As we get closer and closer to the playoffs, we starting figuring out who's real and who's fake in the NFL. We have seen many spectacular performances from guys like Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, Michael Thomas, etc.
We also have most of the usual teams sitting atop their respective divisions, though some may not be there by the time the regular season ends.
So who's real and who's fake? Let's take a look!
**Before anyone gets mad, I'm excluding the obvious teams in both categories so don't expect to see the Dolphins, Giants, Bengals, etc. in the pretenders and don't expect to see the Packers, Patriots, and Ravens in the contenders.**
- DALLAS COWBOYS- Probably the biggest pretenders of them all. The Cowboys have loads of talent on both sides of the ball and continue to blow the big game. The 3-0 start seems so long ago, but then again, it was against the worst of the worst teams in the NFL (Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins). They follow up that start by losing three straight, two of which are to a couple of the best teams in the NFL in the Packers and Saints with the third loss being a head-scratching loss to the Jets. So far this season, the Cowboys have one win against a team with a winning record and that was divisional game against the Eagles. They had a chance to really put a stranglehold on the NFC East in primetime but they blow it to Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. Questionable play-calling, poor tackling, and an inconsistent run game will be the demise of the Cowboys.
- BUFFALO BILLS- Perhaps the darling story of the NFL. Nobody expected the Bills to burst out of the gates to a 6-3 start but like the Cowboys, their wins aren't exactly against impressive teams. Put the Bills up against the top teams like the Patriots and Eagles and you see who they really are. Add the fact that they just lost to a poor Cleveland Browns team going through all sorts of dysfunction and that's what puts the Bills on the pretenders list. Their schedule gets tough down the stretch with games against the Cowboys, Steelers, and Patriots on the road and a home game against Baltimore but they also have games in Miami, home against Denver and they end with a home game against the Jets. While the Bills do have a shot at the playoffs, you can expect an early round exit from these pretenders.
- PITTSBURGH STEELERS- The Steelers have a built in excuse because they are starting Mason Rudolph at quarterback and even missed him for over a game and had Devlin Hodges come in. They are riding a four game winning streak and currently sit in the final wild card spot in the AFC. The are 28th in the NFL in total offense and sit 27th in rushing offense at a measly 83 yards per game. While their schedule isn't exactly tough down the stretch, the offense doesn't exactly give you hope that this team can hold onto the final wild card spot.
- SEATTLE SEAHAWKS- The Seahawks have continued to succeed solely because of the play of MVP candidate Russell Wilson. He is a one-man wrecking ball who can extend plays with his legs. The Seahawks do have a legit No. 1 running back in Chris Carson, and if he can control his fumbling issues, this team is nearly impossible to beat. They've shown that they can win the close game but they can also blow teams out. A win Monday night against the 49ers on the road will put them only a half-game back in the loss column but it will also give them the tie-breaker until these two teams play again in week 17, which very well could determine the winner of the NFC West and maybe even the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
- HOUSTON TEXANS- Deshaun Watson continues to amaze despite the underwhelming play of the offensive line. He throws TD passes while getting kicked in the face, he is one of the best at avoiding getting sacked, and even with DeAndre Hopkins not performing the way we are all accustomed to, this team continues to find ways to score. While the pass defense is a weakness for Houston, their run defense is in the top three in the league. The Texans will be a tough out in the playoffs and may very well be the third best team in the AFC. It also helps when their division isn't exactly the greatest and the three other teams have been starting backups for most of the season.
- MINNESOTA VIKINGS- All this talk of Kirk Cousins and his record in primetime games against team with winning records and he goes out and puts up 220 yards and two touchdowns with 0 turnovers. Dalvin Cook shows why he is one of the league's best running backs when healthy and this Vikings defense, even without Trae Waynes is very good. They have one of the best defensive lines in the league and kept Ezekiel Elliott to less than 50 yards on 20 carries. Outside of a dud performance against the Bears, Kirk Cousins has played extremely well this season, only throwing three interceptions in 285 attempts and completing just under 70% of his passes. The Vikings have a dynamic duo at receiver with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen and an above-average tight end in Kyle Rudolph. This is one of the more complete teams in the NFL, they just need to get the kicking game right.
Week 10 ends Monday night with the Seahawks and 49ers and then it's on to week 11. The NFL regular season is dwindling down and it's about time that the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders. It will be a fun final two months to say the least.