Super Bowl Contender or Pretender? NFC Edition

Buccaneers Quarterback Tom Brady in October. Photo by Mike Wulf/CSM/Shutterstock (10947024a)

The NFL regular season has reached its halfway point, which means that it’s time to start thinking about which teams we can expect to compete for a Super Bowl berth.

There are a few teams that are clearly favorites to compete for a title in the AFC (think the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Baltimore Ravens), but there’s a big group of teams in the other conference which have been pretty good without being excellent this season whose statuses are still up in the air.

Let’s take a look at some of the good, but not great, teams in the NFC which look like a decent bet to make the playoffs but whose Super Bowl contention statuses are still to be determined.

Green Bay Packers (6-2)

The Packers are seemingly in the hunt for a playoff berth and a Super Bowl bid every season and that’s once again the case in 2020. Aaron Rodgers might not have long left in the league, but he’s hit his stride this season, throwing for 24 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions this season despite a fairly average receiving corps and a sputtering run offense.

In the wide-open NFC, betting against Rodgers would be a mistake. The team has holes and its defense is decidedly average, but a hot Rodgers in the playoffs would be plenty to lead them all the way to the big game.

Status: Contender

New Orleans Saints (6-2)

The Saints had the biggest win of any team in Week 9, absolutely demolishing Tom Brady’s resurgent Buccaneers by a 34-3 final score. This was New Orleans at its best: its secondary confused Tom Brady and forced 3 interceptions and Drew Brees was nearly impeccable, throwing for 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

Brees isn’t the player he once was, but he remains one of the most intelligent signal-callers in the game and has plenty of wide receiving weapons at his disposal. Can their defense be good enough to propel them forward to the Super Bowl? They just might be.

Status: Contender

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)

Tom Brady’s Bucs were the talk of the league during much of the first half of the season as the future Hall of Famer turned Tampa into a near-lock for the playoffs after years of mediocrity.

Nonetheless, this team isn’t even comparable to the Patriots teams that Brady won several Super Bowls during his tenure there. They’ve fallen short against the Saints twice (while getting severely out-coached), and they only have a 2-3 record against teams with winning records. This team appears to be a paper tiger.

Status: Pretender

Seattle Seahawks (6-2)

Let’s get one thing straight: Russell Wilson is the best quarterback in the league and is the odds-on favorite to walk away with this season’s NFL MVP Award. What he has done is truly outstanding, and he’s currently on a pace to challenge and break Peyton Manning’s record of 55 touchdown passes in a single season.

With that being said, what Wilson has done is so remarkable precisely because of just how bad this team’s defense is. They allow 455 yards per game, the league’s worst mark by a whopping 28 yards. They have no shot at showing down quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Kyler Murray, nor in the regular season nor in the playoffs. You can’t win in the playoffs without a functional defense, and Seattle doesn’t have one.

Status: Pretender