Identifying Relevant Teams in the NFC

Just a few days ago, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said that every year there are about 10 to 11 teams that are considered relevant going into training camps. After the 2020 NFL Draft and the recent free agency period, many fans see their teams as contenders for the playoffs. However, Payton believes that only a third of the NFL is relevant. Let us decipher which teams are relevant and which are pretenders going into the new football season.

Dallas Cowboys: Pretenders

Jerry Jones lost two important pieces to their defense in free agency in Robert Quinn and Byron Jones. The defense has too many holes to be considered a relevant team and there is also a looming question on whether or not Jerry Jones and his front office executives believe that Dak Prescott is their franchise quarterback. 

Philadelphia Eagles: Pretenders

Although this team improved the receiving core and the secondary through free agency and the draft, they still possess a lingering fear of injuries. Wentz has been injured in back-to-back seasons and cannot seem to stick to the field. If the team can prove to stay healthy for a whole year, they will be serious contenders in relevancy. 

Washington Redskins: Pretenders

Surprisingly, the Washington Redskins should not be one of the worst teams in the NFL again. However, they still will not be relevant for another few years. The defense has improved vastly with additions in Chase Young and a defensive-minded coach in Ron Rivera. 

New York Giants: Pretenders

Daniel Jones might be a good quarterback but the offensive line is still not complete. Without a good line, it is hard to see a team be relevant if they cannot protect their quarterback. The Giants on both sides of the ball are mediocre at best as there is not a position or area that the team is best at. 

Seattle Seahawks: Relevant

Russell Wilson is a unicorn of a quarterback. His ability to escape the defense is second to none. This ability helps a broken offensive line as he can extend the play. With Wilson healthy and a good defense in place, the Seattle Seahawks will find themselves as a relevant team. 

Los Angeles Rams: Pretenders

A lot of turmoil has happened to the Los Angeles Rams since their appearance in the Super Bowl. They released fringe MVP running back Todd Gurley and traded away receiver Brandon Cooks, and the defense is starting to get old. Sean McVay’s team has been on a downward spiral since the start of last year and it will continue this year, as well. 

Arizona Cardinals: Pretenders

Kyler Murray needs another year under his belt before he can be called a franchise quarterback. He had a terrific season in his rookie campaign and now with the new addition of star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Murray should have better stat lines throughout the season. By the end of the 2020 season, everyone will be able to see what the Cardinals should look like for the next five years. 

San Francisco 49ers: Relevant

They may have lost in the Super Bowl but the Niners retained almost everyone back. They also traded Matt Breida and DeForest Buckner for picks and used those selections to add a younger and cheaper lineman in Javon Kinlaw, plus receiver Brandon Aiyuk. The 49ers should find themselves in a tougher position as their division is arguably the toughest in the league. With that said, they have the talent to stay at the top of the NFC. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Relevant

Tom Brady has receivers in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Rob Gronkowski. They also added another young receiver in Tyler Johnson for depth. Further, the Bucs landed one the best offensive linemen in the draft in Tristan Wirfs. This team offensively should be the best in the league but could start off slow without having OTAs and possibly a mini-camp due to the current quarantine. 

Carolina Panthers: Pretenders

Offensively, this team is ready to compete. But the defense is lacking. The Panthers spent all of their draft picks on the defensive side of the ball but even that will not be enough to compete right away. With a tough division in the NFC South, the Panthers might have to wait another year to be considered relevant. 

New Orleans Saints: Relevant

In what could be New Orleans’ last chance to win a Super Bowl, the team finds themselves in full throttle for the Lombardi trophy. Sean Payton told reporters that there are 10 to 11 teams that are considered relevant and he would later mention that he has been telling his team that they are one of them each of the past few seasons. Brees came back for one last run at a ring and with the offense that New Orleans boasts, he could have another swing at obtaining it. 

Atlanta Falcons: Pretenders

It might be time for the Falcons to rebuild their team. They have been stuck in mediocrity for the past three years, the defense is in shambles, and the offense can not keep up with other teams if the defense fails to get a stop. Although Matt Ryan is still a great quarterback, it would be best to move on and gain assets from trading Ryan before it is too late. 

Minnesota Vikings: Relevant

This is Kirk Cousins’s last chance at making a deep playoff run. If the team struggles again in the playoffs, the team might want to look into a younger quarterback or find someone in free agency like Cam Newton. Cousins may have signed an extension this offseason, but the NFL is a business. If he does not perform this year, it will be goodbye to the Cousins era in Minnesota. 

Green Bay Packers: Relevant

A fringe team in relevancy, the Packers community continues to monitor Aaron Rodgers after Green Bay drafted Jordan Love. This could be Rodgers’s last chance to win the Lombardi trophy in Green Bay. This team lacks a defense, though, as well as offensive weapon depth. But they managed a 13-3 record last season, and this season, they could possibly pull it off again. 

Detroit Lions: Pretender

Even though the Lions had a good draft, it will not help the team win games right now. Matt Patricia is on the hot seat as he has yet to have a winning season or show improvement during his tenure with Detroit. Stafford should be back and healthy, but the team will struggle closing games with a bad defense and mediocre offense. 

Chicago Bears: Pretender

The Bears could make the playoffs now that the league added another playoff spot to the mix. 8-8 or 9-7 is Chicago’s projected record as their defense is amongst the best in the NFL, but without a franchise quarterback, the team will have to rely on either Mitchell Trubisky taking a step forward or on veteran Nick Foles rediscovering his old Philadelphia self. If the team had waited a week or two, they could have been a relevant team in the pursuit of quarterbacks Cam Newton or Andy Dalton.

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