The 2022 NFL regular season is flying by. How are we already at Week 8? Before you know it, we will be in the postseason. How many legitimate contenders are there in the NFL right now? It feels like there's not too many bonafide juggernauts. The Buffalo Bills look elite, Patrick Mahomes will obviously have the Kansas City Chiefs in contention, and the Philadelphia Eagles are still undefeated.
Which NFL teams are for real, and which ones aren't? Let's take a look at the teams with at least five wins, along with division leaders, and make an educated guess on whether they possess the wherewithal to make a Super Bowl run. We will include one three-win team that is not a division leader (I'll explain later). Without further ado, here are six contenders and six pretenders.
Buffalo Bills (5-1, 1st in AFC East)
The Bills do have a loss on their record, but they are the most complete NFL team and still the odds-on favorite to win Super Bowl LVII. Buffalo is coming off of a 24-20 victory over the Chiefs in Kansas City, in which Josh Allen threw three touchdowns, Devin Singletary rushed for 85 yards and Stefon Diggs caught 10 passes for 148 yards and a score. The defense also picked off Patrick Mahomes twice. Truly, it felt like a revenge game for last season's playoff loss.
Buffalo statistically has the No. 1 overall defense and the No. 1 offense. It is second in points scored and first in points allowed. This is an obvious contender that is locked in on its championship mission.
Philadelphia Eagles (6-0, 1st in NFC East)
Many expected the Eagles to be much improved after the moves they made this offseason, but I don't know how many expected them to be the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL. What's wild is that they could go a few more weeks without a loss. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, Washington Commanders and Indianapolis Colts are Philly's next four games.
Jalen Hurts has scored 12 total touchdowns in six games and is en route to a career year, and the same goes for Miles Sanders, who is averaging a career-high 80.8 rushing yards per game. And then the Eagles do somewhat have two No. 1 wide receivers between A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith -- . I also don't think we are talking enough about this defense, as it statistically ranks fourth in the NFL. We saw how this secondary rattled Cooper Rush a couple weeks ago, as the additions of James Bradberry and C.J. Gardner-Johnson have already paid dividends. Philly is the top team in the NFC.
Kansas City Chiefs (5-2, 1st in AFC West)
Anytime you have Mahomes under center, you're going to be a contender. No quarterback has thrown more touchdowns than him, as he has 20 scores in seven games. It is a bit worrisome that both of the Chiefs' losses have come when they've had the lead in the fourth quarter, but they are improving.
Plus, we finally saw this new-look wide receiving corps blast off. Last week in the win against the 49ers, JuJu Smith-Schuster caught seven passes for 124 yards and one touchdown, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught three passes for 111 yards. The Chiefs' pass defense ranks third-worst in the league, but K.C. does have the third-best run defense.
Dallas Cowboys (5-2, 3rd in NFC East)
This team's identity has been on the defensive side of the ball. Dallas has what is statistically the No. 6 unit in the league, but I'm sure everyone views this defense as better than that. Micah Parsons may win NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and it's a legitimate joy to watch this front four attack the quarterback.
The Cowboys have the potential to be one of the best teams in the league if Dak Prescott can provide a bit of an offensive spark. Dallas should be more effective passing the ball down the field, which will take some weight off of the defense's shoulders. He started slow against the Detroit Lions last week, but maybe that was to be expected.
San Francisco 49ers (3-4, 3rd in NFC West)
So this is our one three-win, non-division leading team on this list. The 49ers came one quarter away from making the Super Bowl last year and just added star running back Christian McCaffrey, so they deserve this spot -- even if they can't keep up with the Chiefs.
The 49ers are now on a two-game losing streak. They suffered a 28-14 road loss to the Atlanta Falcons a couple weeks ago in which the defense did not look like the strong unit we have become accustomed to watching. We also have to remember that the 49ers wanted to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason for a reason, and I wonder if the key to victory against this team is just getting out to an early lead -- much like the Falcons did. Score points early, limit San Francisco's rushing attack, and maybe you're golden. Still, this 49ers team could win the NFC West, and we've all seen the late-season runs it is capable of. San Francisco makes this list for at least another week.
Minnesota Vikings (5-1, 1st in NFC North)
The Vikings may not be my top pick to win the Super Bowl this year, but now that they are 5-1 while the rival Green Bay Packers are losing to the New York Jets and Commanders, it's probably time that we as a collective admit that the Vikings may be the top team in the NFC North. Kirk Cousins has been solid under Kevin O'Connell, Dalvin Cook is one of the best backs in the league and Justin Jefferson is quite literally one of the top players in the NFL, averaging 109 receiving yards per game. This offense has potential despite its middle-of-the-road statistical ranking, while it also has the fourth-best run blocking line, per PFF.
The defense is going to have to be better, however, as it currently ranks as the sixth-worst unit in the NFL. Still, it allows just 19.7 points per game -- which ranks just outside the top 10.
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Seattle Seahawks (4-3, 1st in NFC West)
Maybe the Denver Broncos should have traded for Geno Smith, right? I think probably the entire NFL world owes Pete Caroll and Mr. Smith an apology. He's first in the NFL in completion percentage (74%), fifth in yards per attempt (8.0), tied for fourth in touchdown to interception ratio (11-3) and third in passer rating (107.7). I also love rookie running back Kenneth Walker III, who leads the league in rushing yards over the past two weeks with 265. That's the most rushing yards by any player in his first two career starts since Todd Gurley in 2015.
Alas, this defense is one of the worst in the NFL, as it allows 399.1 yards of total offense per game, which ranks fourth-worst in the NFL. The Seahawks' 26.6 points allowed per game also ranks fourth-worst in the NFL, but it's worth mentioning Seattle allows just 17.3 points per game at home.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4, 1st in NFC South)
If you weren't worried about the Buccaneers at the beginning of the year, you should be worried now. They are coming off of two straight losses in which they were favored by at least nine points. I wonder if that's ever happened in the history of NFL gambling.
The 21-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday was tied for the second-largest upset loss of Tom Brady's career. While he's the GOAT, this 3-4 start is the worst start to a season for Brady since 2002. The Buccaneers are averaging just 17.7 points per game, which is tied for sixth-worst in the NFL, and have the worst rushing offense in the league (64.4 rushing yards per game). Head coach Todd Bowles said the Buccaneers are in a "dark place," and I don't know when they will be able to get out of said dark place.
New York Giants (6-1, 2nd in NFC East)
I know what you're thinking: how does this guy still have the Giants as pretenders at 6-1? Obviously he's a Giants hater, or maybe some Giants fan broke his heart in high school, but I just don't feel like this team is live to win a Super Bowl. The Jacksonville Jaguars win was gritty, but the Giants should have beaten a 2-4 team. No idea why they were underdogs in that matchup. Daniel Jones is doing his best with a lackluster wide receiving corps, but I don't want to hear about his . Jones ranks 28th in passer rating in the fourth quarter of one-score games this year (58.4), completing 20 of 33 passes for just 166 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
The Giants are the first team in NFL history to start 6-1 or better with each game being decided by one possession. That shows this team can come up clutch, but it isn't blowing anyone out of the water. The Giants are the third team since 1970 with five upset wins through seven games of a season. What happened to the first two? Well, the 1999 Lions made the playoffs, but lost in the wild card round, and then the 2004 Jaguars missed the playoffs. It will be interesting to see what happens with this Giants team.
Tell you what: if the Giants defeat the Seahawks on Sunday, I'll have no choice but to apologize and move them up into the contenders category.
New York Jets (5-2, 2nd in AFC East)
The Jets have outscored their past three opponents 83-36, yet Zach Wilson hasn't thrown a single touchdown pass! That's mind-boggling. Obviously the Jets suffered a major hit this week with the loss of star rookie running back Breece Hall. James Robinson is an interesting replacement, but he's not as explosive as Hall looked over the past few weeks. The Jets plan on pounding the rock and playing defense; that's how they have won four straight games for the first time since 2015. During this win streak, New York ranks first in rushing touchdowns (nine) and second in points allowed per game (14).
Quinnen Williams is a player we aren't talking about enough. The former first-round pick leads all defensive tackles in QB hits (13) and pressures (29) this season. Against the Packers a couple weeks ago, he recorded six pressures, two sacks, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal. He's rocking on the defensive line, while rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner is dominating in the secondary. I think he should win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
This Jets team is only building confidence, but what happens when they get punched in the mouth first? This offense is not eager to pass the ball with Wilson, so can it score enough points to keep up with a legitimate contender? I'm not buying that just yet.
Baltimore Ravens (4-3, 1st in AFC North)
The Ravens are the eighth team since 2000 to have a double-digit lead in each of their first seven games of the season. All the other teams were 7-0, while the Ravens are 4-3. Baltimore has gone 10 straight fourth quarters without outscoring its opponent, and has the fourth-worst fourth-quarter scoring differential this season (-46). Additionally, Lamar Jackson has cooled off after his hot start.
I don't have a problem with someone proclaiming the Ravens as the best team in the AFC North, but I don't view them as a legitimate contender with this defense.
Tennessee Titans (4-2, 1st in AFC South)
If we learned anything about the Titans last year, it's that you can Derrick Henry, but couldn't win a playoff game.. They fought their way to the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a record-setting amount of different players and without star running back
The Titans have reeled off four straight wins after starting the year with two embarrassing losses, and already swept the season series against the Indianapolis Colts. It's hard to view the Titans as a Super Bowl contender with the fourth-worst passing offense in the league and the second-worst passing defense, but I do have them winning the AFC South.