The Super Bowl road of NFL contenders and pretenders

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon produced nearly 200 yards in total offense from the line of scrimmage against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. Photo credit: George Laase

Let’s get to the chase of it:  After Week 9, the boys are becoming separated from the men in the NFL, when it comes to a postseason run. The contenders are Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans, Chargers, Rams, Patriots, and Steelers. The Pretenders are the Giants, Jets, Browns, Colts, Raiders, Lions, Bucs, Titans, and 49ers. I should be giving the contenders more ink, but I’ll start with the bottom and work my way up.

Let’s start with the New York Giants, now sitting at the bottom of the NFC East Division. The Giants are trash. The Giants have failed their fans when they caved in and allowed quarterback Eli Manning to hijack the team to a narrative that is in tune to making the end of his career look like some Hollywood script. This ain’t Hollywood, though.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) hands the ball off to running back Phillip Ingram (22) in a scrimmage against the Los Angeles Charger on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. Photo by Dennis J, Freeman for News4usonline

The Giants should have left Manning on the bench. The guy should go away and just retire. The Giants need a quarterback. Now. All of this nonsense about Manning being treated unfairly is utterly ridiculous. The Giants have won only one game this season. Why is Manning still starting? Or even playing in the NFL for that matter?

Every Sunday, we are treated to a quarterback who just looks old and has no business being out on the field. Eli should go somewhere and sit down and be still. The Giants and their fans would be better off if Manning is somewhere making commercials with Peyton. So much for the three-headed monster from the Giants that was supposed to have defenses shivering in their cleats.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham has disappeared off the radar screen. Rookie running back Saquon Barkley has played decent but hasn’t set the NFL on fire the way some pundits thought he would. Go thank Eli. The Giants have been exposed as a bunch of pretenders that they are. Speaking of taking out the trash, I guess the finale of the NFL regular season can’t come fast enough for the folks living in Alameda County. Their Oakland Raiders are a piece of work.

National Football League
The Oakland Raiders have lost four of their first five games to start the 2018 NFL season. The Raiders fell to 1-4 after losing to the Los Angeles Chargers 26-10 at StubHub Center on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018. Photo by George Laase

The Raiders belong in the same heap pile as the Giants. John Gruden has proven thus far that you can’t go back home, even if you have a $100 million contract secured in your belt buckle. Gruden’s hotbed contract with quarterback Derek Carr’s $125 million deal makes you scratch your head and wonder where the franchise is headed.

Getting rid of wide receiver Amari Cooper and pass-rush specialist Khalil Mack are regretful moves by Gruden and shows that he should have kept his tail in the television booth. The Raiders are just another fake team that too many football experts were patting on the back before the season even started. The Raiders are going to be great pretenders for the next several seasons, regardless of the team relocating to Las Vegas.

I seriously doubt that the Las Vegas crowd would be interested in the stink coming from the Silver & Grey. Let’s move on to to the plight of the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, and Washington Redskins. Okay, so the Redskins are in first place in the NFC East Division. But getting mauled by the Atlanta Falcons reminded folks that the Redskins are also pretenders in the race to the Super Bowl in 2019. Alex Smith never got anything done with the San Francisco 49ers or with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the San Diego Chargers, 28-21, at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Photo by Jevone Moore/News4usonline.com

Smith wound up losing his job as a starting quarterback with the 49ers when Colin Kaepernick snatched the position from him and took the franchise to its last Super Bowl appearance.  The Chiefs gave Smith the boot with second-year man  Patrick McHomes now kicking butt and taking names later. The 49ers are busts, thanks to their overdramatic buying of the services from the quarterback position that was supposed to be held down by Tom Brady’s former backup-Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo hasn’t proved he deserves the $137.5 million contract the 49ers gave him, but that is their idiocy. When Garoppolo went out with a season-ending injury, it was like karma for the same team that tried to publicly disgrace Kaepernick once the quarterback went into full national anthem protest mode. Nobody is shedding a tear for Garoppolo or for the 49ers.

Cleveland has turned out to be nothing more than made up hype around one person. What a sham. The Broncos are walking disasters. It’s time that the Ravens get Joe Flacco out of the starting lineup and insert Lamar Jackson. Jameis Winston is not all to blame for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers producing a comical season. That franchise has not been right since they got rid of Lovie Smith as head coach and replaced him with Dirk Koetter.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) is the latest in a string of talented quarterbacks under coach Andy Reid. Photo by George Laase

Koetter’s defense can’t stop water and he should be gone by the end of the season. Now let’s chop it up with the contenders. The Chargers and Chiefs are the real threats to the Patriots in the AFC. Either one of these teams just might be the one to upset the apple cart and give the AFC a different representative in the Super Bowl. The Steelers are there, but they can’t seem to understand the concept of playing defense for a defensive background coach in Mike Tomlin.

That’s why they couldn’t be the Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs last season and made Blake Bortles look like Michael Vick. Any time Drew Brees takes the field, the Saints are contenders. The Rams just found that out when their undefeated season went out the door after New Orleans dropped 45 points on them. Maybe the Rams defense is a bit overrated. For all the bells and whistles when it comes noted names in the Rams defense, the unit has given up 31 points twice, surrendered 27 points to Green Bay, and now 45 points to the Saints.

That may be something to watch for down the line. Now let’s examine Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers are solid, but they’ve seemed to have taken the approach of outscoring everyone. Their tough defense looks old and slow, so I guess that’s the reason Cam and his crew are lighting up the league again. Still, Cam is not dominating the way he used to so that could be a reason to hit the pause button on their Super Bowl chances.

The Dallas Cowboys, they’re just the Dallas Cowboys; all hype and little substance. As far as the reigning Super Bowl champs Philadelphia Eagles, last year’s win seemed like a one-off because they haven’t done squat to remind people they’ll be in the hunt again.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1287 Articles
Dennis is a news and sports photojournalist. Dennis has covered and written on issues such as civil rights, education, politics, and social justice. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Daily Breeze, Daily Press, Los Angeles Wave, Los Angeles Sentinel, and other media outlets. Dennis is currently the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and NCAA. Dennis is an alum and graduate of Howard University.

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