The AFC and NFC – Photo [Ticketmaster Blog]

A Ranking of Super Bowl LVI Contenders Ahead of Week 10

Read Edward’s ranking of the NFL teams looking set to compete for the Super Bowl this season.

We have reached Week 10 in the 2021-22 NFL season, meaning the 18-week regular season is over halfway through. By this stage, the teams genuinely challenging for the Super Bowl in February are establishing themselves. Here is a look at five franchises who will be looking to extend their winning records in the coming weeks with hopes of solidifying their places in the playoffs:

5. Dallas Cowboys (6-2)

QB Dak Prescott – Photo [CBS Sports]
It has been a while since the Cowboys have performed this well week in-week out.  Quarterback Dak Prescott is topping the NFL QB Index for the first time in an age and high-scoring victories against the Patriots and the Giants mean the Dallas team look like the real deal. Prescott threw for 445 yards and 3 TDs against the Pats in Week 6, digesting and spitting out every post-snap overage-change Bill Belichick threw at him and his offense. However, since this victory things have slowed down for Prescott as he was out injured in a Week 8 win against the Vikings and failed to produce a standout performance in Week 9’s loss to the Broncos.

In terms of defence, the cowboys have been impressive recently. Trevon Diggs has caught the headlines with 7 interceptions so far this season, but he is arguably not even their best defensive player as rookie Micah Parsons has also been sublime. Drafted as a linebacker, Parsons has made an unfamiliar edge-rusher position his own and has become a favourite tool of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

Despite the success, there is still plenty of room for improvement. The Cowboys red-zone offence is sub-optimal, and their 16 team sacks ranks low among the league. Furthermore, Dak needs to protect the football better after fumbling the ball 3 times this season, something which has caused him frustration. Dak will be playing the remaining weeks with a lot to prove and it should be entertaining to see how this team progresses.


4. Buffalo Bills (5-3)

WR Stefon Diggs and QB Josh Allen – Photo [Bills Wire, USA TODAY]
Firstly, the Bills would most likely be at 6-3 if not for an unfortunate slip by QB Josh Allen on a failed 4th down conversion against Tennessee in Week 6, since Allen does have a habit of late game-winning drives. Following this logic, the Bills have been given 4th place in this list.

For the most part, Buffalo have played dynamic football across the last 9 weeks which has resulted in several blowout wins. With every game it becomes clearer that Allen is closer to reliving his 2020 form and if the Bill’s talented defence can bounce back with him after losses to the Titans and more recently the Jaguars, they can be contenders without a doubt.

Allen is on the lookout again for an MVP title that he was not far off claiming last year. He is backed by a roster of hungry veterans and rookies who will also be looking to earn Allen that MVP title and the rings they came relatively close to obtaining last year. While the Bills are not the most versatile of teams, their schedule is favourable compared to other teams and presents them with some winnable games against teams with losing records between now and the end of the season. With this mind, the Bills will be looking to keep their top spot in the AFC East and arrival comfortably in the playoffs.


3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)

QB Tom Brady – Photo [ESPN]
Where to begin with the reigning Super Bowl champions? Tom Brady’s Bucs have a stellar record coming into Week 10 with their only defeats coming on the road to the LA Rams and the Saints. Whilst many felt that Brady had peaked for the Bucs in the 2020 season, there are signs that suggest otherwise.

For one, despite head coach Bruce Arians seemingly rolling out the same routes and plays week after week, Brady and the Bucs run them so well they struggle to be contained due to his ability in the pocket. Brady ranks 3rd on the NFL QB Index and already has 2,650 passing yards and 25 passing TDs in 8 games. Even with all that said, we cannot forget what having Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. really means for a team; he is a serial winner and undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes of all time.

There are other reasons why the Bucs are looking strong this season. Aside from Brady at quarterback, Arians has clearly identified continuity as a key factor towards maintaining their success: they maintained their 22 Super Bowl LV starters throughout free agency, keeping their championship-winning core intact.

Although their defence has not played with the same chemistry that defensive co-ordinator Todd Bowles generated during the 2021 playoffs, quality pass rushing remains as demonstrated in their 38-3 win over the Bears in Week 7. Furthermore, the acquisition of cornerback Richard Sherman (once he is fit) will bring much needed experience into the secondary.

On top of its quality players, Tampa has a weak schedule which presents a clear path to the playoffs. Furthermore, if the Bucs can overcome their injury struggles (notably TE Rob Gronkowski, LB Lavonte David and WR Antonio Brown), they will be a force to be reckoned with.


2. LA Rams (7-2)

QB Matthew Stafford – Photo [Turf Show Times]
The Rams have been a good team over the last few years with star players like DT Aaron Donald and CB Jalen Ramsey heading a defensive roster that often finds itself high-up NFL rankings. Whilst the defence has continued doing its part, the Rams’ offence has caught fire this year.

In the off-season, QB Jared Goff was traded for Lions QB Matthew Stafford. As of now in Week 10, it is clear which team has benefitted from the trade most. Despite Goff’s efforts in Detroit, the Lions sit at the bottom of the NFC North with a record of 0-8. On the other hand, Stafford has been a hit in LA and has raised the levels the players around him. This also seems to have applied to head coach Sean McVay. It doesn’t take a statistician to notice that the team now ranks high in the Offensive Line Index, Receiving Group Index and Play Calling Index. Those who have watched the Rams play this season will have noticed that the Rams have a knack for playing themselves out of tough situations. Stafford himself has 2,477 passing yards and 22 passing TDs so far and his relationship with his head coach and his teammates seems to be getting deeper with each passing week.

Overall, the Rams have too much momentum on both sides of the ball to suggest that they

can be easily stopped from making the playoffs. The Rams’ two losses have come at the hands of other top teams in the form of the Cardinals and the Titans. At this rate, the biggest obstacle the Rams face in obtaining a Super Bowl ring is the fact that they share a conference with a certain team named the Arizona Cardinals and a certain man named Tom Brady…


1. Arizona Cardinals (8-1)

DE JJ Watt & WR DeAndre Hopkins – Photo [ESPN]
Before the season no one predicted the Cardinals would be as dominant as they have been so far, even with their notably stacked roster. However, everything is gelling perfectly for Arizona and their results reflect this squad cohesion.

Arizona’s young QB Kyler Murray’s stats are not impeccable compared to other top QBs in the league. However, Murray’s run game is improving each week, the O-Line is extremely underrated, the receiving corps has good depth and most importantly the defence is holding up extremely well. DeAndre Hopkin’s numbers speak for themselves and JJ Watts is, well, JJ Watts.

The Cardinals tore apart the Titans and Rams early in the season and have had recent wins against the Browns, Texans and 49ers. These convincing wins coupled with their only defeat being a narrow 3-point loss to the Packers, makes it hard to deny that the Cardinals could be in with a serious chance of making the Super Bowl. The Week 6 win against the Browns was particularly impressive due to their absence of their head coach Kliff Kingsbury on the side-lines. Despite this lack of this crucial figure, the Cardinals kept their offensive momentum with Murray making 20/30 completions and scoring 4 passing TDs. The addition of veteran tight end Zach Ertz, who they traded for in mid-October, has further strengthened the Cardinals offense and they head into the latter part of the regular season with their heads held high.



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