by Calum Walsh
With 7 weeks already passed in the NFL’s 100th season, there is now a clearer picture than ever of the game’s hierarchy. The Haves have separated themselves from the Have Nots. Each conference has established its Alphas, the teams striving for the playoffs, pushing themselves every week in pursuit of glory, the pursuit of immortality.
Every week, this article will cover the team favoured to emerge from each NFL conference, the team nipping at their heels, and a dark horse candidate looking to get on a hot streak at the right time.
Favourites: New England Patriots.
What happens when you pair the greatest defensive coach of all time with the greatest quarterback of all time? 6 wins and 3 losses in 9 Super Bowl appearances. What happens when you give that greatest defensive coach of all-time lockdown secondary, athletic versatile linebackers, and a powerful, run stuffing defensive line, AND the greatest quarterback of all time? The Patriots third 7-0 start in their history. Following their ruthless shutout of the New York Jets, and making Sam Darnold look like the worst quarterback in the AFC East, the Patriots have firmly established themselves, yet again, as the big dogs of the AFC.
On the edge: Baltimore Ravens.
Following Patrick Mahomes going down with a dislocated knee, the Ravens are in prime position to separate themselves from the rest of the pack in pursuit of the patriots. Lamar Jackson has improved leaps and bounds as a passer, and when combined with a physical, tough-nosed defence (barring any further injury concerns), the Ravens could pose the biggest challenge to Belichick and Brady’s tenth Super Bowl weekend.
Dark horse: Indianapolis Colts.
Like ‘91 Dennis Rodman, the Colts have rebounded better than anyone could have ever expected following the shock retirement of Andrew Luck. With Brissett looking better than ever, the possibilities are endless. Given the right circumstances and the right guys getting the hot hand come the New Year, the Colts could be the scariest team no one is picking.
Favourites: San Francisco 49ers.
Coming out of nowhere to take the NFC by storm this year, Jimmy G and Kyle Shanahan have looked unbeatable in the first half of the year. They have blown teams out, they’ve beaten teams with their defence, and they’ve won ugly ones. There is very little the 49ers haven’t overcome in the past few years, and Super Bowl 54 may be the culmination of the Lynch-Shanahan process.
On the Edge: Seattle Seahawks.
Russell Wilson is magic. After emerging as a role player aided by one of the best defences the league has ever seen, Wilson’s eighth season has shown the world just how good he is. There is no better quarterback at improvising out of the pocket as Wilson, and the Seahawks are reaping the rewards.
Dark Horse: Green Bay Packers.
Aaron Rodgers might be the most talented quarterback this world has ever seen, and now, in his 14th season, he is consistently doing the most with less. After picking apart the Oakland Raiders and throwing for 6 touchdowns, Rodgers looks as good as ever. Paired with the Smith Brothers terrorising opposing offensive lines and handing turnovers to the young, emerging secondary, the packers are poised to give even the best teams a run for their money.