As the NFL season reaches its midway point, teams have already shown glimpses of their potential, leaving fans and experts alike speculating about which franchises are genuine contenders for a championship run and which are merely pretenders.
In this comprehensive midseason assessment, we delve into the performance and prospects of several NFL teams, considering their strengths and weaknesses, key players, and recent trends. With a closer look at each team’s trajectory, we aim to offer a well-informed perspective on their Super Bowl aspirations.
Cleveland Browns (3-2, 3rd in AFC North)
Prisco’s Week 7 Power Ranking: 10
It’s a tough call, but the Browns land in the pretender category, primarily due to lingering uncertainties on the offensive front. To their credit, they boast an elite defense, currently ranking as the unit allowing the fewest yards (1,002) through five games since 1971. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has been masterful, even warranting consideration for Coach of the Year. This defense is poised to keep the Browns competitive in every game.
However, the question mark hovers over Deshaun Watson’s recovery from his rotator cuff injury. Reports indicate that this injury involves a deep bruise in the back of the shoulder, impeding the $230M quarterback’s ability to throw the ball with velocity. While the Browns remain in the playoff picture, my confidence leans more toward the Ravens, and the situation with the Cincinnati Bengals remains uncertain. The Browns might just belong in the “TBD” category.
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-2, 1st in AFC South)
Prisco’s Week 7 Power Ranking: 7
The Jaguars have numerous strengths, including three consecutive victories, a record multiple games above .500 for the first time since 2018, and a divisional series sweep. Travis Etienne’s standout season, marked by becoming the first Jaguar since Maurice Jones-Drew in 2009 to record two touchdowns from scrimmage in consecutive games, further enhances their profile. Etienne ranks fourth in the NFL in scrimmage yards.
Nevertheless, the question lingers: Are the Jaguars legitimate Super Bowl contenders? While their defense has impressively forced 15 turnovers this season, their passing defense ranks second-worst in the league through six weeks (270.3 yards per game). Despite their position as the top team in the AFC South, challenging teams like the Chiefs or Dolphins for AFC supremacy remains a formidable task. The upcoming stretch of games will provide more insights into their potential.
Seattle Seahawks (3-2, 2nd in NFC West)
Prisco’s Week 7 Power Ranking: 13
The Seahawks find themselves in a middling offensive position statistically. Geno Smith, the reigning Comeback Player of the Year, has recorded multiple touchdowns in a game only once this season, requiring overtime to achieve this feat. A 17-13 loss to the Bengals, including a 1-for-5 performance in the red zone, casts doubt on their Super Bowl contender status. While Seattle’s improved defense is exciting to watch, the current outlook does not paint them as Super Bowl contenders.
Los Angeles Rams (3-3, 3rd in NFC West)
Prisco’s Week 7 Power Ranking: 12
The Rams’ .500 record may not accurately reflect their potential. With Matthew Stafford ranking third in the league for passing yards and impressive performances by rookie sensation Puka Nacua and running back Kyren Williams, the Rams are off to a solid start offensively.
Cooper Kupp has been a force, averaging 133 receiving yards per game since returning to the lineup. However, doubts persist about whether they can recreate the magic of their 2021 season and go all the way. While they are seventh in yards per game, the Super Bowl contender label remains elusive.
Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2, 2nd in AFC North)
Prisco’s Week 7 Power Ranking: 22
Optimism abounded for the Steelers entering the season, but the offense has struggled. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s role in these struggles is widely acknowledged, given the talent on the offensive side. Pittsburgh ranks third-worst in the NFL, averaging just 268.2 total yards per game, surpassing only the Giants and an improving Bengals.
Although the Steelers have eked out wins against formidable opponents like the Browns, Las Vegas Raiders, and Ravens, they also suffered a disappointing loss to the Houston Texans. While fans hope for a turnaround following a Week 6 bye, the Steelers are not perceived as Super Bowl contenders at this time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2, 1st in NFC South)
Prisco’s Week 7 Power Ranking: 14
The Buccaneers have exceeded expectations, and Baker Mayfield has showcased strong performance, except for a recent hiccup. Tampa Bay also boasts a solid defense. However, the collective assessment suggests that this team does not currently fit the Super Bowl contender mold.