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NFL pretenders and contenders: Where do Rams, Packers, Cowboys fall?

Who are the contenders and pretenders in the NFC?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Through five games of a young NFL season, it’s pretty clear that 2022 has not been kind to the Los Angeles Rams.

Fans sitting around watching the team this season have quickly realized that this isn’t the same dominant Rams team that won the Super Bowl in February. Matthew Stafford has become (an even bigger) turnover machine. LA can’t block opposing pass rushes or run the ball either.

How rough has it been for the team this year? These tweets should sum it up perfectly:

Luckily for the Rams, the NFC appears to be more wide open compared to year’s past. Only seven of the 16 teams in the conference have winning records. Besides the Eagles and the Cowboys, no one has really stood out so far.

The NFC only has one division with a winning record and it’s one that has gotten mocked relentlessly in recent years.

Again, this is actually a good thing for the Rams since despite their dismal start, they have enough time to get their act together. Of course, that won’t be without its challenges as LA will play four playoff teams from last season within their first five games coming off a bye.

The defending champs have very little margin for error so they have to make a move or two during the bye week or at least by the trade deadline.

In assessing the Rams’ NFC competition, I will only be looking at the seven teams with a winning record at the quarter mark and determining whether they’re a contender or pretender at this time. While five games is a small sample, it’ll provide enough of an idea where these teams might stand at the end of the regular season.

Los Angeles currently has a losing record so they’re obviously excluded from this exercise. Besides, they’ve gotten blown out by the three best teams on their schedule (Bills, 49ers and Cowboys).


Eagles (5-0)

Cowboys (4-1)

Giants (4-1)

49ers (3-2)

Philly has the only unbeaten team and they’ve been absolutely dominant through five weeks. The Eagles have the third-best point differential in the NFL and happen to be one of the most well-rounded units in the league. Dallas has been bullying opponents with their defense and they have played a huge role in going 4-0 without Dak Prescott. Sunday night’s game against the Eagles will be their biggest test of the year and will go a long way in determining whether the Cowboys are truly legit. No matter the result on SNF, I believe their defense will continue causing headaches to every offensive coordinator in the sport.

The Giants have shocked the world by winning four of their first five games. For a team that was a favorite for a top-five pick in next year’s draft, Brian Daboll’s squad didn’t seem to get the memo. They stunned the Packers in London last week without their top four receivers and three of their top four corners. New York appears to be on the upswing because of the strong play of their defense and making the proper halftime adjustments. Imagine the damage this team could do once at full health.

San Francisco has been thoroughly dominant on defense so would anyone be surprised if Jimmy G made it to another another Super Bowl? Aside from the Cowboys, the 49ers haven’t given up more than 20 points in a game this year. Their defensive prowess should be enough to make any Rams fan sick to their stomach.


Vikings (4-1)

Packers (3-2)

Bucs (3-2)

The top two teams in the NFC North are listed as pretenders because neither team has really beaten anyone.

Packers slaughtering the Bears yet again? Big whoop. Minnesota losing against the Eagles who happened to be the best team they’ve faced? What a shocker that Kirk Cousins couldn’t pull off an upset in primetime.

About the only thing both these teams can do is beat weaker competition and/or the team’s in their own division. Three of the Vikings’ four wins have come off defeating their rivals in the North. Green Bay has defeated the Bears and Patriots (both sitting at 2-3) and somehow the Bucs when poor Tom Baby didn’t have anyone to throw to.

Unfortunately for these two teams, the playoffs consistent of six good teams and whoever the seven-seed is. If they can’t step up their game, it’ll be a quick exit should they both make the postseason.

Tampa Bay has played a brutal slate to start Brady’s farewell tour. Their offense hasn’t been its usual powerful self as they’ve gone against tough defenses in the Cowboys, Saints and Packers.

I bet TB12 is wishing he stayed retired during what has been a trying start to his 23rd year in the league. The Bucs haven’t been a great team and have the refs to thank for their most recent win over the Falcons (what else is new for a Tom Brady-led team?) I’m still unsure of what to make of them. I don’t see a deep playoff run coming from Bucs yet they won a title just a couple years ago so I’m willing to see how everything plays out for them as the season progresses.

Do you agree with my list of contenders and pretenders? Let me know in the comments!