs.
The Denver Broncos are off to a 3-0 start to the season. New starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has done a great job giving the Broncos stability at the quarterback position. Head Coach Vic Fangio has cooled off his hot seat a little bit with this start, but he will probably need to make the playoffs to keep his job, especially with new leadership in the front office. The Broncos can change some minds later in the season, but right now, they are pretenders. All the teams they have beaten have a combined record of 0-9.
The Arizona Cardinals have started the season strong once again. They started last season strongly too. The big question is what they will do for the remainder of the season. They play in the toughest division ( the NFC West), so their division games will test how mentally and physically good the Cardinals are.
Both head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim enter the season on the hot seat, and their owner Micheal Bidwill made it clear the expectations are to make the playoffs. The only team they have beaten with a winning record is the Tennessee Titans. They will face a tough test this week when they head to Los Angeles to face the Rams. Unfortunately, the Cardinals are pretenders.
The Las Vegas Raiders may have finally found an opportunity for sustained success in the second stint of the Jon Gruden era. They are off to their best start in almost twenty years. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is playing some of the best football of his career. The defense is much better than it was last year. The Raiders are finishing games much better this year.
Two of the teams the Raiders beat made the playoffs last year. That does not mean those teams will be in the playoff field this year, but the Raiders can say we beat teams with strong track records of recent success. The Raiders are the real deal, and people should not be surprised if they make a run in the playoffs.
The Carolina Panthers are good once again. Quarterback Sam Darnold seemed like he just needed a change of scenery. He is playing at an elite level right now. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady is continuing to have success, and eventually, it will lead him to have a head coaching job in college or the NFL. They are playoff contenders.
The Los Angeles Rams are trying to do what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did last year. Make it to the Super Bowl and host the big game. They have all the pieces to make it back to the Super Bowl. New Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has always been a talented player, but he has not been in the right situation. He has that with the Rams. Rams head coach Sean Mcvay is always finding creative ways to make the Rams’ offense dynamic. The Rams are Super Bowl contenders again.
Photo illustration courtesy of the LA Times and the USA Today.