The NFL season has reached its halfway point, making it a good time to pause and take stock of which teams look like contenders.
The current standings indicate only a handful of teams that can legitimately be considered division favorites at this point. Even with most of the divisions still looking pretty tight, all signs point to a handful of true Super Bowl contenders.
The Patriots have to top this list, at 7-1 and looking particularly deadly ever since Tom Brady’s return from a controversial four-game suspension. Some are even starting to talk about Brady as an MVP candidate, though according to Larry Brown Sports, former great Reggie Wayne believes he should be disqualified because “he was caught cheating.” Regardless, the Pats are once again Super Bowl favorites.
The Oakland Raiders, too, are starting to look capable of a deep playoff run. At 6-2 with a perfect road record, they’ll need to prove themselves against a more difficult second-half schedule.
Also from the AFC West, the Broncos appear poised to put up a fight defending their Super Bowl title. They’ve had a strange season, but the defense is dominant and the offense, as it was in 2015, looks to be just good enough.
And rounding out the AFC contenders at this stage, the Steelers shouldn’t be counted out. They’ve fallen to 4-3, but Big Ben will likely be back from injury before long, and they looked as good as anyone when he was healthy.
On the NFC side, the conversation has to begin with the Cowboys. The average Super Bowl team from the NFC notches 12 regular season wins, according to Bwin, and right now Dallas is clearly the likeliest team to reach that mark. At 6-1 they’re riding outstanding play from a pair of rookies in QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott; the O-line has been good as always, and the defense has performed surprisingly well.
The Vikings, too, look like a true contender. The Adrian Peterson injury definitely hurt them, and the QB position feels uncertain, but Minnesota’s defense has been dominant for the most part.
Atlanta is starting to look as if it has an argument as a possible Super Bowl challenger. Matt Ryan has played like an MVP candidate, and the running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman can overwhelm opponents. But the Falcons also play in what’s become a relatively soft NFC South.
That’s seven teams. A lot can change from here on out, but after eight weeks of play, these are our Super Bowl contenders.